Yangon was a very British City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But the British left in 1948, and they took with them their grandiose dreams of a great city. Their legacy is in ruins. The boulevards they laid out are now full of potholes, and crumbling sidewalks. The few street lights that still work are dark because there is not enough power to operate them. The magnificent automobiles of the thirties and forties have been replaced by dilapidated Toyotas from the 70’s and early 80’s. There are no new, or even vaguely new, cars. As a final insult to the British, the fine British tradition of driving on the left was revoked in 1972, when the Burmese government announced that the entire country had 7 days to learn to drive on the right. But no one thought to tell Toyota, so all the cars still have the steering wheels on the right.
In a strange twist on Asian transport, there are no motorbikes. The government banned them because of the number of accidents. But they are only banned in Yangon . Presumably it is acceptable to die on a motorbike anywhere else in Myanmar. Because there are no motorbikes, everyone travels by bus. There are hundreds of buses, but they are even older than the cars, many of them strange little toy like vehicles imported from England in the 1940’s.
They are small, dirty, without air conditioning, and crammed full of people, just like in Britain, but more so. This however is the luxury form of transport. They also have small Toyota pick up trucks from the 70’s that serve as buses. They have a shell roof on the back without sides, and narrow seats running the length of the truck bed on either side. About 12 people can cram themselves onto the seats. Another 10 can sit on the roof, and half a dozen hang perilously off the back. The price is no cheaper for the pick up truck than for the buses, but they have no sides so they are cooler and often more popular. The cheapest form of transport is the train, but no one uses it unless they have to, as they are unbelievably slow and notoriously unreliable. Some British traditions couldn’t be shaken.