Writing about Myanmar

BurBrit: The Best Beer in Myanmar

With dry-January nothing but a distant memory already clouded by several hangovers, what better way is there to celebrate the alcoholic joys of February than to discover that a microbrewery has opened in Yangon. In fact this might be the first ever microbrewery in Myanmar, or not, I might be wrong, but that’s not important. What is important is that it brews the best beer in Myanmar, and you can drink it fresh from the barrel…[continue]

 

There is more to Pindaya than just the caves…

(Myanmore InDepth Magazine  November 2015)

If you were to ask a dozen visitors to (or residents in) Myanmar if they had ever been to Pindaya, I would bet a bottle of beer that the majority of answers would be in the affirmative. If you then asked those that had been there to describe the town or name the hotel that they had stayed in, I would bet a case of beer that most people would probably respond, “Oh no, I only went to the caves” or words to that effect…[continue]

Myanmar Tazaungdaing fire Balloon festival – ‘The Running of the Bulls’

Each November in the UK we celebrate a failed attempt to once blow up a king by huddling together in a draughty back garden to watch (from a safe distance) someone’s dad struggle to ignite (at arms length) a succession of damp fireworks.

This bizarre festival to celebrate the capture of a religious terrorist is then made all the more strange by the  effigies we create of Guy Fawkes to to chuck on a fire, and bring our children to watch him burn.

How civilised.

After our terrorist has burned and we have ‘enjoyed’ the disappointing whizz-bang-pops (that British fireworks have become) we sit around eating sugar coated apples and discuss how big, dangerous and exciting fireworks used to be in the ‘olden-days’ when we were small.

In Myanmar they do fireworks a little differently….[continue]

Pindaya, a new trekking Destination in Myanmar  

(My Magical Myanmar Magazine September 2015)

With the rain on the tin roof playing an out of time accompaniment to the cacophony of snoring from the dozen or so men around me on the floor of this monastery I snuggle further into my sleeping bag, mummified to the extent that only my nose is uncovered I’m still cold, but it’s a nice kind of cold. Despite the temperature, the hardness of the floor and the background symphony of unsynchronised apnoea, I’m tired enough to know that nothing will prevent me from achieving the deep satisfying fatigued sleep of someone who has completed a decent days walking…[continue]

The First Rule of the Yangon Whisky Club is… 

(Myanmar Times September 2015)

There are no rules, (or if there are I was too busy boozing to catch them) and there are absolutely no distasteful and bizarre British initiation ceremonies involving animals.

A simple interest in whisky will suffice…. [continue]

Escape to Loikaw, Myanmar

My Yangon Magazine– September 2015

Loikaw the capital of Kayah state is a dusty little low-rise town that at first glance has the appearance of somewhere that hasn’t changed in many years, if you scratch under the surface however you’ll discover a recent history that belies it’s sleepiness…[continue]

In Search of Yoma in Yangon (beer tasting in Myanmar)

(MyYangon Magazine August 2015)

There is a new beer  in Myanmar called Yoma, it is made by Carlsberg at their recently opened brewery in Bago, and back in June I made it my mission to taste this brand new brew.

It was harder to find than I imagined, however with great dedication above and beyond the call of duty, and undeterred by my failings to source it, I decided to make the most of my investigation time by carrying out a tiresome and extensive tasting (and review) of the other beers currently available in Myanmar.

It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it…[continue]

Putting your foot in it, the do’s and don’ts of Myanmar

If you’re visiting (or staying in) Myanmar there are a few do’s and don’ts that you need to make yourself aware of before you get here. And it really is your responsibility to be fully informed of them, because although for minor infringements you’ll often be excused (and someone might helpfully point out your mistake to make sure you don’t do it again) there are some things you just shouldn’t do because you’ll really upset people. There are even a few things you could do that will get you kicked out of the country or at worst (as sadly happened to a mate) sent to prison…[continue]

