Saturday 21 March 2020

Burma Traffic

They tell you Burma is different, they are right. Our bus left the airport and plunged us into the traffic of central Yangon.  I have experienced city traffic from Cairo to Surabaya but this was new.  To start with there was the sheer density of cars, buses and trucks.  For reasons best known to itself, the Military Government banned bicycles, trishaws and tuc-tucs from Yangon City centre.  That means there is no space between other vehicles.  You would think that would cause a logjam but the whole lot swirl about like marbles on a tray.  It is terrifying.

Ten years ago, the same Government decided it would be good to change from driving on the imperial left to driving on the revolutionary right.  To be fair, quite a lot of Yangon drivers have got the hang of it by now.

When the Military was in full control people needed a permit to own a car and permits were not easy to obtain. The roads were probably big enough for the traffic. Now no permit is required and there are thousands of extra cars; the roads have not altered.  The influx of new cars comes as bulk importation of second hand cars from Japan where they drive on the left.  As a result, many of the cars driving on the right in Yangon have right hand drive.

Public transport is exciting.  There are lots of tiny taxis, about the size of the missing tuc-tucs but with one more wheel.

Mobs of people at unmarked places signify bus stops and buses plough through the traffic to reach them.  There is no such thing as a route marker on a bus and the conductors hang out of the doors yelling out their destinations like fairground buskers. 

To cross the road, always follow a crowd of locals and submit to your destiny.

It was less exciting in Mandalay.  Cycles and motorbikes are allowed and there is some space between cars.  Unlike his passengers, our one-eyed bus driver was blissfully unaware of traffic approaching from his left.

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