The Last Days of the Yangon River Ferry

2 minute read

On a warm Friday in mid-November, the old Yangon Ferry shuddered across the riverbank in Burma for the last time.

The next morning, commuters boarded three shining new boats donated by the government of Japan. The moan of the old engines was gone, but the orange sunlight, the weary faces, and the frenzied commerce remained the same.

Since 2011, Burma’s government has worked to shed its international pariah status. Memories are short, and foreign money is washing over one of the world’s last untapped markets.

From the ferry pier, you can see the changes coming to Burma. It’s not just new boats. Tourists follow investment dollars, and children sell faded postcards in broken snatches of at least three European languages. A rickshaw driver holds a long, semi-coherent conversation in English. “I didn’t go to school,” he says. “I learned from you.” His finger points my way, but he refers to my fanny-pack saddled forbearers. The ferry has been updated, too—it still costs ten cents for locals, but four bucks a ride for tourists.

In the video above, follow the rhythm and warmth of the historic ferry crossing in its final days.

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