Yangon’s Circular Train has become something of a lazy guidebook Yangon ‘must-do’. It’s been upgraded (air-con on some trains) with more upgrades to come so it’s lost a bit of its original appeal but on the flip side foreigners no longer have to pay $5 to ride on it. And it is a great way to get a picture of the sheer size, spice, variety (and squalor) of Yangon.
It is worth doing. But maybe don’t go all the way around. It’s a three hour trip, half of it spent trundling through industrialised countryside to the north of the city. If you’ve only a limited time in Yangon why take up a whole half-day on this when if you think a bit smarter than the lazy guidebook you can combine it with something else and save half a day?
My tip is to take the circular train (it’s called the Myo-Pa Yeta in Burmese) westbound / clockwise for a while late in the morning. Maybe as far as Insein (where the prison is). Get off there, have look around. Eat lunch. Get back on the train going the other way (it’s only 300 Kyat each time).
Get off again in Hledan or Myinigone. Have a look around. Have a cold drink. Then walk to Shwedagon Pagoda for late afternoon and sunset, coming at it from the north west where you can see the nice park (and from the wrong side of a fence the General Aung San memorial) that most tourists miss.
Alternatively the truly creative traveller could skip most of the traffic jam and use the circular train to get to Aung Mingalar bus station or the airport by taking the train to Mingalardon for the airport or Kyauk Yae Twin for the bus station. And then it’s a much shorter, much cheaper taxi from there.