What is the proper way to address to a young lady in Myanmar?

Photo: Sasint | Pixabay

Myanmar is a very conservative and traditionalist country. Ok, I know younger generation is different, and more open to modern ideals, but majority of the country is still quite conservative. Majority of people, even among urban young generation are still conservative about tradition and custom compared to youths of neighbouring countries. In addition, there is a Burmese culture of looking down on people who are not conformed to the traditional customs and traditional ways of life. (Ok, it may read more

Khow Suey – Myanmar traditional coconut noodle

Khow Suey – Myanmar traditional coconut noodle.

I just realised recently that Burmese (Myanmar) “khow suey” is quite popular among foreigners. It was brought to my attention by one of my friends and, true to his words, when I searched for the word “khow suey” in Google, I found hundreds of articles written about this famous Burmese dish. There are even khow suey recipe videos on Youtubes! However, there is one thing in common about most of these videos and articles written about khow suey. Most of them are read more

Where to stay and where to eat in Loikaw, Kayah State

Local people from Loikaw

Kayah State is one of the poorest State in Myanmar. Situated in the Eastern part of Myanmar, it is bordered by Shan State in the north and Kayin State in the west and south. To the east was Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province. The capital of Kayah State is Loikaw, a medium size city in this highly mountainous region. It was recently opened for tourism although several areas outside the capital Loikaw are still off limit to foreign tourists at the moment.

You can reach Loikaw by car or by air. Travelling by air is the most convenient and most comfortable way to go, as well as the safest. Roads are still bumpy in this State, and during rainy season might be a bit dangerous to travel. Myanmar National Airlines flight flies once a day to Loikaw, leaving Yangon in the morning at 7:45 AM. Flight from Loikaw to Yangon leaves at 9:05 AM. Fare is around USD 100 per person per trip (one way). If you prefer to travel by road, you can use the express buses to Loikaw. The express buses leave from the Highway station at around 2 PM, and will arrive to Loikaw the next day early in the morning.

There are several hotels and resorts in Loikaw. For the best resort, we recommend Kayah Resort. It is the only resort in the city with a swimming pool, and is both popular among local tourists as well as among foreign visitors. The hotel staffs are quite friendly, and could arrange for hiring cars or bicycles for travelling in the town. The hotel is also quite close to the city, with only four minutes by car. Several of the places near Loikaw are still off limit to tourists, and require permission to travel. The hotel has some connections that they could arrange to get the permission in a short period of time for its customers. You can contact them at +95 925 888 7070 and +95 925 888 2020.

For a cheaper deal, Kan Thar Yar Hotel is quite popular among tourists. The rooms are clean and staffs are friendly. Number of hotel rooms are quite limited in Loikaw, and during tourist season, rooms may be sold out pretty quickly, so we recommend booking in advanced, rather than find a place to stay after arriving to the city.

If you ride a bicycle from Kayah Resort to Loikaw City centre, there is a market near the bridge next to the airport. The market opens the whole day and is a good place to start your tour of the local customs and meet local people.

Taung Kwe Pagoda
Taung Kwei Pagoda | By MrenglishbenOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

A must see place in Loikaw for any visitor is the Taung Kwei Zedi. Famous for its unique construction, the pagoda complex was built on a mountain that was split into two halves, hence the name “Taung Kwe” (split mountain) in Myanmar. Another must see place in Loikaw is Lwe-ta-mu Cave. Recently discovered, it is quite popular among local tourists. It is actually situated inside the military establishment so may be off limit to tourists, but you could ask your hotel to get permission to visit the cave. The cave goes down deep into the mountain and is quite deep and beautiful inside.

Lwe Ta Mu Cave, Loikaw, Kayah
Lwe Ta Mu Cave, Loikaw, Kayah

While you are in Loikaw, one must try local food is traditional Kayah sausage. The best Kayah sausage is sold at a shop in Mingalar quarter, with the brand name Mingalar sausage. If you prefer a home made Kayah sausage, call Ko Paw Lu at 09778785812.

For dinner, most of the shops and restaurants in Loikaw close at around 7 PM. Loikaw City Restaurant near the city centre remains open until late night, and serve delicious food at a reasonable price. Or you might ask your hotel to arrange for the dinner if you don’t want to venture out during the night time.

Get a mobile SIM card in Myanmar

Although call rates within country are quite cheap, data rate are quite expensive. 1 GB of data will usually cost you around 5 US dollars, and the speed is still quite slow, even if you are using 3G or 4G network. At evening times when a lot of people are using social media, speed can be painfully slow and unreliable. All incoming calls and SMS area free of charge.

