April 24, 2014

Learning Burmese


Unlike learning English / Chinese where you can find abundant materials: books, websites, youtube, free online courses, mobile apps, flash card apps; self-learning Burmese resources are still few. There is a great challenge on the "font" (encoding) too. When you google "世 上 只 有 妈妈好", you can find plenty of good results. When you try to google မိုက်တယ်ကွ, before anything, you need to check is that unicode or zawgyi?

Learning a Language

For me, language is a bridge for people to understand each other. Smile and body language are not enough, we need words.
  • Self-study from books, recording and online website,
  • Online learning,
  • Tutor (costly): 1 on 1 or a group of students,
  • Language class: good chance to be in a class where you can learn from others experiences, and opportunity to practice,
  • Language exchange partner,
  • Youtube, and Facebook! (can find short Burmese paragraphs and videos on Myanmar companies Facebook pages)
There are gifted people able to learn a language more easily. For others, commitment and hard work are crucial. You might not forget your mother language but when you don't use it much for a long time you might forget some words. When we learn a new language, it is important to memorize the words, in Burmese, we also need to memorize the tone; and if we don't keep using it much, no practice, we forget.
It is believed that adult cannot learn a language as good as a child; but who cares? William Shakespeare said: “If there is a good will, there is great way.
When I study, I like to breakdown things and organize it nicely:
  1. Understanding basic & Alphabets
  2. Memorize the word (vocabulary): the character itself and 'pinyin' (romanization). Moreover, a spoken language might be a bit different from written.
  3. Listening - Speaking
  4. Mimic the sound (pronunciation)
  5. Mimic the tone
  6. Grammar
  7. Reading
  8. Writing
Next steps are to memorize idiom, clause, slang, etc.

Please find Learn Burmese resource list on BAMA Learn Burmese website.


April 16, 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

I visited 3 sites yesterday:
Kantawgyi is the most crowded one. It is beside the Kantawyi lake. So there is the lake on my right, i am in a car, a separator on my left, the other way road next to the separator and the stages are next to it. It was so fun. Everyone is so happy. Laughing, dancing, drinking, eating... Pickup cars with a lot of people on them - are queue-ing to get shoot by water.
I uploaded a video on G+.
Below are photos from various sites.

Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

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April 12, 2014

Shops in Yangon

Traditional Market
There are a lot of traditional market for food and/or other than food (clothes, jewellery, bags, ...). For tourist, you should visit these place to see how local people in their market. Learn basic negotiation in local language if you want to bargain.
  • Bogyoke Aung San Market @ Bogyoke Street, Pabedan Township.
  • Theingyi Market @ Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Pabedan Township.
A lot of malls in Yangon, but not something like on Orchid street, Singapore, yet (wait for the HAGL centre and others in about 3 years). Not many western brand coming here. Inside the malls you can shop, try various foods, go to beauty salon, and some have supermarket for groceries too.
  • Blazon Shopping Centre 72 @ U Wisara Road, Kamayut Township.
  • Dagon Centre Shopping Mall @ No.262-264, Pyay Road, Myaynigone, Sanchaung Township.
  • FMI Centre 380 @ Bogyoke Aung San Road, Pabedan Township.
  • Junction 8 Shopping Centre @ Kyaik Waing Pagoda Street, Mayangone Township.
  • Junction Mawtin.
  • Junction Square.
  • La Pyaut Wun Plaza @ Alan Pya Pagoda Road, Dagon Township.
  • North Point Shopping Centre Corner of Pyay Road and Thiri Road, Thiri Condominium, Mayangone Township.
  • Sein Gay Har Super Centre @ No. 44, Pyay Road, Dagon Township.
  • Yankin Centre @ Saya San Road, Yankin Township.
  • Yuzana Plaza @ Banyadhala Road, Tamwe Township.
  • Taw Win Centre.
Huge Supermarket 
  • Capital hypermarket in Tharketa township
  • Ocean Supercenter (various places)
  • Sein Gay Har supermarkets (various)
  • Orange supermarkets (various)
Modern Convenient store
A lot of small groceries stores like seven eleven: such as ABC (50 outlets), City Express (30 outlets), and Grab & Go (10 outlets). Bigger than them is the City Mart. Under City Mart Holdings Co. Ltd, there are City Mart, Market Place, Ocean Supercenter, City Care (the pharmacy), Seasons Bakery & Cafés, Popular the Book Stores, City Express, etc (visit their web: http://www.cmhl.com.mm/).

