Wednesday, 27 November 2013


You always want what you don't have. I would love to have long, straight, shiny black hair. What I have is even more extreme than the total opposite of this. Previously, I've attempted to get just halfway to the hairstyle I desire but this eventually resulted in me having to cut all my hair off; which, as it turns out, is great for the Yangon heat. The first time I went to my favourite hair salon here, I asked for a number 3. Instead of finding the right razor guard, they sat me down and showed me the small but colourful variety of hair dyes they had. Maybe they thought I wanted to look like them.

Highlights all round.

Hair or no hair, it seems that people here (especially men) really do want what they don't (and will never be able to) have, and they are prepared to go to any length to achieve results. They want to look good (and unique). And so here are the top 10 hair experiments I have witnessed so far in Yangon. I know I know - there are better, crazier, more bespoke styles out there but those very distinctive individuals wouldn't allow me to take their picture, probably for fear that someone would copy their shade and style.  Enjoy!

Number 10

Those boys behind are very jealous.

Number 9
Almost as bright as the sun.

Number 8

Even in Dalah, you can get your hair dyed.

Number 7

Rock n roll.

Number 6

When I saw this guy from the back, I called him younger sister by mistake. The squid is really cheap by the way.

Number 5

Three hairstyles in one.

 Number 4
Is it meant to look like that?

Number 3
He already won a rosette for the craziest hairstyle.

Number 2

No caption needed.

Number 1


You're probably thinking "what about the guy with the massive mohican and tattoos/ piercings who hangs around Dagon?" Obviously he is number one for originality but I haven't seen him in months. Maybe he's moved to New York. And the women? I only saw two with slightly wacky hairstyles and unfortunately, I'd left my camera at home. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013


"Do you have a flashlight?" some friends asked when leaving my apartment one night last year (I live on the third floor, with no lift and a stairwell that, back then, had no lights.) Not having a flashlight in Yangon is like a Burmese man not owning a longyi. Everyone has one (I have two but one has no bulb.) So.... "Yes" I replied. "Just take it and leave it downstairs.I'll get it tomorrow" But they had a better idea. They would attach it to 'the rope' so that I could pull it up from my balcony. And so that was the first (and last) time I used my rope-pull-up-thing!!! Actually, it's not mine, it's someone else's and people often ask me why I don't get one. But why would I when I can just use the neighbours'? In fact, my neighbours use it several times a day, as do many other Yangon residents I'm sure. After all, why would you walk down four flights of stairs, and back up again, with a 100m walk to the market or shops in between, when someone (anyone) can come to the ground floor, attach your shopping to the clip or the tube, holler (or ring the bell. Yes, some ropes have bells attached) and.......... Oh, here's the hard part; you'll need to get off the sofa and pull the rope up to receive your goods. But let's face it, this method of shopping takes a lot less effort than actually going out to buy the stuff yourself. It's almost like an online delivery service, without having to go online. Maybe there are actual jobs for people who bring things to 'the ropes'. One minor problem, only relevant if you live in a dodgy area (do these exist in Yangon?): If your neighbours below are evil enough, they may swipe your goods as you pull them up (or they may pull them up themselves before you see them arrive)...... But we all know that honesty is such here that this is almost guaranteed to never happen.

Here's a selection of things I've seen going up.....

Milk. Sometimes it hangs there in the sun for an hour before....

.... it gets pulled up. Warm milk straight to your balcony.

Watermelon and.....

BREAD!! This was hanging there all night . It was for the taking......

A newspaper. Must be a free one as I never see money going down.

The other day, I saw one banana going up. Not one bunch, one banana!!! Most things go up in the mornings when the sellers roam the streets. Beans, samosas, flowers, vegetables, books, you name it.... I've often considered using the rope as a fire escape as I have no keys for my actual emergency exit. But the two thin pieces of rope simply knotted together don't fill me with confidence. In a real emergency, it would be my only option and I would possibly be the first thing to be seen going down the rope. Or more likely, breaking the rope and falling to my death on the concrete below! But I think stronger ropes do need to be introduced so that things like gas bottles and the 20 litre water bottles can also be sent up. Only problem is, you might need three or four people to pull it up then.

