Myanmar is Where Buses Go to Retire

Due to the economic sanctions placed on it by the US and EU, Myanmar has to make do without many consumer goods. It does, however, have relations with many Asian countries, so based on what I saw, Myanmar isn’t hurting as much as the US government likes to think it is. For example, there are joint-venture hotels in Yangon (between the Myanmar government and investors from other countries.) All the Coke we drank in Myanmar was imported from Thailand. Myanmar is rich in natural resources, and the government makes a lot of money off of precious gems that are illegal to sell in Europe, but allowed in China.

The transportation system also depends on its Asian neighbors. The country doesn’t produce its own buses or cars, so every vehicle I saw was used, usually Japanese or the occasional Korean model. This is common in New Zealand and probably other countries as well, but the funniest thing about Myanmar buses is that they haven’t bothered to repaint them, so they still sport their Japanese paint jobs. I recognized quite a few of these buses, and tried to get as many pictures of them as possible.

Wow… if I ride this bus, I can get to the Radisson Hotel at Narita Airport? Sweet! (Aung Mingalar bus station, Yangon)

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kitakyushu anymore… (Rest stop, on the road between Yangon and Mandalay)

Even Japan Railways (JR, the government-owned transportation system) sells buses to Myanmar. This one, unfortunately, looked like it had rammed into a building. (Aung Mingalar bus station, Yangon)

But best of all…

Our first evening in Yangon, we were walking around in the dark (no streetlamps in Myanmar) looking for a restaurant we had read about in the guidebook. We misread a sign, took a wrong turn, and started walking down 51st Street in Yangon. Up ahead, I saw something familiar…

“Hey Bob, this bus has the same colors as the Amagasaki city bus!”

“Yeah, it does!”

“Look, there’s some Japanese on it! It IS a Japanese bus.”

“And it even has the entrance in the front and the exit in the back!” (Most Japanese buses work the opposite way, boarding in the back, but Amagasaki city buses board in the front.)

“Wait a second….”

“WTF??? It IS an Amagasaki bus!”

“Why does it say “Myanmar Customs” on the front?”

“I don’t know…. Maybe we shouldn’t hang out here.”

“Bob, go stand by it so I can take a picture, and prove we saw it!”

“No! I don’t want to get in trouble!” (It is illegal in Myanmar to take photos of certain things.)

“No one’s looking!”

Bob promised we’d go back during daylight hours to get a better photo of the Amagasaki city bus, but we never did. I wonder which route it ran? We found another one near another government building. If only Amagasaki knew where their buses were now….

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