Most shops will be closed during water festival. Some already start closing since today April 12, 2014. Other example: Citymart close 6 days starting tomorrow.


April 07, 2014

Water Festival is coming!

Water Festival is coming!
Here are some of pictures: people preparing the stage on street side. Some will climb it to shoot water. The rest will be on the street...
More photos of the downtown Yangon included.

This year event, the public holiday from April 12 to April 21, 2014.

Thingyan (Water) Festival 13th - 17th April 2014. Location: Through the country 5 day festival ending 17th April The festival is held on the eve of Myanmar New Year to cleanse the bad deeds of the previous year with water. Young people go out to enjoy themselves (splashing water) and elders take shelter in monasteries and pagoda precincts.
Thingyan (Burmese : သင်္ကြန် ; MLCTS : sangkran , [θɪ́ɴdʑàɴ] ; Arakanese : [θɔ́ɴkràɴ] ; from Pali sankanta, which translates 'transit [of the Sun from Pisces to Aries ]'[1] ) is the Burmese New Year Water Festival.
Water-throwing or dousing one another from any shape or form of vessel or device that delivers water is the distinguishing feature of this festival and may be done on the first four days of the festival. However, in most parts of the country, it does not begin in earnest until the second day. Thingyan is comparable to other new year festivities in Theravada Buddhist areas of Southeast Asia such as Lao New Year , Cambodian New Year and Songkran in Thailand .
Yangon Thingyan 2014

Yangon Thingyan 2014

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April 04, 2014

Population in Myanmar and Jobs in Yangon

Population in Myanmar
Population in Myanmar is not very distributed.

Myanmar total area is 676,578 km2, estimated population 2012: 55,7 million (2014, cia).
Most populated cities, total area, est. population:
  1. Yangon 598.75 km2 5,998,000 (2010, wiki)
  2. Mandalay 163.84 km2 1,234,000 (2010, wiki)
  3. Naypyidaw 7,054.37 km2 925,000 (2009, wiki)
Total population varies from all different sources (wiki, cia, news, etc), none of them is from Myanmar government. Last time the government run the census was in 1983.
This year, the government will conduct the census during 30 March 2014 and 10 April 2014 with expected costs of 58.5 million USD. Experts from 11 countries and UN Statistics Division, UNFPA, ESCAP and the World Bank will help Myanmar’s census taking process (president-office.gov).

Workforce in General

Investmyanmar.biz mentioned that local workers per month salary of
  • unskilled workers = USD100,
  • semi skilled = USD150,
  • supervisor = USD200 - USD300,
  • university graduate with computer skill = USD300 - USD500.
Note: President Thein Sein on Tuesday announced plans to raise civil servant salaries and government pensions with about US $20; resulting minimum government salary to $107 (irrawaddy.org, 2014).
Fresh univ graduate working in local companies per month salary is around USD150. However what is trend now: some experienced Myanmar people coming back from other countries were offered good deal; That they speak Burmese, very good English, and have professional experience.

Public holiday is 21 days on average. Upcoming of very long holiday: Burmese New Year and Water Festival 12 April to 21 April 2014!

