Last spring I spent a fascinating week in Myanmar. In preparation for my trip, I got some contact information from my Bangkok friend John Berns (@jfxberns). He hooked me up with a few of his techie friends in Yangon who were incredibly gracious and generous and took a lot of time to show me around and keep me company. This weekend Bangkok BarCamp 4 (Thailand’s Biggest Geek Event), organized by John, saw a number of Burmese flying in for the event. A few of my new friends were among them, and a few other new introductions as well. I met them at Co-Co Walk, a collection of small bars in a sort of open-air mall just underneath the Ratchatewi Skytrain station.
The enthusiasm that met me was humbling. They all speak English but sometimes with bar noise and accents it is hard to hear each other. But even outside their home turf, these guys make YOU feel like the guest from out of town. They gave me a little bar snack set in a box, something we had shared at a sidewalk bar in Yangon. Various nuts and most importantly, laphat, fermented tea leaf salad. Seriously. And it’s delicious.
It was extremely sweet of them to have this gift along. And then Htiane Htiane, who I was meeting for the first time but who was already a Facebook friend, said something that struck me.
I asked her if this was her first time to Bangkok. “No, this is my third time. I think Air Asia should get the Nobel Prize.”
“Because before Air Asia people like us could never travel. It was too expensive.”
I know it’s all corporate competition and profits and such, but she makes such an excellent point. With the dire situation in Myanmar, most people could never afford to travel out of the country. The ones who did in the past (and many still in the present) were often refugees fleeing over the Thai-Myanmar border. But Air Asia makes it possible – with just a bit of prior planning – to get a roundtrip ticket to Bangkok for an extremely low price. I flew last minute to Yangon last spring and it was $125 r/t. Advance planning and specials can bring that well below $100.
And cheap plane tickets have secured me some very nice Burmese friends!