Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wow! Its Lao 8 - Nong Khiaw to Xieng Thong

This leg of the journey took me to the least heralded place of the whole trip, Xieng Thong, or Muang Hiam, or Thakon... so many names for one place... 

Pigs, water buffalo, cows, goats, dogs... the most dangerous road hazards in Lao were on 4 legs.

in any case, it was a stopover on the road from Nong Khiaw to the Plains of Jars, which you'll see in the next video, and so whereas there wasn't much to do at the destination, the road there was beautiful. 

I visited the Nam Et National Protected Area, the site of Laos' last remaining breeding population of tigers in the wild. 

After visiting the protected area, what else was there to do in this multiple named town? The market was the obvious choice. 
Finally, I found a nice riverfront restaurant that had a menu in English, and I enjoyed a nice dinner of larb. 
My waitress,
Larb, or laab, is the national dish of Lao. It's minced meat with seasonings. 

I asked that they made it not too spicy. Maybe they understood that and toned it down, but in any case, I still found myself in tears finishing it. 

Enjoy the video. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wow! It's Lao - Part 7: Luang Prabang to Nong Kiauw

After spending two nights in Luang Prabang, I was eager to get back out onto the road and continue my ride through the beautiful Lao countryside. There at the tail end of the rainy season, the foliage was at maximum greenery. Verdant doesn't come close to describing how lush and fertile the landscape was. 

The story goes that once there was this woman with a gigantic vag... no.
Once again, I wasn't facing a long motorbike ride, so I was able to take in a few sights along the way. First of these was Mount Phusi there in Luang Prabang itself. You must my excuse my inner 12-year-old for laughing at the name "Phusi" (pronounced poo-see). In any case, the view from the top of the hill (it's a hill, not a mountain) was fantastic. 

The view from Mount Pussy
I was a bit worried when I got to Pak Mong and I had turn off the wonderful Lao Highway 13 that I'd been on since Paklay and onto something called Highway 1C. The "1" was encouraging, but the "C", not so much. It turned out to be a fine road, not that my CRF250 couldn't have handled anything. 

Eventually, I got to the river valley town of Nong Kiauw. Wow. What an amazing place. The rock cliffs jutting upwards out of the valley, I hadn't seen anything like it since my last trip to Yosemite. 

Enjoy the video.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wow! It'a Lao - Part 6: Luang Prabang

A popular tourist activity in Luang Prabang is waking up early to watch the locals give alms to the monks.
After three days on the road, I settled down in Luang Prabang for a full day of sight-seeing. The town is the peatl of the Lao tourism industry and even has its own international airport. As I mentioned in the last video, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning it is recognized as having a cultural and historical significance that is of value to the entire world. 

On the road to Kaung Si
High on the list of things to do in Luang Prabang is the Kaung Si waterfalls. I did my research, and on the downside, people primary complained about the crowds at the falls. Being surrounded by hordes of tourists prevents full enjoyment of the soothing tranquility of the site. I was resolved to beat the crowds and so I got up quite early and was on the road to Kaung Si as soon as the sun came up. 

32 kilometers later, I was at the gates at 7:10 AM. Whoops. Again, my stellar travel planning skills showing themselves. The park doesn't open until 8:00 AM. Perhaps the guard was impressed by my determinatio. Perhaps, by not giving me a ticket, he could put my $2 entrance fee right into his pocket. In any case, he let me in and I had the whole place all to myself! 

On the short walk up to the falls, there's a small bear rescue facility. The bears live in a very nice enclosure where they have lots to do and play with and plenty others to interact with. They seemed happy enough. If you're not familiar with the species, these are Asian sun bears, smaller than their cousins from temperate climates, they're also cuter. 

At the falls themselves, I had never seen water so incredibly blue. It was practically flourescent. Maybe that's due to high oxygen levels. The water was also clean, crisp and after shakily making my way through the rocks on the shore, it made for a refreshing swim. 

In the afternoon, I had a nice rest and in the evening, my exploring lead me to an unlikely activity there in developing Lao: bowling! I blame my horrible scores on having to bowl in my socks. 

Enjoy the video! 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wow! It's Lao - Part 5: On to Luang Prabang

Do not stay at the Eagle Hotel in Xayabouri. So many annoying little things that would be easy to fix. No glass in the windows. The restaurant is closed. No English at all amongst the staff. I was glad to get out of there and on to the road once again. 