Let's divide the working force here into 3:
  • Local: low salary. Quiet cool way of work starting from 9am to 5pm. People enjoy tea break 2 times a day and lunch break (Workers in factory have fixed 30 minutes break). Tea shops beside the road are packed during lunch. With more and more foreign companies coming (hiring the experienced local employees by offering better salaries), salary trend is going to be higher. Regarding business culture: heard one story about a foreigner trying to contact local company -- so he can import the item into his country. Been emailing and calling for 4 months since first visit to Myanmar, not much progress. Second visit: first day meeting asking to get final pricing = OK; second day = try to call: PIC not picking up! Those of you who want to do business here: Be patient..
  • Local studying outside the country and/or have experience working in outside the country. Graduate from good university and very good experience, salary can reach USD3,000 to USD5,000 per month. Their 'culture' might already follow the other countries' company culture: in Europe lunch break is only 15 minutes of eating sandwich with no 'coffee break'. Also imagine working in Singapore should be fast (and furious) and exact (look at the way they talk and walk). How to deal with co-workers, how to deal with supervisors, company procedures, how to deal with clients, .. all different. Adjusting to here's culture might not be so easy, even though you speak the same mother language. One told me that a lot of local companies here, even though aware that they will later have to compete with foreigners, they are still unlikely going to change the culture. So he studied abroad and came back; has bunch of innovative ideas to improve things in local company he is working - rejected..
  • Expat. A lot of expats in Yangon already. Local bars and restaurant are packed with them. With the very high office renting fee and serviced apartment fee; foreign company sure need huge investment to open a branch here.
Meanwhile: There are a lot of Myanmar people working outside the country: (Oppenheimer.mcgill.ca, 2012)
The main countries for migration of workers from Myanmar, specifically within Asia, include:
  • Thailand (est. 2-4 million – approx. 1.45m officially registered as of Mar 2012)
  • Malaysia (est. 100 - 500, 000 – approx. 250, 000 officially registered as of Mar 2012)
  • Singapore (est. 100 - 200, 000)
  • Bangladesh (est. 20, 000 - 100, 000)
  • Japan (est. 7, 000 - 15, 000 - 8, 577 officially registered as of Mar 2012)
  • Korea (est. 4, 000 to 10, 000 – 6, 309 officially as of Mar 2012)
  • China, India and Indonesia (no reliable estimates available)

Myanmar migrants overseas work in skilled, semi-skilled and low skilled jobs. For example, in Singapore skilled engineers, medical personnel, construction planners/architects and electronics professionals originate from Myanmar. Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea and Japan employ semi-skilled Myanmar migrants particularly in electronics and other manufacturing processes. In all destination countries for Myanmar migrants, these workers are employed as manual labour and domestic workers, particularly in fishing, fish processing, construction, agriculture, animal rearing, restaurant/food services and tourism.2
From what I hear and read, many low skilled and semi skilled workers want to come back to Myanmar, having challenge on the legal constraints and not enough money to settle back to Myanmar (and that some of them are not fully legally work in the other country, not easy to come back to Myanmar).
Skilled workers, however, once happily stay in Singapore, for example, are unlikely to come back to Myanmar because of the lack of stable regulation and infrastructure (inconvenience public transports, traffic jam, flood during rainy seasons, high prices of import goods and fair quality of local goods ...), lower salary, and that they will have to adapt with local company culture.
For all type of workers, they are also worry about limited job opening in Myanmar.

Side note that for those who been gone for a long time and no valid Myanmar ID, when they get back in Myanmar and applying for new ID: that will not be easy.

Jobs in Yangon

A lot of companies already coming to Myanmar. One of the giants is Coca Cola. Also the technology & telecommunication Telenor, Ooredoo, Huawei. Like in other places, you might want to know someone who knows someone in some companies. Network is very important.

When doing business, find a reliable translator, otherwise your message might not be fully delivered. A lot of people here speak fair English. Meanwhile, majority of locals have passive English: good written and good listening, but not very good in speaking.
Most of business here are family business, and some of them are huge. One family I know, each of family members (this include grandpa and grandma) at least are very good in 3 languages: Burmese, English, Mandarin, some other Chinese dialects!

Local companies are aware of the upcoming wave of foreign companies. They should be ready. Banking industry here is still very young, so they work with foreign companies. They just start the ATM and credit card recently. Export import with local here are normally via Singapore banks, some even will use trusted-friend's account to deal with the foreigners.

