musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Archive for October, 2014

Connected in Mandalay!

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It seems like everyone is getting mobile phones in Myanmar this year. With the price of phones, especially new brands of “smart phones,” dropping dramatically this year, along with new telecom companies offering SIM cards at a fraction of the previously high price, legions of locals are finally getting connected.

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Having access to cell phones may not seem like an earthshaking event to Westerners who have become accustomed to using such devices the past decade or two, but for the average person in Myanmar, unable to use cellular devices due to the prohibitive cost or simply the lack of a reliable network, this sudden new era of connectivity is absolutely amazing.

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Last week the Norwegian telecom company Telenor launched 2G and 3G services in Mandalay, offering SIM cards for 1,500 kyat, or less than US$2. Contrast that to what a SIM card cost only a year or two ago in Myanmar — around $200 — and you can understand the excitement among the populace. Everybody wants one! Yes indeed, the communication landscape in Myanmar has changed almost overnight.

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During my trip last month I saw waiters at Aye Myit Tar in Mandalay with new phones and monks in Shan State (no, not the novice monks!) clutching iPhones. Even my little photographer apprentice Zin Ko now has a fancy new Huawei phone, complete with music, games, and videos. Mind boggling, just mind boggling.

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The first company to launch service in Myanmar, Ooredoo, has already been advertising their services heavily around the country previous to Telenor’s recent launch. You couldn’t escape their billboards and other advertising. I can imagine the competition is only going to get fiercer and the demand will remain sky high.

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http://www.burmanet.org/news/2014/09/29/the-myanmar-times-telenor-launches-in-mandalay-%e2%80%93-catherine-trautwein/

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Monday in the Park

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The trip to Taunggyi and the caves almost didn’t happen. It had been raining most of the week in Nyaungshwe and when I asked U Sandimarr, the saya daw, (head monk) at Tat Ein village’s monastery about the idea of taking the kids on a trip, he basically said; we can go if the weather cooperates.

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Well, thankfully, the forecast was for clear skies on Monday, plus there were no classes slated for that day, so it seemed like all was good to go. As I mentioned in the previous post, I ended up having to rent an extra truck to be able to handle all the kids — and a few adults — who wanted to go. Even the three trucks weren’t enough to handle the demand. These trips have become popular!

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We ended up putting most of the girls and teachers in one truck, the boys in another truck, and the novice monks in yet another truck. Plus, another bunch of boys sat on the roof of each vehicle. I also passed out car sickness medicine and plastic bags to everyone. After several previous trips with this bunch, and knowing that we’d be travelling some hilly roads, the possibility of more than a few kids getting upset stomachs and puking was highly likely.

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Anyway, here are a few more photos from our stop at the Eastern Amusement Park in Taunggyi, both before and after the wild stage show. I guarantee you; people in the village are most likely still talking about that show, especially the antics of “Disco Man.”

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