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On the Gentle Train Ride in a Myanmar From Another Era

Since the shocking coup d’état in Myanmar on February 1 and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world has watched helplessly while the military junta brutally cracks down on peaceful protesters trying to resist the coup.

An uneasy feeling of déjà vu has returned for this country, ruled by a repressive military regime from 1962 to 2011, that was just starting to live its dreams and opening to the world.

One year before this putsch, and just before another tragic event, the COVID-19 pandemic, closed borders around the world, I was freely exploring this beautiful country, meeting some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever encountered.

Brooms ready to be loaded onto a train.

All aboard.

My best experience during this holiday was the train linking the villages of Nyaugshwe and Thazi, which took me on a (very) slow ride through the heart of the country. At an average speed of 20 kilometers per hour on a 240-kilometer journey, I had plenty of time to discover the country’s picturesque landscapes, but also to appreciate the kindness and harmonious lifestyle of local residents.

Settling in for a long ride.

Myanmar's countryside.

I wish for this photo essay to be a reminder of how peaceful a place Myanmar can be, and I truly hope this is just a temporary setback on the road to freedom. Stay strong and safe, Myanmar.

Watching the world go by.

Vendors cast shadows as they await potential customers.

Hoping for sales as the train stops.

A different version of window shopping.

The art of the deal.

 

A bonanza for vendors.

As the train departs, the vendors recede.

Does the cat own the shop?

Might as well take your dog for a walk to watch the train go by.

An exit.

Boo!

Sorting fresh produce before loading it onto a train.

The town of Kalaw's friendly welcome committee.

"Flowers, get your flowers here!"

Around the world, train stations are settings for hanging around not doing very much.

This man knows how to pose.

Snippets of life on the tracks.

Darkroom is a Saigoneer series documenting the beauty and stories of Vietnam and beyond via photographs. If you have a compelling story you wish to share, send us an email via contribute@saigoneer.com.

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