As you hear me explain in the video, I have a fear of tall bridges. I was looking forward to another exciting ferry crossing of the Mekong, but to my surprise, there was a bridge! It wasn't on my map. Once on the other side, the view from the hill on the far bank was spectacular. Here's a photo utilizing the 'panorama' function on the phone. 

It was a rather short trip, so I stopped often and took in the sights. Another nice thing about this enduro bike is that I never have to worry about the roads I might encounter. The CRF can handle anything.
For example, on the side of the highway, there was a sign indicating a nearby waterfall, but no indication (that I could read) as to how far down the side road it was.
I took a chance and it paid off. 

Eventually, I made it to Luang Prabang. This ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it sits at the confluence of two big rivers. A former royal capital of one of the Lao kingdoms, there's lots to see and do there. Temples, museums and Mexican food were the highlights of my first day there. 

Enjoy the video...


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Wow! It's Lao - Part 4: Paklay to Xayabouri

I left Paklay on my second full day of travel in Lao with little fanfare. I didn’t record any type of intro into my travel, I just wanted to get on my bike and ride. 

It’s remarkable country there in the west of the Lao PDR, and now, at the end of the monsoon season, it’s about as green as a place can be. 

It wasn’t that long of a ride from Paklay to Xayabouri, so when I got there, I had plenty of energy to go look for local tourist spots. A quick look at the travel websites and I knew I had to go visit the elephant protection sanctuary. It’s not an elephant park; it’s not a place where tourists can feed bananas to tethered elephants, perhaps wash them, and certainly ride them – no, this place is about letting elephants live as close to their wild roots as possible. 

As I arrived without a prior booking, I couldn’t see the elephants. This isn’t a place that accepts walk up tourists, and when you see the road it takes to get there, you’ll see why. In any case, after my arduous journey there, I had a nice conversation with Celine, the coordinator of the reserve. I learned that that their goal is NOT to release these elephants back into the wild. There are perhaps a couple hundred of wild elephants left  in Lao, and their population is suffering under a lot of  pressure. Adding new members to a population facing shrinking resources would be counter-productive. 

Myanmar, on the other hand, has about 5000 elephants still living in the wild. A valuable resource that needs protecting. 

Enjoy the video. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Wow! It's Lao. Part 3 - Vientiane to Paklay

The Mekong at it's narrowest point in northern Lao.
My sister asked me on Facebook what the difference was between "Lao" and "Laos". I keep calling it the former which is a reflection of being in SE Asia for 4 years. That's what it's called here. 

So where did the name Laos come from? Well, in their own language, this country is called Meaung Lao. "Land of the Lao".. Similarly the Thai word for their own country is Meaung Thai. Seems to me that if we follow the Thai model, this country should be called Laolandລາວ, or Lao, is the shorter version of that. 

Not on the video due to a dead battery, getting of the ferry in the shadow
of a brand new bridge ready to be opened.
The label "Laos" came from the the French. See, when they first started trying to impose their influence on the lands east of the Mekong, there were three competing Lao kingdoms. There was no single country of the Lao, there were three, so when talking about this area, the French pluralized it. I don't know French, but I'd imagine they'd use an article with that, Les Laos, the Laos. The article has fallen off over time. The word "Laotian" is ridiculous in my mind. It's like calling some "Thaitian". 

Your humble blogger on the Mekong
Onwards! It was finally time for me take my big bike onto the open highways of Lao. I left Vientiane heading westward, skirting the Mekong River on what were wonderfully smooth, wide highways. As I got more comfortable on the bike, I started to realize that it could go a lot faster than anything I've driven  in years, and I took advantage of that. The Mekong itself narrowed remarkably. The mighty river must be really deep at that point because it certainly wasn't very wide.
There's these consistent reminders that I
am visiting a communist country.
In fact, I'm reading an account of the Mekong which details the early French explorers of the river. This part of the Mekong distressed them because not only had it turned to the southwest after hundreds of miles heading north, but the current was like nowhere else. 

Eventually, I made a right turn and traversed the only unpaved road of the day. There's about a 10km stretch between Vientiane and Paklay that is horrid. The road is just rocks. It would have been torture on my scooter; on the CRF, it was no big deal. I'd like to show you, but this was during the period in which my action-cam's battery had died.

I got to my destination just as the afternoon monsoon rains started, and wow, did I find a gem of a hotel room for only $11/night. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wow! It's Lao. Part 2 - Vientiane

That's gotta tickle.