Escape to Hsipaw, Myanmar

MY Yangon Magazine – July 2015

The success of Hsipaw as a tourist destination has been surprisingly rapid, especially as it has always been talked of as a well-kept secret. Vang Veing it is not however, and is still managing to retain it’s charm as a riverside market town despite the throngs of independent travellers. There was a period of time where the town was in danger of becoming the setting of a children’s book with invented antonyms such as Ma BoatBoat, Mr Book, Mrs Popcorn, Mr Shake and Mr Bike. Thankfully recently opened establishments have steered clear of this naming trend, and we can only hope that a Mrs Twentyfourhourdisco isn’t currently putting together her business plan…[continue]

Eating Bugs in Myanmar

MY Yangon Magazine – July 2015

Would it be too clichéd to start an article about eating insects with a ‘Waiter, waiter’ joke? Probably, so we’ll take that bit as read. But eating insects isn’t a funny business, and according to a 2013 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) it is something we should be paying serious attention to in the future…[continue]

Market Shopping in Yangon

MY Yangon Magazine – June 2015

Have you ever cooked Pennywort, Roselle, or Myu leaves? Do you know what a Chinese Potato tastes like, or know what to do with a swastika printed tofu block? Have you been instructed how to properly dissect a squid, or been surprised by a catfish leaping at your ankles from a tin bowl on the floor? Have you ever sat down with a butcher, armed only with Google images on an iPhone and a lot of gruesome hand gestures to get into the nitty gritty of what bits of beef come from which bits of the cow?

Welcome to market shopping in Yangon!…[continue]

Haggling in Myanmar

MY Yangon – May 2015

You might find the whole process excruciatingly painful, an unpleasant trial to endure, or something you just want to avoid at all costs. It might be an integral part of your overseas experience, a normal aspect of your everyday life, or even a challenge you relish. But regardless of whether you love or loathe the cut-and-thrust of haggling you will undoubtedly have found yourself negotiating with someone over the price of a product or service at some point…[continue]

The Flowers of Thingyan

MY Yangon Magazine – April 2015

In amidst all the revelry, loud music, heat and water throwing, as an outside observer it’s easy to forget that Thingyan is a very special, spiritual and beautiful time in Myanmar…[continue]

Escape to Ngapali, Myanmar

MY Yangon Magazine – April 2015

In South East Asia we are definitely blessed with an abundance of beautiful beaches to visit, and you don’t have to travel very far to find your idea of paradise – be that the hedonistic haven of Haad Rin, or the idle tranquillity of Gili Air. You may even have your own secret little spot that you keep returning to, one that you’re keeping under wraps for fear that it’ll be ruined should the word get out that it is still beautiful, tranquil and the perfect place to build a concrete monstrosity and 24-hour nightclub. You may even hold dear and distant memories of locations changed beyond recognition; Phi Phi for example before both nature and man decimated it…[continue]

Missing a Taste of Home

MY Yangon Magazine – March 2015

For me it is tea – industrial strength tea, the kind of tea that you could build a house with, or slice up and make a sandwich out of – the kind of tea that would worry a cheap teaspoon. English Breakfast tea, Yorkshire Tea to be precise, Yorkshire Gold if I’m feeling flush. I stockpile those little packets of pleasure as if preparing for Armageddon. Every visitor I receive is encouraged to fill the corners of their suitcase with those little bags of bliss…[continue]

Falling back in Love with 19th street.

MY Yangon Magazine – March 2015

According to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?” (Adams D. ‘80)

According to the latest Lonely Planet Myanmar guide, it seems that “Where shall we have lunch?” is not that much of a problem in Yangon, as apparently you can’t walk more than a few hundred yards before stumbling upon somewhere that will serve a feast of flavours, a mountain of noodles and a fair sized portion of oil to see you through the afternoon, all for a few Kyat…[continue]

The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner

MY Yangon Magazine – February 2015

Ask a hundred runners why they run and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Some will tell you it is simply about the health and fitness whilst others may suggest it is exercising to exorcise demons. Some may even go as far to suggest that that it is about fresh air and space – clearly they don’t run in Yangon – and to others it is a way of hiding in plain sight…[continue]

