By JARED DOWNING
I like Yangon. I’ve been here almost a year, and it has been great. Maybe it’s because in America I was poor and unemployed (also known as a “freelancer”) and in Yangon I get paid several times the per capita GDP to write snarky columns. But I like to think there’s just something magical about this place.
I like my Myanmar girlfriend, Saint. She is beautiful and kind. Having grown up abroad, she sounds and acts exactly like an American, but I still get to use her as a get-out-of-racism-free card.
I like being able to afford taxis because it makes me feel like a New York big shot, but I also like riding my bike because it makes me feel superior to everyone stuck in taxis. I also like that nobody will steal my bike. Yes, I recently lost it, but it was after weeks of practically begging thieves to steal it by leaving it in the open with a broken lock. Even now, I suspect it’s only being kept for safekeeping at a maintenance shed somewhere in Thingangyun.
I could probably track the bike down if I knew how to speak Myanmar. I don’t like not knowing the language, but I have a suspicion I haven’t learned it because of a subconscious desire to make life difficult in order to balance out my White Privilege.
It doesn’t work, though. Yangon just seems to say, “Oh, that’s alright, Jared, I’m sure you’ll learn my language eventually. Now let’s go ride bikes.”
I like KFC, too. I was frustrated at first because the portions are small, but so are the prices, and I soon kept finding myself there, eating it.
I like the junk antique sellers outside Bogyoke Market. I like to buy their bric-a-brac, put them in expensive display cases and then try and pass them off as “General Aung San’s cigarette lighter” or “King Thibaw’s pennywhistle.”
I like never feeling like someone might murder me. (Looking at you, Bangkok.)
I like the Myaynigone Police station. I went there to get replacement ID papers. It took 20 minutes with nary a bribe nor bureaucratic hitch. I spent the time watching the drunks locked up in the cell from the night before on CCTV, which was pretty neat.
I like the Jasmine Palace Hotel, for whom I did some freelance copy editing in exchange for a gym and pool membership. It was the single best deal I’ve cut here. The facilities are beautiful and full of beautiful people. I like to give the beautiful people looks that say: “Good day, fellow affluent hotel guest! I, too, am doing something worthwhile with my life, instead of writing snarky columns for KFC money.”
I also like Sedona Hotel. I spent my first two weeks –and paycheck – in that oasis of air-con and high speed internet. I occasionally go there for late night Skype interviews with international sources.
“Good day, Mr American CEO! I, too, am sitting in a real office, not in a hotel at 11:30pm, sitting on a staircase because a lounge band is currently singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’.”
I like Alibaba Amusements, the downtown arcade with the Transformer statue out front. They have a pirate-themed shooting game with such sagacious dialogue as “Blast the skeletons!” and “Watch out, that’s a big one!” Once Saint and I took a taxi downtown specifically for this pirate game, into which we put untold thousands of kyat. (Spoiler alert: The pirates find the Poseidon’s Breath gem, which makes their ship fly.)
I like Myanmar Beer; I think it tastes pretty good. I also like Yoma Beer. I like that cinema tickets cost US$2 and that you can eat quail eggs during the movie. I like that Yangon never gets cold. I like the rusty boats at the harbor.
In closing, Yangon is a pretty okay.