Page 1

Yangon, Mandalay & Beyond

No. 1 / Nov 2016 It’s free!


more action, more news, more lifestyle

A Life in Music: Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein



contents now

What’s on 4 What’s in and out 7 Film 8 Promotions 9

briefings 10 cover story 16 A Life in Music: Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein indepth

Streets of Yangon: Bo Ywe Street 20 Training Ground: Let The Battle Commence 24 Htein Lin 27 Slam Poetry in Yangon 28 Opportunities NOW 30 Deep Sea Diving 34 Road Trip on the Old Opium Trail: Fromt Taunggyi to Khaing Tong 38 Behind the Scenes: Balloons over Bagan 42 What’s Brewing: Myanmar’s Growing Coffee Industry 46






Myanmar Rules of Etiquette & Law 48 Food Review: Le Cellier 50 Myanmore’s Choice of Top 10 Myanmar Foods 52 Spas in Yangon 54 Financial Advice 56

Managing Director Andreas Sigurdsson Editor & Illustrator Ben Hopkins Creative Director Richie Chan

Cover Photo: Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein By Gerhard Jörén

Contributors Amy Fallon Andrew Wood Anne Cruickshank Bob Percival Charlie Michio Turner Christina Maria Chiorean Dominic Horner Marie Starr Martyn Brown Sondang Grace Sirait Susan Bailey

Photography Andreas Sigurdsson Gerhard Jörén Art & Production Kyaw Kyaw Tun Publisher MYANMORE Magazine Pyit Thiri Thaw Lychee Ventures (Myanmar) Limited 01588 Printer Myanmar Consolidated Media Ltd. Head Office: 379/383 Bo Aung Kyaw St., Kyauktada Tsp., Yangon, Myanmar

About Myanmore Myanmore is a registered brand under Lychee Ventures (Myanmar) Limited providing digital and print publishing as well as creative services. Myanmore is managing the leading online city guide www. and the printed publications Weekly Guide, InDepth, EnjoyIt and KnowIt. Recently, we have also launched digital platforms such as Myanmore and Sarmal (restaurants & bars in Myanmar) mobile apps. The mission is to provide great content and experiences for residents of Yangon to enjoy and explore.

Disclaimer No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission from Myanmore. All details are deemed correct at the time of print. The editor, employees and contributors cannot be held responsible for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions that may occur.



What’s On

Listings A new listing to add or report on? Tell us! 09 779 003 701 / 702

Stay Informed Want to know what’s happening in Myanmar? Subscribe to our twice-a-week e-newsletter and kee yourself up to date! Yangon


23 Nov


4 pm

We Are Connected



The legendary DJ & Producer Armin van Buuren joins Bassjackers, Firebeatz, MaRLo, Husman, Deuce, and Kendrick at The ONE Entertainment Park. Tickets are 35,000 Ks and VIP & table packages are available via 09451010789.


3rd Quarter 2016


Notable Condominium Supply Stock (units) 

10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000

2,000 0 2009





Supply at the start of the year





Additional supply during the year




50% 1,500






New Sales Launches (LHS)




Average Sales Price (USD / sq m) Mid-market








For more information: Karlo Pobre Senior Manager | Research & Advisory +95 (0) 979 573 3378

The Htet Oo Assistant Manager | Research & Advisory +95 (0) 943 190 707

InterNations Yangon Exclusive Whiskey Lounge Event 01

The overall citywide take-up rate has increased modestly by 3% QoQ to 54% as a result of the absence of new launches during the quarter. In particular, the improvement in sales were recorded across all segments with the exception of the luxury market, which remained unchanged QoQ. The top performing segment is the upper-mid followed by the midmarket. Though a recovery was observed, this remains an early sign, inadequate to establish a continuous upward trend going forward.

There has been a correction in selling prices across the midmarket and upper-mid segments as developers start to benchmark prices to US Dollars from Myanmar Kyats. This resulted from the foreign exchange risk following the declining value of the Myanmar Kyats.

The average price for the luxury segment has begun to decline QoQ after witnessing a 15% hike in prices in Q2 2016. The selling prices dropped back to Q1 2016 level at an average of USD4,000 per sq m. The increase in prices in Q2 2016 has led to a weaker sales performance, prompting developers to scale-back prices.

Note: LHS (left-hand side); RHS (right hand side); New Sales Launches are based on the number of notable condominium units launched for the specific year; average sales take-up rate is reported as cumulative.


Colliers estimates that more than 55 projects totalling around 11,000 units will be completed in the next four to five years. This translates to an average of more than 2,500 units annually. However, delays in construction are likely as progress regarding the YCDC high-rise building review appears sluggish.

Sales Take-up (RHS)


The ONE Entertainment Park - Paw San Hmwe St, Thuwana, Thingankyun Tsp

Sales Prices



Three small-scale condominium projects totalling 113 units were completed in Q3 2016. An additional 1,489 units are expected to be delivered in the remainder of the year which will drive the total stock to end at 6,182 units for 2016. Notable developments expected to complete in the near term include the four towers of Golden City Phase 1 as well as GEMS Garden Condominium.


Average Sales Take-up Rate Vs. New Sales Launches 4,500

Tin Thandar Oo Analyst

Khin Wadi Business Development

Hsan Pyae Researcher

Ye Tun Thet Paing Researcher

Nay Aung Kyaw Researcher

Colliers International | Myanmar Room No. B 803, 8/F., Tower B, Myawaddy Bank Luxury Complex, No. 151, War Dan Street, corner of Bogyoke Aung San Road, Lanmadaw Township, Yangon, Myanmar MAIN

23 Nov

6.30 - 9.30 pm


InterNations is constantly growing and for many guests, this will be their first event. Please be welcoming and introduce them to your friends. Live the spirit of connecting global minds to ensure that every member has a lovely time. Entrance Fee is Albatross Member: $18, Basic Member: $23. Not signed up for event: $28. Feel free to bring your international friends, but please invite them to register for InterNations first. Entrance fee includes two fine whiskey’s or three beers as well as delicious finger food. Cask 81 - Kabar Aye Pagoda Rd, Bahan Tsp

25 Nov 6 - 10.30 pm

Contributors: Joshua De Las Alas Analyst

Copyright © 2016 Colliers International. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable. While every reasonable effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, we cannot guarantee it. No responsibility is assumed for any inaccuracies. Readers are encouraged to consult their professional advisors prior to acting on any of the material contained in this report.

950 931491 678

Yangon Film School (YFS) Annual Screening 2016 01 Activities

Every year, the YFS showcases its students’ latest work. Tickets available at Mya Yeik Nyo Hotel - 20 Kabar Aye Pagoda Rd, Bahan Tsp

26 Nov 10 pm - 1 am

Mirror Image at The Penthouse 01 4



What’s On

Nightlife Mirror image will heat up the dancefloor with disco and tech. RSVP via 09 771239924. The Penthouse - 271-273 Bargayar Rd, Park Side One Building, 8th floor, Myaynigone

27 Nov 10 am - 5 pm

Pun Hlaing Charity Christmas Bazaar 01 Activities

The Pun Hlaing Charity Christmas Bazaar! Free entry, a fashion show, live music, games and activities for the kids, lots of shopping, and much more! Pun Hlaing Estate - Pun Hlaing Golf Estate Avenue, Hlaing Tharyar Tsp

27 Nov 4 pm - 6 pm

Piano Saloon at the Rose Garden Hotel 01 Art & Stage

Share a late afternoon of short piano performances and reflections by renowned Taiwanese Pianist Ying-Hua Huang with her fellow musicians. For the second time, together, in the informal setting of the 19th century European Salon, explore familiar and unfamiliar pieces by J. S. Bach, W. A. Mozart , Edvard Grieg, D. Scarlatti, J. Brahms, M. Ravel, N. Kapustin. RSVP via 01371992 or info@ Rose Garden Hotel Yangon - 171 Upper Panso-

dan Rd, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Tsp

27 Nov

12 pm - 4 pm

Boutique Brunch



Enjoy the à la carte brunch at the Savoy Hotel. Freshly cooked dishes - the most famous items from menus and creations from creative kitchen team. Deal: USD 33 per person for unlimited brunch menu items including free flow of drinks (wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee). Kipling’s Restaurant - Savoy Hotel Yangon, 129, Dhammazedi Rd, Bahan Tsp

30 Nov 7 pm

November’s Premium Class Music Show 01 Concert

Premium music show at The Loft House featuring Rock Artist R Zarni & Pop Queen Wine Su Khine Thein with Unplugged Band. Good music, good vibe. Table reservation via 09 795258650. Bottle package available. The Loft House - 33 Kyaik Waing Pagoda Rd, Mayangone Tsp

1 Dec 11 am

French Fair



The French Chamber of Commerce organizes a French Fair for Franchise

and Distribution. Take this opportunity to prospect Myanmar market, test your products and extend your network. Tickets at Cci France Myanmar - Parkside One Building, 271-273 Bargayar Rd, Sanchaung Tsp

1 Dec

Locations - Botahtaung Jetty, Dala, Wardan Jetty, Mahabandoola Park, Myaynigone flyover, People’s Park.

1 Dec

10.30 am - 10 pm

MyWorld Golf Tournament 2016



7 pm - 11 pm

International Guest Bartender Jen Queen



Jen Queen of the Elbow Room has travelled all the way from San Diego via Phnom Penh to shake up Union Bar and Grill with her creative cocktails.

After the success of last year’s event, the British Chamber’s annual golf tournament is back, bringing together member companies and their invited guests. Pun Hlaing Golf Estate Avenue - Pun Hlaing Golf Estate St, Hlaing Tharyar Tsp

3 Dec

2 pm - 5 pm

Union Bar and Grill - 42 Strand Rd, Botahtaung Tsp

16 Days Activism



1-4 Dec 9 - 10 pm

Mingalabar! Festival



A multidisciplinary festival in Yangon! In line with the tradition of the major street art festivals held in France, IFB presents a 3-day city-scale festival intended for Yangon’s inhabitants – a set of artistic and poetic performances in the heart of the city. Following the parade of two giant puppets, more than a hundred French and Myanmar artists will present performances and live shows. There’ll be concerts, street art, video mapping, fireworks and dance in key locations of the city. Free entrance.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a global campaign to raise awareness about violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. The 16 Days of Activism begins on 25th November on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on December 10th International Human Rights Day. People’s Square and Park - Pyay Rd, Sanchaung Tsp

3 Dec

6 pm - 12 pm

AMCHAM Starry Night Gala Ball 01 5


What’s On

Activities This will be a night of great food, wine, live music, dancing, entertainment and a silent auction. The inaugural ball is themed Starry Night and will bring together the mainstays of American business in Myanmar to network, have fun and raise money for AMCHAM Myanmar’s scholarship fund. USD 125 per person. USD 1,200 for a table of ten seats. Register via Sule Shangri-La Hotel Yangon - Sule Pagoda Rd, Kyauktada Tsp

more. Tickets prices are General Acess: 65,000 Kyats for 2 days, Premium Acess: 200,000 Kyats for 2 days and available at Balance Fitness I & II, FUSE, Roof Alchemy. The One Entertainment Park - Paw San Hmwe St, Thuwana, Thingankyun Tsp

5 Dec

7 pm - 12 pm

The Drinking Games Party 01 Nightlife

The first edition of “The Drinking Games” present you alcoholic games you’ve always wanted to play with your buddies and party-goers, a House party vibe, with industry famous DJs. If you’re fun and friendly, if you party hard, if you love dance music and if you like party games, “Let the Games Begin”. Share it with your party-buddies. Early Tickets 10000 Ks, call 09 254 002 973. Immortal Titans Wine Bar & Dining - 49, Moe Kaung Rd, Yankin Tsp

5 Dec 8 pm

Pub Quiz



Test your brain power against the Yangon Dragon Rugby Club’s pub quiz while chowing down on some tasty Mexican food. Free Pitcher to round winner, drinking challenge, and 30,000 Ks Bar Tab to winning team! 50th Street cafe Restaurant and Bar - 9/13 50th Street, Botataung Tsp

18 PLUS BOX (YSiD, Interior Design Graduation Show) 01 Students get to explore the relationship between nature, people and design. Everyone is welcome to this event and it’s free. Tune in for their design and big day. The Yangon Gallery - People’s Park Compound, Alone Rd, Dagon Tsp.

11 Dec

White Balloon Movement is about how to protect child abuse and empower your child to say no and report it. The sessions in the event are (1) Going, Check-in Campaign Booth. (2) Signs Collecting Campaign Booth. (3) Stick Note Campaign Booth. (4) Fundraiser Kit Shop Booth. (5) Donations Booth. (6) Launching White Balloons. (7) Poems Campaign Booth. (8) News Campaign Booth. (9) Information Education & Communication (IEC) Booth and more. People’s Square and Park - Pyay Rd, Sanchaung Tsp

11 Dec

6.30 - 9.30 pm

Masquerade Ball


5 pm

808 Festival Yangon



Headliners include: Carnage, Dillion Francis, Hardwell, Yellow Claw, Support: Borgore, Breathe Carolina, Dzeko & Torres, Mike William, Valatino Khan &


There will be music and dance along with awards for the Ball King & Queen, Best Dressed, Everyone’s BFF, and Swan of the Night. This is your chance to dress up and look fancy and charming for one night, while meeting new friends having loads of fun. Tickets will be available at Connect Institute. Please call 09420071971, 09779089378, or 09

Myanmar’s Si Thu Lwin collaborates with Aye Chan May for a night of classic songs. Tickets are available now via 099 75768000.

3 Dec

Art & Stage

This year is going to be the 5th anniversary of The First Jam. The hosts, Myanmar Street Dance, will bring new ideas and competitors. Hledan Center - Pyay Road, Heldan Junction, Kamaryut Tsp

17 Dec Art & Stage




The First Jam 5th year Anniversary 01


White Balloon Movement


Mingalar Mandalay - 73rd St, between Mingalar 2nd & 3rd Rd, Chanmyatarzi, Mandalay

DJ Run Festival Myanmar

3.30 pm

May Live in Mandalay

17 Dec

4.30 pm


5 Dec

Micasa Hotel Yangon - Kabar Aye Pagoda Rd, Yankin Tsp

11 am - 8 pm

3 - 5 pm


3 Dec

77 9000 900 for more information and for payment options. Tickets prices are Early Birds 25,000 MMK, Regular 30,000 MMK.