So next time you need some watermelon or some bread, just shout to a passer-by from your balcony and ask them to pick it up for you. You may never have to leave your apartment again!!!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Umbrellas Part One: Yangon's number one accessory

When a friend of mine visited Yangon recently, he was repeatedly saying to me "please don’t take my eyes out with that thing." Of course, he was referring to my umbrella. And on reflection, it seems a mystery that more people don’t have visible facial injuries here, as everyday people are faced with the dilemma of what to do with their umbrella when another is coming at them in the opposite direction. Do you put it down or raise it higher? Do you move it to one side? Or do you just do nothing, forcing the other pedestrian to duck, this being their only means of escaping substantial injury? To avoid this problem, people could just slap on some factor 50, walk in the shade and leave the umbrella at home. But we all know that this is not going to become a popular thing to do, especially not when the umbrella business here is so huge. Let me explain!

In the western world, we associate the use of umbrellas with one thing and one thing only. R A I N! But usually when you get rain, you also get wind which means your umbrella will turn itself inside out and blow away, leaving you looking like an idiot (and also leaving you soaked to the bones). So not very practical in the grand scheme of things. You can usually get away with a bit of light drizzle though!

Drizzly 38th Street

But here in Yangon the umbrella has many more purposes. Its first and most common use (at this lovely time of year at least) is to provide shade from the sun. Anyone with a brain carries an umbrella. It’s hot here. Some have better umbrellas than others. Some go for the compact version whilst others go for the gigantic family-sized ones that can fit 10 bodies under and are, let’s be honest, fairly unnecessary.

Hot and Sweaty.

For others, umbrellas provide a certain sense of privacy when you are in one of the busiest public places in the city. This is where it could be acceptable to have the gigantic family-sized one but it’s rarely a sight that’s seen.

What are they doing under there?

Another important use is as a temporary market stall. The umbrella acts as the seller’s ‘shop’ and also offers protection from the elements. You can recognize your local hat seller by the colour of his brolly.

Checked umbrella = Wallet Shop. Red and blue = Specsavers

With all the daily wear and tear, you’d think that people would be out buying new umbrellas like they were growing on trees. Not so. If your umbrella has a hole or rip in it, or if one of the metal bits isn’t working; Or even if you want a new colour to go with your new handbag or lipstick, you can just go here and any of these guys will fix, replace or clean up any part of your umbrella!!

Who'd have thought there were so many parts to an umbrella? These guys know how to fix and replace all of them!

You could have a different one for every day of the week as they only charge 1800 Kyats to get the material replaced. And look at all the choices!!!

Polka dot or flowery? Why not get both?

This one could easily have been restored to its former glory. Now I wish I'd picked it up.

It would take those guys 10 minutes to fix this one.

Of course, there are also the oh-so-beautiful paper parasols that the religious types carry. I heard that some are in fact waterproof but I wouldn’t risk it. They are great for the cool season and you might think you look really fashionable carrying one of them but actually, unless you're a nun, you should only use one if you want people to think you are a lunatic. Personally I prefer to use them for decoration.

See.... They look good on the wall. 

So remember, use your brolly sensibly. Avoid contact with other umbrellas and especially with other umbrella carriers’ faces. And never ever buy a new one (unless you leave yours at the supermarket), just get every part of it replaced until it’s brand new again. Just like Trigger’s broom. And if you leave it at home one day, just put some tanaka (sic) on and walk in the shade. It has the same effect and you’ll feel much cooler. 

One last picture for you though. Just so the kids don't feel left out.

