Myanmar by Train | The Mandalay Express

Published over 30 years ago, Paul Theroux's vivid and endearing documentation of his railway journey across Asia is a modern classic of travel literature. The book inspired me to retrace a leg of his journey, aboard the Mandalay Express, from the current capital of Yangon, to the last Royal capital of Burma; the city of Mandalay. Myanmar is a magnificent country, only recently opened to tourism, and so it was very easy to place myself amidst the adventures depicted within Theroux's original writing. 

The series is focussed on the people I met along the way, the ever changing cast echoing Theroux's own words 'I sought trains, I found passengers' 

I sought trains, I found passengers
— Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar, Chapter 1

The 18 hour journey to Mandalay 

The journey begins at 04:30am, at Yangon Central Station, where the Mandalay Express lies in wait. Once it departs, the train slowly and steadily makes it's way along the route that was first established when the British extended the Tuangoo line as early as 1890. 

The Series

The series consists of 25 portraits taken along the route to Mandalay, including a journey on the famed Yangon Circle line that takes you to the Central station from the outskirts of the city. My aim was to capture the relative tranquility of the coach, as it became a viewing platform for the mayhem of Yangon's outer fringes, which later gives way to rice paddies, and finally to jungle. 

I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.
— Paul Theroux


To see the full series pdf, as published in National Geographic Traveller , or for any other enquiries please call 07837518918 or email me at