The DJs will the play the hottest songs and jump with them – sounds curious! Ticket: 18,000 Ks via 1876. People’s Square and Park - Pyay Rd, Sanchaung Tsp


23 Nov 6 pm

Redbull Family Music Tour 01 Concert

Myanmar’s favourite Rock bands: Idiots, Reason, Hlaing Oo Maw, Thar Dee Lu, Zaw Min Oo, Ah Moon, Sophia Everest, Last Days of Beethoven & Fever 109 will perform Live at Redbull Music Tour on Nov 23rd in Mandalay. Tickets are 4,000 Kyats at 365* EPG (30th Street, between 80th & 81st St) or via 09 975768000. Golden City Event Park - Corner of 78th St & 42nd St, Mandalay

25 Nov 7 pm

Sithu Lwin - Aye Chan

5 pm - 12 pm

Electric Dream Festival 01

Concert One of the Biggest EDM Festival is coming to Mandalay with headliners: Ummet Ozcan, Danny Avila, Jetfire, SODA, Support: YDNB, Yan Naing and more. Contacts: 09797168802, 09260677712, 09795999994, 09792039922. Mandalar Thiri Football Stadium - 73th St, near New Ocean Super Center, Mandalay

4 Dec 3 pm

Frenzo Mandalay Tour with VeVe 01 Nightlife

Sai Sai’s Frenzo Show in Mandalay with Sai Sai Kham Hlaing, Bunny Phyoe, Soe Gyi, X-Box, G-Fatt, Mi Sandi, Amara Hpone. Tickets are 8,000 Kyats (Regular standing) and VIP seats available at Man Thiri Studio, Hline Studio, 501 Fashion, OZONE Fashion, Genius Fashion & OMG Fashion. Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel - 9, Kwin 416B, 10th Street, Foot of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay

What’s In / Out



in. Healthy Eating

out. Bacteria

The long-awaited emergence of health food restaurants and juice bars have recently taken root on the crumbled streets of Yangon, and long may it continue.

With a growing awareness of food hygiene, we can only hope action is taken in booting out the dreaded curse of bacteria.

in. Rooftop Bars

out. Power Cuts and Hibernation

Yangon’s rooftop bars have skyrocketed in recent years and no wonder, when the moon’s glow is bouncing off Shwedegon Pagoda and the cocktails are flowing there’s no better place to be.

in. Cold Coffee

Quite different from ice-coffee - cold brew is the prosses where courseground coffee beans are soaked in cold water for 12 hours or more. The result is a cool, smooth and less acidic cuppa. Wannabe hipsters of Yaw Min Gyi and beyond are beside themselves with joy, especially when it’s served in a jam jar!

in. Nomadic Tech-Heads

‘To see the world in a grain of sand’ …or should that be ‘a smart phone?’ There’s no doubt about it, access and command of information is key to freedom of opportunity and travel.


The rainy season’s over so there are fewer power cuts and more reasons to get out and live your life.

out. English Breakfast Tea

Suck it up, buttercup, the English tea bag is out of fashion and out of the cup – just like their football team.

out. Corporate Slavery

On the downside, the days of ‘a job for life’ belong to our parent’s generation. On the upside, we believe more and more young people are shaking off the shackles of corporate slavery.

in. out. In & Out

As of December 1, 2016, Myanmar nationals travelling to Singapore for up to 30 days will no longer need to apply for a visa. Likewise, Singaporeans travelling to Myanmar will be able to enjoy up to 30 days of visa free fun. Not surprisingly, the number of flights between the two nations is edging up in anticipation.




Show Times Check latest show times on our weekly guide available at newsstands, restaurants, cafes, bars and other establishments. Or log on to

Book Cinema Tickets Online!

Coming Soon

Now Showing


Now Showing


Now Showing

From Bangkok to Mandalay (Burmese)


Doctor Strange A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Follows the contents of romantic story on letters that were kept unopened and unread for over 50 years. My Lover (Burmese)


Coming Soon



Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

Fantastic Beasts The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Trolls After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy, the happiest Troll ever born, and the curmudgeonly Branch set off on a journey to rescue her friends.


The Accountant As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.


Happy Hour 50% Off Mon to Fri Join at 50th Street every day of the week to enjoy new Happy Hour special! Monday to Friday – 50% off at 50th Street from 6-8 pm. Draught Beer, House Wine, House Cocktails, House Spirits, 50th Street Specials & Shots!

Ladies Night Every Wednesday

Happy Hour Buy 3 Get 1 FREE - Sat & Sun

Explore the sophisticated taste of Japanese Premium beer Kirin Ichiban at Club Rizzoli everyday. Especially BUY 1 GET 1 FREE on Thursdays!

Wine Wednesdays Every Wednesday, BUY One GET One FREE on house wine by the glass all night.



The Brunch Society - 143/149, Sule Pagoda Rd, Sule Plaza, Ground Floor, Pabedan Tsp | 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Thursday Kirin Night

50th Street cafe Restaurant and Bar - 9/13 50th St, Botahtaung Tsp | 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM


1 Free Cocktail for all Ladies from 6pm9pm on Wednesdays at The Brunch Society. Happy hour menu is valid from 6pm-9pm for all other customers.

50th Street cafe Restaurant and Bar - 9/13 50th St, Botahtaung Tsp | 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Join at 50th Street every day of the week to enjoy new Happy Hour special! Buy 3 Get 1 Free at 50th Street all day long. Draught Beer, House Wine, House Cocktails, House Spirits, 50th Street Specials & Shots!



Get Your Myanmore Card to enjoy greater discounts and privileges!


Ayethaya Ad

Club Rizzoli - Chatrium Royal Lake Yangon, 40 Natmauk Rd, Tamwe Tsp | 6:00 PM

Seafood Night Every Friday, Seafood buffet at The Square. Buy 3 Get 1 Free. 34USD++/person. Buffet with Free flow beverages. RSVP 01-2305858. The Square @ Novotel Yangon Max - 4th Floor, 459 Pyay Rd, Kamayut Tsp | 6:30 PM – 10:30 PM

Available at All Parami Pizza branches. Parami Pizza I - Corner of Malikha Rd & Parami Rd, 7th Quarter, Mayangone Tsp Parami Pizza II - 001 Building A, Shwe Gone Plaza, Ground Floor, Shwe Gone Daing Rd, Bahan Tsp Parami Pizza III - 56C, Sayarsan Rd, Bahan Tsp

Thursday All You Can Eat, Hong Kong BBQ 9 Dinner

Ladies Night Every Wednesday

Time Out Sports Bar @ Novotel Yangon Max - 4th Floor, 459 Pyay Rd, Kamayut Tsp | 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM


BB | FMI-Centre No.380 Bogyoke Aung San Rd. Pabedan Township, Yangon Tel. 09-250001392

BB | VANTAGE Tower No.623 Pyay Rd. Kamayut Township, Yangon Tel. 09-452424701

BB | Mandalay Airport D4-B, Mandalay Int’l Airport Mandalay Region Tel. 09-254158845

BB | NPT Airport Airport Departure Hall Nay Pyi Taw Tel. 09-254158845


BB | Mercedes Benz showroom No.51 Pyay Rd., 7.5 mile Mayangone Township, Yangon Tel. 09-960245731

Every Thursday, Pay 3 Get 1 FREE on Hong Kong BBQ “9” Dinner. 25USD++/ person. RSVP via 01-2305858.

Ladies night in YangonYangon every Wednesday. DJ MR.Y at 8pm with Hip Hop, Rnb, House, etc. FREE cocktails to ladies at 7pm. 50% Off on Frozen cocktails. 20% Off on Sparkling Wine. HAPPY HOUR 5pm – 7pm. Bucket Beers Deal (Buy4 get 2). Yangon Yangon Rooftop Bar - 339, Sakura Tower, corner of Bo Gyoke Aung San Rd & Sule Pagoda Rd, Pabedan Tsp | 8:00 PM - 11:30 PM


briefings Throughout November the hotel will offer a wide range of special 20th anniversary offers and activities for guests to enjoy.

Yangon Hospitality

Shangri-La Hotel Yangon Celebrates 20th Anniversary

As Shangri-La Hotel Yangon celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, some Yangon residents and returning travellers will recall it’s original name Traders. Under the same hotel management group of Hong Kong billionaire Robert Kuok, an extensive renovation over 2,5 years revealed the upgraded facilities in 2014 and it became another feather in Kuok’s five-star Shangri La chain of hotels.


Back in November 1996 when Trader’s Hotel opened its doors to public it quickly established itself as one of the top hotels in the city for business and pleasure, and even served as home base for the United Nations offices from 2007- 2013. The establishment’s rebrand two years ago was part of a push by Shangri-La to revive projects that were stalled almost 2 decades prior as a consequence of the Asian Financial Crisis, economic sanctions and a travel boycott on the county.

1 20th Anniversary Logo 2 Group Employees Photo 3 Hot & Cold Combination, from 20th Anniversary Menu 4 Grilled Corn Fed Chicken Supreme, from 20th Anniversary Menu

Today the outlook is very different and the hotel’s 20th anniversary celebration coincides with yet more expansion and

tourism set to boom. Sule Square beside Sule Shangri-La nears completion this month to offer a multi-storey commercial tower for offices, luxury lifestyle shopping and some much-needed underground parking in the city. The hotel’s restaurants are among the city’s favourites and the lobby lounge is prime viewing spot to observe this year’s changes in high-season travellers. So raise a glass and join in the multitude of 20th anniversary celebrations all month long. FIVE WAYS TO CELEBRATE 20 YEARS OF HOSPITALITY Spend Your Birthday at Café Sule: Guests born in November are invited to celebrate their birthday at Café Sule with lunch or dinner. Simply bring along two or more paying guests and you personally will be wined and dined for free. Plenty for Twenty at Summer Palace: Resident Chef Pang has put his chopsticks to the test and created a special seven-course menu of Cantonese creations for just USD20 nett per person. You don’t need a fortune cookie to tell you this is a great deal!

Drink & Dine! At Gallery Bar: Enjoy a main course with a free glass of wine, beer or soft drink for the memorable price of, yes, you guessed it…US$20 nett. Choose from a lip-smacking menu of Grilled Corn-Fed Chicken Supreme, Roasted Sea Bass with Olive Crust, Slow Cooked Beef Rump and Vegetable Lasagna with Basil Pesto. Stay in the city for 20% less: Take a break in the heart of the city with the special Suite November Package offering 20% discount on best available rates. Guests enjoying this offer also receive a 20% discount on food and beverage through the hotel, as well as spa. A Walk in the Park: Join the Shangri-La Walkathon 2016 on November the 19th – a 4km fun walk around Kandawgyi Lake - and simultaneously raise funds for the hotel’s CSR beneficiary, the Yangon Children’s Hospital. Enjoy the scenery, walk off those fine dining calories and raise money for a great cause, we’re guessing you’ll feel at least 20% better for doing so! To book your celebration and commemorate Sule Shangri-La Yangon’s iconic place in our city’s history, visit or call (95 1) 242 828



04 10


briefings Yangon Hospitality

The Strand Is Back Sondang Grace Sirait

Following an extensive six-month renovation, Myanmar’s iconic hotel The Strand will finally reopen its doors on 15th November 2016. It may not be its original ink in entirety, but the grand dame institution that was built in 1901 will still retain much of its architectural detail – made perfect by local artisans, who meticulously restored its teak paneling, antique bedsteads, traditional Myanmar lacquer, marble floorings and more. In its glorious past, the hotel was the preferred choice of famous 19th and 20th century literary figures such as Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and many more during their journeys to then-Rangoon. Paying homage to that heritage, the hotel’s 31 rooms and suites have had their traditional décor complemented with vintage-inspired textiles and original artwork, but updated with the latest technology. “It is true that competition is getting tougher in Yangon with many new high-end hotels opening; however we have our advantages for being a heritage hotel and one the finest hotel East of Suez for over 100 years. We have our butler service, which you can’t find in Yangon anymore, and we’ve made some strategic upgrades including advanced air-conditioning and in-room technologies, as well as in the extensive staff training to ensure flawless personalised service which lives up to this grand and glamorous setting,”

says Olivier Trinquand, Vice President of The Strand Hotel & Cruise. Just as exciting are the changes in the hotel’s dining services – a longtime strength of the institution. “Guests should enjoy the comfort, elegance and sense of history long associated with The Strand, and at the same time enjoy a new dining experience with attention to detail and personal service at the heart of everything we do,” says Mark Murraybrown, Operations Manager of The Strand.

Some other changes are also taking place at The Strand Café, home to the famous Strand High Tea, where customers can expect an a la carte menu with selection of Asian and international cuisines, signature Burmese dishes. The Afternoon Tea itself is available daily until 5:30 pm. As for the hotel’s famous bar, it shall now be called The Sarkies Bar, in honour of the hotel’s founders, Aviet and Tigran Sarkies – the

Armenian brothers behind many of the finest colonial hotels in the region, such as Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern & Oriental in Penang. The teakwood-paneled bar has been given a glamorous club-like atmosphere, with leather seating and an extensive menu of light comfort food, burger and salads for lunch; light bites and tapas for dinner; cigar menu; Strand Signature cocktails and list of 40+ single malt Whiskey labels.

With a new executive chef in tow, expect a new, unique and refreshing gastronomic experience. Trained within some of Europe’s most famous Michelin-starred kitchens before running his own acclaimed restaurant in Bangkok, Chef Christian Martena is finding himself right home here in Myanmar. Over the past few months he’s hit the ground running, traveling around the country to visit suppliers and remote farming communities, in order to immerse himself in the country’s distinctive regional cuisines. Chef Martena and team will start welcoming guests at The Strand Restaurant beginning 1st December for dinner four nights a week, where they will be serving Mediterranean cuisine with modern twist.


briefings Yangon Hospitality

Accor Hotels celebrated the grand opening of Ibis Styles at Yangon Stadium last month

“The Ibis Styles is our premium economy brand with unique personalities and styles that upholds the three key values of the Ibis family – modernity, simplicity and well-being - and resonates with the increasing number of travellers in Yangon,” Paul Stevens, Vice President of Operations at Novotel, Mercure and Ibis for Upper Southeast Asia told Myanmore. “We are delighted to expand our presence in the Myanmar market, further strengthening our network in the country and the region.” The new hotel is located on the junction of Laydaungkan and Waizayartar roads, about 10 kilometres from Yangon International airport, and is close to downtown.