The inflatable umbrella: Wow!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Blog Post 2: Biting the Dust! An alternative view of dogs in Yangon

You should really think about getting a rabies shot” various people suggested to me when I first arrived in Yangon. “Oh no,” I replied, “nothing can kill me." But more importantly I don’t actually believe in vaccinations. And besides, dogs tend to really like me. After I expressed these opinions, I was then warned about the vast number of evil wild dogs in Yangon and how my chances of getting bitten were almost as high as the chances of a Yangon taxi having no floor (or door for that matter). Three months on, I’m still yet to get the shot and of course, yet to get bitten. After all, dogs are a man’s best friend, right? And, if I have to be honest, it seems to me that the dogs in this town are more interested in biting each other as opposed to us, especially at around three o'clock in the morning.  So for now, seeing as the world didn't end on December 21st, I do believe the human population of Yangon is safe (from raging, biting dogs at least).

After all…….

They all start off like this. If they’re lucky, they’ll die or get eaten by a rat or small cockroach. Yet alas, most of them survive.

You may think that these are actually dead, but I did see one move last Friday.

Surely that black and white one is adopted? Maybe the Mama will eat it.

If the puppies have the slightest look of a pure breed, they will end up here, outside Bogyoke Market (perhaps a rich backpacker will buy one as a souvenir) or down in China Town where anyone can afford one. 

Perhaps these are also dead. But 45,000 Kyat is a little steep for a dead dog.

Is that a rabbit?

Usually they will spend a good while for sale in the cage (a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. And anyway, who needs a dog in Yangon?) by which time they don’t fit in it anymore and so have to be released back on to the street. What a waste of time!

Whilst fleas and ticks are an inevitable part of growing up in this unique city, other diseases could be avoided. These dogs look fairly healthy and relaxed compared to their neighbourhood friends/ enemies.

Chill-out time down on the dock.

It's a dog's life now but give it a few more months, and they could end up like this.

Rabies? More like Scabies.

A fair few of Yangon’s dogs have some sort of skin complaint or amputation. Some look so on the verge of death that it’s a wonder someone doesn’t just kill them (I’ve seen a few taxi drivers try). But then, faced with a dead dog and rubbish bins that are bursting at the lids, would this really be practical? 

Could you fit a few dead dogs in that  rubbish cart? No.

Although in actual fact, someone did tell me just last week that when it’s puppy season in Yangon (like 365 days a year), there are usually attempts at culling the dog population by putting out ‘poisonous rice’. I'm not so sure this method is very effective. Everyday, there seems to be a new addition to the canine population on my street so perhaps they will take over the world soon. I still don’t think they would bite anyone though!

Watch out! That could be poison you're eating!

It’s not just physical conditions that Yangon’s dogs acquire. Many of them suffer from mental illnesses such as depression (possibly post-natal)…. Someone give this dog some Prozac for god’s sake. 

"I wish somebody would shoot me."

Maybe people will start eating Yangon's dogs soon. The only problem is that this could cause a major epidemic (of which disease I’m not sure). You only have to look at the dogs to see why. And besides, is there actually any meat on them? All I can see is ribs and nipples.


I’ve come to realize that most of the time, dogs command a lot of respect here. Some have collars and are given food regularly. Some aren’t that lucky but they still manage to survive and no matter how hungry they are, manners always come first.

Wait, wait, wait, wait. Now!

So, if you really think you might get bitten by one of these scabby creatures, maybe you should think about the injection. Or you could just walk around with a big stick or umbrella and try to attack every dog that comes near you. Or safer still, just stay at home, especially after dark. Whichever method you choose, the dog will  never win. After all, the only thing they really want is to be rich and respected, and get driven around in a big shiny car showing off their new-found wealth to all the low-life street dogs they used to hang with.

Ok, I know. This dog has never lived on the street.

Well, that’s enough from me. I hope you will feel safer walking the streets at night now. I would have liked to have got photographic proof of the dogs biting and fighting each other but like I said, it tends to happen in the early hours and simply hearing the stand-off is bad enough!! Right.... I’m off to see a man about a dog (in a cage)


Monday, 10 December 2012

Blog Post 1: Mind the Gap! A guide to pavements in Yangon

Do you fall through a pavement? Or down a pavement? Whichever the correct term is, after I arrived in Yangon it took me a long time to actually complete the action. Five weeks to be exact. Luckily, in my opinion, the incident happened at around 8:30pm, a time when the streets of downtown are starting to become deserted, so the only person to witness me disappearing through the ground was a lone taxi driver. Although I could barely walk after I’d hauled myself back to street level, I still didn’t get in his taxi. If my flip-flop had remained in the sewer, I might have been forced to reconsider.