Health Situation in Myanmar – Demographic and Health Survey

The survey was conducted in 2015 all over Myanmar by the Ministry of Health, with the aids from DHS foundation and USAID funding. A total of 12,885 women and 4,737 men aged between 15 – 49 years old in 12,500 selected households were interviewed. The sample is nationally representative and findings give better results than previous estimates. And the findings from this survey paint a grim picture of the health situation in Myanmar.

Myanmar Election 2015 in Numbers

Myanmar election in numbers

Myanmar will hold its first nationwide free and fair election (sort of) in 25 years on 8th of November 2015. The main opposition party led by the Nobel laureate Aung San Su Kyi is poised to win a landslide election. It is interesting to see the election in the numbers.

Myanmar Kyat US Dollar exchange rate over past six months

Here is the graph that shows the Myanmar kyat exchange rate versus US dollar  since it was floated six months ago. We at Myanmar Today track the exchange rate everyday and plotted it against 1 US dollar. It shows the performance of Myanmar kyat against US dollar.

As can be seen from the graph, as soon as it was floated, the Kyat value drops rapidly from 830 kyats a dollar  to 855 kyats a dollar within two months. From then, kyat value gradually rises and finally it was stable at around 850 kyats per US dollar since around middle of October.

Performance of Myanmar Kyat over US dollar
Myanmar Kyat US dollar exchange rate over past six months

Living with Electricity Outage in Myanmar

Electricity outage is a regular event in Myanmar. The electricity produced in Myanmar is not enough for domestic use. As a result, even in Yangon which is the largest city in Myanmar, electricity outages are quite common. The outage frequently occurs during the rainy season when hydroelectric turbines can run at full. However, when the dry season approaches, these hydroelectric power plants cannot produce enough electricity, and outages become a daily event. In fact, during summer months and early rainy season, electricity supply has to be rationed. In large cities like Yangon and Mandalay, electricity is supplied in a half day quota (12 hours off, 12 hours on). This can sometimes get worse to the point where power on time is down to 8 hours a day in some months. In smaller towns, the electricity supply can even less than 6 hours a day in some dry months.

If you are a foreign expatriate intending to live in Myanmar, you should be well prepared to deal with constant electricity outage. The following advice will be valuable to you if you are one of the foreigners intending to come and live in Myanmar. This advice is mainly the city of Yangon but it can also be applied to other cities and towns to a certain extent.

1. Back to the ancient times – use candle

Well, this is the easiest way to fight back electricity outage although not the most convenient way. Candles are easy to buy and even if you have other means of supplying your own private electricity, it is wise to keep a pack of candles at your house in case.

2. Use DC-AC Inverter

This is the most convenient and the most cost effective way of supplying your own electricity. You can buy different brands of inverters with different power and function at any electric store in Yangon. They range from small 500 watt inverters up to a few kilowatts units. The more powerful inverters will need a larger capacity battery. If you intend to watch TV and light a few light bulbs at your house, choose the inverter unit with at least one kilowatt (the larger, the better). However, you cannot run air condition using the inverter but you can run one or two fans using the powerful inverter. Choose the inverter with automatic charging and voltage control function as it can also be used as a voltage regulator when the electricity is on.

DC-AC Inverter
DC-AC Inverter

3. Your own power station – Electric generator

This is not the cheapest option. However, when the electricity outage is too frequent, there is not enough time to recharge the inverters so your own electric generator can become quite handy during these times. You can buy different sizes of generators, up to the large capacity ones that can produce enough electric power to run your fridge and a few air conditioned units. Choose the generator depending on your budget and your intended usage.

4. Rent a serviced apartment

Alternatively, you can rent a serviced apartment where electricity is guaranteed (either by special VIP power supply or by own generator). There are only a few serviced apartments available in Yangon and you need to be really quick to get one room as the remaining vacant rooms are quickly filling up.

5. Rent a house in one of the VIP areas

If you are fortunate enough to be able to rent a house in one of the VIP areas, you are guaranteed to have regular uninterrupted supply of electricity 24/7. Ask your agent to find a house in one of these VIP locations. However, prepare to pay high price for a house in these areas. Please remember that even in these areas, there might be occasional outage so always keep a pack of candles and a few pieces of torch light or emergency lights.