The Thuwunna stadium is just across the road and the hotel is also a 10-minute walk to Tamwe railway station, where tourists can take the circle line tour of Yangon city. Accor’s other hotels in Myanmar include The Lake Garden Nay Pyi Taw, Novotel Yangon Max and Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min. They have five more hotels with 1,233 rooms scheduled to open by 2019. In March Victor Pang, the vice president of development for Accor Hotels in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, told The Myanmar Times that they expected “strong demand for midscale and upscale accommodation with international service standards given the country’s fast growth and its con-

tinued increase in international visitors”. “Additionally, Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake and Muse are key destinations for both domestic and international travelers,” he said. Ibis Styles Yangon Stadium 369 Laydaungkan Road Thingangyun Township 11071 Yangon, Myanmar
T (+95) 1 578 101 F (+95) 1 8560 909

Amy Fallon

Myanmar Travel

Myanmar has been voted one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2017 by travel bible Lonely Planet Amy Fallon

The country just scraped into the list, coming in at number nine after Canada, Colombia, Finland, Dominica, Nepal, Bermuda, Mongolia and Oman, and beating Ethiopia by one place. Lonely Planet said “change has been a long time coming in the nation, but the election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future”. “No one is pretending that all Myanmar’s problems have gone away, but things are moving in the right direction, and Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is poised to receive an influx of travelers,” it said. “Visiting comes with challenges, but the reward is a window onto a vanishing Asia, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal, and where life moves to the timeless rhythm of chanting monks and monastery bells.” 12

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism forecast that international visitors in 2016 would increase from 4.68 million in 2015 to six million, the Myanmar Times reported in March.

“Destination managements, trainings for human resources, transports, etc. are in dire need to keep up in the world top list,” said Aung.

Last year three million travelers, or one quarter of total tourists, came to Myanmar via international airports at Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, according to their figures.

“On top of all things which would take time on their own, I would like to urge for efficient business practices of online payments, reasonable pricing and credit card usages free from ‘USD only’ commerce and free from ‘crisp and new USD bills only’.”

But most visiting are said to be “day-trippers” who have crossed the border with Thailand and China. Tin Tun Aung, managing director of Thingazar Travels & Tours Co, a Yangon-based travel agency set up on 2001 and offering tours of Myanmar, said the country’s inclusion in the list was “great”. But “the expectation of coming travelers are challenges for Myanmar’s tourism industry”, they told Myanmore.

briefings Yangon Hospitality

Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon wins major award Amy Fallon

The Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon pulled off a hat trick at the World Travel Awards, the globe’s biggest travel excellence guarantees awards, held in Vietnam last month. The Chatrium picked up awards for Myanmar’s Leading Business Hotel 2016, Myanmar’s Leading Hotel 2016 and Myanmar’s Leading Hotel Suite 2016, for their Royal Lake Suite, at the 23rd edition of the awards, announced on October 15 at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam. It’s the first time that a single hotel has won three simultaneous awards, according to The Chatrium.

The Chatrium has been nominated in the Myanmar Leading Business Hotel category every year from 2012 up until 2016 and won last year’s award. It received the World Travel Award as Myanmar’s Leading Hotel for four consecutive years from 2004 to 2007. Royal Lake Suite was also nominated as Myanmar’s Leading Hotel Suite in 2014 and attained the award in 2015. Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon is part of Chatrium Hotels & Residences, a luxury hotel collection, and is one of Yangon’s “leading hotels blending pure luxury with rich colonial-style architecture”, the hotel says.

“It is truly a testament to my wonderful staff for the sterling efforts they put in to ensure that each and every guest who walks through our doors enjoys a remarkable experience,” said the hotel’s general manager May Myat Mon Win.

Its website boasts its location “amid lush greenery beside the famous Kandawgyi Lake” and says it offers “simply stunning and spectacular views of the imposing Shwedagon Pagoda”.

The World Travel Awards were established in 1993 to “acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel tourism and hospitality industry”.

“Every guestroom is spaciously designed and influenced by local culture with touches of oriental heritage providing guests with a truly superlative stay,” it says.

Winners are determined by online votes from around the world.

The Chatrium beat Parkroyal Yangon and Sedona Hotel Yangon to win Myanmar’s





Airbnb is slowly taking off in Myanmar, with over 4,000 travelers using it in the country in the past year, a spokesperson for the rental website said.

Leading Business Hotel award. It beat Belmond Governor’s Residence, Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, the Sedona, Thahara Inle Heritage and The Strand to win the Myanmar Leading Hotel award. In the Leading Hotel Suite award, their Royal Lake Suite beat the Ambassador Suite at Parkroyal, the Presidential Suite at Sule Shangri-la Yangon, and the Royal Sedona Suite at the Sedona Hotel. The award for Myanmar’s Leading Resort was won by the Hotel by the Red Canal Mandalay. It beat Inle Princess Resort, Mandalay Hill Resort, Myanmar Treasure Resort in Ngwe Saung, The Sedona in Mandalay and The Strand to take the prize. The award for Myanmar’s Leading Travel agency went to Exotic Myanmar Travels and Tours, who beat Than Than Travel and Tour Mandalay. The awards were attended by 200 leaders from the hospitality sector in Asia and Australasia.

Yangon International Airport now has official taxi counters in each terminal building arrival operating 24/7 Amy Fallon

Amy Fallon Most travelers (38 per cent) using Airbnb came from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while nearly a third (32 per cent) came from Asia, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) from the US and six per cent from Australia. “Myanmar is a small but growing market for Airbnb,” said the spokesperson. “Asia is our fastest growing market, and we continue to grow in the region because tourists increasingly want new, adventurous, and local experiences when they travel.” They said for travelers, Airbnb was the “antidote to modern, mass produced tourism, and our community allows them to experience cities and neighborhoods as if they lived there”.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 and is based in California. It now connects people in over 34,000 cities and 191 countries. Myanmar’s ministry of hotels and tourism forecast that international visitors in 2016 would increase from 4.68 million in 2015 to six million, the Myanmar Times reported in March. Last year three million travelers, or one quarter of total tourists, came to Myanmar via international airports at Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, according to their figures.

Rates are fixed and defined by different area zones, Lek Ning, the manager of operations department for Yangon Aerodrome Co Ltd, the airport operator for Yangon and NayPyiTaw International Airports, told Myanmore. They said once passengers had informed the counter staff of their drop-off location and they had been told the rate, staff would guide them to a designated vehicle and a voucher stating the price and location would be issued to the driver. Passengers pay the taxi driver in cash once they have arrived at their location.

Examples of prices are: Yangon Hotel - 3,500 Kyats Sedona Hotel - 5,000 Kyats Novotel Hotel - 6,000 Kyats Shangri-La Hotel - 8,000 Kyats “Taxi touting is prohibited in the airport vicinity thus we strongly encourage passengers to approach the taxi counters,” said Ning.

But most visiting are said to be “day-trippers” who have crossed the border with Thailand and China. 13

briefings Yangon Transport

Yangon’s Circle Line - Back To The Future Amy Fallon Photography by Andreas Sigurdsson

Yangon’s famous circle line is set for a “rising ridership”, with an investment worth billions from Japan to upgrade the 29-mile track set to be undertaken in the 2017-18 financial year. An estimated 100,000 daily commuters are already said to travel on the line, which has 38 stops and takes about three hours to complete.

anticipate a rising ridership,” JICA said in a statement. “These improvements are expected to reduce the time to travel one circuit from the current 170 minutes to 110 minutes, as well as reducing the train intervals from the current rate of one train every 15 to 40 minutes to one every 10 to 12 minutes,” they said.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed agreements with Myanmar for loans worth up to 99.85 billion yen for three projects.

Stations will also be refurbished.

This includes improving the circle line to “support the traffic volume in Yangon”.

A ride on the line is one of Trip Advisor’s top ten things to do in Yangon.

The project will “provide replacements and repairs to the deteriorating rolling stock and railway signal system to improve services on the Yangon Circular Railway Line and to

Trains depart Yangon Railway station about every 45 to 60 minutes, with the first train leaving at 6.10am and the last one at 5.10pm.


Myanmar Railways is the project’s executing agency.

A ride without air-conditioning costs between 100-200 kyat, while a ride with air conditioning is between 500-800 kyats.

improvement, capacity development in operation and maintenance, and passenger service improvements”, JICA said.

Tickets can be purchased from ticket offices on platform six and seven, through booths at most stations, or through a travel agent, and allows passengers to hop on and off the train. Passengers are advised to board at the station on Pansodan and Bogyoke Aung San Roads.

“JICA aims to provide comprehensive cooperation that has an impact and contributes to socioeconomic development in Myanmar,” they said.

Attractions that passengers can visit along the way include the National Museum, Parliament House, People’s Park, Bogyoke Aung San Market, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Dagon Centre Shopping Mall, Padonmar Stadium, Hledan Market and Kabar Aye Pagoda. Japan hopes to “contribute widely in Myanmar’s railway sector including in the areas of facilities modernization, standards and safety

Japan are also contributing to an upgrade of the Yangon-Mandalay Railway.

briefings Myanmar




Efforts to boost Zika prevention measures have been stepped up following the discovery of the country’s first case of the mosquito-borne virus.

Global Entrepreneurship Week Myanmar reaches 20 Cities from Nov 14-20, including first ever Entrepreneur events held in Hakha, Myeik and Myitkyina

Martyn Brown


No new cases of Zika have been uncovered since a pregnant foreigner was diagnosed with the virus two weeks ago. The health ministry began spraying Sanchaung Township, where the infected woman previously lived, immediately after the case was diagnosed. “We are watching for further cases and taking preventative measures in the area where the first case was discovered,” said department deputy head Daw Khin Nang Mon. The major challenge in responding to Zika is that only one in five carriers exhibit symptoms. This makes it difficult for health authorities to track the spread of the virus. According to the World Health Organization, Zika was first identified in a monkey in Uganda in 1947. During the 1970s and ’80s it spread from Africa to Asia, but until 2007 only 14 cases had been recorded in humans.

In 2015, an outbreak was reported in Brazil and since then it has spread to North and South America, the Pacific and Southeast Asia, with thousands of human cases reported. While the virus normally results in only a mild fever, in pregnant women it can be transmitted to fetuses and cause birth defects. In Southeast Asia, Singapore and Thailand have been the most affected countries, with more than 800 cases. The Aedes aegypti mosquito also carries yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and the West Nile virus. They breed in stagnant water – often in uncovered barrels, buckets, and discarded tires. However, the health department says the greatest concern is home bathrooms and water tanks. “We will undertake mosquito control every second week of month. This is the best way to prevent and protect from both the Zika virus and dengue fever,” Dr Khin Nang Lon said.

This month Myanmar will join 165 countries worldwide in the biggest celebration of entrepreneurship, kicking off in Yangon at 6pm on November 14 (National Holiday - Full Moon Tazaungmone), with a big celebration in People’s Park. GEW 2016 will reach all 14 states and regions in Myanmar, hosting over 60 events during the week of Nov 14-20. In addition to events hosted in Yangon, this year’s GEW is expanding to 6 new regions: Kachin, Kayah, Chin, Sagaing, Magway and Taninhtaryi. GEW hopes to showcase Myanmar’s traditional established enterprises and connect them to the global market. In Yangon, workshops will be held on how to create PR and media plans, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, open houses at city’s co-working spaces and youth forums. GEW will be hosting the largest Scavenger Hunt game in the country and a Food Fair on Yangon’s Streets. All GEW 2016 events are open to the public, although some require a prior registration due to limited spaces at a venue. Events are promoted on Global Entrepreneurship Network Myanmar’s Facebook page and on Meet Four Myanmar Entrepreneurs 90s’ kids team We’re dedicated to youth education and development with fundraising events such as “Back To The Memory Lane of 90s’”. 8,000 participants raised USD 17,000 to provide 10 laptops to SoyAi Social Enterprise and develop SOLE ( Self Organization Learning Environment) . GEW connects us to Investors and Entrepreneurs for more successful events in the future.

Genius Shan Highland Coffee Ngwe TUN, Founder Genius Shan Highland Coffee I created Genius Shan Highlands Coffee recognising a niche between retail specialty coffee and the local café culture. Our award-winning social enterprise draws on the 3E’s of rural development: Evaluation, Education and Empowerment. Our current challenge is a market linkage to Europe and I’m sure GEW Myanmar’s massive network can point us to solutions. Myanmar Entrepreneur SME Institute (MESI) U Zin Phyo Paing I took my enthusiasm for development and success to establish Myanmar Entrepreneur SME Institute. Looking to fulfill the capacity building needs of Myanmar, we offer internationally recognised diplomas, management classes, consulting and services for SMEs. GEW provides a platform for idea generation, creativity and strategic thinking skills with initiatives and activities that are crucial for Myanmar. Shin Saw Pu Business School Daw Nang Thidar Htun With my entrepreneur dreams and expertise I founded Shin Saw Pu Business School, addressing the educational needs in Taung Gyi. We offer 1st CEFE Methodology applied business related training course and corporate training. Recently GIZ and ILO selected us to be a representative of Shan State for Regional Business Development Service Provider Program. I am very motivated to join GEW and collaborate with young entrepreneurs in other countries.


cover story

A Life in Music Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein Myanmar’s most flamboyant rock star, Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thien tells Ben Hopkins the meaning behind her songs and why she plans to keep singing till the day she dies. Text by Ben Hopkins Photography by Gerhard Jörén

She was described by an Australian journalist as Myanmar’s answer to Lady Gaga. Her costumes are as theatrical as her live performances and, like the American pop idol, she possesses the rare ability to lose herself in the moment while connecting with her audience. But there the comparison ends. Phyu Phyu Khaw Thien’s music is more rock driven with forays into gospel while her songs are delivered with a power that defies her diminutive frame. What she lacks in marketing know how and financial bang she makes up for in sheer gusto and desire to lift her audience. Not one to suffer fools gladly, Phyu Phyu Kyaw is quick to dismiss shallow questions. “I want to tell you about the song, ‘Flames of Love’”, she tells me shortly after we meet at her spacious but basic apartment in Yangon that she shares with her parents. “It’s a love song, but in Myanmar love and politics often overlap”. The self-biographical lyrics were penned by an ex-political prisoner named Ye Khu Ng. Shortly after his release in 2011 he handed the lyrics to Phyu Phyu Kyaw. They tell of lost love and a stolen life. Taken in the dead of night by military police, Ye Khu Ng’s lover was left with no explanation of his sudden disappearance. Did he leave in search of a better life, did the military march him away or god forbid, was he dead? After more than five years without an answer, the woman he loved moved on with her life and married another while he served a 20-year sentence. “When I sang ‘Flames of Love’ in 2012 I wasn’t sure what the censors would do” says Phyu Phyu Kyaw, adding that back then she chose not to talk about its meaning for fear of riling the authorities. “Then, in July 2016 we broadcast it live on air. I told the public nationwide that this song was written by an ex political prisoner. To my relief there was no censor”.


