You are in Mandalay, the second biggest city of Myanmar and you hear automated voices in Japanese shouting “this vehicle is moving backwards“. You jump into a taxi and another Japanese voice greets you: “please enter the correct memory card for the GPS navigation“. Whilst this might amuse curious tourists, these Japanese voices are symptoms of a very interesting but increasingly serious problem in Myanmar. Let us explain:
Before we arrived in Myanmar we stumbled across this article in The Economist: Japanese cars enjoy an afterlife in Myanmar, but not for much longer
In essence, Burmese people love to import old and used Japanese cars. They are not alone – New Zealand, for example, does the same. However, there is one main difference: In New Zealand, like in Japan, people drive on the left side of the street and the driver sits on the right side of the car. In Myanmar, however, people drive on the right and sit on the left side. We observed that nearly all cars had the driver on the “wrong” side of the car… While this does not have to be a problem, it is cleary not ideal in terms of safety. The government seems to agree and is now making it a lot more difficult to import these cars.
Overall, it seems to be a sign of the pragmatism of Burmese people I would say… 🙂