I mentioned in my previous video that there had been a miscommunication between myself and the tour company I was going to rent my motorcycle from. It turned out to be no big deal as I had anticipated that the Myanmar visa matter would be more problematic than it was. I had budgeted myself two nights in Vientiane and was able to get my motorcycle the following morning. 

I’d like to offer a full-hearted endorsement to Remote Asia Travel there in Vientiane and their owner, Jim. Not only did he take care of the snafu with the booking, but he asked the right questions to discover where I was going, about me physically and my experience touring. Initially, I had planned to rent a smaller bike: just 220cc and much lower to the ground.
Your humble blogger
At Jim’s recommendation and after a nice discount to make up for the previous day’s problem, he upgraded  me onto a Honda CRF250, and not just any CRF, the one he uses personally when he leads tours around Laos. Moreover, he took the time to go over my route with me in some detail. My plans weren’t set in stone, and his suggestions have helped me set a more modest, but still spectacular course. A dry bag to keep the rain off my backpack (no flimsy garbage bag like I’d used previously), a helmet, a full tool kit, map, lock and chain, two extra tires and BUNGEE CORDS were all provided at no extra cost. So if you’re planning a trip to Laos, go with Remote Asia. 

Although it looks ancient, the park is about 100 years old.
As I took off for Budda (sic) Park some 25 km east of Vientiane, I started to get the feel for this machine.  Although I’ve been riding motorbikes of one kind or another my whole like, lately it’s been scooters and strep-throughs. It had been 15 years since I’d ridden anything with a manual gear box and over 200cc. Remembering how to use the clutch work came back quickly. On my bike back in Myanmar, to shift to a higher gear, you step up on the gear-shifter. On this Honda, you click up. It only took one time changing gears the wrong direction to burn into my mind that I need to be careful with this.

The real advantage of the CRF wasn’t noticeable until I turned off the highway onto a 8 km stretch of back-road leading to the park.  The road was typical of many I’ve ridden in Myanmar: extremely bumpy, gravelly, and where there is pavement, there were more potholes than smooth pavement. It was the kind of road I would have dreaded facing on my scooter. It would have a slow, bone-jarring and taxing ride on my little bike. On the CRF, I couldn’t feel the bumps; it wasn’t bone-jarring at all. I could just drive right through the smaller potholes instead of having to carefully weave my through the maze of broken pavement. What an awesome bike for SE Asian travel. 

As for more on the park itself and the rest of my day in Vientiane, I’ll let you see for yourself in the video. 

First some picture highlights:

This man is playing a flute with his nose! 

It's a large, stone.....
From the remarkable COPE Visitor Center

Enjoy the video..

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Joko Now in Lao - Part 1

Whaddya think of the name for this journey? Eh? Each time I go and make these trips, I gotta think of a snappy title for the video series... now.. Lao... rhymes! 

Well, there where a couple of snafus along the way here (they confiscated my bungee cords at the airport!), but once I get to Vientiane, things went great. At least from the perspective of what was most important. Immigration laws in Myanmar have changed recently, and whereas I used to have to leave the country every 70 days on a "visa run", now we're being allowed to get one-year business visas. Their access, however, is limited, and like any bureaucracy, sometimes a civil servant will say "no" when they don't have to. Not so at the Myanmar embassy in Laos. They were wonderful. They treated me like a VIP and I got everything expedited efficiently. 

I've rented a REAL motorcycle for this journey. No more putting around on a little scooter!

As I write this, it's the morning of my 3rd day here, and I'm finally going to hit the road for the countryside. As I'm anxious to get at it, with no further adieu, here's the first video.  


Friday, September 1, 2017

The A to Z Guide for new teachers in Myanmar

For the new teacher in Myanmar. Here's an A to Z guide answering some FAQs. By Joko MacKenna, with help from Jack Bartram.

A – Arrival. You get off the plane at Yangon International Airport and walk across the tarmac, breath deeply. Take a good whiff of the air around you. Like every other country in the world I’ve been to, Myanmar has its own particular odor. Inhale it and appreciate it while you can in your first minutes or hours in this country because like all other odors, you’ll soon become accustomed to it and it will become imperceptible. 