So now the bruises have healed, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the huge variety of pavements (or lack of) here in The Goon. Some are good, some are bad, but all have a story to tell….. 

First, and most common, is the Regular Pavement. These usually consist of big concrete slabs placed over a trench. Some are secure, some are not. Some have no gaps, most have many (the ones with many could be referred to as Half n Half Pavements). These are the pavements you’re most likely to fall through/ down. What lies beneath varies in depth and content. You have been warned!

The Regular Pavement: Which one is loose today?

The Half n Half Pavement: What could go wrong?

Next is the Boring but Safe Pavement. In an attempt at modernisation, these are usually fairly clean, solid concrete affairs. As the name suggests, it’s unlikely you will fall through/ down one but they are not very exciting to look at. 

The Boring but Safe Pavement: Dull but no holes!

The same cannot be said of the Trendy Pavement. These are usually found around popular tourist sites, such as Kandawgyi  Lake and the roads that lead to Shwedagon Pagoda. As the name implies, they are bursting with character, style and most importantly colour, which allows the betel spit to blend in nicely.  Some of the patterns are quite extraordinary and one stretch of pavement often contains an array of different designs, helping to make your sweaty walk more fascinating.  As with the Boring but Safe variety, it’s unlikely you will injure yourself on these modern colourful types.  

Trendy Number 1Wow!!!

Trendy Number 2: Nice bird.

Next is the Posh Pavement. These are generally only found outside expensive hotels and shopping centres. Although an accident is unlikely, these are in fact the best pavements to fall throughdown as your chances of winning a compensation law suit are fairly high. Well, maybe in ten years time!

Posh number 1: Swanky!

Posh Number 2: Pebbledash!

Possibly the most interesting of all is the No Pavement. These are the ones that are under construction and are generally just sand with a few loose stones dotted about, and perhaps the odd big hole where you can see in to the earth’s core. Local residents wait excitedly to see which type of pavement will eventually emerge. Warning: These varieties are extremely hazardous at night.

No Pavement Number 1: "How long will this take?"

No Pavement Number 2: Looks pretty safe actually.

Similar in appearance to the No Pavement is the Scruffy Pavement. Whilst they often appear almost identical, it should be noted that the scruffy pavement will not be upgraded anytime soon. It’s been scruffy since it was laid and will continue to be so for many years to come. 

Scruffy Pavement. What a mess!!

My favourite of all is the Colonial Pavement. Laid by the British (citation needed), they are fairly solid and safe, very old and have a certain charm. But.... how long will they survive?

The Colonial Pavement. Solid and tough. Just like that dog

As we draw to a close, we mustn’t overlook the What the F*** Pavement. As the name suggests, this variety is something of a shocker. You only have to look at it to see why. Imagine falling through/ down that at dead of night.

What the F***? Is there anybody down there?

And so, last but not least, we have the Pigeon Pavement. These have quite a bad smell and are always full of, well, pigeons. There’s usually one in every neighbourhood and it’s even possible to buy dried corn and nuts to feed the flock.  Although the chances of you falling throughdown this pavement are fairly slim, you are quite likely to get pecked at and shat on. Lucky you!

Pigeon Pavement: Filthy.

Hopefully now, you have a basic knowledge of Yangon’s incredible variety of pavements. I acknowledge that there are dozens of other sidewalk varieties in this golden city (Bed Pavement, Train Track Pavement, Love Pavement and Palm Reading Pavement to name but a few), but I simply didn’t have time to do the leg work.


Enjoy the walk and don’t forget to carry a  flashlight after dark!!!