Cramped and damp, Yan­gon’s new night mar­ket dis­ap­points

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - BY MYO SATT

SEP­A­RATED from traf­fic by high­lighter-yel­low con­crete blocks, the Yan­gon City De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee’s newly opened night mar­ket on Strand Road is, in a word, cramped.

Ven­dors and shop­pers jos­tle each other in the nar­row spa­ces be­tween steam­ing grills and plas­tic chairs. Driv­ers park cars hap­haz­ardly along the bar­rier, with the horns of idle taxis never out of earshot. It al­most feels like one of Myan­mar’s leg­endary full-moon fes­ti­vals – ex­cept for the fact that not ev­ery­one is en­joy­ing it.

“Frankly, I don’t like mov­ing here,” said Mya Mya Win, a 55-year-old fruit-seller who used to op­er­ate her shop on Latha Street.

Af­ter 30 years on the same block, she has joined a to­tal of 1600 ven­dors in the mass re­lo­ca­tion to­ward the Yan­gon River. The YCDC hopes the move will al­le­vi­ate the choked streets of Yan­gon’s colo­nial grid and im­prove traf­fic flow.

But the 1600 ven­dors who made the move rep­re­sent just a frac­tion of the of­fi­cial streetven­dor list, which num­bers over 6000. Even more op­er­ate un­of­fi­cially. And while many of those who did not re­ceive spa­ces in the new mar­ket have com­plained about a ques­tion­able de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, a The Myan­mar Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion found plenty of ran­kled ven­dors in­side the mar­ket it­self.

“Sales are low and money is not cir­cu­lat­ing,” Mya Mya Win said. Though she added that busi­ness could be slow-go­ing in the ini­tial weeks af­ter the move, the vet­eran sales­woman still ex­pressed doubts for long-term im­prove­ment. “Sales have been re­ally bad from the open­ing day.”

Part of that dip may be purely lo­gis­ti­cal: Lo­cated at the bot­tom block of down­town, the new mar­ket is an in­con­ve­nient trip for fam­i­lies liv­ing in down­town’s up­per blocks and northerly town­ships. Mya Mya Win said the lo­gis­tics are prov­ing a pain for ven­dors too, and due to the mar­ket’s prox­im­ity to the river, ex­pressed con­cerns over po­ten­tial flood­ing when mon­soon sea­son hits.

“Now I pay more for trans­porta­tion,” she said. “And at the old place I had a con­ve­nient place to keep the fruit when I packed up at the end of the night. I need a new one.”

Ac­cord­ing to Yan­gon Re­gion Chief Min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein, the mar­ket is the first of its kind to be ar­ranged by the gov­ern­ment. And with of­fi­cial plan­ning comes at least a few con­ve­nient ben­e­fits. Lamp posts al­low ven­dors to save the bat­tery life of their own de­vices, and wa­ter pipes al­low for wash­ing and clean­ing at the turn of a faucet.

But Yan Kyaw, a 32-year-old food ven­dor who serves Shan and Chi­nese foods, said the mar­ket’s perks do not quite make up for its short­com­ings.

“More peo­ple are com­ing ev­ery day, but the sales rate is still not as good as the old place be­cause we got such a small plot,” he said. “Our reg­u­lar cus­tomers have come to us, but they end up find­ing other places be­cause we don’t have seats for them.”

His new Lashio Shwe Mate Sat stall fits into less than 64 feet, or about half of the space he was used to work­ing with. The new mar­ket plots are avail­able in three sizes – 32 square feet, 48 square feet or 64 square feet – but none of them are as big as the tra­di­tion­ally sprawl­ing ar­range­ments that have stretched along Yan­gon’s ma­jor thor­ough­fares for years.

De­spite size re­stric­tions and a dearth in sales, some ven­dors re­ported rel­a­tive sat­is­fac­tion with their new digs – es­pe­cially com­pared to the un­for­tu­nate ma­jor­ity, who will soon be forced down side streets and into ex­pen­sive negotiations with home own­ers re­gard­ing side­walk spa­ces.

U Aye Maung, 60, said that, gen­er­ally speak­ing, his busi­ness sell­ing ei kyar kwei (deep-fried dough) has only marginally changed since he moved from Latha Street’s lower block. His only con­cern, iron­i­cally, was about the ef­fect the mar­ket’s lo­ca­tion could have on Strand Road traf­fic.

“The big trucks from the har­bour … They drive re­ally fast. Some are car­ry­ing gas. If an ac­ci­dent hap­pens and the trucks crash through the mar­ket, peo­ple will def­i­nitely die. I can’t even imag­ine,” he said.

Shop­per Shwe Mhone Ei, a 17-year-old stu­dent, agreed.

“They opened the night mar­ket to re­duce traf­fic, but now traf­fic on Strand Road is worse than ever,” she said.

Pho­tos: Zarni Phyo

Street ven­dors in Yan­gon’s new night mar­ket have ex­pressed some con­cerns that the new lo­ca­tion is hurt­ing busi­ness.

Ven­dors en­joy the lamp­light at the mar­ket, but said the lo­gis­tics of trav­el­ling to and from their stalls are more com­pli­cated than ever. One ven­dor said he is wor­ried about the mar­ket’s prox­im­ity to Strand Road’s heavy truck traf­fic.

Just 1600 of an es­ti­mated 6000-plus ven­dors in Yan­gon won spots in the new space on Strand Road.

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