The story not only illustrates the importance of telling truths through music and art, it also reflects the albeit stuttering progress Myanmar has made toward freedom of expression over the past 12 months. “To a certain extent things have changed this year” she says. “But for practical change we need more time. It won’t happen in five years. Our society and education system was systematically destroyed so we could be easily controlled. It’s easy to see the high-rise buildings go up, but it takes time to rebuild a value system, maybe a generation”. A life in music Born into a Christian family in 1981, Phyu Phyu Kyaw sang her way through school in Yangon’s church choirs. Competitive and academically gifted she cruised university, passing her medical degree with credit. She could have easily followed her father’s path to become a Medical Doctor, but her passion for music won through. Her parents supported her every step of the way while her older sister, a heart surgeon, continues to design her flamboyant costumes and is never far from the action. Church and family remain the cornerstones of her life. By the time she graduated from university she’d recorded her first album and was performing live on a regular basis. The world had recently entered the 21st century and one of the rock songs she loved to belt out live was a cover of Bon Jovi’s global hit, ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. The song was an immediate hit and thousands would sing along to the chorus line which, when translated into Myanmar language means, “I’m broken inside because of our unhappy love affair”. Simple teenage fun, you’d have thought. But as Phyu Phyu Kyaw explains, things were rarely simple back then, every gig she played would be monitored for political content, even simple love songs.

cover story

“ I live to sing and I sing to live. It’s not business or financial. I record as if it were a live performance. I try to feel it. Depending on the song I can laugh, dance, feel sad and even cry � 17

cover story “Fans would sing that (Bon Jovi) song out loud with closed eyes and broken hearts” she says. “We were broken by politics. Broken by the situation. We never talk about it publicly. I will never ask fans how they feel; they will never tell me openly. That’s the hidden bond between us, between the composers, the artists the and the fans who sing along. It’s not just about the broken love. For the audience, it’s about broken lives. There is a hidden meaning”. Over the past 13 years Phyu Phyu Kyaw estimates to have played more than 1,000 concerts, produced five albums and to have sold several million CDs, pirated at around 300 Ks per copy. However, in a country with broken copyright laws for artists her royalties are negligible, hence the strenuous touring schedule. She’s one of Myanmar’s most successful and popular stars, a household name who bridges the generation gap. But there are no fur coats or limousines in Phyu Phyu Kyaw’s world and no marketing machine, just hard graft and an insatiable appetite for singing and performing. When I ask if she sees herself as a role model for women, she says, “Not just for women but for all. We’re all struggling together, women and men”. Though she doesn’t write her own songs she works with numerous songwriters to make sure the songs she performs reflect her mindset and relate to her people: Those whom she describes as the 99 percent who have lost out under decades of isolation and military rule. She cites a one-off performance at the ‘Masterpiece Concert’ in Amsterdam, 2014, as one of her most rewarding experiences. “We were invited because the concert was held to showcase artists from conflicted areas around the world,” she says. “Me and another singer from Kachin State sang the song ‘War’. It was a great privilege to have the chance to tell the world through interviews that Burma exists. That we’re the conflicted zone with the longest history of civil war. I felt like the voice of my people”. ‘War’ was released in 2015, from her fifth album – Thou Shalt Be Remembered. The chorus means – you can’t build a nation with bullets. “We couldn’t have released it five years ago” says Phyu Phyu Kyaw. Much to her relief, there was no official censorship for the album. 18

By contrast, her most frustrating professional experience was during the opening of the 2013, Southeast Asia Games in Nyapador. Moments before going on stage she was told, for the first time in her career that she had to lip sync. The experience was akin to tying Usain Bolt’s shoelaces together before firing the starting gun. “Our mics were switched off” she says in exasperation. “I felt so handicapped. I felt my lips tighten. I couldn’t even say, mingalabar (welcome) to my fans”. Live to sing At a recent concert titled ‘The Queen’, in Yangon’s National Theatre Phyu Phyu Kyaw takes to the stage with three of Myanmar’s most famous pop stars, namely ... The tickets are sold out but the seats are only 70% full while the streets in front of the stadium are crawling with ticket touts. Nevertheless, the atmosphere inside is great. The audience spans the generation gap and when the artists step on stage a huge roar of approval kicks off the night. The opening songs are performed as a quartet and include covers of western pop songs sung in Myanmar language to varying degrees of success. It’s only later, when Phyu Phyu Kyaw struts onto the stage in theatrical mode, flinging heart and soul into her performance that the audience is truly elevated. Her voice has the power to resonate in the timber at the back of the concert hall and lift the spirits. Everything is raw edged with Phyu Phyu Kyaw. She describes herself as bi-polar and her studio sessions as spontaneous bursts of energy. “I live to sing and I sing to live. It’s not business or financial. I record as if it were a live performance. I try to feel it. Depending on the song I can laugh, dance, feel sad and even cry in the studio. For me recording and performing live is not a big difference”. Now in her mid-thirties and single Phyu Phyu Kyaw’s world is her music, audience, family and faith in God. Willing to embrace new ideas and musical challenges she vows to “sing till I die” and would like to work with musicians and producers she describes as being from “the normal world”. When I ask her to explain what she means by ‘normal world’ she says, “Here (in Myanmar) we’re abnormal. We’re deficient, technologically”. She explains,

cover story once again, the systematic derailment of education and professional training at the hands of the one percent and against the will of the people. “We don’t have any musical reference in (government) schools, not even pianos. I’d like to work with a producer from west. Would like to try for once in my life”. With the opening of Myanmar, the arts are becoming exposed to a wider audience, leading to potentially more opportunities to collaborate with other nations. It may not be too long before Phyu Phyu Kyaw finds an avenue to collaborate artistically with producers and musicians from overseas. If it were to happen, perhaps western producers would recapture something of the raw energy and hard graft lost to shows such as American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent. For tonight, live at the National Theatre, her fans are happy to have her all to themselves and the feeling is mutual. “I feel alive on stage, totally happy. I must say that my fans are my inspiration. When I’m singing there’s a magnetic connection, I can see in their eyes they’re feeling somehow transported, they’ve come to forget for a moment what they are suffering, their miserable situations, their feelings, the reality in time. I envy them. I want to be one of them”.


Follow Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein on Facebook to get the latest updates on her music and tour!



Streets of Yangon

Walking The Streets of Yangon: Bo Ywe Street Back by popular demand - Bob Percival discovers Chinese family temples, locally made peanut oil, and goat guts salad on Bo Ywe Street.


Streets of Yangon

“We stop at Aung Mjin Mhu that serves excellent goat guts salad and steam goat gut intestine at only 50Ks a piece”

Opposite page Residences in Upper Block Bo Ywe Street This page Left U Kyi Myint at Oat Aww Electronics Right U Moe Kyaw (Secretary of Wong Family Temple)

The rain continues to fall as the monsoon season sets in. I am walking the street with my good friend Khin Yadana Htun who does Special FX make-up for Myanmar movies specialising in the horror and zombie genre. Today Khin is dressed very goth but nobody seems to notice, and if they do, they are especially friendly. Downtown Yangon is a very warm and accepting place. We start at the upper block, on the corner of Anawrahta Road, and in the heart of Chinatown. Here there are a plethora of stalls with every tool imaginable for sale. There are spanners, sockets, screwdrivers (1000Ks), wrenches (4000Ks), tape measures (1000Ks) nuts & bolts, hammers (2200Ks), spades and even axes if you need to do some occassional wood chopping at home. Win Kyit Kyaw has had his outdoor stall here for six years. His sister started up the shop sixteen years ago. The tools are nearly all imported from China. Business is fair and he loves his job, treating it mainly as a hobby. Opposite his stall you can buy any variety of sockets and adaptors (500Ks) at very cheap prices. This upper block specialises in electrical goods. At No.169 you can buy an amplified big horn speaker for only 23,000Ks, a must for street parties and also good for funky decoration in the home. For


those who care about the environment, solar panels are also available. We are in Chinatown and Bo Ywe Street has a number of unique clan houses or kongsi. These clan houses were set up to support family communities that had immigrated from Mainland China last century, predominately Fujian and Hokkien. Under pressure from ruling governments these clan houses or associations were renamed as ‘family temples’ so as not to appear to be political. On the right side of the street at No.149 you will find the entrance to the Wong Family Temple. Feel free to go upstairs and visit. U Moe Kyaw, the Secretary of the temple makes us feel very welcome. Only the generations of the Wong family can be members here. This kongsi has operated for over a hundred years, and the family was originally from Canton. The kongsi has nearly one-hundred members. If there is a special event or festival it is here that people come to celebrate. Help is also provided for weddings and funerals. We have arrived at a time when silver and gold foil is being wrapped and prepared for future use. Silver foil is used for funerals and to commemorate the dead, and gold foil is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. The paper foil is burnt in con21


Streets of Yangon

junction with praying. We are told that apart from special celebrations, women rarely come here, as most activities are for men, but all are welcome. The Wong Family Temple is open from 7.30am to 12pm. Make sure you visit, it’s a rare opportunity to experience an aspect of local Chinese culture. On the left side of the street you will find another kongsi at No.140, the Wu Family Temple. Wu is the Chinese word for five. This kongsi has also been here for over a hundred years, and has over a hundred members, forty of whom act as executives. Again we are made to feel very welcome. Things are a bit quiet here and members seem only too happy to chat and share their knowledge. This is the only Wu family temple in Myanmar, and it is the Wu Warrior who they worship. Three special festivals are held each year,

including Chinese New Year and a Ghost Festival where prayers are said for the dead.

an excellent restaurant offering great views over downtown Yangon, including Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda.

Further down the street, you can find the Yan Ling Buddhist Temple at No.141 and the Kyi Generation Temple at No.121. Other interesting buildings are an abandoned grocery store, the Thahan Swe at No.107, and the unique blue & green coloured headquarters of the Latha Township Immigration and Labor Office at No.107. At No.89-91 there is the Ma Taing, Temple that was built in 1852.

Further along on the right side of the street is the Chein Hong Ko Buddhist Temple at No.77. At No.61 there is the War War Win Peanut Oil store. Khin buys some oil for her grandmother who is the main cook at home. The shop is situated in an old Chinese style building with star tiles and wood-carved doors. It’s a family home and we do our transaction through a locked gate. The locally-made peanut oil is only 6000Ks a viss (about 1.5 litres). The owner Aung Gyi, who is stern but acommodating, has been living there for fifty years. Further down the block, look for some funky 1960s verandah railings at No.47 and attractive old wooden shutters at No.45

It’s now time to cross over Mahabandoola Road to the lower block. We stop at Aung Mjin Mhu that serves excellent goat guts salad and steam goat gut intestine at only 50Ks a piece. We decide to only look and maybe eat a little bit later on. In this block is the very affordable Hotel Grand United, which on the top floor has

Further down the street on the left is the abandoned Salt & Sea Products Trading Co. (No.30), whose upper floors are occupied by tenants afforded a cheap rent. Nearby is the Latha Township Middle School that at this moment issues forth the yelling sounds of enthusiastic students. We are now quite hungry and the wind has picked up with a strong premonition of rain from the south across the Delta. At the bottom corner at Strand Road we stop at an outside Burmese buffet stall offering an excellent selection of local ingredients including prawns, fried pork, duck eggs, fish head soup (1000Ks), fried chicken, and delicious fish roe (3000Ks). Alongside the food stall, a local vendor, Hla Hla Win, offers fresh lime juice (300Ks) and flavoured yoghurt (400Ks). Here is a place to relax and savour some local products of downtown Yangon. Enjoy! Bob Percival’s book, “Walking the Streets of Yangon: The people, stories & hidden treasures of downtown cosmopolitan Yangon (Rangoon)” is now available at Rangoon Teahouse, Pansuriya, Hla Day, Press Office cafe, Easy cafe, and large bookstores in Yangon. Percival is now planning to do a second book that covers more streets.

This page Entrance to Wong Family Temple Opposite page Upstairs, Wong Family Temple 22

Streets of Yangon





Training Ground: Let The Battle Commence Sondang Grace Sirait talks with Training Ground owner John Htet, about Yangon’s newest state of the art gymnasium



Now that we’re nearing the end of 2016, it’s most likely time for many of us to start developing new year resolutions – you know, the one list where you usually aim for X number of pounds to lose by hitting the gym more frequently. Don’t go “Yeah, right!” just yet. At Training Ground, the newest fitness studio to hit the block in downtown Yangon, one might even find a new home. Branding itself as a premier fitness club, it is equipped with state-of-theart facilities that include the latest fitness equipment and world-class sound systems. Classes and training programs are led by highly experienced fitness professionals with international certifications and certified physiotherapists are ready at hand – perhaps its strongest selling factor. We chatted with Training Ground owner Dr. Aung Htet Thu (John Htet), and General Manager Nicholas Hong, a professional athlete and triathlon trainer, about their mission to revolutionize the fitness industry in Myanmar. Tell us briefly about your background. John: I graduated from University of Medicine 1 in 2008. After that I worked for my family business in inland water cargo transportation, which my father started 40 years ago. I started working out a few years ago at a gym that my friend had opened. But then he quit and I did too. I’ve had a lot of unsatisfactory experiences with other gyms. My right arm was broken when I was young, so it’s hard for me to lift weights using it. But it seemed that the personal trainers that I trained with never really understood, so it hurt whenever I trained. They had no idea that there are different ways to train somebody. My experiences led me to realize that fitness is not just about building muscles, but more about building fitness. What is the philosophy of Training Ground? John: I’ve always wanted to work out in an old warehouse, industrial environment. That’s where I came from and that’s the environment I know. It’s very different from other gyms where they tend to be more luxurious, but then it usually gets boring after one or two months. I wanted to create something different and unique, for everybody. We’re not a gym. We’re a fitness club. I picked the name Training Ground because I picture it as a winning ground. Before you go into the battle, this is where we train you to be tougher, stronger and have more stamina. This is our core value. Nicholas: We’re all gym users, we’re not just businessmen. We use the gym so we understand the problems that gym users normally face.


