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Burma Special

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The trucks used by the presenters on their journey across Burma.

The Burma Special was a two-part special episode of the BBC motoring show Top Gear. The special saw the three presenters travelling from Burma, otherwise known as Myanmar, into Thailand to construct a bridge over the River Kwai. The special aired as the penultimate and final episode in Top Gear's twenty first series, on the 9th of March, 2014 and the 16th of March, 2014 respectively. The special aired in two parts like 2013's Africa Special that preceeded it. Jeremy Clarkson confirmed that filming of the special had commenced on the 20th of October, 2013. Ian May, a cameraman for the show, also confirmed the special but did not reveal the location that they were travelling to. Jeremy tweeted "Well this is it. We are off to make the Top Gear Special. And I have a bad feeling about this mission". The presenters will began in Yangon, the former capital of Burma, and headed across Burma, up into the Shan State, and then crossed the border at Tachileik into Thailand. In the image at the top right of the article Richard's truck is the one closest to the camera, Jeremy's is the yellow truck, and James' is the blue truck farthest away from the camera.

Overview

Part I

Beginning in Rangoon (referred to often as Yangon - it's modern name), the old capital city of Burma the presenters are told to meet up in the People's Square opposite the Shwedagon Pagoda. Jeremy is the first to arrive in what he dubs the 'sports lorry', a yellow Isuzu built around 1959. The next to arrive is James, in the what is the smallest of the three, leading Jeremy to mock it as a van. James' lorry has a crane attachment on the back, which he later puts to good use. Jeremy demonstrates his speaker system to James while they wait for Richard and justifys why he is wearing a tie saying "because I am a modern lorry driver and modern lorry drivers are crisp and sharp. The days are over when you simply turned up with a glove box full of strong pornography and egg on your vest". Hammond then arrives at the Square with "a glovebox full of strong pornography and egg on his vest". Hammond's truck is mocked for it's size and for being a Hindu temple by James. The presenters also critizes his seat which Jeremy likens to a church pew. Jeremy also suggest that as Hammond's lorry was originally a farm truck it was used for transporting heroin in the Golden Triangle. The presenters then formally receive their challenge. They are tasked with building a bridge that is strong enough to support the weight of their lorries over the River Kwai in Thailand.

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The lorries before they were modified.

The presenters, excited about their bridge building challenge, set off making a route through Rangoon up to Naypyidaw, across the Shan State, and finally crossing the border into Northern Thailand. On the streets of Rangoon the presenters come to grips with just how dodgy their ancient lorries are; Jeremy's gearbox is extremelly difficult to change, he accidentally activates his 'tipper', Richard's discovers that none of his gauges or dials work, and James realizes that there is a significant amount of play in the steering and that his lorry has no handbrake. Despite their problems the presenters press on following James' lead in the crowded streets, Jeremy remarking on the history of Burma's rule under General Ne Win. James eventually leads them down a narrow street, down which Jeremy knocks over a lady's fruit stand. Whilst he organises payment for the Burmese shop keeper, Hammond is forced to use the crane James' truck so that he can clear a set of low wires.


Part II

Continuing on from the end of the previous episode, the presenters head into the Shan State, heading towards the Thai border.

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