A lot of foreign companies want to open branch here, start hiring locals. Most of them have to partner with local companies (there is regulation for that. Certain types of business have to partner with local). Because they are dealing with local government and selling to local people, foreign companies are most likely only send their own people or hire local Burmese. Other than neighbours China, India, Vietnam and Thailand; western, Japanese and Taiwan companies are starting up in Myanmar. There will be a new sea port with support of Japan, which means more Japan companies will be setting in.
Other very big opportunities is on the construction industry. One very popular is the Vietnam company building HAGL centre. For now the jobs are in the manual labours working on the building. 3 years later, a lot of workers with hospitality background will be needed.

My personal opinion: other than UN, NGO and jobs as (english) language teacher, right now not much job for foreigner yet. A lot of considerations: different culture and languages might be first; then comes the salary matter. It might take 5 years before big companies start to hire foreigners.

Those of you looking for job:
  • Ask your local friends, or expats if any jobs available
  • Check Myanmar online forum
  • Check on local newspaper and magazine. A lot are in English. If no hiring info, just find company name you like, Google it - dont forget to add "Myanmar", and find the "Career"/"vacant" button),
  • Just Google "Jobs in Myanmar"
Or, visit these links:
  • LinkedIn
  • http://www.career.com.mm/‎
  • http://www.careerjet.com./
  • http://www.expatsdirect.com
  • http://www.jobsinmyanmar.com/
  • http://www.mmtimes.com/classifieds/
  • http://www.myanmarjobsdb.com/‎
  • http://www.myanmarjobsmarket.com/
  • http://www.myjobs.com.mm/
  • http://www.ngoinmyanmar.org/vacancies/
  • http://www.work.com.mm/‎
Some Volunteer Placements in Myanmar (myanmarburma.com)*:
  • Aung Myay Thukha Monastery Teaching School: http://aungmyaythukha.org/
  • Eden Centre for Disabled Children, Yangon: www.edencentre.org/
  • Growing Together School: Email: gt.camp@gmail.com or contact.gtf@gmail.com
  • International Buddhist Education Center (IBEC), Sagaing: www.ibec-sg.com/
  • KT Care Foundation Myanmar: http://www.ktcare.net/ Oxford Burma Alliance Burma Volunteer Program (BVP): www.oxfordburmaalliance.org/bvp.html
  • Teach for Myanmar TFM: http://teachmyanmar.org/
  • Volunteers in Asia (VIA) / USA exchange programs: www.viaprograms.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=495 UN Volunteers: www.unv.org/how-to-volunteer.html
Foreign Investment Law, 2012: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8_jSCVf7KDQWGRPUTJKU1RBemM/preview?pli=1

Oxford Business Group. (2014). The Report Myanmar 2014.


Last update: Apr 23, 2014
* = New

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April 02, 2014

Trip to Inlay Lake and Taunggyi

Breaking News!

Visited Taunggyi last week. Flight from Yangon to Heho city is about 75 minutes. Drive to Inlay Lake is about 1,5 hours. Another 1,5 hours drive to Taunggyi (elevation 1,400m).
Taunggyi downtown is very small, everything is so close. There are nice restaurants we tried; very affordable! Not many foreigners yet. Weather is good around 25 C, windy, no need aircon at night. The only unpleasant thing is the dust everywhere.
Visited some pagodas too. Last picture was taken from pagoda up on the mountain.

Inlay Lake, Taunggyi District of Shan State
Surface area 44.9 sq mi (116 km2)
Average depth 5 ft (1.5 m) (dry season)
Max. depth 12 ft (3.7 m) (dry season; +5 ft in monsoon season)
Surface elevation 2,900 ft (880 m)

Very nice view of the lake and mountains.
Inlay Lake

Floating Farm
Inlay Lake Floating Farm

Kids on the small boat
Inlay Lake Kids

It's a school on the lake
Inlay Lake School

Taunggyi city view from Pagoda

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