How has your medical background affected your handling of the business? John: My partner, who’s also a doctor, and I teach our trainers anatomy and provide them with medical knowledge. We found that most of the trainers here are focused on training only the big muscles, not the supporting muscles or small muscles groups. This is a very important fact, but a lot of trainers here don’t know it. Nicholas: Couple that medical background with our use of a body composition analyzer, which provides a very accurate diagnostic of a person’s body fat, muscles and bones. Using this information, we then ask clients for their targets: is it fat loss, is it weight gain, what is his or her main objective? From there we would then devise a personalized program. We’re also working with different partners to help provide clients with a complete package that covers everything. Is your training system for everyone? John: Yes. There’s this culture in Myanmar where people are used to driving, even when it only takes five minutes to walk. It’s not a good culture and I want to break it. When you come here to work out, even for 30 minutes, you’ll feel different. Why is music such a big factor at Training Ground? John: Listening to music encourages you to be more active. It makes a difference whether you use an earphone or listening on the speaker. Most clients here don’t have to use earphones, because the quality of the speaker is really good and we always play the latest and most updated workout music. We’re also planning to launch music streaming service in the future, through an intranet where customers would log in using a password and be able to listen to the music on their device. Nicholas: In the evening we’d turn up the music even more. People have told us that they’re now working out longer and doing more sets than they normally would. What’s your own training program like? John: I focus on cardio, such as intense training. It’s a bit of a balance between cardiovascular activity, for stamina and endurance, and strength training, to build up strength and power for everyday activities. What about your daily diet? John: I need to eat a lot of protein, but I also need fat. I’m training on a weight gain program. No.10(H), Asia Business Center, corner of 48 th Street & Mahar Bandula Road, Botahtaung Township, Yangon 09 45888 7272, 09 45888 7575




Arts & Culture


Htein Lin Christina Maria Chiorean interviews the painter, performer and artist Htein Lin Htein Lin is a painter, performer and an artist who builds unique art installations. A major inspiration for his work is Buddhism whose symbols, stories and philosophy he incorporates in his art. Apart from this he takes his ideas from the changes he notices all around him in society and on the political scene. He now lives in Yangon with his wife and two daughters and has a busy artistic life. He often paints contemporary abstract art on several metres long canvas with startling symbols, bright colours using inventive utensils apart from the paintbrush. Htein Lin has exhibited his works from the United States to Europe and Asia in solo or group exhibitions. Htein Lin has also performed in several countries like the UK, Italy, Japan, Finland raising awareness on the political situation in his country. 1. Please describe yourself in three words. I met the artist Htein Lin for the first time one year ago, in August 2015, at “The Storyteller” exhibition organised by the Goethe Institute. The paintings which I had the privilege to admire there were made during his time in prison. Htein Lin is a former political prisoner who served a sentence of almost seven years in jail, from 1998 to 2004. Displayed in a succession of rooms in one of the Goethe Institute’s run-down buildings you had the impression that you were actually entering one prison cell after another while studying the painted pieces of linen (shirts and longyis for which he sometimes paid ten cheroots to fellow inmates or as bribes to prison guards). On these fabrics, with paint smuggled in by guards and with improvised painting materials (hands, feet, toothpaste lids, or pill packets). Htein Lin started to express his feelings and emotions through art. It is his future wife, the then British Ambassador to Myanmar, Vicky Bowman, who took care of the pieces of art once they were smuggled out of the prison.

Another impressive display at the same exhibition was a project of many dozen plaster moulds of hands of former political prisoners. This was a project called “A Show of Hands” started in 2013 which is still ongoing today. I was reduced to silence by the many upright hands while also reading the harsh prison sentences they had to endure, all for the most absurd reasons. Htein Lin was born fifty years ago in the Ingapu town in the Ayeyarwady Division. He was active in the 1988 student movement at the Yangon University where he was a law student. After the military takeover he decided to go underground like many of his colleagues who opposed the new oppressive regime. During the next four years Htein Lin studied art with the Mandalay artist Sitt Nyein Aye while in a refugee camp on the Indian border. Returning to Yangon, he started to work as an actor but a few years later he was arrested. A military court sentenced Htein Lin to seven years in prison for “conspiring to revive a mass political movement on the 10th anniversary of 1988”.

Resilient, adaptable, raconteur. 2. What is your biggest achievement so far? Surviving jungle, jail and the alcoholic art world of Myanmar.

7. In which restaurant or bar in Yangon do you like to spend a relaxed evening? I used to have favourite evening teashops, but mostly they have closed down because the rents have gone up. 8. What is your favourite Myanmar dish? A-thisoun-kala-hin (Indian vegetable curry - gourd,aubergine, lentils, potatoes, dried fish, and tamarind). 9. A book about Myanmar you would recommend? I am currently reading Ludu Daw Amar’s translation of Maurice Collis’ ‘Trials in Burma’. 10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Still an artist, maybe a part time meditation teacher, founding member of a truly independent Myanmar Artists Association. 11. What do you think is the greatest quality of Myanmar people? Resistance through humour.

3. Who do you admire most? U Goenka, famous meditation teacher.

12. What are the biggest challenges for the cultural scene in Myanmar nowadays?

4. What don’t you like about yourself?

Religious conservatism.

I am too disorganised and have to rely on my wife to answer my emails.

13. Are there any messages you try to project through your work?

5. We are curious about your biggest fear?

Creativity originates from the moment.

Trump becoming US President. 6. Which is your favourite place in Myanmar and why?

14. Where is your inspiration coming from? My past and my present.

My village, Mezaligon, near Ingabu, because it’s hardly changed since I grew up there. 27


Arts & Culture

Slam Poetry Hits Yangon Marie Starr meets the Yangon youth bringing social issues to the table through poetry

In Yangon’s new poetry movement- Slam Express- organized by a small group of youths, poets are encouraged to address sensitive topics. This is a cornerstone in the timeline of Myanmar’s social history where the previous military dictatorship was known to have spies in teashops reporting anyone speaking of controversial topics or against the government, let alone gathering a crowd in a public place to listen to your woes and complaints. Under Pansuriya’s high ceilings with old paintings on the wall and wicker chairs scattered around a new movement of free expression is starting. The gallery-restaurant on historic Bo Aung Kyaw Street is where Slam Express is now taking place on a monthly basis. Slam poetry is a form of poetry new to Myanmar and usually involving intense expression of emotions and often touching on personal topics and controversial issues. Slam Express #2 starts hard and fast with organizer Than Toe Aung slamming a poem on his experience of racism as a youth and his peaceful battle with it. He recounts dreams in which he is back with his grandfather who advises him to arm himself with books and words rather than physical retaliation. True to his word, he now stands in front of this dynamic Yangon crowd protesting with words:

Defaced by nationalism and propaganda.” On the choice of topics read out at Slam Express, Than Toe Aung says, “The theme is all about free expression. People from marginalized backgrounds are especially encouraged,” he explains. However, these heated moments and fits of passion and rage may be difficult to swallow for some Myanmar folk where the phrase ah myet go dain chote ba, meaning ‘control your face,’ is often used when a person is showing anger or too much of an emotion. Furthermore, Myanmar people are known for maintaining a cool and collected countenance. Sex, racism and sexuality were among the topics rarely spoken of in the Myanmar of the past and would have been largely censored out of the media during the repressive years of the former military government. The poetry event is a sure sign that youths are grasping their right to freedom of expression and bringing it to the public bearing opinions, beliefs and experiences for all to see. “We live under oppression, to suppress What society will have us repress, And somehow I came to


“I have been judged by my cover for my whole life

Inherit hate in its most violent form

Until the skin of my cover got thicker.

For the body I was in.”

I’m the walking book spat upon by racism.

Khin Chan Myae Maung was born and raised in Yangon. At 19 years of age she moved to the US. This move put her

Arts & Culture

“My parents are OK with me being a writer. But they are also scared because Burmese people have this mentality that artists are inherently bad, that they don’t know how to do business and this is why they are artists.” — Khin Chan Myae Maung

outside her comfort zone. She felt like an outsider and was treated badly. But now back living in Yangon she draws inspiration for her poetry from these difficulties. She writes both fiction and poetry addressing social issues such as sexuality and gender. “My parents are OK with me being a writer. But they are also scared because Burmese people have this mentality that artists are inherently bad, that they don’t know how to do business and this is why they are artists.” Despite this, Yangon poetry seems to be in the middle of a cultural revolution. There are no longer people who control what you talk or write about. “As a kid I was told that you don’t talk about these things, it’s not safe….People aren’t saying that anymore. If you aren’t going to [address these injustices] who is going to? If I see something that I don’t believe should be happening, for me I write it into my fiction and my poetry. I bring it to the table.” On her motivation for organizing the events, Khin Chan Myae Maung says,

“As young people, we are trying to get people to more than appreciate [it]. We want people to be curious about any type of literature, any type of poem… anything that explores social justice, feminism, LGBTQ, religious intoleranceif poetry is the medium you need to put a fire under your ass, that’s what you need.” Poetry is not by any means new to Myanmar. Poets of the past often used verse to express their beliefs and opinions. Under previous governments and particularly during the years of military dictatorship, many of those bold enough to address political issues or criticize the government often found themselves arrested and imprisoned. Even as recently as 2015 under Thein Sein’s post-junta government poetry remained largely censored. One high-profile case was that of Songkha, a young poet who posted a poem on Facebook which mentioned having a tattoo of the then president Thein Sein on his penis. After posting it to his Facebook page, it was picked up by a member of the authorities who vowed to take action


against the poet. Songkha immediately went into hiding but was found and arrested just three days before the landmark November 8th election. He was only released from prison in June of this year- after six months of imprisonment. More reassuringly however, among the politicians voted into parliament by NLD in the last year, 11 of them are reported to be poets. The stage appears to be set for the youth of Yangon to express themselves and take the lead in combating social injustices peacefully through their poetry. Slam Express is a monthly event held in Pansuriya Restaurant and Gallery at no.102 Bogalayzay St. The next event will take place on December 8th at 6:30pm. For information on this event click on the link below. events/667331380109083/



Sustainable Enterprise

Opportunities NOW: A Better Tomorrow Now Sondang Grace Sirait meets the individuals working alongside Opportunities NOW, a social enterprise incubator based in Yangon. Thandar Win’s eyes lit up the moment she saw Ei Xan. Holding an umbrella in one hand to ward off the sweltering noon heat, she ran from her stall at Hlaing Tharyar Township’s 20th Ward Market and greeted her visitor with a big hug. “My sister,” she called Ei Xan. The two women then launched into chats and giggles like any pair of sisters would.

school is not cheap,” said Thandar, when asked about her life goals.

But the truth is, far from being born into the same family, Ei Xan is a new figure in Thandar’s life. As Enterprise Support Specialist at Yangon-based sustainable enterprise incubator Opportunities NOW, last year Ei Xan helped Thandar get access to financial education, loans and mentoring. Today, the bond between them remains strong.

Just like that, the dark cloud that hung over Thandar’s mind was lifted. She smiled and went on to tell her visitors of her plan to apply for a second loan, this time to buy an electric sewing machine.

At 31 years of age, Thandar is a divorced mother of two boys, aged 14 and nine. She had only finished eighth grade and her work experience consisted of years sewing and making sequins at a local tailor.


At that moment, May Mon Phyo, Lead Researcher at Opportunities NOW, jumped in. “Don’t be afraid. As long as your son does well in school, there are plenty of opportunities for scholarships out there,” she said warmly.

Last year, she had started a small loan from Opportunities NOW to start a business at the market, located near the industrial zone on the outskirts of Yangon. There, she sells women’s underwear, bras and basic household items. Within that period of time, she was able to repay the loan and made more money than she ever did in her previous job.

Life has been tough for the family, but Thandar is determined to look forward and dream big for her two sons. As we took shelter under the plastic tarpaulin covering her stall, Thandar’s youngest son Zay Ya Aung arrived from school.

A couple of hundred meters away, 45-year-old Khin Khin Oo is busy managing two stalls that sell kitchenware. She too is a client at Opportunies NOW and has diligently repaid loans over the past five months and even vastly expanded her inventory.

“I want to be able to tell my sons that they can do whatever they want. My son Zay Ya wants to be a doctor. I will work hard for him, but I do wonder if I will ever be able to afford his education. Medical

Like Thandar, Khin Khin is a single mother with little education — she stopped attending school at fourth grade. With her ex-husband out of the picture, it’s up to Khin Khin to provide for herself

Sustainable Enterprise



indepth “Once I get that machine, I’m going to make dresses for sale, perhaps even dresses with sequins.” — Thandar Win

Sustainable Enterprise

and her two kids. Her daughter is now attending a local university majoring in History and her son is in high school. But Khin Khin already has another plan — the loan had enabled her to open a small stall for her daughter. “I told my daughter, it’s okay to go to school, but it’s better to own a business rather than work for the government or anyone else,” she said. In this country of some three million microenterprises, the plight of Thandar and Khin Khin bring hope amid such grim pictures of poverty. What makes them different is how these ladies have benefited not only from loans, but also consistent financial literacy and mentoring programs. Prior to launching their businesses, both had to attend an eightweek training program and, as their businesses launched, maintained active consultation with their mentors. “We wanted it to be a whole package: the training, the capital and the mentoring after the fact. I think probably the most important piece is that there are a lot of studies now that show businesses that have a mentor, especially startups, are a lot more likely to succeed and so we wanted to make sure that they have someone walking alongside them as they launch this new startup,” said Opportunities NOW Executive Director and Cofounder Matt Wallace. Formally launched in May 2012, Opportunities NOW is an entrepreneurship development system that provides business training and mentoring in various stages of business startup. The concept was to provide training that would eventually lead to real experience of launching a business, all the while helping clients to realize how a good business must understand consumer problems and provide real solutions. Within four years, operations have expanded to Bago and Thandwe as the organization stands witness to some simple but exciting business ideas among Myanmar’s underprivileged youth. In Bago, a young woman applied for a loan to buy two washing machines and successfully launched a laundry service for busy university students and schoolteachers. Just outside of Yangon, a young man realized many people in his rural area lack access to medical care, and so he offered to travel to their loca-


tions to provide physicals on-site and sell pharmaceutical supplies. Another client effectively developed an idea to help young people learn English by following along with lyric books he created for popular songs. “We don’t give them any idea. It’s not our business that we’re getting them to run. We want to help them see the opportunity, yes, but we want to leverage the skills they have, the interest they have to meet a need in the community,” said Wallace. Looking ahead, Wallace and his team are now intent on improving the industry’s ability to support business owners. Relationships, they believe, shouldn’t stop at loan disbursement and repayment. “Right now, you typically get money from an MFI (microfinance institution). They’ll do a big training with 30-40 people in a room, lots of lecture, and then they’ll tell them about the terms of loans, that’s pretty well it, no real advice on financial management, no real training on making good business decisions,” said Wallace. “I think if [the MFISs] look a little bit more like us, alongside that access to finance, they would be incredibly impactful in this country. If they knew how to support business owners, and even in a little way, if they understood what questions to ask them, or what’s a good time to give some advice, or provide a few tools to them, I think they could do some incredible things supporting microenterprises in this country.” With the backing of the USAID, Opportunities NOW is developing financial literacy tools, which include a conversation guide and a mobile app that teaches financial education through stories. The goal is to help business owners realize the consequences of the decisions they make. At Hlaing Tharyar’s 20th Ward Market, Thandar already knows what she’s going to do once she gets her electric sewing machine. A gifted seamstress, she’s always made her own dresses, a fact that often won her praise from others. “Once I get that machine, I’m going to make dresses for sale, perhaps even dresses with sequins,” she says, her eyes sparkling with hope.


