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!!!