The last time I visited Yangon was more than 20 years ago, first as a member of the entourage of the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong of the Genting fame, and second, with one of his children who was independently exploring some business opportunities there. Nothing worked out from these visits. But I vivid remember the visits. Everybody who was somebody was a general. And all men seemed to be going around in sarongs.
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This time when we landed, the Yangon airport was a surprise! It is very modern. The immigration clearance concern came as a non-issue. We were quite swiftly cleared. There was an Alphard waiting for us; all very comfortable.
Even though it was a Sunday, the roads were full of cars.
Do you notice how they drive here? My colleague Jim who has been here a couple of times asked me. He continued, “they drive on the right side of the road even though their cars are the right-hand-drive makes.”
And you don’t see motor cycles. Apparently, during the military rule, someone important was nearly gunned down by one assassin on a motor cycle. The ban on motor cycles is therefore still in force, I heard.
Even though it is already more than 20 years old, the Shangri-La is still as contemporary as its sister hotels around the world. I was told they have many five star hotels in Yangon now, but its lobby lounge remains the favourite deal-making place in town.
The mall at the annex building of the hotel is like the Paragon in Singapore – ultra modern shopping for, I suppose, the nouveau riche of Yangon.
It was raining cats and dogs during our three days there. We didn’t get to see many places, except for a personal visit to Yangon’s icon, the Shwedagon Pagoda. Yangon is certainly trying to catch up with the rest of Asia. Fortune seekers are everywhere. Be that as it may, the city still looks tired. But it holds great promises for those who are daring.