Enquire / enrol with us today: 09 257 999 601 / 602 / 603 MYANMAR FINANCIAL CENTER (MFC) Shwe Asia Tower, 2nd Floor (Corner of Mahabandoola Rd. and 48th St.) Botahtaung Township, Yangon, Myanmar

“Victor” — Gerhard Jörén


Sports & Adventure



Sports & Adventure

Martyn Brown meets Dive Master Danny Toy of the Myanmar Diving Federation Photography by Danny Toy, Michelangelo Pignani

Danny Toy Former church pastor Danny Toy returned home to Myanmar after living in America for 39 years to help share the Gospel. The retired Southern Baptist Minister had devoted the previous five years of his life to “serving the Lord” in Kentucky and he wanted to do the same in the newly reformed country of his birth. But in swapping the Bluegrass State for Yangon, Mr. Toy has found himself sharing a very different passion from the one he intended - Scuba Diving. “I decided to return back home in 2014 to share the gospel,” said the 66-yearold. “I was doing Ministry in Yangon for about a year when I met Dr. Than Win, who is president of the Myanmar Diving Federation, and he asked me to help out.” Mr. Toy explained that he has had a longheld passion for diving after moving from Junta-led Burma to California in 1975. “Diving was always for the military in Burma, so when I moved to California I thought I would learn how to dive,” he said. Working his way up to becoming a dive master, meaning he was qualified to teach people how to dive, Mr. Toy eventually spent a long career in Long Beach working as an instructor. However, after training more than 1,000 people to dive, and taking in several thousand dives himself, he decided to hang up his tanks in 2007 to concentrate on his religious beliefs.

“I was getting older and I wanted serve the Lord so I retired from diving. I sold all my equipment,” he said. Mr. Toy moved east to Owensboro in Kentucky, becoming a Southern Baptist Minister for the next five years. Political changes in Myanmar and his desire to share the gospel here hastened his return home two years ago. Having renewed his dive master status, diving now occupies most of his time. Until recently Scuba Diving in Myanmar’s mesmerising tropical waters was the preserve of expensive liveaboard boats chartered from Thailand, visiting the stunning Myeik Archipelago - one of the best dive sites in the World. As with much of the country, times are very much changing for underwater enthusiasts too, with diving centres now opening up elsewhere along Myanmar’s wonderful 2228 km coastline.


Mr. Toy is one of only two Burmese PADI affiliated dive masters in the world. Many other instructors who work in Myanmar come from other countries. The rush to explore Myanmar’s waters comes with its dangers, largely environmental. In neighbouring Thailand, diving meccas such as Phuket, the Similan Islands and Koh Tao have become overrun with flailing fins and too many boats. “I can’t see things getting out of control here just yet, but we need to put the correct controls and regulations in place,” said Mr Toy. “That is why we have the Myanmar Diving Federation. “Myanmar has some pristine areas such as Myeik and this needs to be preserved. Not only from over diving but dynamite fishing and too much fishing. It is up to us to set the right path now.” Continue on next page >

It means you don’t have to spend several, albeit memorable, days on a boat in the Andaman Sea if you want to witness life under the waves. This is good news as it means Scuba diving is becoming more affordable and more accessible in Myanmar than ever before. Mr Toy, who now runs Myanmar Dive Centre, is helping to spearhead the dive drive. “Myanmar is a wonderful place to dive, many places are virgin dive sites which is a unique selling point,” he said. “I want people to see that. I want to educate people about the water, give them the knowledge and help them to learn about and understand the environment.”



Sports & Adventure


Where can I dive in Myanmar? Myeik Archipelago The jewel in Myanmar’s underwater crown. With many areas still virgin territory the archipelago showcases an incredible variety of marine life – including Nurse, Grey Reef, and Bull sharks, as well as Eagle and Manta rays, Frogfish, Ribbon Eels and False Pipefish. It is expensive with prices for a 4/5 day trip starting at around $1000. Getting there too involves a bit of effort with a two-hour flight from Yangon to Kawthaung adding another $300 if you get a return. Things are set to change in January when the Myanmar Dive Centre opens a new shop in Myeik. They will offer day trips to dive sites at the northern end of the archipelago which are only two hours away by boat. Ngwe Saung

Heho Airport

Ngapali Beach Ngwe Saung


Known largely as a beach resort 5 hours drive from Yangon, Ngwe Saung is a great and affordable place for beginners to learn how to dive. Although the marine life is not as abundant as Myeik, divers get to feast their eyes on lots of hard coral including giant mushroom coral, lion fish, barracudas and large boulders. The dive sites at the nearby North, South and Bird islands are only 45 mins from the beach, making it an ideal day trip. Prices for a PADI Discover Scuba Diving programme in 2016 start from $100 a day if you are in a group of five or more. Ngapali Beach

Myeik Archipelago


Myanmar’s premier beach location is not just about R & R in front of your hotel. The diving is of a similar standard to Ngwe Saung but there are larger sea boulders to see. Day rates for a local dive site start at

$110 while off-shore dives further out to sea cost $150. Yangon Thankfully not in Kandawgyi or Inya Lake. Myanmar Dive Centre is able to arrange beginner or refresher courses at a local swimming pool. Is it safe? Safety has been an issue in the past with locally run diving operations, highlighted by the death of a Burmese man at Ngwe Saung in 2013. Fortunately, standards are rapidly improving as diving becomes more established here. Myanmar Dive Centre boats all have oxygen tanks and first aid trained instructors. There is a hyperbaric chamber at the Monkey Point Naval base in Yangon for divers who have decompression sickness. This is crucial as you are not allowed to fly if you’re suffering from DCS. What is PADI & SSI? The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the world’s largest recreational diving membership and diver training organisation. PADI courses range from minimal entry level to relatively advanced recreational diver certification, several specialised diving skills courses. SSI (Scuba Schools International) is the world’s largest store based training agency. SSI Instructors and Dive Masters, must be affiliated with a physical store. Both PADI and SSI are internationally recognised. When is the best time of year to go diving? The diving season in Myanmar largely runs from October until April/May. It is too dangerous during the Monsoon and visibility is poor. Where can I find more information?

Sports & Adventure





Road Trip On The Old Opium Trail: From Taunggyi to Khaing Tong Text by Anne Cruickshank Photography by Edwin Briels, Lee Bailey


The Ministry of Hotel and Tourism is slowly easing travel restrictions on remote areas in an effort to encourage tourists to stay longer. Recently they lifted the ban on the road that connects Taunggyi to Kyaing Tong, a city in the eastern Shan State near the Thailand border. This drive is epic enough to receive the ultimate seal of approval: it was featured on the BBC’s ‘Top Gear’ program in 2014. And now it is possible for anyone, with the proper permission, to experience Myanmar’s Highway 4. Taunggyi to Kyaing Tong ticks all the boxes for a good road trip: beautiful scenery, little traffic and an interesting story. This area was, until recently, one of the largest poppy growing regions in Myanmar and Highway 4 was the main route for distributing the methamphetamines to Thailand. Thus the road came to be known as ‘The Opium Trail’ and was often the scene of hijackings or fighting between rival distributors. Although there are no signs of the poppy trade these days, the region’s sordid history adds a nice twist to the post-trip travel stories.

The drive takes 15 hours without stops but it is best broken up in to a two- or three-day journey, allowing plenty of time to explore. There are a few simple but adequate guesthouses along Highway 4 with the best being in Kar Li, Kunhing and Mongping. The road (and yes, it is officially called a ‘highway’) is in surprisingly good condition- perfectly smooth and one of those typical rural roads that is one-and-a-half lanes wide. Simply put, the drive is stunning. This time of year is particularly vibrant- the fields, rice paddies and mountains are various shades of green and the distant mountains appear almost blue in color. It is one of the least densely populated parts of the Shan State and the only signs of life are small villages with single-story wooden houses, a few farmers in the fields and the occasional wayward buffalo. Unfortunately Telenor and Oredoo have also traveled along this route as many of the houses were plastered with the ubiquitous blue and red signs. The last 100 kilometers approaching Kyaing Tong feature some hair-raising turns on steep mountains but otherwise the road is mostly flat and marked by gently rolling hills.


Kyaing Tung 10h


423 km

35 min

Heho Airport




There are several stops to make along the way. We skipped the Htam San Cave as they have been ‘Disney-fied’, as my local friend put it. The massive cave is now decked out with multi-hued lights, a bad replica of Shwedagon Pagoda and a series of walkways and viewing platforms that detracted from the cave’s beauty. Instead we veered off at Loilem to visit the Panglong Memorial. This peaceful garden commemorates the signing of the 1947 Panglong accord which unified the Burmese government with the ethnic Shan, Chin and Kachin groups and is celebrated annually as ‘Union Day’. There is also a waterfall located 15 kilometres off the road but it was not nearly as impressive as the ones near Pyin Oo Lwin.

The only difficulty we encountered was when we were stopped at the immigration check point. Located alongside the Thalwin (Salween) River, it was a scenic spot to be stuck for 45 minutes while my permission papers were checked. Despite having the stamp of approval from Nay Pyi Taw there were several phone calls made and photos sent over Viber before I was allowed to pass.

The best stops are the villages where the locals are extremely friendly and curious about visitors. One of my favorites was a Silver Palaung village where the women wear dozens of silver hoops around their waist and in their ears. They live in stilted long houses with 3-4 families in each abode. We were invited in for a cup of tea and as we sat on the floor around a small fire, I realized that not a single one of the 20 or so Silver Palaung who had gathered around us was holding a cell phone. It felt like a time warp and a welcomed change from the phone-crazed streets of Yangon.

In over ten years of traveling Southeast Asia, I cannot recall another road journey of this length that was so untouched. Travel companies are hoping to use this drive as a way to promote Myanmar as a natural paradise, rather than focus solely on its heritage sites. As Edwin Briels, Khiri Travel’s General Manager, puts it this way: ‘In this part of Shan State it often feels like you’re walking into a National Geographic documentary. And it is even more special knowing that even they haven’t been there yet’. His company has developed a 3-day, 2-night itinerary that includes river trips to remote Shan villages, lunches in family homes, scenic walks and bamboo rafting.

We stopped to talk with farmers who proudly showed us their latest harvest. We met members of the Yinn Net ethnic group who had been walking a full day from their village to the town of Namsan to sell their mushrooms. And we chit-chatted with a friendly restaurant owner about the weather as we stuffed ourselves with Shan sour pork and sticky rice.


Arriving in Kyaing Tong was a bit of a denouement. Being surrounded by humanity was a shock after the freedom of being on the road alone for two days. My friends continued along Highway 4, a much busier and more developed stretch of road, and traveled onwards to Thailand whilst I flew back to Yangon.

Although it is unlikely to be as popular as Bagan or Inle Lake, there is no doubt that this region will see an uptick in tourism and become more developed over time. So grab your friends, pack your bags and go experience the Old Opium Trail before the crowds arrive.


The No.1 App to Restaurants & Bars in Myanmar Download app by scaning QR code: Check out new openings! Add a restaurant review! Find out where your friends have been to! Follow others on their gastronomy adventures! Make a table booking for a dinner date! 41



Behind The Scenes at Balloons over Bagan Susan Baily sits down with the staff of Balloons Over Bagan to see what it takes to run a ballooning operation in Myanmar 42




They’re back - Balloons Over Bagan (BOB) took to the skies for the 18th year in October and will continue to float above the world famous temples till April next year. The photos are iconic and, although the prices are notoriously high, the feedback is unanimously superb. Thousands of tourists a year are privileged to enjoy this experience yet few people realize what goes on behind the scenes.

“As the balloons begin their descent an amusing game of chase ensues with the staff zipping through the fields in buses and trucks to greet the balloon”

Since its humble beginnings in 1998, the BOB team has grown to 180 local staff and more than a dozen international pilots. This year they will have 12 balloons in Bagan- capable of flying 1,200 passengers per week and 13 buses to transport guests. It’s no surprise, therefore, that it takes a lot of organization and planning to ensure a smooth operation. “Our days start at 3am”, says Ko Myo Latt, a ground operations manager who has been with Balloons Over Bagan since 1999. “Although the guests are not picked up until around 5.30 or 6am there is plenty of pre-flight work to be done.” Along with the pilots, the ground managers are responsible for checking the weather satellites and releasing test balloons to check the wind patterns. They use this information to predict the flight path and chose an appropriate launch site.

The crew then lay out the balloons in the dark and await the arrival of the passengers. Once the basket is loaded, they assist in the balloon launch to ensure a smooth take-off. Floating above a dream-scape During the flight, the crew use radios to stay in contact with the pilots and the airport’s Air Traffic Controllers (ATC). They track the balloon’s flight pattern yet it is impossible to know exactly where or when the balloon will land. As the balloons begin their descent an amusing game of chase ensues with the staff zipping through the fields in buses and trucks to greet the balloon. They assist in landing the balloon and then serve up a light breakfast for the passengers. After the flights, guests are dropped back at their hotel but the crew’s work continues. The balloon canopies must be carefully packed to avoid tears and the burners and other equipment must be cleaned. Balloons Over Bagan insists on following international safety standards despite the challenges of working in a developing country. Spare parts are imported from overseas and a certified ‘balloon inspector’ is employed full time to ensure all maintenance is carried out to the highest standard.

