At Mandalay’s Railway Bazaar, a Taste of Local Life

An idle locomotive at the center of the market waits for the guard’s signal to make its way down the track. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy).

MANDALAY—For anyone who’s tired of popular tourist hot spots in Mandalay and wants a glimpse of ordinary Burmese social life, there’s no better way to spend your morning than shopping for produce at the Thaye Zay Station Bazaar.

About one kilometer north of Mandalay’s symbolic moat, the open-air market spans both sides of the railway track and is named after the station nearby, coming to life every morning when a train pulls up with vendors from nearby villages.

During the bazaar’s peak hour, usually from 9 am to 10 am, the area buzzes with energy as stallholders spread out locally grown produce on both sides of the track or on sleeper cars.

Vendors at the bazaar, like those at the similar Maeklong Market in Thailand, are sometimes required to pull their produce off the track to make way for an incoming train, especially during business rush hours from the early morning until noon.

But despite the occasional interruption, the market is popular with locals.

“The vegetables here are fresh from the farm, and relatively cheap,” said a Mandalay native. “You can marvel at the roasted harvest mice and sweet toddy palm sap available here.”

One of the most unique aspects of the market, he added, was the absence of foreign shoppers or vendors, who commonly go to other markets in Burma’s second-biggest city.

“It’s just a very local place where you can see how ordinary Burmese country folk make a living,” he said.

5 Responses to At Mandalay’s Railway Bazaar, a Taste of Local Life

  1. It’s the other way round, the station was obviously named after the market called Tha-ye (warriors) Zay (market), though it may have been an older market in monarchic times.

  2. Probably because the Chinese are slowly displacing the poor original inhabitants of Mandalay to the surrounding areas

    • For sure. The real citizens have been pushed out to the outskirt of the city. The new comers are the boss and the real citizens are servants there. We the citizens are living on the slum. And we become slum-dogs.

    • There goes the Chinese again.

      • I lived in Mandalay as a young boy in the 1950’s, but those were different days in Burma. People were perhaps not very rich but Burma was free from the greedy Chinese economic bullies (China was poorer than Burma in those days!). Burma, especially the business sector, is now controlled by Chinese, half-Chinese, junta ex-generals and their cronies. The rest of Burma remains very very poor and the common people have no voice (just look at what happened in Letpadaung). Burma is quickly becoming a Chinese colony. I feel sad but there is nothing much you can do about it.

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