The one on the left belongs to a scooter which can never cross the border - because no outsider will be able to read its Burmese script. A couple of years ago, number plates here started looking like the one on the right - a mix of Latin characters and Hindi-Arabic numerals - Western-style. The car to which it belongs can be driven on roads from Beijing to Bali.
Connections are being enhanced right across this great continent.
It’s one of the small changes being encouraged by membership of the economic block ASEAN - which is mentioned increasingly by ordinary folks here, in much the same way as the EU is back in Europe.
And as with the European Union - especially in its early days - road building is often a concrete measure of the “presence” of ASEAN.
Otherwise the organisation is frequently accused of being a talking shop, of slowness and extravagance. I remember seeing a vast new immigration centre on the border between Thailand and Laos - with only pitted earthen roads leading to and from it.
It was to remain that way for a long time, too.
The government of Myanmar is already alive to the fact that its road network needs improving : to make it easier for its citizens, boost business efficiency, encourage tourism and promote security. So the upgraded road from Mandalay to Yangon (via the new capital Naypyidaw) takes 8 hours by car now, down from 12 recently.
That 600 km (370 mile) journey still takes 15 hours by train! The track dates from the days of British control. It’s narrow gauge. And described like “the journey of life” by Kyaw Kyaw, a guide we met in Mandalay.
“When the train starts, it’s with a big shove, then a swinging motion from side to side which rocks you to sleep like a baby. Then it gathers pace, and like a teenager, it rushes forwards with leaps and screams. Years then seem to pass before eventually it staggers like an old person, to a shuddering halt!”
China is spending vast sums improving rail connections in the wider region, but it is roads which will offer the most immediate benefit for inhabitants.
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There are, of course, unforeseen consequences from most development, and that’s true of an improved 60km road built by sinewy men and women on the way from Bagan to the shrine at Mount Popa, for example.
The old road was always a place for gossip and exchange each day - as farmers would leave their adjoining fields and seek the shade of the trees at the edge of the road, when the local bus was due to pass. They’d hang around to hail a friend for a chat, or make a swap.
Now as you bowl along, you see an almost eerie sight : every 100 metres, almost precisely, will be a rangy figure standing, perhaps fluttering hands out towards the traffic, seeking alms from the larger number of travellers along this route.
Fellow residents shake their heads in sadness at the begging, as they drive swiftly by.
The vehicles travelling these routes are getting more expensive. Gleaming saloons for the tourists. 4x4s or SUVs for the local wealthy. Scooters for everybody. But wise folks tell you to choose carefully…
A lot of odd fellows will be sharing Myanmar’s new roads for a while.
From water buffalo (real and mechanical) to limousines. And both left- and right- hand drive cars, too…
Burma changed over to driving on the right hand side of the road in 1970. The dictators in charge wanted to cozy up to their allies in China and Laos across the border. Despite its other neighbours India, Bangladesh and Thailand driving on the left. And also despite the fact that most vehicles came from Japan, where they also drive on the left.
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With a reduction in sanctions, left-hand-drive vehicles (for driving on the right - are you keeping up!?) are now appearing. But drivers of new cars face a problem. Most ticket booths still expect you to be sitting in the right front seat - so it’s a stretch for you now, to hand over your change at the car park!
And just to add to cross-border confusion, Myanmar is one of only a handful of countries in the world to use miles (instead of kilometres) and gallons (instead of litres).
There’s a place that no scooter can go in Myanmar. Yangon (the old capital, Rangoon) has banned them from its centre. They’re viewed as a lawless nuisance, not obeying traffic regulations or adhering to lane discipline. And annoying all those nice new car drivers too.