Myanmar: A Yangon River Ferry's Last Day

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As Myanmar begins seeing sanctions against it lifted, foreign firms, including a Japanese company whose ferryboats will replace the old boats that until recently criss-crossed the Yangon River, have begun vying to open markets in the country, bringing with them the changes to everyday life that come with the influx of new goods and services.

Traffic sits static in the swelteringly damp heat of Yangon’s streets, filling the air with fumes. Noodle stalls, tea stalls, clothes stalls, nick-nack stalls and finally, pedestrians pack sidewalks to the edge, the pavements stained red from the constant spitting of Betel-nut juice. Sprays of blood-red saliva spurt from taxi windows and the mouth of every other Betel chewer on the street. The soundtrack is a constant ring of shouts, calls, coughs, engines and around dawn and dusk, the cawing of crows. However, despite the chaos, the investment and development brought to the city in recent years is obvious. Encouraged by apparent moves towards democracy, foreign companies have begun to see Myanmar as viable and potentially lucrative option. Yangon feels like a place where things are changing.

Not far outside of Yangon things don’t move so fast. The ferry crossing the river between the city and the semi-rural township of Dala is packed all day with commuters, traders and labourers who rely on the crossing to access work in Yangon. Like tens of thousands of other Burmese they leave underdeveloped townships and head to the former capital each day to make their living.

This video, filmed on the last days the two decrepit ferries would operate before being replaced by newer boats, puts forward small aspects of Burmese daily life that speak to wider changes occurring in the country.