The two faces of Rangoon

Celeste Chenard's article in Mizzima:

There are still shocking levels of poverty in some of the city's poorer districts, public transport is overcrowded, and for most of the population electricity remains intermittent at best. Infrastructure is in particularly poor shape, with badly decaying buildings, potholed roads and destroyed pavement - as if run over by a bulldozer - common sight.

An elderly, barefoot man with a hollowed chest makes his nightly rounds through the city - literally covering dozens upon dozens of blocks - hawking shrimp crackers he carries in a large plastic tub to those frequenting the open-air teashops. Children, grime from the streets caked to their skin and thankful for even a 10 kyat note, tug at the shirts of people watching movies and videos on television sets placed out on the sidewalks.

At the 50th Street Bar and Grill a group of young Burmese elite on a recent night mixed easily with the local expatriate population, talking of trips abroad and planning the weekend's reverie - in this case a concert by a band from the United States on Friday and poolside barbeque the following day. Priced in dollars, some of the Burmese in attendance that evening spent the equivalent of two percent the estimated average per capita income of their fellow countrymen and women.

I think the author perfectly described recent Rangoon.


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