Get married to a Myanmar man or lady

For a foreigner trying to get married to a Myanmar lady or man can be quite complicated. Here is the advice from my personal experience, and how we did it. This article give advice on getting married to a Myanmar man or lady. It is quite difficult, due to restrictions in Myanmar law, but entirely possible. (I am married to a Thai lady, and we did it successfully).

(Please see updated information for 2018 at the end of the article)

Many of our visitors asked us information on getting married to a Burmese. Apparently, they find it difficult to find information on getting married to a Burmese. There are no information available on  to a Burmese (guy or girl). I think it is time to give you some information on this issue for those Burmese guys and girls who found difficulty getting married to a foreigner, and those foreign men and ladies want to get married to a Burmese.

Burmese law allows Myanmar citizens to get married to a foreigner. In the past, it used to be easy to get it done. Just head to a local judge and he will marry you. However, since about 20 years ago, local judges refused to do it on the ground that it is difficult to distinguish between real marriage and the human trafficking. Today, no judge or local court would marry a Burmese and a foreigner.

Even after you get married, your marriage certificate (actually a marriage contract in Burma) is in Burmese language. It has to be translated into English. You can get a certified notary translation of your marriage certificate into English but the Foreign Office will refuse to certify that notary. You can still use it if your embassy accepts the notary without a certification by the Foreign Office, but some embassies would not.

The best way to get your marriage done is to do it in a foreign country. You can do it either in Thailand or in Singapore. If you are doing it is Thailand, you will need an affidavit of freedom to get married. This has to be endorsed by your embassy. For a Burmese, he can get an affidavit in a court in Myanmar, get it translated into English by a notary public, and then get a certification from the Foreign Office in Myanmar. This can then be endorsed by the Thai Embassy in Yangon or endorsed by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. Both of you will need this affidavit. Then, go to a nearest amphur (local district administrative office) and get your marriage done. However, please check with the district office you intend to get married before you do anything as the requirements by the office may vary from one office to another. (Currently, Myanmar Foreign Office refuses to endorse the translation of affidavit of being single. Myanmar embassy in Thailand will also refuse to counter endorse, so this option is off at this moment).

Easier one is to get married in Singapore. This is what we have done when we could not do it either in Myanmar or in Thailand. All you need is a valid passport. You can file your marriage application online. However, the applicant (either you or your fiancé) has to be in Singapore at the time of filing for at least 15 days. After the filing, you can leave Singapore as there is 21 days waiting period. You will need two witnesses (either Singaporean or foreigner of at least 21 years of age). You can choose to get married at the ROM (Registry of Marriage) or with a solemnizer in a hotel. However, getting a solemnizer is sometimes difficult. Most Solemnizers only offer their service through recommendation so if you do not have any one to recommend you, you won’t be able to use this option. We were very fortunate to have one who offered her service without recommendation from anyone else. I just phoned her and she agreed to offer her service. There was no charges for her, but we donated some money to her church. Your best bet would be to get married at the ROM. You can get the complete information at Registry of Marriage website.

Update (2018): Someone mentioned me that you can now get married to a Myanmar man/lady legally in Myanmar if you have contact to a correct agent/lawyer. He mentioned there are a few agents’ offices around Sule Pagoda in Yangon, who would arrange to have a legal marriage done with a judge. I am not sure about the authenticity of this claim, but you could probably ask around the lawyer offices around Sule Pagoda. The fees might be quite substantial though. In addition, the marriage contract will be in Burmese, which need to be translated, notarised and endorsed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Until recently, MOFA refused to endorse the marriage certificates with foreigner spouse. This may already have changed now. You should at least try to see if this is true or not. It would probably save both time and money.

Hotels and Guest Houses in Bagan Nyaung U – Cheap Budget Accommodation

Although Bagan is the major tourist place in Myanmar, and most visited place in Myanmar by foreign and local tourists, cheap hotels and guest house are still plentiful in Bagan. All of them serve both local and foreign tourists. Below are a few in Nyaung U that are usually recommended by visitors. Please be mindful that most of them have standard or limited facility and might not serve breakfast. During peak tourist season, they may be readily full, so book in advance.

May Khalar Guest House

My favorite! I stay here whenever I visit Bagan. The owner and the staffs are friendly, and the price is cheap. There is no breakfast provided, but there are many tea shops and cheap (but nice) restaurants near by. The rooms and clean but basic. There is air condition in every room, and hot and cold water is available. There is a back up electric generator during the time of frequent electric outbreak, but it is not enough for air-con. This means, during power cut, you will not have air con. The bath room and toilets are a little worn out, but OK for a cheap guest house. Serves breakfast. Price range from 7 – 14 US$. Upstairs rooms have TV. You can read the full review of May Khalar Guest House here. Situated on Bagan Main Road. Phone: 061-60306, 061-60907).