Then the preparation for the next day begins- checking bookings and organizing the early-morning hotel pick-ups. The balloons fly every day in the high season meaning the crew are working long hours for six straight months. With this gruelling schedule it is hard to see why the crew wouldn’t opt for a more ‘normal’ job at a hotel or restaurant. But chief pilot Bart D’hooge believes that several factors contribute. “We offer training to our staff and everyone has equal chances to grow through the ranks. In addition, we continue to pay salary in the low season even though the work load is much less.” Indeed, during the low season the schedule is much more lax. After packing up the balloons for storage, the season closes with a big party followed by an annual trip to the beach in April. The remainder of the low season includes bus maintenance, regularly scheduled equipment checks and occasional training sessions. Giving Back It is also in the low season that BOB contributes the most time and energy to its community development projects. Since the start of BOB, the owners and crew have made regular donations to the Bagan community. During the 2015-16 season, for example, they built a primary school in Sai Kam village and provided the necessary funding to ensure the teachers are paid and the students have the proper materials. They are also regular participants in the Bagan Plastic Campaign’s Saturday clean-up activities. After the August earthquake, the BOB crew were some of the first on the scene to help clean and repair damaged pagodas. The community also praises the team- who can be easily spotted thanks to their trademark red polo shirts- for their generosity and support. Myo Latt attributes his dedication to BOB in large part to this aspect of the company’s ethos. ‘We are proud to work for BOB. We are able to improve the lives of Bagan people and show off the beauty of our town to foreigners.’ As another ballooning season begins, the crew is excited to be reunited with the pilots and start flying again. If you find yourself in Bagan and have the privilege of flying with BOB, be sure to give a special thanks to the guys and girls in red. For more info:



Sustainable Enterprise

What’s Brewing? Myanmar’s Growing Coffee Industry Susan Bailey traces the emergence of quality coffee in Myanmar

In a country where a sachet of instant coffee costs just 50 kyats, how can you convince consumers to savor a cup of premium coffee for upwards of 2000 Ks? This is just one of the many hurdles that Myanmar’s coffee industry needs to overcome in order to develop into a more profitable model. It is a seemingly impossible task but a group of passionate java lovers from the private and public sectors have joined together to help tackle these challenges. Since 2014, the Value Chains for Rural Development (a USAID funded project) and WinRock International have been working with partners in Myanmar’s coffee industry to change the commonly held belief that coffee is a cheap commodity and instead get consumers and growers to view it as a premium product. The 5-year project includes training of farmers and processors, educating the domestic hospitality, restaurant and catering sector (HORECA) on coffee appreciation techniques and providing marketing support and supply chain links to develop export channels. Through these paths they hope to reach their ultimate goal of having 9,000 Shan State residents benefit directly from the coffee industry. But first the perception must change. There is a reason why coffee is so cheap in Myanmar. Coffee is a highly labor-intensive crop: beans do not ripen at the same time so they must be carefully checked daily and hand-picked when ready. This, in turn, raises the overall labor cost of growing coffee and thus the selling rate. Instead of investing the time to hand pick perfectly ripe beans, Myanmar coffee growers let the beans over-ripen, fall to the ground and then collect them all at one time. The result


is a low-quality product with a higher yield and less cost that can thus be sold as a cheap commodity. Yet even as a commodity it is still a low-profit crop in Myanmar and many farmers have chosen to stop planting coffee and switch to more lucrative items. One of the most enthusiastic supporters of the WinRock project is U Thu Zaw, the owner of Sithar coffee and founder of the Mandalay Coffee Group. U Thu Zaw’s family became involved in the business 20 years ago when they opened Fuji, Yangon’s first real coffee shop. Although the shop was a success, they grew frustrated with the hassle of importing high-quality beans and so, in 2004, they opened an Arabica coffee plantation in Pyin Oo Lwin and began domestic distribution. These days Sithar supplies more than 1,000 outlets in 41 Myanmar cities with premium-grade coffee. But U Thu Zaw sees this as just the tip of the iceberg for Myanmar’s coffee production and he is determined to do more. In mid-August, U Thu Zaw arranged, with the support of WinRock, a week-long training course for potential partners from the HORECA sector. Two international coffee experts taught ‘cupping’, the method used by judges to rate the quality of beans and brewed coffee. They also educated the attendees on proper brewing techniques and used a range of apparatuses to demonstrate these techniques. Participants were enthusiastically asking questions and eager to taste the specialty coffees on offer. U Thu Zaw was pleasantly surprised at the event’s turn-out and hopes the interest in specialty coffee will spread. He believes that ‘Myanmar has the potential to be a leader in premium-grade coffee production but firstly we need farmers, buyers and consumers to understand

the real taste of quality coffee. Although coffee has been grown here since 1885, we produce less than 6000 tons a year whereas Vietnam produces over 1.4 million tons. Therefore we are trying to bring stakeholders together to work systematically on improving the consistency of Myanmar coffee and developing connections with international partners for export.’ There are signs of improvement. Since the start of the WinRock project, three Myanmar coffees have received a rating above 80 from the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). Anything rated above 80 is considered ‘specialty’ coffee and these beans are now being exported to the US and Europe. The project organizers have also seen an increased interest from local farmers in coffee production and training. Daw Su Su Hlaing is one participant from Ywar Ngan. Prior to the WinRock project she was a wholesale broker, buying green (unripe) coffee beans from the 5 day Shan markets. She would sell the beans to large processing plants to make instant coffee but, with fluctuating prices and a lack of knowledge about her product, Su Su Hlaing was never successful in turning a consistent profit. Through the WinRock project, she has learned the technical side of growing, processing and marketing specialty coffee and has thus become a more successful and trusted broker. She is proud to be a part of the project because now small farmers are getting a fair price for their crops and Myanmar is gaining recognition around the world for its beans. When asked if she still drinks 3-in-1 sachets, Daw Su Su Hlaing’s eyes lit up and she said proudly ‘No, I have developed a taste for good quality coffee so when I am at home I brew my own filter coffee.’

After a moment’s pause she added, with a cheeky grin, ‘But I still add a spoonful or two of sugar.’ This type of comment did not seem to bother U Thu Zaw nor the other organizers. They understand the acceptance of high-quality coffee will be a long process but they are seeing signs of change. U Thu Zaw pointed to the recent success of cafes such as Bar Boon and Gloria Jean’s as examples of the increasing demand for good coffee at a higher price point. Both cafés use locally grown and processed beans and are popular with locals as well as tourists and ex-pats. Of course no one wants hipster, international cafes to take over Myanmar’s local tea shops. But it would be great to see Myanmar-grown coffee find its way in to more restaurants and hotels both here and abroad. Given the determination of the participants in the WinRock program, there is little doubt this will be achieved. For more information about the project please visit country/burma/ and for more information about local coffees check out http://

Sustainable Enterprise





Myanmar Rules of Etiquette and Law Whether you’re travelling through this wonderful country or thinking about staying here, there are a few rules that should be on your radar. Expats know these quirky laws well and are a resource in navigating between the permissible and the forbidden. Charlie Michio Turner rounds them up. Illustration by Ben Hopkins

1 US Dollars Must Be Perfect – Well, Almost While recent government announcements advising banks to accept crumpled dollar notes are a welcome intervention old habits die hard. Many folk here in Myanmar still won’t accept crumpled dollar notes. US currency is trusted over the tumultuous Myanmar kyat, as long as the notes are crisp and clean. Crisp and clean. A smudge on Benjamin Franklin’s likeness could easily result in a less favourable exchange rate. A creased or wrinkled bill could lead to worthless money, seriously. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand why, US dollars must be in mint condition.

2 No Motorbikes in Yangon The roads of Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, even Mandalay may be filled with schools of motorbikes, not Yangon. Motorbikes are illegal in most of Yangon, riders can be seen on the outskirts of town in areas like Mingalar and Hlaing Thar Yar townships. Rumours swirl over why motorbikes are banned in Yangon. Is it policy aimed at increasing public safety, or an arbitrary rule left over from the previous government? Either way, the law has worked, motorbikes have been driven to extinction in the city centre. Enjoy the gridlock.


3 Foreigners Can Not Lodge at Private Residences (Especially Outside Yangon) This law is hardly enforced in Yangon where expats make up a substantial chunk of the rental market. Outside of the city, foreigners should plan on staying in hotels or hostels. Rural areas with no hotel options are exempt from the law, allowing tourists to stay with local families, even a few monasteries. If a foreigner stays at a private residence, it won’t be the traveller who will be in trouble, but the Myanmar local who provided the lodging.



4 Rent Must Be Paid Upfront, For The Entire Lease If you’re planning on renting a flat in Myanmar, you must be prepared to pay a lot of cash on day one. Landlords typically allow for either a 6-month lease or a 1-year lease, either way, the entire amount must be paid in a lump sum before the move-in date. If your rent is USD $400 a month, on a 1-year lease, you will need to cough up $4,800 to secure the flat. This does not include any deposit or utilities. Try to negotiate everything before you hand over the money. After all, you won’t have the threat of withholding your rent. Renters commonly ask for a bed to be included, or a new fridge before agreeing upon a lease. Landlords will sometimes help out with repairs, but don’t hold your breath. You may have to hire a local handyman on your own dime for small repairs around the flat.

5 Foreigners Can Not Own Property or Sign Leases Over One-Year Have you ever thought about purchasing a few acres of land in Shan State? It doesn’t matter how rich you are, foreigners are banned from having property under their name. These restrictions hardly matter for people in Myanmar temporarily, but are vital for those interested in starting a business. All expat-operated enterprises rent their space from a landlord of Myanmar citizenship. Not only that, but foreigners are not allowed to sign a lease more than one year, which can be problematic where the price of land is only going up. As a result, the relationship between landlord and foreign business owner is paramount.

6 Alcohol Bans Do Not Apply to Hotels They’re called curfews, but more accurately, they’re alcohol bans. Occasionally the government will impose a ban on the sale of alcohol after 9pm during school exams or times of perceived threats. Sometimes the reason is never fully understood. Hotels have been exempt from these alcohol bans in the past, at least in Yangon. If your visit to Myanmar coincides with an early last call, there’s no need to fret, your hotel bar should still be open.

7 Do Not Mock Buddhism Don’t. Not even as a homage. If it makes light of the religion, it is punishable under the law. Foreigners are not exempt. The Burma Penal Code outlaws insulting any religion or religious class, but with Buddhism being the dominant faith in the country, perceived offenses to Buddha are particularly enforced.











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Le Cellier - Raising the Bar for Fine Dining in Yangon






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There are few moments when one dish strikes a harmonious chord of approval to lift the spirits of everyone at the table, and this is one of them. The dish that steals the show is a cool tomato basil soup with bull frog leg persillade and buratta cheese. The flavours blend


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Resident Manager,KANDAWGYI New Zealander Daniel LAKE Smith tells me Le Cellier is frequented by Ambassadors and CEO’s as well as locals, expats and tourists, but tonight things are relatively quiet on the outside



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Opened in September, 2015, Le Cellier is driven by the expertise of Chef Brice Caro. Having sharpened his teeth at Michelin Star restaurants in France and Dublin, Chef Brice’s culinary ventures have seen him work at top end establishments from California to Azerbaijan: Beijing to Bangkok. And here he is now, stirring it up in Yangon and pushing top end dining to a new level. The restaurant’s sommelier recommends a New Zealand red to accompany my next dish, a homemade foi gras salad with Gewürztraminer foam derived from a pink grape.

The atmosphere on the terrace of Le Cellier is mellow and intimate, more suited for small parties and couples than a rousing, knees up. A lone guitarist plucks away at some favourite classics with varying degrees of success while the green foliage sways in the breeze. “The nights are very warm in Yangon,” Chef Brice explains, shadows flickering from the candles as he explains the reasoning behind his next dish. “That is why I have produced something special, something cool and refreshing.” N



Novotel Max, 459 Pyay Road, Kamayut Township, PO Box 8951, Yangon 01 230 5858 Open daily, 12-2.30 pm, 6-10.30 pm City Mart

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terrace. The glass walls reveal a party of diners inside, enjoying the creations of French Executive Chef Brice Caro.





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If the bread bowl is the foodies crystal ball then we’re off to a fine start at Yangon Novotel Max’ rooftop restaurant, Le Cellier. The rainy season is over and in the distance, Shwedegon Pagoda glows beneath an impending super-moon. However, it’s not astrological direction I’m seeking but a night of French cuisine par excellence. It begins with home baked bread and is followed by an amuse bouche of salmon roe swimming in a warm ocean of scrambled eggs, skilfully placed into an egg shell – the taste is exquisite, especially when washed down with a glass of sparkling wine. NEW U NIVERS ITY AVEN UE

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Sarmal: The No. 1 App to Restaurants & Bars in Myanmar Want to know what’s in the dining scene? Do your own food review? Follow others on their food journey? Download and share the app!

Food Reviews

perfectly but it’s the bull frog’s leg, meaty as a drum stick and tender as butter that has this dish leaping from the menu as a standout choice. The frog’s legs are actually Burmese and judging by their girth must have been body builders in a past life – or in continuous escape from their captors. Our next course is equally as succulent, pan seared smoked duck breast, flown in from France in a chilled container, crispy on the outside and exploding with flavour once bitten.

cuisine. Starters read like a rare blend of flavours and scents: lavender and truffle infused creations vie for attention alongside imported fresh caviar. Meat lovers will drool over the choice of imported Australian beef, grilled, seared and flavoured to your taste, or the Crusty Herbed New Zealand Baby Lamb Rack. Seafood aficionados will have their curiosity piqued with Poached Burmese Tea Smoked Atlantic Cod Fish or the Smoked Atlantic Salmon with Lime Emulsion.

There has been no expense spared in creating something special at Le Cellier. The interior oozes opulence, art décor furniture sits beneath garish chandeliers while paintings created by Myanmar artists and loaned from Yangon Art Gallery adorn the walls. Wandering through the dining spaces, admiring the artwork and wondering how they transported the billion-bling chandelier up to the 14th floor is all part of Le Cellier experience. The wine cellar is also worth a visit. The gleaming glass and chrome walk in space boasts a mouth-watering selection of new and old world wines that range from a ‘Pomero Château Pétrus, 1948’ at the head spinning price of USD4,990 down to a number of perfectly quaffable wines around the USD30 mark, one of which swiftly empties as we move onto dessert.

Le Cellier hits the spot for anyone seeking a fine dining experience with a creative stroke. You could end up mortgaging your house if you choose the Rothschild but a full-blown feast can also be enjoyed for around USD60 if you stick to one bottle of wine. Still in its early stages, Le Cellier will evolve as new ideas are brought in. Resident Manager Daniel Smith talks of expanding the rooftop garden and bringing in wine barrels to lend a more authentic French ambience, while Chef Brice Caro will no doubt push the boundaries with new takes on French classics.

It’s worth allowing time (and wine) to ponder Le Cellier’s menu. The focus is on a small number of specialties rather than an extensive encyclopaedia of French


Our desserts are created by the French Pastry Chef Benjamin Rambaud who knocks up a melee of flavours that includes a nutty sponge pistachio alongside green tea tiramisu soup and a shard of hardened sugar. All that’s left is coffee, a couple of whiskies and a swagger to the edge of the terrace where that big old moon just keeps on getting bigger. 51


Food Guide

Myanmore’s Choice of Top 10 Myanmar Foods We’ve asked friends and colleagues in Yangon and beyond to recommend their favourite Myanmar dishes to help you negotiate the myriad of local favourites. Many of you will be familiar with most of our picks while others, we hope, will find the following a useful guide to help them on their way. Either way this is our pick, and if you have anything to add drop us a line. Photos by Julian Ray

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Food Guide

EnjoyIt Guide: The No. 1 Dining & Nightlife Guide in Yangon


Have you gotten yours?



Mohinga The national dish Mohinga is, in its simplest form, a fish broth packed with rice noodles, eggs, fritter and the occasional fish head. But don’t let that put you off. It may not sound, or even look, like the most appetising of meals, but the people of Myanmar have perfected the art, adding all the right ingredients to give you a taste explosion. There are a variety of ways to make it, but most dishes include hard-boiled eggs, dried chilli and an abundance of vegetables.

