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…

A Myanmar missive from my buddy TLB. Worth reading.

“Michael.  I went there in 1980.   You were only allowed a week on the visa.  The 707 was too big for the runway so they deployed a small parachute to assist with the landing which you could feel take hold.  You bought duty free Marlboro cigarettes and Johnny walker which you then sold after customs.  Everyone did it.   The proceeds nearly paid for the week in the country.   I quickly checked into the strand hotel.   Which was old and about like it was when the English left in 1947.    There was a punkah on a bike in the closet pedaling the ceiling fan.  On the trains we ate curry in banana leaves.  Transportation was by Jeep.  I counted 21 on my Jeep one time.  Pagan was deserted and stunning sunsets and sunrises lighting the temples.  It’s magical.

I’ll never forget how proud and lovely the people were.  They wore that mud plaster on their faces for the sun. They acted as impromptu guides in pagan.  Inle lake and at the cantacraig a classic British hill station outside of Mandalay.   What memories.  I’m so glad it now belongs to you and your family.”

No wonder…

It seemed like such a long day yesterday!

In the Burmese version of Theravada Buddhism, the week has eight days. Wednesday is divided into Wednesday proper (midnight to noon) and Rahu (noon to midnight). Each day is associated with a compass direction, a planet, and a totem animal.


Perhaps the most incredible place we’ve ever been. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

the Ovarian Lottery: part Trois

Checking out in Kep we got a van ride for 6 back to Phnom Penh. The van ride costs $165 USD. As I looked at the bill, i realized the van ride wasn’t on it. I then commented to the hotel checkout guy, “huh. No van bill, included?”

The fine gentleman frantically produced a new bill that had the $165 on it. He commented, “if I make mistake, forget, I must pay.”

To which other staff in the room said, “entire month salary gone.”
Do the math. Then thank your lucky stars.

Cambodia, we’ll miss you.

Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

According to locals, the story of the Killing Fields genocide is best chronicled in the movie, First They Killed My Father.

Words cannot describe the events that took place here. As a starting point, in 1962, Cambodia had the same GDP as the United Kingdom. 

After French Colonialism, and the US war in Vietnam came Pol Pot communism. Under his rule, nearly 25% of the entire population of the country was executed. Teachers first. Anyone that wore eyeglasses, or who spoke another language. Anyone with an IQ over 100.

There’s the story of a man who asked prison guards why a young boy was being held with the men. “He couldn’t understand”, he told them. And he offered his life in exchange for the boys life. The man disappeared…and the boy suddenly one day released. He said, “I was never able to find that man’s family to thank them, but i return to that prison site, now a warehouse, each week to pray for his soul.”

It was really the only tale of kindness I heard in a sea of total darkness. Ten year old children taught to routinely execute their parents.

When listening to first hand accounts, the only word that arises time and again, after children’s entire families were murdered in front of them, was ‘hope’. Through torture and beatings lived hope inspired by a mother who told her son that in her dreams, “she saw something special that would come to her boy someday, when the killing was finished.”

All around, mass graves. And bones. When it rains, skeletons still rise up, appearing from grasslands. Birds, always birds of all types eating the Buddhist offerings placed daily around the mass grave sites. If this is what reincarnation looks like, I pray that their now freed souls are at peace.

That one boy, who’s mother had a dream for him, was adopted by a family in Texas. He never again saw his family.

Pnom Penh, Cambodia. S-21 Prison.

17,000 entered. Seven walked out alive.

Our tour guide in Cambodia and his family grew up up under Pol Pot. You want your head to explode? Listen to a guy tell you for 3 hours how Pol Pot was a good guy, it was the bad Vietnamese in the ruling party.
 But nonetheless…we listened.

Below, a political argument on the prison wall dated January 30, 2018 comparing modern United States to Pol Pot Cambodia.

Below that, Ashley + Henry. Perfect.

The last 11 who died here.

The Ovarian Lottery: Two lovely Cambodian girls

On a small island off the coast of Cambodia, at the border of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, live two lovely little girls, not much different than yours or ours. 50 families live on the island, roughly 4 to 6 children per family. Notice how their appearance is noticeably impeccable, just like any 3 or 4 year old living in poverty. We find this all over Asia, sacrifices for the children come first, above all else for parents.

Their dad fishes for crabs at night with the other men, and sleeps days. There are no schools. They will not learn to read or write. Their math consists of counting fish. A big number means more food, more rice, maybe health care. This is the water the entire village uses for cleaning, washing, some even for drinking.

Dad earns 10 to 15 dollars per night crabbing, depending upon his role on board the wooden fishing boat.

The crab catches are getting smaller, the weight per crab less and less. To the girls, I imagine dad is their hero.


We were told that the people laugh at foreigners, because they must be rich. And because as rich as they must be, the foreigners still look at them and ‘see’ them. Cambodian rich look down upon them and won’t look…

One of my favorite Sting song lyrics,

“Don’t judge me, you could be me in another life, in another set of circumstances…”