Cigarettes and vaping in Yangon

My Yangon –  January 2015

There is little doubt that Yangon is a city of smokers – you only have to walk into your nearest teashop or beer station to experience the modern-day equivalent of a Dickensian ‘pea-souper’. Whilst the health authorities in many countries are fighting hard to prevent smokers from lighting up almost anywhere where it might be pleasurable for them to do so, it seems that here smokers still rule the roost – regardless of the displeasure and ill-health it may inflict on others – certainly for the time being anyway…[continue]

Street Dogs of Yangon

My Yangon Magazine – November

They gather in gangs by the gates of compounds, they hang about outside temples, and slouch intimidatingly in the shade on street corners. They moodily stare at you as you walk past, muttering under their breath, making sure you know that you’re not welcome on their territory. Sometimes they approach you and sometimes they cleverly ignore you – lulling you into a false sense of security until you have passed before menacingly appearing behind you.

They are the street dogs of Yangon…[continue]

Ferry across the Yangon River

MY Yangon Magazine – November 2014

The first person you’ll more than likely meet when you arrive at Pansodan Jetty will be Peter. He isn’t an official, a ticket vendor or a paid employee of any kind – he sells post cards, five for 3,000 Kyat. But if you haven’t been here before – and he’ll know if you’ve visited Dalla before – in perfect English he’ll gladly show you where to buy your ticket – $4 return for foreigners…[continue]

E-Bikes in Yangon

My Yangon Magazine – November 2014

“Japanese cemetery!”

The taxi driver turned and laughed as he gestured with his hands at the Toyota cars in the traffic jam before us; the same traffic jam we had been sat in for forty-five minutes. I wondered whether it had taken him this long to make the joke up, or whether it was an old favourite that he saved for frustrating occasions like this; for times when his passenger was dangerously close to getting out and walking to the meeting they were fifteen minutes late for. Disappointingly it turned out that this was the only joke he would make in the ninety minutes we were together…[continue]

A Motorbike Journey without Destination

Myanmar Times – September 2014

Epic motorbike trips, it seems, are ten a penny these days. Everyone and his or her dog are filming themselves carving tracks through the dust of the African Savanna on the back of massive Yamahas, or blogging about their bravery biking the treacherous mountain passes of northern India on Royal Enfields…[continue]

Top Gear: Burma Special, Part one.  A Review

I’m not a Top Gear aficionado, I’ve seen it once or twice, I know it exists. And I am aware of the pleasure it brings to millions of TV viewers around the world.

And if seeing Diana Ross driving around a race track in an Austin Maxi is your kind of thing then that’s fine by me.

But this is the first ever episode of Top Gear that I have actually intentionally watched, and only because I had a vested interest in the subject.

And I won’t be watching part two…[continue]

Taking one for the team

Regardless of what time of day it happens to be, it’s customary in these parts to take a drink with the Chief when you arrive at his village. So when the Chief of this particular dusty little hill village produced a dirty brown glass and a bottle of cloudy green liquid at nine in the morning, I wasn’t really in a position to argue…[continue]

“…If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I’ve just come back from a ten-day motorbike trip around Mandalay with some friends. Despite the fact that the term ‘motorbike’ was hotly disputed by my pals it was wonderful to get back on a bike after a long (government imposed) hiatus. Motorbikes are not allowed in Yangon…[continue]

The Train to Mandalay

Myanmar Times – October 2013

If you’ve ever attempted to ride a bucking bronco, you will undoubtedly have experienced that brief smug feeling when, at about the 30-second mark – having so far survived the gentle rocking and to-ing and fro-ing – you smile and think, “Hey, this isn’t that bad at all!”

Then, seconds later, finding yourself lying in pain on the floor looking up at the ceiling, you probably wondered where it all went wrong. If this sounds at all familiar you’ll possibly be able to understand what it feels like to travel on the sleeper train from Yangon to Mandalay…[continue]

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