City: Yangon (Rangoon)
Distance from Delhi: 3,558 km
Time difference: 1 hour ahead of India
Speaking of our padosi countries, Myanmar’s Yangon, or rather Burma’s Rangoon – the country’s former capital – has just been freshly plunged into the irreversible process of becoming touristified. Although the current capital is Naypyidaw (ya, figure pronunciation here!), Rangoon remains the largest city, somewhat like Bombay is to India in terms of size, commerce and culture.
Rangoon is actually neither like this old wonder, nor like this neglected backdrop. In fact it is a city where the digital freedoms we take for granted were missing all along. And that is precisely what makes the Burmese millennial culture special; here is a whole generation grown up constricted by strict military rule and consequently self-driven and inspiring in the most surprising ways.
A New Start On Skateboards
It’s hard to believe, but for close to three decades the government did not allow more than five people to gather in any public space. Thankfully, things changed in 2013 for the better. Yangon has a skateboarding population that’s slowly swinging towards a thriving subculture, and this was fuelled by the creation of a proper skatepark – fully crowdfunded! – 2 years ago. Watch Altered Focus: Burma to understand the story of Burma through skateboarders, and if you wish to connect with the boarders there, follow the Myanmar Skateboard Club.
Nights On 19th Street
How about barbecues, beers and karaoke with the Burmese? 19th Street in Yangon is where the nights in the city come to life. This Chinatown street is famous for its street food as well as restaurants (think rooftops, galleries and colonial townhouses). Kumar Jhuremalani, a Bombay-based entrepreneur, did a solo trip through Burma and arrived at this revealing insight: “The Burmese Khowsuey that we love & eat in India doesn’t exist!! You can order noodles three ways – Shan-Style which is with a tomato gravy and toppings (closest comparison = an Asian style spaghetti), with a light coconut + chicken stock broth or with a fish broth & rice noodles. The heavy coconut milk yellow curry that we have all come to love doesn’t really exist there, and this is true for all over Burma. The one we are used to is purely Made in India. There are a lot of food vendors on the famous 19th Street (food, drinks, community nightlife area), a lot of them selling food items on sticks. This is their BBQ, their version of a tikka.”
Chill By The Lake
Inya Lake sees many millennials thanks to its proximity to Yangon University. Here you will find people chilling on the grass, jamming on acoustics and swigging beers (sold like golgappas are on Indian streets!). This is the hangout of the city’s young – the place for first dates – it’s blissfully off the tourist trail and still active with its cool sailing club and all other active pursuits like rowing, hiking and birdwatching.
Two very reassuring spaces opened their gates in Yangon this year. In January came the Yangon Book Street with close to a 100 book stalls, along with the second-hand book shops of Pansodan Road it is a treasure house for readers. In February, the Yangon Book Plaza, established by a young publisher, started operating a much-appreciated place for bibliophiles to hang out, read and talk books.
Image Credit: The Guardian