B – Banking. One of the nice things about working in Myanmar is that the pay is pretty good. What then do you do with all those hundred dollar bills your company pays you in cash? You don’t want them lying around your apartment and susceptible to fire, burglary or unscrupulous cleaning ladies. Gotta put it in a bank. You’ve got two options. Open a Kyat account at any local bank. Bring a copy of your invite letter that you used for your visa and a copy of your passport. You’ll (eventually) get an ATM card with the MPU logo on it that you can use in tens and tens of places throughout the country. Then there’s the USD account. All the big banks offer this. You can stash up to $5000 into a Myanmar bank, and they keep it in USD, immune from Kyat depreciation. You don’t get any interest, but it’s safe and you get a Visa card with it. You can’t use the Visa card inside Myanmar, but it’s useful for booking or buying stuff online.

C – Cats.
Your humble author is a big lover of cats and I encourage my fellow expats to not be shy about taking care of our feline friends. Get a cat if you want to. If you leave in a year, you’ll find someone to take care of it.

D- Door to Door.  Whereas their service has been declining lately indicated by longer and longer delivery times, I still recommend Yangon D2D as a go-to food  service for expats. They offer delivery service from about 100 different local restaurants, all of which are yummy.
E – Education. If you’re going to teach in Myanmar, you need to understand what our students’ experience has been in regards to education. If you like to drill students on pronunciation, they’re very much receptive to that. It’s what they expect. I say. You repeat. That’s the essence of the Myanmar educational experience. Ask them to think critically and voice their own opinions on a subject, that’ll be hard. You’ll get silence. Point being, it’s very important that you tell students “there aren’t any right or wrong answers here. I just want to hear what you think”…. They don’t want to be wrong, and they’re not used to settings where there isn’t such judgment.
F – FFFFFFFFFFFFF – You should try to learn a little Myanmar language. It will help you understand the challenges your students face in relation to their L1. For example, the letter “F” doesn’t exist in the Burmese language. Yet, they have no problems accurately producing the phoneme as it’s pretty simple. What does cause problems are consonant clusters at the ends of words. Heck, even any consonant at the end of word, even something as simple as an “S”. In
Burmese, like several other “lazy” Asian languages, they’ve gotten rid of consonants at the ends of words. All words here end in a vowel, or a soft “n” sound. So when asking a student to say the word “FIRST”, understand that every part of that word is different from what they’re used to outside of the letter “I”.

G – Grammar. Myanmar language doesn’t use adjectives.  None.  All adjectives are expressed as verbs. It’s isn’t hot today. It is being hot today. It isn’t an angry dog. It’s a dog being angry. Adverbs are expressed by doubling the root word. Sentence structure is Subject + Object +Verb, as opposed to Subject +Verb + Object like we’re used to. Again, knowing the L1 of your students will help you be a better teacher. 

H – Humility. Foreigners are treated well here. Perhaps it’s a colonial hangover. Perhaps it’s something else. Whatever the cause, just by being from another country, you’ll get treated with a lot of respect. Don’t let it go to your head! When it comes down to it, you’re not the royalty they treat you like, and their deference has limits. Don’t turn their attitude into your privilege. Be as respectful of the locals as they are of you.

I – Institutions. Understand that there are certain pillars of existence here. Buddhism. Charity. Family. And until recently, subservience to the state. Traditional Myanmar culture doesn’t value people being ‘edgy’. Point being, don’t ever insult Buddhism, understand that family values are all-important, and realize that freedom of speech is a new concept and tenuous. Your visa says you’re here to teach. Expressing political opinions (about Myanmar) online could be interpreted as acting as a journalist and subject to working outside your visa.

J -  Kyat. Another letter foreign to the Burmese alphabet is “J”… They don’t have a “J”… The combination of K” and”Y” is as close as they get. It’s pronounced “jat” or “chat”… actually, it’s somewhere in between.

K –Kilowatt.  The Irrawaddy river has always been the main arterial vein of Myanmar pumping the life blood of the rice crop from the delta to the upper regions of Myanmar. In the modern age, the river has evolved to also become Myanmar’s nervous system with most of Myanmar’s power being produced by Hydroelectricity.  Living in Myanmar, you’ll need electricity for your gizmos. First you should check that you have the correct plugs and adapters. The most commonly used are
·         Type C European CCE 7/16 Europlug
·         Type E/F European CCE 7/4 or 7/5 schuko
·         Type D Indian BS-546 (5A)
Make sure your DC adapters are multi-voltage. Like most of the world outside North America, Myanmar uses 220-240V power.
As for other utilities, Myanmar is fairly cheap. Electricity will run you Kys 15K to 30K per month ($12-25), water is free to a couple bucks a month, 125 channels of satellite TV is $10/month and internet through your phone runs about $3 per gigabyte depending on the package you sign up for.

