Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Yangon (Part 2)

Events of Monday, 4th May 2015 (continued)

In the previous post, Yangon (Part 1), I promised to tell you about a rather surreal incident. There I was, unexpectedly enjoying a cab ride on Yangon's 'Circle Line' and taking plenty of photographs. At one of the frequent station stops, a man joined the train and came into the cab. I took him to be some sort of railway inspector because he carefully checked the logbook being assiduously completed by the Secondman (Assistant Driver). We exchanged smiles and he took one or two calls on his mobile phone. Answering another call, he passed the phone to me and said "It's for you". To say I was surprised is an understatement. A man's voice on the phone said that he had some answers to my questions. As we were travelling, I couldn't hear very well and I didn't get his name. I concluded that my mystery caller must have been recruited by my friend Htein Lin to help answer some railway technical questions I'd asked the previous Saturday. It was only that evening that Htein Lin explained to me that he had, indeed, asked his friend Zaw Lin to help and that Zaw Lin is a train driver on the Circle Line. So, I suppose Zaw Lin had been on one of the trains we passed and had recognised me and the railway inspector and decided to make contact. But it was a very odd experience! When we arrived back at Yangon Central Station, I said 'goodbye' to my new friends and walked back to the Strand Hotel, pausing on the way to buy second-hand books in English from a series of street sellers offering books on all sorts of topics.

A shower and a drink at the hotel re-vitalised me, so I set off again on foot, going east along Strand Road before turning north for a few blocks, crossing a number of main roads (Merchant Road, Maha Bandula Road and Anawratha Road) before turning east again on Bogyoke Road.

Strand Road, looking towards the docks.

A slightly more aggressive method of crossing roads seemed to be indicated. In Myanmar, vehicles are allowed to turn right against traffic lights so pedestrians wait in vain for an 'all red phase'. Rather, you cross roads one lane at a time, pausing (with traffic passing both in front and behind you) until there's a space between vehicles in the next lane and so on.

I passed Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, completed in 1899 and the largest in Myanmar.

Saint Mary's Cathedral.

The route I was on was one I'd taken a couple of years ago, described in the post Back to Yangon.

Textspeak meets Irony?

The Yae Kyaw apartment complex being built was a new development since 2013. Health and Safety for the construction workers didn't seem quite as rigorous as back home.

The Yae Kyaw apartment complex under construction.

Another new development, less permanent than the Yae Kyaw Complex, was a section of the road which has spawned numerous stalls which all seemed to be offering identical fold-up 'gazebos' and large umbrellas.

Fold-up 'gazebos' and large umbrellas for sale.

Back in 2013, I'd reached Pazundaung railway station (one station east of Yangon Central railway station) and, exhaused, decided to catch a train back. This time, I'd hoped to get beyond Pazundaung, towards Mahlwagon but, by the time I'd reaching Pazundaung station, I was, once again, ready to catch a train back. The kindly station master was worried that I wasn't aware that I was only one station from Yangon Central but, once satisfied, he had his booking clerk issue a ticket costing just 50 Kyats. Various trains came and went before the one I'd been directed to. I was worried by a group of four ladies sitting on the rails of the anti-clockwise Circle Line, apparently oblivious to the possible approach of a train.

However, before a train arrived on that line, they'd been joined by quite a crowd of passengers.

At last my own train arrived. The train was packed but there was room to stand on the step inside the doorway (many Circle Line coaches are without doors, so it's as well to hold tight to the grab rail. In contrast, the "new" Japanese trains are the height of sophistication, with driver-controlled air operated sliding doors). On arrival at Yangon Central, I indulged in a taxi (yes, a proper 4-wheeled saloon) to return to the Strand Hotel. Once in my comfortable room, I didn't venture out again that evening.

I've deliberately excluded railway technical discussions from this post but I'm sure I'll add a more technical write-up later.

The next day, I'd been invited to join the team from 'Pencils for Kids' distributing backpacks with uniforms/robes and items of stationery at two Nunneries in the Yangon area.

Go to next post on this trip.
All my posts describing this trip to Myanmar can be found here.

My pictures

The following albums (on Flickr) hold pictures relevant to this post:-

The Circle Line by DMU.
DMU Cab Ride on the Circle Line.
Around Yangon, 2015.
The Circle Line, 2015.

All my pictures for this trip (except purely 'technical' ones) can be found here.

[Pictures added 31-May-2015]