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Taxis story in Yangon

by | Oct 11, 2015 | Our Diary | 0 comments

Many expats will tell you that a country truly unveils its character through the day to day quirks that are such a part of local life that the locals do not think it is odd. Tourists don’t stay long enough to pick up on these little details that make life so different from back home. Living in Myanmar has brought us a fair share of surprising encounters, LOTS of them involving taxi drivers. We wanted to pay a proper tribute to those resourceful drivers who never cease to amaze us and entertain us. While in other cities taking a taxi can be a monotonous, exhausting daily routine, in crowded Yangon a taxi ride often makes for a good story to tell at the office. Here are a few of the amusing incidents we have had in Yangon taxis:

Even if they have no idea where to go, they will bring you there!

Whether they are eager to please or eager to make money- or both- it is not unusual for a taxi driver to accept the fare, set off driving, but have no clue where your destination is actually located. There is no need to panic though- it may require some team work and sign language  but eventually you will get there. Your driver may stop at traffic lights and shout through the window to ask directions from a fellow drivers. If he is driving you home, late at night, and the streets are empty, he might turn to you for directions! And if you also happen to e confused as to your where abouts, there is often an amusing attempt to use Google Maps or seek out a landmark so that you can ‘co-pilot’ the taxi back home. The silver lining: your usual 20-minute ride back home turns into a 1-hour sightseeing of Yangon by night!

Two is company, three is a crowd?! Not in Myanmar.

You fear your group of 6 friends will have to find two taxis to go to a party downtown? Well, fear no more: depending on your flexibility and the level of intimacy with your friends, you can fit 2 to 3 people in the trunk; 3 to 4 on the back seat and 1 to 2 on the front seat…there is even extra room to get back home with new friends! A piece of advice: the extra passenger on the front seat may have to put their head out of the window to avoid breaking their neck against the windshield. Mark our words, we tried it once: it is way more comfortable!

Yangon_Street2
Traffic jams in big cities are excruciating and Yangon is no exception.

Traffic signs, police officers and lines on the ground are rare in Yangon urban landscape. It seems like the only traffic regulation rule is “if it fits, I sit”. This will often end up in 4 cars, side by side, riding along a 2-way street, blocking the opposite way or in a giant Tetris game at a crossroad where every car is so perfectly intertwined that it is impossible to move anymore. You can take advantage of the situation to start a conversation and learn some Burmese with your driver or the passengers in the car next to you…literally at arm’s length!

The advantage of such traffic jams is that if your taxi driver receives an important phone call forcing him to change his itinerary, he can hail one of his colleagues through the window and ask him to take care of you because he changed his mind! You then have all the time you need to safely and cautiously grab your stuff and hop to the other taxi…no questions asked. Your driver can also make a little detour if he needs to collect his wife after work or grab his “lunch box” in his favorite restaurant…it is all about making the best of the ride for everyone!

Taxi drivers have one mission:

getting you safely and on time to your destination even if it means changing car in the middle of a traffic jam like previously mentioned! Some drivers take this mission a bit too seriously. On one Friday, late for our bus to Hpa An and stuck in traffic, our driver tried to call the bus station for over 30 minutes before finally getting through to let them know we were on our way and request that they please wait for us. Once at the bus station, he drove us to the right terminal and made sure we boarded the right bus before leaving: mission accomplished!

Even if not every single taxi ride is adventurous, taking a taxi is still an amazing way to discover a city. Whether our drivers get lost or only use what they thinks are shortcuts (and inevitably take longer), we almost never take the same way twice to go somewhere. From the back of the car, you get to witness the bustling city life while stuck in traffic: people going to work and kids going to school, numerous street sellers and locals getting their breakfast in a tea shop or a beer after work. If you have the occasion (and enough time in your hands) jump in a taxi, sit back and enjoy the ride!

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