Traveling methods in Myanmar

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Most people in the U.S.A. don’t think twice about jumping into a car to go to work or hopping on an airplane to travel.

Most people in the U.S.A. don’t think twice about jumping into a car to go to work or hopping on an airplane to travel. Automobiles and airplanes are taken for granted, however millions of people in 3rd world countries never get the opportunity to use these luxuries. Instead, these people have to walk, ride their bikes, take a crowded train, bus or taxi, or even hitchhike. In Myanmar, where I currently live, bikes are cheaply made in China and are often very old, due to the fact they keep getting passed down because they are expensive (Many kids ride bikes that are way too big for them because they can’t afford to buy a kid size bike). It is common to see two or three people on a bike; one pedaling, as two share the seat. Bikes are used to carry many wares, like overflowing baskets of crops from the field, or food to sell to the locals. It is challenging riding bikes with all the traffic and the poor condition of the roads. When I ride, it feels like I am dirt biking, avoiding all the pot holes and dodging all the walkers!

Many adults take overloaded taxis (which are like big pickup trucks with a cover) and old, dilapidated buses to get around because they are cheap (about 15 cents in my city). Most people, who work in the city, live far out, in the countryside, (where they can afford a small shack looking house,)and where horse buggies, ox carts, and other old transportation methods are commonly used. However, they have to travel 1-2 hours each way to get into the city to work. Our driver said he is squished inside the “taxi” and on hot days, sweats profusely. Therefore, he has to bring a change of clothes to work, so he looks presentable and doesn’t smell! For those who can’t afford to pay for a bus to travel to another city, they can ride on the top of an 18 wheeler’s roof, but are constantly jolted and have to watch out for overhanging branches.

There are taxis, but they cost about $3 to go about 5 miles and are at least 20 years old. When we take a taxi, we feel like we need to disinfect ourselves after each ride (since they are dirty and often has holes in the seats floor!) The middle class people either can afford a car, used, of course, or they use mopeds ( however they are illegal in Yangon). The mopeds are made in China and only cost 300 dollars. They can fit their families on the seat, if they turn sideways. There are a small percent of people who are rich, and they can afford nice cars, like you see in the US. I go to school with these rich kids, but being "teacher's kids," we seem poor compared to them.

We recently took a train ride around our city, which was an eye opening experience. The train looks about 100 years old, with worn out wooden seats, stains all over the walls and open spaces for the windows. Watching the locals work the fields and the farmers selling their crops at the market, made me realize how hard these people work day in and day out.

When I want to go somewhere, I use my air conditioned car, with a driver and don’t have to worry about these transportation issues. I am thankful for this benefit and hope to will never again take automobiles for granted.