We drive to Pindaya to see the famous caves filled with Buddhas. It is a 50 mile journey that takes 3 hours because of the appalling road. The road is in fact the main route to Yangon , but it is in terrible condition, only wide enough for one vehicle and full of potholes , with entire sections actually without a hard surface. Most of the roads were built by the British pre1948 and have not been touched since. Because this is a major route it is busy with buses and large trucks. It is impossible to pass anything unless you can persuade them, by continually blowing your horn, to move off the road. When a vehicle is coming the other way, one of you has to move on to the unmade verge. Consequently a lot of the drive involves playing the game of chicken.
A remarkable number of vehicles on the road are actually animal driven. They are either large carts piled high with produce being pulled by two oxen, or water buffalo, or a small passenger trap being driven by even smaller horses.
There are also a large number of bicycles, all of which look like antiques and are of the “sit up and beg” variety, with huge wheels. Other than that, the most common transport is a tractor straight out of the 1950’s, that has been converted into a small truck. The front part is still obviously the front of a small tractor while the back half has been transformed into a sort of flat bed truck, used for hauling produce or just as often, a large number of people.
There are very few regular cars, and those that we do see are, as before, old Toyotas from the 80’s. Our driver tells us that he bought his car used, fifteen years ago. When we comment that it has lasted well considering the road conditions, he gets quite agitated and says that it has to be repaired at least once a month. Cars are fantastically expensive to buy as they have a tax of 40% added on by the government, and to add insult to injury, we are stopped every 15 miles or so to pay a road toll.