13 good reasons to return to Yangon, Myanmar

And below are some reasons for me to return to Yangon in Myanmar. What a beautiful country it is! I have been there and some memories keep lingering on. 

1. Gemstones.

I don’t like this but my wife does. She managed to persuade me into it. Finally she bought 3 silver rings (with sapphire, ruby and jade stones) from her Myanmar friend in Bogyoke Market. I have to wear it for the first few days.  Where are they now?

2. Golf

Even though the price is picking up, relatively cheaper green fees of as low as 15000 kyats (USD15) with caddy is still available. Yemon golf course is on the way to Bago is good for beginners and intermediateries.

3. C otton textiles (Kain kapas)

Quality cotton material from Korea and China is cheap. Remember China is the most important trading country with Myanmar. Buy the textile at Bogyoke Market in Yangon and go to the tailor nearby. Your long sleeve shirt, for the cost of 5000 kyats will be ready in a couple days.  Pay urgency fees of additional 1000 kyats if you want it early.

4. Used designer watches

Take a stroll along downtown streets near Sule Pagoda and you will come to many watch shops. The front glass displays common watches only. Go inside and quietly ask for Rolex or Tag Heuer or Hamilton or Tissot, and in no time they will bring second-hand branded watches and make offer you cannot resist. Some watches come with certificate of authenticity.

5. T-shirt with embroidery or printed.

Near Shwegondaing junction in Yangon, there are many plain t-shirt shops, ready to be printed. Buy as many as you want for as low as 1500 kyats each and send for printing or embroidery the nearby printing shops. They will do design for you for free on their computer.  For printing, they will create stamping block, and minimum order is necessary.   

6.  Cashew nuts

3200 kyats (USD3.2)  for 500 gram of Grade A cashew nuts from upper Myanmar is certainly a good buy, especially for wholesalers. You need contact to get to the supplier.

7. Programming services

This one for techies. For 200,000 kyats (USD200 per month) or even less, you can hire a programmer well-versed in CSS and PHP full time to develop a customized website for you or develop on-line store for you. There are desparate for works. Myanmar people are creative in every aspect of life. They can make 40- 50  year-old cars and buses running on the city streets! Programming is a cup of tea for well-trained ones.

8. Stone paintings

Plenty of these at Bogyoke Market in downtown Yangon or at Sayasan Plaza in Yankin Township. Choose ready made or bring your own design or photo and give them some times before collecting the paintings.

8. Oil paintings

Plenty of street artists, unknown but very prolific. Meet them at Bogyoke Market in downtown Yangon. Choose ready made or bring your own design or photo and give them some times before collecting the paintings. Prices are very reasonable.

9. Simple life

If you want to run away from fake people in big cities, come to Myanmar. Life is so simple here. The telecommunication system is as secretive as its military government system is. High spreed internet access is only for few privileged ones. Websites are subject to heavy censorship by the government and . Power blackout is the order of the day. Main power supply is from diesel-powered generator, with backup supply from the government. Electricity supply is rationed to 6-hours per day. Your mobile will not roam in this country. Get a new local SIM card for USD70 with airtime USD30

Natures untouched. Wooden bridges along the main road to Pathein and Chaungtha Beach and other places are common sights.

10. AirAsia

AirAsia started flying direct to Yangon from Kuala Lumpur beginning July 2010 with incredibly lower fare, if you are lucky enough. Coupled with newly introduced Visa on Arrival at Yangon Airport, getting into Myanmar has never been that easy. 

11. Helping people.

Jika anda dari kalangan yang ‘ringan tangan’ dan suka menolong orang, Yangon memang sesuai untuk anda. Di sini ramai orang miskin dan peminta sedekah berada di mana-mana termasuk di pintu masuk masjid. Bahasa Inggerisnya orang yang suka menolong orang lain disebut sebagai  ‘good samaritan’ atau orang kaya yang yang punya banyak wang dalam bank dan suka menolong orang lain digelar  ‘philantrophist’  . Di barat ramai orang seperti ini seperti mendiang Putri Diana dan juga Bill Gates, yang mana bagi mereka kebahagian dan ketenangan hanya diperolehi melalui memberi harta benda mereka kepada orang miskin di seluruh dunia. Dikenali juga sebagai ‘compulsive helper’.

12. Pirated DVDs

Be it the latest movies or even the latest installers or softwares or antivirus signatures, you can find from street peddlers along downtown streets. If you a collector, the whole series of popular TV programs like LOST or CSI or even Korean dramas, can be found in a single DVD, costing only 1500 kyats. One single DVD could host 60 war movies or James Bond movies.

13. A pair of glasses.

Along downstown streets you can find a lot of spectacles shops. Choose your own frame and all sort of lenses are available. Common lenses available within 3o mins.

