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Posts tagged ‘secondhand bookshop’

Chinlone Books in Nyaungshwe

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It’s official; the town of Nyaungshwe in Myanmar’s Shan State now has a proper secondhand bookshop, that being the newly re-stocked and re-named Chinlone Books.

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Known as “the gateway to Inle Lake,” Nyaungshwe has long been a popular place for tourists to stay when visiting the famous lake. Due to its laidback atmosphere, proximity to hill tribe villages, and general beauty, Nyaungshwe has ecame one of those places where tourists end up spending more time than they had originally planned. And if you have time to spare, why not read a book … or three!

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Mar Mar Aye and her husband actually had been selling used books in their little travel services shop in Nyaungshwe for several years, but the stock never really grew much.  About two years ago the couple separated and the husband went away, only to come back briefly last year for a few months before leaving for good earlier this year. But when he left this time he also took the remaining stock of books and bookshelves — plus a few of the bicycles that they rented to tourists — with him. This of course left Mar Mar Aye with practically nothing, expect for a few photocopied books with various Burmese and Myanmar themes that she had bought from a dealer in Bagan.

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When I visited Nyaungshwe in May I was shocked to see the dearth of books in her shop. “Can you bring me some books the next time you come?” she asked me. Well, I thought, that’s no problem, but maybe I can do better than that. I’d been thinking about the possibility of opening a small bookshop in Myanmar, and had my eye on Nyaungshwe in particular. I have access to plenty of books and Mar Mar Aye has a great location right on the main street in town, so why not combine forces with her?

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We talked things over and came up with a plan. I had several hundred books in storage at Ye Man Oo’s house in Mandalay and I decided to send a portion of those books to her when I returned to Mandalay. Next step was getting some new bookshelves made, put up a new sign, and rebrand the shop as Chinlone Books. For more on the shop see our new website:

http://www.chinlonebooks.com/

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Unfortunately, one of the signs that she had made had a spelling mistake (instead of saying that we were “the only place in Nyaungshwe” with books, the sign said “the only palace … ”), so that will have to be changed, but everything else is proceeding according to plan. We still need to add a few hundred more books to the stock and reorganize the shelves, a project that Ye Man Oo will help me with next month. We also plan to print up some T-shirts (boasting a very cool logo designed by Ye Man Oo!) and sell those in the shop too. Hopefully, this will be the start of a fantastic bookshop.

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Meanwhile, Mar Mar Aye is also devoting plenty of energy to her main business, Aye Aye Travel Services. She’s up at the crack of dawn each day, cooking and cleaning, before opening the shop. She still rents bicycles and sells tickets for boat trips on Inle Lake or canoe trips on the town’s canals (highly recommended!), in addition to arranging treks to villages nearby and further away. She also provides a laundry service and can arrange a massage in your hotel or in an upstairs room. Needless to say, she is one very busy woman!

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Chinlone Books is located in the same building as Mar Mar Aye’s other business, now known as Aye Aye Travel Services. The shop is located on Yone Gyi Road, next to the Indra Indian restaurant and the One Own Grill. It’s directly across the street from an old monastery (Yangon Kyaung) and one block from Myawaddy Road and the Golden Kite restaurant. The bookshop is open daily.

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Please spread the word about our bookshop and come and visit us if you are in Nyaungshwe or the Inle Lake area. And keep reading!

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Books in Shan State

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Looking for something to read during your travels around the Inle Lake area of Myanmar’s Shan State? It’s not as challenging a task as you might think, thanks to the growing selection of books at Golden Bowl Travel Services in Nyaungshwe, the little town that serves as the gateway to Inle Lake. In addition to several hundred secondhand books, Golden Bowl also stocks new copies of several titles from Things Asian Press, including To Myanmar with Love, Ma Thanegi’s Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy and her new memoir Nor Iron Bars a Cage, and the bilingual children’s title M is for Myanmar.

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Run by the personable Htein Linn, Golden Bowl stocks secondhand books in English, French, German, Italian, and other European languages. The selection isn’t huge by Western standards, but a bit of browsing always reveals something interesting and worth buying. I’ve found some truly cool titles in this shop over the years. And just like at other secondhand bookshops the world over, you can exchange the books you’ve finished reading at Htein Linn’s shop and receive some credit towards the purchase of more books, or sell what you have for cash. If Htein Linn is not around, you’re sure to meet his wife, Mar Mar Aye, or daughter, Han Nwe Nyine (she also goes by the nickname “Tina”), both of whom can answer any questions you have.

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In addition to selling books, Golden Bowl offers the usual range of travel services (airline and bus tickets, money exchange, boat tours of the lake, canoe trips on local canals, trekking to nearby ethnic villages), plus a laundry service and bicycle rental. But even with the current boom in tourism, Htein Linn says that times are tough due to an equivalent surge in competition. A year ago, for example, he typically rented 10 or 12 bikes in a day. Now, the number of rentals is less than half of that due to dozens of other nearby businesses that rent bikes, some of them slashing their rates to attract more customers. But as Htein Linn pointed out to me, with maintenance costs (replacing flat tires, brakes, gears, broken baskets, etc.), when you start slashing the daily bike rental rate, the profit margin is almost negligible. He also has some competition in the book business, although some of those shops are selling only dubious photocopied versions of some popular novels and guidebooks, just like you’ll find in Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Golden Bowl is located on the main East-West street in Nyaungshwe, on the same side of the street between the main market and the popular Golden Kite Restaurant (serving the town’s best pizza and pasta, along with wine from nearby vineyards). The bookshop is open daily until 8 pm.

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