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Overseas Assignment 2012: Myanmar Adventure Part 1 – Landing In Secret Burma

Myanmar Tamil Malaya Burma Death Railway History

Burma or Myanmar as it is known now is always remembered for Burma’s Death Railway in World War 2 where it is said in total 62,000 POWs was forced to work on the death railway by the Japanese and almost 13,000 of them had died.

The image shows the Malaysian Tamils who were forced from their homes in then Malaya working on the construction of the death railway and who suffered worst than the Allied POWs with out of some 100,000 who was forced to work, 60,000 died. Image source: Wikipedia / Malya Thamizhar Sarithiram ISBN: 978812342548.

As I was going through my photo collection, I realised that I did not do any blog posts on my business trip to Myanmar back in 2012.

Myanmar back then started with a phase of liberation which included the opening of the business sectors to foreigners (although it is pretty much controlled by the junta’s generals) and the release of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her house arrest. The local banks were starting to look at their banking systems and changes to cater for foreign currencies.

Read these first:-

Myanmar Yangon Airport

They always say that the first impression is the best impression and thus for foreigners coming to the country for the first time, the first thing they will see is the country’s international airport. Image source: Wikipedia / Yangon Aerodome

Working through partners both in Myanmar and Malaysia, we had an opportunity to engage some local banks in Myanmar who was looking to either replace their old system with a new system that can handle end to end banking operations or move from a manual process (using hardcopy books) to a proper system. This is how I got the chance to travel to Myanmar which was kind of scary considering the powerful military junta directly and indirectly still in power in the country.

My colleague and I from the Marketing Department hopped on the MAS flight from KL to Yangon, Myanmar and we suppose to meet our partners in Yangon who suppose to have made the necessary logistics arrangements. The flight from KL to Myanmar was uneventful and the Yangon International Airport surprisingly was quite modern, spacious and the shops were well-stocked. It was a different story on the outside.


The partner met us at the entrance of the airport and got us into a rental van together with our luggage. He then us that he has a big problem – he is yet to find hotel accommodations for us in Yangon, Myanmar and he also needs to find a room for himself as the room that he was stayed been reserved for another customer.

To make things worse, it was raining cats and dogs in Yangon, Myanmar and we were driving from hotel to hotel looking for empty rooms. Some hotels had rooms but it was way too expensive for our budget and some did not have enough rooms for all of us. Most of the famous hotels in Yangon, Myanmar was fully booked.

Myanmar Food Restaurant

We started to get hungry so the partner suggested that we have lunch first before we continue hunting for hotel rooms. No point in hunting for hotels on an empty stomach and a sticky body.

He took us to one of the restaurants that actually serve halal Malaysian / Burmese food that he often visits whenever he is in Yangon. I saw a large Hindu temple on the way to this restaurant. As he knows the owner who can speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia, a table was quickly cleared and combined to fit the large group despite the restaurant being quite full when we arrived. Later I found that many Malaysians in Yangon, Myanmar actually visit this restaurant for their halal meals.

Frankly speaking, I rather checked into a hotel and had cleaned up before I go for my meals. So how feeling sticky after a long flight does not jive with me enjoying a good meal. However, for this time, I ignored this as I was indeed very hungry. The place was clean and I noticed that they have Malaysian dishes on the menu and actually use the cooking powders brought in from Malaysia.

I did not have any chance to take photos here as space at our table was limited and I did not want to look weird to other patrons in the restaurant. We decided to order tom yam soup with white rice and some side dishes which included fried eggs. Since it was cooked and the place was clean, I knew the risk of food poisoning was very low. The food was really good despite it being simple.

Myanmar Hotel

We noticed that quite a number of new hotels are built in Yangon, Myanmar is actually run by the Chinese who speak very little English. They cater more for Chinese customers and thus the hotels are customised for these customers. One of these Chinese hotels rejected us upfront when we enquired about rooms in English.

After roaming around without any success, we almost gave up hope when we finally found a small hotel that was just opened and they were more than happy to accommodate the whole bunch. The price was right and we even got one large room for each of us which was a good thing as personally, I hate sharing rooms with colleagues.

And the best part of this hotel is that it is situated in a peaceful, quiet part of Yangon and they have a rooftop bar that has a live band. Each room was huge, clean and we have a separate place for the bathroom within the room. We had a large bed & complimentary coffee in each of the rooms and good enough to rest after our flight & adventure to look for empty hotel rooms.

Myanmar Live Band Bar

Frankly speaking, having a rooftop bar with a live band was a blessing in disguise because there is nothing to do at night and it was not safe for us to be travelling around too. Beside almost empty rooftop bar made it the perfect place to have our business meetings and strategise on our presentations.

Once the hard work was done, we had our dinner at the same place and those who still had the energy can go for beers (although their beer was quite cheap). The live band sings mostly Burmese songs which did not matter to us but they do sing English songs on request. One of the band members can speak English although it is broken English so they were quite happy when we started to talk to them and request songs.

Myanmar Village

The view from my room is nothing fantastic as there is no famous landmark nearby. The hotel is mostly surrounded by residential houses. One of them is this large house/office with a nice compound. Plenty of greenery around which makes the place serene and pleasant.

One the first night, I heard a lady screaming for a very long time coming from this residential area but I could not see anyone obvious. My other colleague who was staying in the next room to mine did not hear anything. The good thing was the scream at night came from outside the hotel and not from the room itself.  Thankfully, there was nothing paranormal happening in the room.

To be continued in Part 2

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