In Pictures— Rangoon’s Bustling Hledan Junction

Steve Tickner The Irrawaddy

Few people who know Rangoon are unfamiliar with Hledan Junction, one of the city’s major crossroads and an important suburban commercial and residential hub.

Busy Prome Road, which passes through the area, has become notorious this year for the extensive traffic delays caused by the painfully slow construction of a road overpass that has reduced the thoroughfare from six lanes to just two since April.

There is, however, another side to the Hledan area of Kamayut Township, already noted for its great eating venues as well as flower and fresh produce markets. “Hledan” means “cart row” in the Burmese language, a name lingering on from its original incarnation as a gathering point for oxcarts that brought items to be sold on the stalls there.

From the market area extends a remarkable tangle of winding, tree-lined backstreets in the direction of the Rangoon River—a quiet, leafy and relaxed environment for visitors to explore that ultimately leads down to Hledan Train Station.

The rail corridor which loops around Rangoon brings a sometimes overlooked benefit to the city—a wide channel through many townships with each train station becoming a shady oasis of relaxation along the route.

Around the platforms the pace of life slows noticeably. Workers, housewives, monks, schoolchildren and their parents wait patiently for a train in the cool shade while sharing food and conversation. The tracks themselves form an easy path to wherever someone wants to go. Rangoon’s rattling trains are so sluggish that there appears to be little risk of pedestrians suffering accidents.

Hledan Station also features a very low and old road bridge over the tracks. With the advent of larger modern trains, rail engineers decided to lower the tracks rather than raise the bridge in order to allow modern diesel engines to simply dip underneath and back up the other side.

The noise, smell and heat of bustling Hledan junction sits in perfect contrast to the tranquil atmosphere in and around the station, providing an invaluable glimpse into the day-to-day life of local residents.