Saying goodbye to Yangon, MYANMAR

15 August 2010 (SUNDAY)

Every good thing must come to end. So is my assignment in Yangon, MYANMAR. Dawood the packers came to my apartment to put things in boxes on Friday and Saturday and I took one-way flight to KUL from Yangon on Sunday at 12:15 noon. The company organized a farewell dinner on Friday night, the second day of Ramadan in Myanmar. Yes we started fasting on Thursday, one day later after our brothers and sisters in Malaysia did. 
Saying farewell is not my cup of tea. But I managed to maintain my cool during entire session. First my boss went up to the rostrum saying all good things I have done. Then I went up saying all good things must come to pass. It was a short stay of 22 months in Myanmar but a memorable one. I told them I valued this international exposure and cherished every single encounter in this beautiful country. I had been to almost each and every one of my staff’s home visiting their spouse and parents and children.   I have attended many weddings and funerals, Myanmar way. Except for Bagan and Moulamine, I have been to most places such as Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, Pathein, Chaungtha Beach, Bago, Napyidaw, Pyinmana, Inle Lake, Kalaw, Taungyi, Aung Ban, Twente, Tanglyin, Delta area. To the south, I have taken many roads less travelled in the name of work. Dawei, Kanbauk and the dusty road leading to our metering station near Thailand border and Thai border town of Ban-i-thong itself (illegal crossing), to name a few. I have taken numerous flights on Twin Otter and choppers to sites and to our offshore gas platform off Andaman Sea. It was a colorful life indeed in Myanmar. I concluded my speech that I had done all I could in developing host country national staff and now they are ready to take over. Then one of my favorite staff went up and say all the nice things about me.  I received a lot of gifts in form of Myanmar stone paintings and cotton materials. Two of my mentees were there also. Myanmar ladies are soft-hearted and I could see they were holding tears. I knew that.  The event was rather predictable as almost every alternate month management team of this organization celebrated a departure of Malaysian expatriate back to Kuala Lumpur, in the name of nationalization plan. Except that my farewell took place in Ramadan. So everybody rushed to perform Isyak and Taraweh in one of the room, reserved by the Micasa Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Some muslim friends were already wearing baju melayu and kopiah and loungyis (kain pelikat), right from home, ready for prayers.

I would like to take this opportunies to apologize for all my wrong doings, be it big or small, obvious or subtle. I can’t make everyone happy, though I tried so hard. Anyway it is not my business as HR Manager to make every staff  happy. And also I would like to sincerely apologize for my wrong doings over the past 22 months in all Myanmar.

Thank you to all.  God willing I will return.

A flower girl in Yangon (Part 2)

July 2, 2010:

Met her again at the Shwegondaing intersection.

She was as innocent as ever, wearing the same sweet smile, very natural indeed. She rushed to my car knocking at the window gently, as what she did last time. She waved a string of jasmine flower for sale, as what she did last time. Unlike what I did last time, this time I rushed to get some kyats from my work pant deep inside the sport bag, as I just returned from a badminton game at the university sport complex.  But alas I could not control the traffic light. The light turned green so fast, and the car had to move. I missed her again. May be next time. I forgot her name but I could never forget her smile.

It was an interesting sight at the Shwegonedain intersection in Yangon, Myanmar. In this city, everyone has a story. Every face tells a story.

AirAsia terbang ke Yangon dari KL bermula 18 Julai 2010

An AirAsia flight just arrived at Yangon International Airport from Bangkok. AK will ply KUL-RGN-KUL route beginning 18 July 2010.

Berita baik kepada pengembara tegar yang berminat melawat negara misteri MYANMAR. AirAsia akan memulakan laluan Kuala Lumpur – Yangon – Kuala Lumpur bermula Julai 18.  Harga promosi bermula dari USD9 satu hala.  AirAsia akan menggunakan Airbus 320 dengan kapasiti 180 seats. Pengumuman ini dialu-alukan oleh pakar-pakar industri pelancongan Myanmar dan Malaysia. Pada masa sekarang hanya Myanmar International Airways (MAI) dan Malaysia Airlines terbang ke Yangon dari Kuala Lumpur.

Untuk pelawat ke Myanmar, visa diperlukan dan satu lagi berita baik ialah mulai Jun 2010, Visa On Arrival (VOA) boleh dipohon di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Yangon. Detail di sini –> VOA.

Yangon adalah bandaraya terbesar di Myanmar. Dengan penduduk seramai 4-5 juta, 10-20% adalah penduduk Islam. Makanan halal dan masjid mudah didapati di sini dan tidak menjadi masalah, asalkan anda seorang yang fleksibel dan berani mencuba. Lihat banyak postings di website ini mengenai Yangon. Jangan lupa datang ke Inle Lake, jika anda tersampai ke Myanmar dan punyai banyak masa.

Visa On Arrival (VOA) now available for foreigners visiting Myanmar

MH740 flight unloading at Yangon International Airport. MAI flight at the background.
Newly opened Visa On Arrival counters at Yangon International Airport.

Beginning June 2010, Myanmar immigration , tourist department and airlines confirmed that the new on arrival VISA will be issued for all foreigners at both entry points of Yangon and Mandalay  international airports.  Previous practise is that you are required to apply upfront in your home country Myanmar visa prior to departure — airlines flying into Myanmar will blankly refuse you boarding the aircraft if no valid Myanmar visa found on your passport.

Following condition applies for VOA:

1. All passengers with valid passports will be granting, except listed on Myanmar Immigration ” Black List “.
2. Passports validity must be at least 6 months during staying in Myanmar.
3. 2 recent passport photos ( Size 4 cm X 6 cm )
4. The exact address of hotel , guest house to stay.
5. Return ticket
6. Single traveler must hold minimum 300 USD and for Family 600 USD as show money. (This amount to show to Immigration upon request only, but most of the time not required)
7. Child under age of 7 traveling with passport together with parent is exempted from Visa fee (FOC).

The application forms can be inquired at airline counters, flight on board and Yangon and Mandalay airports.

VISA FEES:

1.Tourists Visa ( 28 Days ) 30 USD
2.Business Visa ( 70 Days ) 40 USD
3.Transit Visa ( 24 hours ) 18 USD