Grilled Fish Best known in Yangon for being cooked in Chinatown, the Grilled Fish is available at dozens of barbecue stalls across the city, and is just as tasty in just about all of them. Marinated in lots of different flavours, it is the lemon on the meat that really stands out, and is a terrific, cheap option wherever you are in the country.


Tea Leaf Salad (Lehpet Thouk) Many new arrivals to Yangon could be forgiven for thinking that tea shouldn’t be edible, but those who sit down to a delicious dish of ‘lehpet thouk’ will realise they were very wrong indeed. Like most Myanmar dishes, it is a concoction of different flavours that give it a unique taste. It is also considered as a stimulant. 03

Shan Noodles (Shan Kouw Swe) Despite having originated in far-away Shan State, this noodle dish has very much made its home in the Burmese-strongholds of the country. Served in a noodle soup, ingredients usually added are vegetables, chilli and marinated chicken or pork. A personal highlight of the local food. 04

Rakhine Montti This dish of rice noodles and fish soup is packed with great taste and aroma. Similar to Mohinga, but with its own taste, as the name suggests, it comes from Rakhine state, western part of Myanmar. 05

Coconut Noodles (Ohn No Kouw Swe) A brilliantly subtle and lightly-curried meal where the coconut used to cook the noodles contrasts brilliantly with the protein option (usually chicken). As usual, variations are made, and additions can include lime, chilli and fish sauce.


Burmese Curry Normally much oilier than its Indian equivalent, a Burmese Curry is usually a relatively rich sauce. Chicken is the go-to main ingredient, but other options include pork, shrink, beef and mutton. The best part of a Burmese curry though is the selection of side dishes that come with it. 08

Nan Pyar with Beans Myanmar tea shops are predominantly where locals sit and sip tea, but they also offer a variety of snacks, mostly pleasurable when dunked in your tea. Some tea shops also serve naan breads, potato curries and sweets. 09

Animal’s Innards Certainly not one for the faint-stomached, these tiny stalls are seen across the country and are incredibly popular among the local people. Various types of innards of animals (usually pigs) are boiled in a hot pot and then eaten on a stick. Definitely one for the type of visitor who wants to try everything. 10

Nangyi Thoke One of the few dry noodle dishes available in Myanmar, Nangyi Thoke is a thick, round noodle that is usually served with slices of chicken. Additions include egg, chilli and lemons.


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Budget to High-Brow Spas in Yangon Dominic Horner guides us through a spa tour of Yangon. From the everyday affordable to opulence and luxury.




There’s no shortage of choice for massage and spa treatments in Yangon. We’ve lost track of the number of massages, facials, hot stones, and beauty treatments we’ve had over the last couple of weeks in our quest to deliver a definite cross section of what’s on offer in Yangon. Now, here we are, thoroughly mellowed and ready to share with you: The MYANMORE guide to spas of various price and style.

speak a smattering of English. There’s no Wi-Fi but if the spa’s friendly owner Chei is around, she’ll let you hot spot her phone. A solid all-rounder. Monday- Friday: 11am — 10pm (last booking at 9pm) Saturday/Sunday: 10am — 10pm (last booking at 9pm) Price Range: Ks 800 – Ks 30,000 Private Rooms: No WI-FI: No PH: 09259781636

Something a Bit Different

Budget Option


Sa Bai Dee

Health Blessing

Bo Aung Kyaw / No 64 12th Street – Upper Block

In and around Chinatown there are more than enough spas to choose from but this is our personal favourite. We’ve been there more than half a dozen times for various treatments and we’ve yet to be disappointed. You’ll pay a bit more than you normally would for a downtown massage (excluding manicures and pedicures, K10,000 is the cheapest option on the menu) but the old adage “you get what you pay for,” rings true in this case. There’s no Wi-Fi, but with the standard this high, why would you need it? The service is friendly and attentive, the spa is clean and well maintained and the ambience remains chilled despite the very un-chilled environment outside – Recommended.

Spa Massage Guide GenkyGenky is a Japanese owned spa that specializes in blind massage. They recruit from Yangon and Sagaing region and the masseuses live and work in and around the spa. The staff are provided with bread, board and we’re told, a competitive wage. They’re also, clearly, trained exceptionally well. Unsurprisingly there isn’t a massive list of treatments to choose from, you’ve got foot massage; body massage; and foot and body massage. But the emphasis at Genky is on quality, not quantity and on that front the spa scores highly. Last time we were there we had the foot & body combo and while the foot massage was a teeny bit on the harsh side, the body massage left us like big floppy jellyfish. Despite having a little bit of a sterile atmosphere, the spa is well equipped with decent facilities and massage beds as well as wifi. The prices are also very reasonable (45 minute massage for K5,000. Not bad at all). If all this wasn’t enticing enough, Genky does home delivery. If you live downtown, for a few extra thousand kyat, Genky will organize a masseuse to visit you and massage you from the comfort of your own home . It should go without saying that tipping generously is a good idea.

26 C Nawaday street/ 73 Than Lwin Street, Kamaryut Township/ 223 Maharbandoola Garden Street Kyauktada Township. Spa Massage Guide_Sabaidee A popular, cheap and cheerful spa in Dagon township, Sa Bai Dee is a decidedly no-frills option. You’ve got foot massage or you’ve got… foot massage. Well, at least that’s what they say. If you request politely that the focus of your massage be on your arms shoulders and head, they can do that – but that’s really it. That said, we’ve always been happy with our treatment at Sa Bai Dee. You get the standard green tea, the WI-FI’s pretty good, they’re open till late, (last booking’s at 10pm) the masseuses know what they’re doing and for k6,000 you can’t really go wrong. With only one item on the menu and something of a production line vibe, this is obviously not the place to feel like a pampered prince/ princess. Still, it’s great value and the massage cuts the mustard. Mon-Sunday — 11pm (last booking at 10pm) Price: Ks 6,000 Private Rooms: No Wi-Fi: Yes PH: 0932105450

Two Spas on 19th Street –Lower Block

Monday to Saturday 10:30am — 12am (last booking at 11pm) Sunday: 5pm — 12am Price: Ks 10,000 – Ks 29,000 Private Rooms: No Wi-Fi: No PH: 0932105450

Miyako Clinic

446/444 Merchant Road Botahtaung Township Japanese owned, run and themed, Miyako run a welcoming and professional spa in downtown Yangon. As you’d expect, the treatments have something of a Japanese flavour – the Shiatsu is particularly good – but they’ve also got a wide range of treatments and have just added hot stone to the menu. While Miyako isn’t quite up there with the very best in town, they’re reliably great and provide decent value for money. The customer service is also very good and the staff usually

Genky Clinic

9am — 9pm (last booking at 8pm) Price Range: Ks 5,000 – Ks 13,000 Private Rooms: No WI-FI: Yes PH: Bo Aug Kyaw – 098615036/ 12th street – 0973145681

Top End Sense Spa

269, Room 3, Yan Aung Lane 1,

Yankin Township This one’s a real hidden gem. Tucked away behind the Yankin center, Sense Spa offers some of the best and most unusual treatments in Yangon. On first impression, it seems to be firmly in the traditional Thai massage mould - that is, until you start looking through the menu. The choices on offer at Sense are wide ranging and genuinely eclectic. They include but are not limited to: Aloe Vera massage; milk massage; four-handed massage; honey massage; gold leaf facial. Yes, really. Gold leaf. On our last visit we tried the black herb compress, (a bizarre combo of aromatherapy, hot stone and traditional Thai) and it was fantastic. For those who like their massage a bit out there and don’t mind coughing up a bit, Sense is a real find. Daily: 11am — 11pm (last booking at 10pm) Price Range: Ks 7,000 - Ks 45,000 Private Rooms: Yes WI-FI: Yes PH: 01549993

Inya Day Spa

16/2 Inya Road, Kamayut Township/ Star City, Building A5, Wing C Thanlyin Township/ Building No 17, 3rd floor, Junction Square, Sanchaung Township. If you’re looking to be pampered look no further. The décor and design scream opulence, the staff are professional and thorough and the monthly packages are just about unbeatable. Every month the spa offers brand new packages that usually fall somewhere between the K60,000 – K130,000 range. The last time we went we had a two-hour oil massage and facial combo for K80,000 and we left feeling extremely positive about everything. You get the usual complimentary tea and coffee and the spa sells fresh juice and smoothies as well. Needless to say, this isn’t the place for those who like to keep it frugal. The basic Thai massages and foot scrubs aren’t too expensive, but really, if you make the effort to go somewhere like Inya, it’s worth treating yourself a bit. The spa doesn’t stay up late (the final booking’s at 6.30pm) so it’s best to call in advance. Daily: 10am — 8pm (last booking at 6:30pm) Price Range: Ks 13,00 – Ks 100,000 + Private Rooms: Yes WI-FI: Yes PH 01-537907 55


Financial Advice

Do you have a reliable International pension? When it comes to expats making investments the wind of change is blowing through Asia and its ‘out with the old’ and ‘in with the new’ breed of product. Andrew Wood offers advice on securing savings as an expat in Asia.

Accumulating wealth is an essential past time and often turns into a part time occupation when growing your asset base. If you have wealth then you will be able to enjoy the more comfortable facets of life; you will feel more secure and able to control your own life. Wealth can take the form of confirmed income or accumulated assets which you personally own. Continuous income makes people feel secure but they are often insecure and doubtful about its reality and longevity, no more so than when working as an expat in Asia. Actual wealth in the form of assets, investments and bank balances makes individuals feel far more confident. To accumulate wealth people need to invest. We then face the dilemmas of safety and the old adage of risk against reward. Attitudes vary when it comes to balancing these two factors and that is where the paths of many individuals diverge. Physical or ‘real’ property is considered by most a very good investment. Being able to see, touch and feel it gives many people a sense of security, leaving investors with a feeling of safety. With a fixed supply of land in our world most believe that values can only go north. Some prefer to keep their hard earned money in the bank where they consider it safe and secure. Others will invest in the shares of corporations where the opportunity for higher returns can be tantalisingly irresistible. The vast majority of investors will sit in the middle being prepared to take what they consider a “measured” or ‘balanced’ risk for a higher return than the safest bank deposit. 56

Whilst banks are considered safe they are not. Who would have believed that Lehman Brothers would have collapsed? What about the Icelandic Banks? So, if you think banks are safe think again. When you consider blue chip, or safe corporations, there are also shocks which can come from nowhere. The Enron collapse was unbelievable to many. Whatever you invest in, there will be risks. Mattresses can also be dangerous. There was the family who took mum away for the weekend whilst they renovated her house. When they brought her back she acted, as expected, challenging the change. In the bedroom she went white. The bed had been replaced. She then announced that she had hidden a million dollars in the mattress, which had been burned. Nothing is safe. As expats we all have the opportunity to invest in various ways. This is essential because here in Myanmar we cannot enjoy the comfort of welfare states, healthcare or home country pensions. In these areas, as expats, we are alone. It is a natural progression for expats to invest and for businesses to spring up to help these expats make the most of investment opportunities. One such business model became popular during the 90’s remains prevalent across Asia today. The Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). Way back when such businesses were unlicenced and were open to abuse, things went wrong and there was no real redress to the investor. The remuneration model for such business were traditionally commission based. As the industry developed, some advisers became unethical, sometimes

opting to advise on products which paid them the most commission. The vast majority of commission rates were thus standardised but the damage had been done. Because commissions became the norm, those investors who never faced paying fees rebutted the possibility. If you ask most expats today whether they would pay a fee for financial advice they would say most definitely not. However, they would pay fees for other advisers such as lawyers or tax advisers. The ‘offshore financial services industry’ continued to develop and around fifteen years ago and exploded in terms of the number of firms and individual advisers offering their services. Governments started to take an interest in the industry and so regulations, codes of conduct and best advice regimes sprang up in some countries. These rules were implemented with the intention of protecting investors from being treated unfairly. Advisers had to comply with such regulations or face disciplinary sanctions. As with all legal requirements the regulations became more complex and have ended up severely restricting the type of product that can be recommended. Nevertheless ethical IFA’s continued in business and the competition narrowed because many greedy advisers were unable to achieve the easy buck as previously. . One of the answers to this predicament is to remove the investment advice from unregulated countries and make the entire situation more advantageous to the expat. Imagine being able to place savings into a very well regulated jurisdiction where a trustee made the actual investment decisions based on

Financial Advice

“As expats we all have the opportunity to invest in various ways. This is essential because here in Myanmar we cannot enjoy the comfort of welfare states, healthcare or home country pensions. “

the parameters given to them by you, the investor. Such an arrangement would be governed by a highly regulated Asian government and placed in trust, under the laws of that country. Investment decisions would not be made by an adviser. The trustee would take responsibility for that. However, there would be a caveat that, as an investor, you would be able to self-manage the investment yourself, if you so desired. If you felt unable or unwilling to do that you could leave the decisions to the trustee who would appoint an investment manager for your portfolio on your behalf, subject to your agreement.


This means that investors can have access to some or all of their investment proceeds immediately from the very beginning. Of course there will be a setup fee to pay but once paid capital and growth is available to draw at any time without further penalties. Do you also understand the advantages of using a trust for your investments and savings?

In order to address the commission system there would be far greater transparency and a fee schedule approximately 50% cheaper than the well-used but aging solution promoted by many.

Affording protection of the assets in trust you need never fear prying eyes or possible attacks from predators. Your succession plan can be made on a comprehensive basis and account for your wishes for your current beneficiaries as well as future generations. There would never be a need to undergo probate for assets in the trust. Your wishes would simply be followed from day one. All assets would be exempt from inheritance tax.

Under the current regime investment institutions lock investors into fixed periods of charges to cover their set up costs and commissions they need to pay. However, the new trust would charge ongoing fees without any lock in periods.

In addition assets held within the trust may be drawn at any time in part or in full as pension income from this specific trust. Because there are double taxation agreements between this jurisdiction and 27 other countries tax is levied in

the source country of the trust scheme. As the tax rate on pension income in this jurisdiction is zero this would make the withdrawal of benefits tax free in all these other nations. For example, income from this scheme would be exempt from tax in the UK, Belgium, Thailand, Canada and 23 more jurisdictions. Questions to the author can be directed to PFS International Consultants at:


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Desserts Snow Factory - 10% off Snow Flake menu - 10% off Coffee menu - Valid everyday, 2 pax per card Swensen’s - 10% discount everyday (cannot be used with other promotions) - Valid for 1 pax per card - Deals are applicable to the following outlets: Dagon Center 1 - Myaynigone Ocean Shwe Gon Daing - Tamwe Junction Junction Maw Tin Myanmar Plaza

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MYANMORE Magazine - No.1/ Nov 2016  

#1 issue of MYANMORE Monthly Magazine Yangon, Mandalay & Beyond... More action, more news, more lifestyle... A Life in Music: Phyu Phyu Kyaw...

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