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

Posts tagged ‘Linn Linn’

Bagan Guitar Man … and his Books


When I was in Myanmar last month I paid a visit to New Bagan — the small town just the road from “Old Bagan” and the famous ancient temples — where my friend Nine Nine has just opened up his own shop. Originally, Nine Nine planned to open a small shop and sell souvenirs as well as offering services like ticketing (plane, bus, boat, even balloon rides!) and massage. Well, he is in fact doing all that, but I also talked him into selling some books too. The result is the awkwardly named: 99 Chinlone Books Bagan Myanmar & Souvenir Shop.



That may be more than a mouthful to say, but the shop itself is starting to look very nice and is a very comfortable place to spend some time. Nine Nine had some bookshelves paid, put some nice paintings on the walls, and we’re doing our best to stock those shelves. Thanks to my Mandalay friend Ye Man Oo and his father, U Khin Maung Lwin, we delivered another big batch of books for Nine Nine’s shop about two weeks ago.



The only problem I found with his shop was that many of the books he already had in stock were priced much too high. If you want to sell more books, I advised, you need to make the prices more affordable. But hey, it’s a learning experience. Nine Nine is new to the book business and he hasn’t quite got the hang of pricing things yet. And to be honest, trying to determine the “best” price truly is confusing, especially factoring in all the different types of books he’s selling. Looking at the publisher’s list prices on the back cover, you are faced with US dollars, Canadian or Australian dollars, some prices in Euros, and others in UK pounds. Older books might have no prices listed at all, or perhaps an older currency that was used in Germany, Italy, or France. And don’t even try to correctly figure out the value of books published in Scandinavian countries. When in doubt, I told Nine Nine, just wing it!



Thankfully, he’s taken my advice and is now pricing the books lower and getting the hang of which language is which. In addition to English language books he is selling books in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese and more. I even brought him a Jimi Hendrix biography in Polish!



Nine Nine is also a musician and keeps a guitar at the shop, happily strumming away when  no customers are around, but also more than willing to play visitors a few songs. Ask him to play some tunes by popular Myanmar singer-guitarists such as Linn Linn or Wei La. I may be biased, but I think Nine Nine does a fantastic job of covering those songs. Deft guitar playing and he’s got a good voice too!



99 Chinlone Books is located a few doors down from the popular Ostello Bello Hostel in New Bagan, and it’s right on the main road (Kayay Street) not far from popular restaurants such as Silver House. The shop is open every day of the week, usually from late morning until 9 pm or so. Nine Nine is running the shop himself while his wife stays home to take care of their young daughter, plus he’s sometimes called to do  some last-minute waiter duty at his friend’s new  restaurant nearby, so it’s possible that you might arrive and find nobody around, but you can USUALLY find him at the shop most days and nights.



Silver House Restaurant in New Bagan


When I was in Bagan recently I had the chance to revisit a favorite eating establishment, the Silver House Restaurant in New Bagan. Hey, for me, food plays a vital part in the joy of travel, so I’m always delighted to find places that please my stomach. The food at Silver House is always delicious, plus the owners, U Aung Koont and his wife, provide excellent service along with that trademark Burmese hospitality.


Tourists that visit the ancient temple ruins in Bagan have the choice of staying in three distinct areas. There is Old Bagan, where you will find most of the most popular temples. But the hotels are quite expensive in Old Bagan and the area is strangely devoid of any real residents (you can read elsewhere about why that’s the case: there as a forced relocation of the old community). Many tourists, especially those on a budget, prefer the town of Nyaung U, which is closer to Bagan’s international airport and has more of a thriving business district. My choice for accommodation, however, is in New Bagan, a small town just down the road from Old Bagan and the village of Myinkaba. The room rates in New Bagan are about the same or slightly higher than Nyaung U, but it’s not as busy — meaning, it’s much less hectic — and offers the visitor a more tranquil stay.


Rather than try any new restaurants in New Bagan this time — and there are more than ever — I headed over to Silver House for all my meals. I hadn’t been there in about three years, a shockingly long time considering that I used to frequent the restaurant four or five times every year for the better part of the past decade. But I don’t visit Bagan as much as I used to, and the last time I was in town I had the crew from 90th Street in Mandalay with me and didn’t have time to visit Silver House.  So, I made up for it on this visit, and enjoyed catching up on local events and politics with U Aung Koont.


My Bagan friend Nine Nine accompanied me to Silver House when he wasn’t working at his hotel job or busy with family matters. One night, we had dinner at Nine Nine’s house, a sumptuous spread that his wife and mother-in-law prepared, while his infant daughter played in a corner. Afterwards, Nine Nine came back to my hotel and serenaded me on acoustic guitar with a medley of Myanmar music, including songs by Linn Linn and a new discovery, Wai La. Great stuff!


If you are in New Bagan, you can find Silver House on the town’s main road, sometimes called Khaye Street, across the street from the Shwe Ou restaurant and the Ruby Guesthouse. They are open every day!



Tag Cloud