Some comments on Trip Adviser: “Fantastic value for money if you’re in Bagan. Rooms are big but bathrooms are worn out. Paid USD12. Breakfast is edible, eaten on the second floor where you can see the town go by. Bicycles can be rented for USD2 to cycle to see the temples. From the bus station a horse carriage taxi will cost 1500-2000 kyat. Not far distance to walk but the heat will kill you. Restaurant row stuff is more ex then heart of town.”

Comment on Travel Buddy: “Situated in the main backpacker area of Bagan, this is a great place to stay. The manager is very friendly, likeable and makes you feel like you have arrived home. She is also full of extremely useful advice, uses her initiative and is always keen to take that extra step or action so that it will help you on your travels. Apart from benefiting from it myself, I saw her do this with all the other travellers there. This is a rare quality indeed, and I cannot praise her excellent customer service more highly. The breakfast is very nice – it consists of tea/coffee, a pancake, toast, a plate of fruit (usually banana and watermelon) and an egg cooked to your order. It is a lovely selection that is bought to you, and very good quality considering that this is a budget place to stay. The reception area also sells water and soft drinks which are slightly more expensive than the shops. They’re perfect if you’re desperate, but there are plenty of shops nearby if you’re after something during a reasonable time of the day. Without any exaggeration, this is quite possibly the best guest house in Bagan and one of the best I stayed at in South East Asia (and I stayed in quite a few places!). I cannot recommend this place more highly, would certainly stay there again and have no reservations in recommending this place to any traveller going to Bagan. Go there, you won’t be disappointed!”

Golden Myanmar Motel

A small guest house on the main road. The rooms are clean and tidy, but basic. Also serve breakfast. Price: US$ 4 – 8. Phone:  061-60901, 09 204 2064. Website at Golden Myanmar Guest House. Golden Myanmar Motel Bagan

Inn Wa Guest House

Just basic bare bone rooms, but the price is cheap and staff are friendly. The rooms are basic but with air conditioner and attached bath rooms. Serves breakfast. Fan cooled rooms on ground floor are cheaper. Price: US$ 5 – 8 for fan rooms and US$ 15 – 18 for air con rooms. Situated on main Road. Phone: 061-60902, 061-60849.

Some review on the web about the guest house: “I stayed here thrice now and each time the experience was wonderful. The owners make you feel comfortable. The room rents starts from US$5-8 for fan room and US$15-18 for AC rooms. Walking rates can be negotiated if staying for 3 or more days. Breakfast is included in the room rent and is served on the roof top which is the best part. You get to see the small town waking up, starting with there chores, while sipping the great coffee and eating pancakes or what ever is in the menu that day. Can ask for more bread/fruits if needed. During hot days you can buy cold drinks from the hotel as they have a refrigerator. (Some convenience stores don’t have them). But if you buy any drinks from outside, the owners can swap them for the ice cold ones in there fridge. All the staff is extremely helpful and honest and will make a sincere effort to ensure you have a great time. Take the room with a balcony and in the evening/night you can sit and watch the peoples moving around. All the restaurants are very close. The owners will help you with your bus bookings and the bus stops at this place to pick you up. During my second visit they even remembered me as the single Indian traveler who stayed there earlier.”

Eden Motel

There are two buildings, on either side of the road. The old one has some rooms with hard wood floor and bamboo walls, while the new building has better, bigger rooms with cleaner bath rooms. Price: US$ 4 – 8. Anawrahta Road. 061-60815, 061-60812.

New Heaven Hotel

Clean compact rooms with friendly staff. The rooms have small decks over looking the lawn. There are photos of New Heaven Hotel here. Price starts at US$ 4 for an air conditioned room. Phone: 061-60921.

Golden Village Inn

At the back of the New Heaven Hotel is Golden Village Inn. The Inn is owned by the same owner. The rooms are bungalow style, clean and comfortable. Higher price rooms have TVs and bath tub. Price starts at US$ 8 up to US$18. Phone: 061-60921.

Winner Guest House

A small friendly family run guest house on the road to Old Bagan. Rooms are basic with concrete floors, bath rooms are tiled and clean. Rooms have air conditioners. There are also many road side Burmese restaurants near by. Price starts at US$ 5. Phone: 061-60128