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!