Myanmar: How do you “open up” a country?

Myanmar crazy fun facts:

Men wear skirts in Myanmar. It turns out that longyi is a traditional Burmese outfit. It is worn by men and women.


Myanmar or Burma? Both names are correct. If you are writing about this country, you should use more official name,  Myanmar.

But when you are talking or mentioning this country in an unofficial way, then you should use the name Burma. And the people are Burmese.

Men and women use make-up here. Burmese make up is done only by thanaka. It is whitish-yellow paste made from ground bark (grinding the wood, roots or bark of thanaka tree with water).

It’s usually applied on cheeks and nose. But we also saw people with thanaka all over their bodies. There’s no rule how much of this paste you can put on your skin! In Myanmar, if you have make-up like this, you are more beautiful. Thanaka has been used by Burmese women for over 20 centuries!

You will see men spitting blood everywhere. At least this is what it looks like. In fact, they are not spitting blood. It’s a saliva coloured red by paan.

Paan is a strong psychoactive substance, made of betel leaf, areca nut and sometimes tobacco. It is chewed by many Burmese people to give them energy.

It is believed that chewing paan can be compared to drinking 6 cups of coffee with alcohol. It’s super strong but also very dangerous. Regular chewers are very likely to get an oral cancer in the future. More on Betel here:

When we arrived to Myanmar, everything about the traffic was “off.” And traffic is baaaad. The cars in Burma have right hand steering (like in the UK, or all the other countries with left-hand traffic). But ALSO AMAZINGLY the traffic in Myanmar is right-handed.

So Burmese people have cars suitable for left-hand traffic and they drive in a right-hand traffic. Why? Myanmar was a British colony until 1948. So the traffic was left-hand. In 1970 they changed the traffic on the right-hand for an unspecified reason. But the cars remained the same, suitable for left-hand traffic.

Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world with a half hour time zone. The time in Burma is UTC +6:30, which is 30 minutes different from neighbouring Thailand.

Burma is one of 3 countries in the world that doesn’t use the metric system. The other two? Liberia and the Unites States!

The capital of Myanmar for many years was Yangon. Like the country itself, this city has 2 names: Yangon and Rangoon.

Myanmar is home to the biggest book in the world. The book is situated in Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay. It has 1460 pages and 730 leaves. Each page is 107cm (3.51 ft) wide, 13cm (5.1 in) thick and 153cm (5.02 ft) tall!

If you cheat on your spouse in Myanmar you lose all your money and you and your lover each get 7 years in prison. Better be worth it.

Myanmar is a near cash only society, so bring dollars. The largest bank note is 10,000 Chiatt, about $7.00. People buy their apartments for cash. Entry level in Yangon is 35 to 40 thousand USD, paid for in rice sacks of cash. They buy their condos in shopping malls. UPON SIGNING, THEY WALK INTO THE MALL WITH SACKS OF CASH. That’s 5000 notes at $7.00 each

Internet penetration was 2% in 2013, vs. 60% today. Burmese will pass the entire desktop and laptop revolution, going straight to smart phones.


Myanmar: Open ended frontier

Last night we had dinner here in Yangon, Myanmar with a couple that’s been here for 15 years. Delightful Kiwi wife, smart American husband. We discussed the open ended opportunities all over the world, and how staggeringly large they are.

One point is clear, whether MPESA in Kenya, where they’ve had “tap and pay” wireless banking for a decade, or what’s going on here with a cash only society (the largest bank note is 8 dollars!) the world is shifting in seismic fashion before our eyes. Entire new industries are not just being disrupted, as that term is too limited. Industries here are being completely redrawn from scratch, just like blockchain and crypto will redraw banks and iBanks.

As a business,  I would make sure I was thinking globally in both deliverables, and with respect to brand. This explosion in business will be centered in Asia, where traditional mindsets will lose out due to Western incumbents myopic viewpoint.

In Vietnam some guys just started online training courses. Zero to 25 million in 2 years. One of top courses? Digital marketing. SE Asia, for outsourcing work, like the Indians did with call centers and coding. Read the below:

“Draper speaks almost of a new world order created by Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency technology, generally). “The unbanked are bankable through Bitcoin,” he asserts, with banking regulations making it unfeasible for banks to open accounts for those without sufficient cash. The unbanked, Draper insists, represent half of the world’s population.” Hmmm…