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Sights and Sounds of Yangon, Myanmar

Aired August 27, 2013 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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YEHTUT WIN, FOUNDER AND OWNER, SHARKY'S: I'm the founder of Sharky's, which started the slow food (ph) movement. We make over 200 different products -- soladlami, hombol (ph), fandamish, wolan style (ph), batars (ph), washed cheese (ph), goat cheese.

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WIN: The quality is probably made (INAUDIBLE). This is how we value add this country, to make it sustainable, slow food and everyone profits out of the whole food chain.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The owner of Feel, a man (INAUDIBLE) in his own right, putting Myanmar food in the map.

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WIN: Here we see all the Myanmar dishes displayed -- (INAUDIBLE), ready to eat is a kind of traditional food in a -- in a very clean environment.

He (INAUDIBLE). You know, you can see (INAUDIBLE) coming to (INAUDIBLE). You can taste (INAUDIBLE) all the street foods that are favorites for Myanmar people in one house.

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WIN: And because of the turnover, the food is always fresh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many people, they prefer to eat the (INAUDIBLE) is in restaurants. If they make themselves it's a -- it takes time.

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WIN: And with the changing of Yangon becoming more a (INAUDIBLE) city, people have less time to cook. Traffic is more -- you spend time more on the road, so prefer to eat outside, carry all -- carry your breakfast to your -- to your office or lunch.

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WIN: Myanmar's national dish, theya (ph). It's equivalent to a French bouillabaisse. It's literally a fish soup that has been cooked early morning.

You see we also have a lot of fresh fish in all this, so (INAUDIBLE) abundance of fresh fish, you ferment them, which is very rich in protein and very rich in umami. Umami is the fifth dimension -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the fifth state is umami, which is in -- is a Japanese name, savoriness. And theya is packed with umami.

Once you taste it and you've got -- you've got rid of that smell factor, it's almost like a drug.

And these are all the fried different chickpeas, tempuras. And we have combined them together into one dish.

Myanmar food is between Indian and Chinese, influenced by the two great cultures and it will have some influence of the Thai.

This car is a German-made Mercedes from the 1962 tail fin (ph). There are only about 10 of these models left in this country.

Here we are, (INAUDIBLE), Muslim quarters, the best gold curry in town.

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WIN: And the key is the curry spices (INAUDIBLE). They're very much different from (INAUDIBLE), the Indian curry spices. It's a famous fish curry, fish head curry with Indian spices. It's on a water caught fish head and the famous mutton curry with musla (ph).

Burmese food still, I think, is -- compared to Thai food, compared to Indonesian food or Southeast Asian food, (INAUDIBLE) is infant stage. We still need to expose our food and bring it out.

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WIN: The power food. It brings people together. Despite having our differences, we forget about it.

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WIN: Francois Stoupan, owner of Shwe Sa Bwe, one of my favorite restaurants, not only for the food but what he's doing collaborating in the Myanmar food culinary scene.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you are in the training center, the hospitality training center for underprivileged kids. We are training for 10 months young Myanmar youth for cooking and (INAUDIBLE). And that's the French style. I don't -- let's say we are training them on the Western food with a strong French inspiration.

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WIN: The moment all the big boys come, this city (INAUDIBLE). It's another city where you have your shares of McDonald's, Burger Kings, KFCs. You fight that back. You have to take a different approach. And the approach I say more is we take a quality approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want the students to express the willingness to stay in the country for the training. We want the training center to be part of the growth of the country.

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MA GOLDEN, OWNER, MIZO CHIN TRADITIONAL FABRICS: Bogyoke Aung San Market is one of the biggest and one of the oldest markets in Myanmar, 1926. That's where all Burmese people come for shopping. That's where the Burmese girls or Burmese people, we just find fabric and we all have tailor-made.

Burmese people in Yangon are in (INAUDIBLE) part. They never see what this changed fabric look like. So when they come up with there, they're, hmmm, why don't I start bringing down all the fabric to here in (INAUDIBLE) beautiful chin fabric to Burmese people. And then also support the weaver at the village.