L – Living space. Of course, when you get here, one of the first things you’ll want to do is find a place to live. Unlike most things, when compared to other SE Asian cities, Yangon’s housing markets tend to be a bit pricy. Expect to pay between Kys 250K to 500K to rent a flat. All accommodations are relatively spacious and all of them have the same basic floor plan. An apartment buildings here is 4 to 7 stories tall (no lifts) and each unit takes up half a floor. They’re long and narrow with living space up front and bathroom and kitchen in the back. At the low end, you will at least get AC, maybe a water heater for the shower. Furnished apartments are rarer, and they cost somewhat more.

M- Medical concerns. Myanmar has socialized medicine, even for foreigners. At the National Hospitals, you can get primary care for free.  As an American, with the current battle over Obamacare, I’m a bit ashamed that one of Asia’s poorest countries can do this, but it would be unthinkable in the USA. That said, I’d only suggest going to one of the state hospitals for the most minor things and only if you have a lot of time on your hands. For more significant issues, there are several decent private hospitals. Asia Royal Hospital in Sanchaung seems to be the one people go to. They’ll charge you an extra $35 just to see the doctor, but their staff seem competent, they speak English fairly well and the rest of the charges are reasonable. They also know what they can and can’t do. For example, I got treatment for a ruptured disc in my spine. The doctor laid out a couple initial stages of treatment which he said, if they turned out to be ineffective, the final stage would be surgery “in your home country” (I had it done in Bangkok).

N- Neighborhoods.  If you’re teaching at Edulink, you’ll probably end up living in Sanchaung Township. Most of the teachers live here and there’s a significant number of other foreigners in the neighborhood as well. Sanchaung has plenty of restaurants and mom & pop shops, although it could use some banks and supermarkets. The area known as Hledan (part of Kamaryut Township) is also a convenient area in relation to school. Some teachers choose to live downtown. You can actually rent a nicer place for less downtown, and it’s a more exciting part of town, but keep in mind that you’ll be spending a lot more time commuting. Things to look out for in a neighborhood include the quantity of street dogs (they’ll howl and fight at night) and the proximity to religious sites (most have loudspeakers which can go off at any hour for as long as they want).

O- Open sewers. This seems to be rather obvious advice, but keep an eye out for the open storm sewers. Walking the streets of Yangon comes with several hazards (blocked sidewalks requiring walking in traffic, dog poop, dangling electrical wires), but the most dangerous are the open access points to the deep and murky drainage channels. Don’t walk and use your smart phone at the same time; you could end up hurting yourself.

P- Pharmacies. There’s lots of them. Myanmar has excellent connections with both the Indian and Thai pharmaceutical industries, and so the most common medicines are readily available and quite cheap. For example, I take an omeprazole every day for my acid reflux. It costs me $.08 per pill. You can get Viagra, liver medicines and lots of other drugs that need a prescription elsewhere over the counter here. Some drugs still require a prescription. Benzos and opioids are strongly regulated.

Q- Quickness. I remember when I got off the plane 4 years ago and on the taxi ride to town, I asked the Myanmar person who was meeting me, “so, what do I need to know about Myanmar culture? As a foreigner, what’s different about this place that I need to keep in mind?”.  She thought about it for a moment  and told me that things were slower here. Things don’t happen as quickly or as efficiently as most westerners are used to. Be patient. She was right. Whether it’s the line at the supermarket or getting a document from a bureaucracy, things simply don’t happen at the speed we’d hope they would. The concept of “time is money” doesn’t exist here.

R- Rent. An addendum to the living spaces above. Rent is paid in advance in Myanmar. As the country has experienced some currency instability (the USD-Kyat exchange rate has fallen by 35% in 3 years), leasing agreements are pre-paid. When you sign your lease, you will have to pay 6 months rent upfront. Some teachers have negotiated a 3-month prepay, others have gotten a lower rate by paying a full year upfront. That’s how rent works here. The good thing is that you don’t have to pay rent each month! You’ve already done it. For new teachers, consult your employee handbook for information about the relocation loan that Edulink offers to help pay for this expense.

