By Charlie Warner
In 1990, Myanmar or Burma as I knew it from my school days was a no-go zone, a Military State with deadly ethnic wars on the boarders of Thailand. One day in Bangkok while in a coffee shop I met a old gentleman, he asked me if I was English, to which I replied yes, he had heard my accent and said he wanted to talk to me. His English was ‘perfect Oxford’.
I asked him had he lived in England, he said no.
“I was educated in Burma at a British Grammar school”.
Surprised I said. “I thought you were Thai”, no he replied
“I’m a Burmese political refugee, I can’t go back there”.
How times have changed, political reform, international investment and now you can buy a return flight from Thailand to Yangon for less than 2,000 Baht. Tourist visa is $50.00 and you can buy it online, its all very simple. Flights are a little over an hour.
Myanmar is like going back in time, the locals are gentle, polite and reserved, men still where the sarong and many the bamboo hats of old, women wear the traditional long dress in bright colours its all very nice.
The city like any poor asian country is dirty and hectic, but not nearly as bad as places like Medan or Mumbai. Thanks to its well planned streets the traffic does flow. Things you will notice if you come from Thailand is no motorbikes in the city, also its incredibly green, with open spaces and huge trees that so far, have survived the developers axe. I had time to visit the new Myanmar Center, a gleaming new shopping mall with all of the international restaurants and shops you’d find in Thailand, well nearly. I was particularly happy to find a Black Canyon restaurant serving Thai food and great coffee. Find yourself a hotel in the city, prices vary from 5 stars to cheap apartments, make sure you make time to visit the famous Golden Pagoda, it really is stunning and spiritually invigorating.
There a few courses to play while you’re in Yangon. Pun Hlaing Golf Club, an 18 hole, par 72 course, which is known as “The Pride of Myanmar,” it was designed by Gary Player in 2002 and has just under gone a four million dollar refurbishment, no wonder its known as the best golf courses in Myanmar.
Yangon City Golf Resort, is just 25-minute drive to the north of the capital city, and consists of two, 18-hole courses with very different characters. The simpler of the two is, The Ngwe Taw Thar or Silvery Course its spread across a low flat plain with wide fairways and large greens. The Myakantha Course or Pondy Course, has tighter fairways over an undulating landscape, and is more demanding and requires accurate accurate play. The course has been host to APGA events in thepast.
Star City is a new development on the outskirts of Yangon, modern accommodation for the wealthy Burmese and the Japanese. Chinese and other foreign expats who work at the emerging industrial estates. The Star City links is a nine hole course in fantastic condition, with huge wide landscapes with a horizon of condominiums more familiar to Singapore than a third world country.
The Yangon Golf Club is Myanmar’s oldest golf club, about a 25 minute drive North of Yangon, it was built during British rule back in 1909, but it unknown who designed it. I spoke to American golf pro, from Star City, Brian Andora and he said its a wonderful course to play, well laid out very charming, however it needs some attention in parts, but still plays remarkably well after so many years.
There are other courses to play further away from Yangon around the country and we shall return to Myanmar again to cover those next time.