09.03.2011 More Transport Woes
So we’ve looked at some cars to hire so that we can avoid the taxi nightmare during hot and rainy season. There is no car hire company here, so you go through an intermediary (number provided by someone in Pete’s office. Grudging thanks for that). He then takes you round to see the cars available. You are hiring from a private person so they can fix whatever terms they wish.
You are entirely responsible for the car, maintenance, upkeep, damage repair, petrol (obviously) and so on. You are not to take the car out of Yangon, or if you do, get permission from the owner and pay extra for the privilege.
Petrol is rationed at 4 gallons per week. Prices just jumped by 600kyats a gallon and the queues for the petrol stations have to be seen to be believed. On average it takes 4 hours to get you petrol. You can buy from the side of the road, where quaint, makeshift stalls sell petrol out of drinks bottles (that Johnny Walker gets about!) or go to one of the few (only?) stations where the prices are jacked up but you don’t have to wait.
The average price of hire is $300 – $450 per month. We looked at the cheaper end, naturally, which means Myanmar Jeeps. Cut and shut jobs usually made from a Pajero base, the fancier ones even have a Pajero dashboard, woo hoo. At first I was quite excited about driving a jeep – did I mention Pete isn’t allowed to drive by his organisation? – but the reality was quite different. I mean I love driving, I’ve navigated both London and Nairobi, so I felt able to put my trepidation aside and man up to do the job on the mean streets of Yangon. Ha! The finest jeep of the 3 we looked at had the spongiest, weirdest pedals I’ve ever encountered. I had to plan my gear changes about 5 minutes in advance and breaking was scary to say the least. Yuck. And this was the only vehicle available with the steering wheel on the ‘right’ side. Most vehicles are still geared up for driving on the left, and of course that’s not dangerous at all…
No seatbelts, naturally, though these can be bought at the market and fitted relatively easily, at our expense of course. But the bald tyre was a problem. The owner didn’t want to replace it. He did invite us to replace it and at the end of our 3 month contract (lower rates for longer terms) he would buy it off us at half price. Bargain!
GRrrr. So we said no. Next time we do the soul destroying process again we’ll have to up our price range and see if we can’t get one of those nice, old, rusty, knackered Toyota saloons instead.
Or buy a car? Oh yes, foreigners are not allowed to own cars here. Unless you’re a diplomat or UN employee of course. And if you do manage to make arrangements with a local to own it in name only, then you can spend $20 000 and up for the most basic vehicle. I’m talking 20 year old Toyotas here. You’ll be lucky if you get a steering wheel at all, never mind if it’s on the right side. The upside is that you’ll probably be able to sell it for the same price in a couple of years, so you don’t lose anything on the value. After you’ve spent all your wages on maintenance and petrol of course.
So I’m still no clearer on what to do. I’d like a driver, for definite. I’m less keen to drive the more time I spend in the traffic here (I even hate crossing the road for godsakes) and a driver would at least a) know his way around, b) take care of maintenance and petrol and c) eliminate parking headaches. I guess we go back to the drawing board, bite the bullet and keep looking for cars to hire. Take a 3 month rental and see where we’re at. Hmmm.
09.03.2011 More Transport Woes