S- Sweltering heat. Even though it’s smack dab in the middle of the tropics, Yangon isn’t as hot as some cities, it still can be hot. Bangkok is hotter. New Delhi is a lot hotter. I’ve never been to Dubai or Riyadh, but it rarely hits 40C in Myanmar. There’s only three seasons here. The hot season runs from late February to the end of April. It’s hellish. It’s in the high 30s and there’s lots of humidity. Going outside is like going out on another planet. If you need to get stuff done, do it early in the morning; you don’t want to be out in the middle of the day. Sunset offers only a little relief. From May to October, we have the Monsoon. The daily thunderstorms bring relief from the heat, and provided you have a good umbrella, sensible shoes and the a positive attitude, the 2.5 meters of rain Yangon gets during this season can be quite enjoyable. Outside the monsoon, it doesn’t rain here at all, so enjoy it while it’s here. Lastly, we have “sweet December” and January. For the brief cool season, the weather is wonderful.  

T- Tourism. How to best experience what Myanmar has to offer in the way of tourism? First of all, there’s a lot of good stuff to see right here in Yangon. Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset is a must-see. There’s several museums of interest, and it’s not hard to get to some of the interesting little towns outside the city. If you’ve got a long weekend, the beach resorts of Ngwe Saung and Chaungthar are just a few hours away by bus. Arrange your hotel room here in Yangon beforehand, leave work, and the night bus will drop you off at your hotel’s door at 2 AM.  Spend the day at the beach, enjoying the beauty of the Bay of Bengal, and on the second day, get the bus back to Yangon. Another do-able in a weekend option is the Golden Rock. Kyaiktiyo is also only a few hours away and is spectacular and an inspiring mountain site.

U- Underwear. By this letter, I’ve started to run out of things to write about, so I’ll mention our unmentionables. Personally, I’m a big guy. So as it is with shoes, I can’t find underwear here that fits.  If you’re a big person, bring many pairs of underwear with you!  
V- Veracity. At the time of this writing, I have to say that you won’t find a more honest and indiscriminative culture in regards to foreigners anywhere in Asia. With the exception of the taxi drivers who will ask for a fare that’s 25% more than a local would pay, Myanmar people don’t ask you to pay more because of the color of your skin. In all the other countries in SE Asia I’ve been to, from clothing to just a bottle of water, merchants in this region try to rip you off at every turn. It’s not the case in Myanmar. Now, mind you, some institutions will try to charge you more because you’re a foreigner. There’s no getting around the 8000 Kyat foreigner entrance fee at Shwedagon Pagoda whereas locals get in for free.  That said, on several occasions, I’ve not had to pay the tourist fee just by saying “di hma nei deh” (I live here). :::Aternately::; Vice. If you enjoy your vices, you’ll love Myanmar. A pack of smokes is 70 cents. A 12 oz mug of ice-cold draught beer is 75 cents. Liquor is cheaper here than anywhere else in the world.

W-Water. It’s the stuff of life, but you can’t drink the stuff that comes out of your tap. I suppose one could if you boiled it first, but bottled water and it’s distribution are big businesses here. You’ll need to find a ‘water guy’ and your landlord is the person to ask about this. The water guy will tote your 10 liter bottles up your stairs and it costs $0.60 per big bottle. 

X- Xylophones. Myanmar traditional music is unusual. I can’t really say that I’ve found a non-native person who’s been able to say they enjoy it. Akin to jazz, I’ve heard it called xylophone players on methamphetamines. It’s kinda crazy. And again, going back to the proximity to the public loudspeaker thing, be sure you’re well away from sources of this music unless you’ve got a good pair of sound-cancelling headphones.

Y- Yangon. It’s a city of 5 million people and spread out over a large area. It’s by no means a megacity, nor could one call it cosmopolitan. As Rudyard Kipling famously noted: “This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any other land you know about.” Yangon is the center of this land unlike any other, and Yangon is unlike any other city. 

Z- Zoology. Somewhere in Myanmar, wild tigers still roam. There are wild elephants too. Then there’s the infamous Burmese python. Deer, pigs, peacocks and bears are out in the jungle. As a country that is the size of France and has only 50 million people, when I’ve gone out into the countryside, I’m struck by how much undeveloped land there is. Poachers, illegal logging and the pressures caused by rural poverty continue to encroach on the wild parts of this country, but it remains, at the moment, a place where there are regions untouched by man. The Yangon zoo is worth visiting too. 

I hope you have enjoyed this A to Z. If you have any questions about living and teaching in Myanmar, I'm here to help. Joko(at)edulinkaustralia(dot)com. 


I thought I was going to retire there. I was the senior staff member. I'd been there longer than anyone. It. Is. Not. Fair.  But on the ...