From the chin, very beautiful. This is the madras. Because it's known for the headhunters.

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GOLDEN: Touch it and then this is still something like this pieces, we need at least two months. And if she is in a good mood, eight weeks. Maybe some time you might end up six -- six months. You never know.

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GOLDEN: So we come here for fabric and also for jewelry. So these are some of the beautiful jade jewelry. And then also these are mother of pearl, which is very beautiful because we have a big pearl farm outside in Myanmar.

And then this is some beautiful tapestries, because like in the late 19th century, tapestry work is only for the royal family. But nowadays, everyone. So tapestry work still exists in Mandalay, because most of the handicrafts come from all over Myanmar. So like some of the people who live in the city, they come here so they can buy all the handicrafts come from all different parts of Myanmar.

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GOLDEN: Hello.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GOLDEN: The owner of this beautiful gallery and that I really like this gallery because this gallery is a very good potential gallery for all the young Burmese artists, especially contemporary. And that some of them become very popular and very well known from this gallery.

So, for example, right now, it's -- you see this?

Monindau (ph). He's only about 30 years, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, 33 years.

GOLDEN: Very, very young. Thirty-three years.

This is (INAUDIBLE) from Chantay (ph) present inspiration. And then also, another one I really like and they're becoming very popular is Gate (ph). He's only about 29, another young artist. So because mostly he do the scenery of the city, that it is (INAUDIBLE).

Because Burma is very vibrant, very colorful. So they can easily get inspiration from anyway in Burma. I think that's the reason there are a lot of young artists. That's how I see it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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GOLDEN: (INAUDIBLE) Makai is the name of the tree. The botanical name is Lemonia arsidisima (ph). It's grow in central by the part of Myanmar.

So what we do is we have a stone. We put some water on the stone and then we grind like this, because this is 100 percent natural and it is good for the skin. And also, we are using it as a sunscreen. So we can make any (INAUDIBLE) that we want.

Right now, we are at Kon Zay Don Bazaar. Is one of the oldest bazaars in Myanmar, in Yangon. We do our daily shopping, like mostly spices, herbs and then all the raw materials for foods and beverages.

We call this is a sub fruit (ph). It is come from acacia, acacia tree. So we soak this in the hot water, so the foam came out. And then we can use it for washing, for our hair, and even for jewelry.

Bargaining is one of our customs, because we even bargain for vegetables and fruits. So it is fun. So try hard.

These are all beautiful pulses because all these pulses we export (INAUDIBLE) for example beautiful len -- chick peas. This is our peanuts, organic, beautiful lentils.

We carried (ph) all the varieties that we want and then also a good price here. So it's -- it's a wholesale and also a retail market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?

GOLDEN: No, I'll be shopping.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was one of the most prestigious buildings in downtown, where people came for Egyptian cigarettes, from beer from Munich. There was one of the most prestigious cafes in Burma at the time, the Vienna Cafe. So, yes, this is the Sofaer Building.

This -- this, for me, is a place where -- it really takes you back in time. So when I want to feel a bit more about -- when I want to know more about what Yangon used to be like, I come here and I have a look around and I sort of take in the atmosphere.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This building here, you can walk in, because you have the tea shop here. You've got the law firm. You can just -- you can hang out at any time, any time of the day.

Who owns this building is quite an interesting question, because the former owner of this building now has his sons, his grandsons, his great grandsons and which is around about maybe 100 people. So that's one of the primary problems that we face in -- in Yangon, because if there's going to be investment, there's a lot of ownership issues.

Because, you know, these buildings, even though they're very durable, they're not going to last forever, especially not in this state. And we have a lot of squatter families upstairs on the third and fourth floors. We have this small tea shop run here by this family, who have been here for about 15 years. And we have a law firm. We have a gusset house. So it's really a mixture.

These tiles were imported from Manchester when the building was originally first built. And we're not completely sure where the elevator was from, but it should have been from the UK. And you can see, it's non- existent anymore. So it's quite an interesting look into what used to be in the building and what is now.

