I took a taxi in Burma…

…where the driver’s seat cover was completely removed leaving only the wire frame. It looked like it had been replaced by a beach chair. Must have been very uncomfortable for the driver. (Seen in the picture here).

…where the floor mats were molded and had to be removed, leaving a completely rusted floor. The holes allowed you to see the road rolling by under your feet.

… where the transmission was completely finished. Every time the driver used the brakes, the car would stall and need to be restarted. Was wonderful fun in the rush hour traffic that we were caught in.

… where the seats were soaked from rain water.

… where a spoon had to be used to manually wind up the windows.

… where the backseat was substituted for the top of an ironing board.

… where the front seat was attached to the car’s frame by a small rope.

These were my taxi experiences in Yangon (previously Rangoon), the former capital of Myanmar (previously Burma).

I had the chance to catch up with a friend from Indonesia while I was in Yangon. She is just finishing up a two year placement with an NGO (non governmental organization) and felt that it was time to move. Apparently a two year stay in Yangon changes you. It was great to hear her perspective about Yangon. When out for coffee, the first thing she asked me was about the taxis. I guess it’s a pretty common thing for foreigners to comment on.

She did go on to explain that in a conversation she had with a taxi driver, she found out that his 20 year old vehicle cost him USD $20,000!  A 5 year old vehicle can run you up to USD $100,000.  Public safety interests aside, most Burmese have no choice but to keep these cars on the road since they can’t afford to do otherwise.

At $20,000 (not taking gas and maintenance costs into consideration), it would require 13,400 rides for the driver to pay for the car since a typical cab fare is about $1.50/ride. With this in mind, you may be extremely appreciative of their car repair creativity.

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