When you’re thrown into a new situation, either you seek a way out or you just go with the flow. I belong to the latter category.
Yangon is at an interesting turn. People who visited 4 years ago very clearly remember that there was hardly any nightlife with only 1-2 five-star hotel bars frequented by the expats. Although even today, the city is gone to bed by 9 pm, it is slowly waking up to the night. There are up and coming restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s all happening – from rooftops to basements, from featured nights celebrating Oktober fest to salsa lessons, all listed in a weekly online magazine such as Myanmore.
And I would say it was quite buzzy! Some rooftops gave you the feel of being in any other party city, except that the breathtaking view of the Shwedagon pagoda is a constant feature, glowing through the night and twinkling up Yangon’s skyline.
In the midst of things, you meet people and how. And while you go and enjoy the usual ways you know, sometimes you come across people who bring with them a hint of adventure. I met a couple of inspiring women who were working for international development organisations in Yangon. They took me out to one of the most happening parties. At a gay bar. The speciality is it happens on the last Saturday of the month and the DJ spins the best of the club classics. And it’s not only the expats who make it here: it’s a good mix of locals and expats.
I absolutely danced the night out and found such enthusiastic dancers around me. A gay couple was undeniably cute and tried to follow my moves. It was the best dance I had in a club with two guys. No chance of being hit on! Hahaha
On that point, I was hit on by an old Italian guy unrelentingly till I almost kissed my girl friend, Boran to indicate I am gay! Boran was seriously a saviour that night!
Well, I always find myself in a mix of excitement and uncertainty. I discovered that Yangon has a North Korean restaurant named after the country’s capital, Pyongyang. I did not know firstly that this existed and secondly that it is quite popular, with 130 branches in mostly Chinese cities, but also Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Political commentary suggests that Myanmar and North Korea share a friendly relationship, as a follow through from the close military ties. Goes to explain the existence of this establishment in Yangon!
Well, as I looked on for more info and found Tripadvisor reviews, I really wanted to go. I found an equally enthusiastic partner in Alie, a lovely woman, working to support and help refugees in Myanmar. Her stories are one of a kind and truly make you believe in the faith of humanity.
We debated whether we would put our money to fund this? And although we were principally against it, the curiosity got the better of us, I would not deny. So we decided that before she leaves from Yangon, we should go there.
On the night of our dinner, I arrived a little early and had the opportunity to observe the space. A compound with an outpost where a woman was selling ice cream? Hilarious and a little bizarre. A buzzing Chinese restaurant in front of it. So I was relieved that it was not deserted, yet the vibe was so eerie. I was waiting for my friend to arrive, who took a “little” longer than the time we had decided to meet. She did not have access to mobile data and I almost contemplated leaving, but I decided to go in and have a look.
As I entered the compound, the girl selling ice cream left her post and ushered me to the entrance. There were 5 women dressed in traditional clothes at the door of the restaurant and they welcomed me in. I found Allie sitting on one of the tables and heaved a sign of relief. At the time, there was no one else in the restaurant, as we chose Monday night because she was leaving the next day.
Our research suggested that the waitresses are trained musicians who put on a performance every night. They play various instruments and are really good at it. As I tried to click a photo of the stage with the equipment set up, the waitress told me that pictures were not allowed.
Unfortunately on this day, they were not going to perform. We were slightly disappointed. However, the experience was good. The waitress was clearly trained to chat with customers and ask questions like “which country do you belong to?” and “how do you like the food?” And we could also click a photo with her! We had read in online reviews that these women are not allowed to leave their compound and are always escorted by someone if they do leave.
For food, I don’t remember the dishes’ names but we went for North Korean dumplings and pancake. As the food came, I hoped I’d be alright hahaha. Well, it was good though- nothing very special (as we didn’t try the overpriced specialities) yet nice taste. And we constantly felt like we were being monitored/recorded on camera. I am quite sure of that actually. In the end, we were charged for paper towel and water as well, but this was expected. First their dishes are so expensive and second they charge extra for every tiny thing.
But I enjoyed myself in both the situations and walked away with memorable times! If you don’t explore, you don’t know!