There used to be a small courtyard in this area down here where children could play, where people could go sit on a nice day. But now it's -- it really needs help.

So U Thant was the former secretary-general of the United Nations. And this is the house that he used to live in.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So basically, this is the living room of the U Thant House. And this is -- we're trying to refurnish the place to look exactly as much as possible like what it may have looked like when U Thant lived here.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could say he's probably one of our most famous exports. People here are very proud of his work and his life. This neighborhood, a lot the homes used to belong to government officials, people who are very important to the country. And a lot of the houses that they were given were given maybe four or five acres pieces of land. And that's something you don't really get in Yangon anymore. And it's very peaceful and it's very quiet. I'd love to live around here.

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LONE LONE, MUSICIAN AND GRAPHIC DESIGNER: So this place has been -- this has been made for like 12 years ago. And this is like -- this is called National Races Union Village. But I think many people people also know it as Mini Myanmar, because this village is situated as a Myanmar map, a smaller version.

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LONE LONE: The Golden Rock, right here. Yes! The amazing thing of the original Golden Rock is that it's on the edge of a mountain. And it's a rock, but it's a rock pagoda that's filled with gold. It doesn't fall down from the mountain, but it's like on the edge. It's a smaller version of Golden Rock here.

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LONE LONE: This is not hot. It's a nice place to like spend time with your friends, you know, your family or your friends and go around with bicycles.

Give young people a book about Myanmar, they wouldn't read it, you know? But then if you make a park like this and they will love to come and oh, this is like that, this is like this, you know, because they would know how the Races looks like, you know?

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LONE LONE: It's fun, because you can travel Myanmar in one hour. This is the man from Shenstay (ph). He's a native from there.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

LONE LONE: Yes, his name is Mr. Nettutay (ph).

(through translator) What do you think of the park?

Yes, he definitely digs it. He said he's -- of course, he's proud of being a Shun (ph). But also, there is a (INAUDIBLE) thing, because Shun -- most Shun people know their own martial arts. They can defense themselves for their life. So that's the most thing that they -- he's proud of.

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LONE LONE: So now we are in Chinatown, 19th Street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Food!

LONE LONE: Food! Whoo-hooo, food. Yes, it's...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And every -- any kind of food here (INAUDIBLE).

LONE LONE: Chinese.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

LONE LONE: (INAUDIBLE), Burmese, Chinese.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

LONE LONE: So, yes, Mose (ph) is -- barbecue is famous here, yes.

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LONE LONE: Oh, hey.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

LONE LONE: You can only get this kind of barbecue here.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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KYAW NYO, PAINTER (through translator): I usually come to this place at least twice a month because it's an interesting place to observe the daily lives of grassroots people. They cross the river and work on this side and then cross back every day. Their different feelings appear on their faces. That's why I come here -- to read their faces and to get ideas for my paintings.

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NYO: (through translator): You can see many coffee shops in Yangon. Living conditions in Yangon are tight because we live in small apartments. This makes it inconvenient to chat with friends, so we go sit at a coffee shop to chat freely. I can get inspiration and information from these exchanges with friends. The coffee shop is a good public space for us.

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NYO: I used to drink other countries' coffee, but Myanmar coffee has a fresh, different taste and is produced in our own country.

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NYO: This gallery is a special place for contemporary art in Myanmar and famous in Yangon. The artists here are getting better and developing along with the political flow of our country.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) tigers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, over there. Over there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There they are. Look at them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of them are monkeys here and some birds.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but, you know, this is really far away...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Far -- yes, it's far away from downtown. We come here because it's so far away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. She skipped school and she came here.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We remember that we are shooting the music video...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are dancing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK) (music)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's beautiful. It's the size of a big lake and it's one of the places that -- where Burmese people usually come and have fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) living here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Here are restaurants. Here -- here is the hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) hotel and it's a famous one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In our country, Sagaing Pagoda is so famous. And this is one of the most famous places in the world.

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END