In 2019, our travels in Asia took us to Myanmar. This Southeast Asian country had always been on my radar to visit for years. However, for decades the country was isolated.
The Bustling City of Yangon
Our first stop was Yangon; previously known as Rangoon. It is the largest city in Myanmar and the former capital. This bustling city has a population of over 5 million.
The people here were very friendly. When you see someone and smile, you will be greeted with the biggest smile! Whenever you would ask someone to take their picture, they would smile really big and agree. We try our best to get their email so we can send them the photos.
We visited the famous Shwedagon Pagoda that is over 2000 years old. It is believed that eight hairs of Buddha were enshrined here. The top of the pagoda is adorned with thousands of diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.
A perfect day in Yangon: begin your morning by going to a local tea shop to drink milk tea. Then, visit the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Spend your evening on 19thStreet in Chinatown to eat local dishes. -Eddie Hein
Walking around the city can get a little tiring, especially during the hot summer months like we were experiencing. Luckily, Myanmar is famous for its welcoming local traditional tea shops that are seen everywhere.
The traditional tea shop caught on under the colonial British era when Indian business entrepreneurs opened shops selling cups of hot sweet tea. Since then the tea houses have become the place for family and friends to socialize, eat, drink, and enjoy conversations about family, politics, and the general goings on in life.
Looking For A Barbershop
One of our frequently asked questions is how we find barbershops. In general, we do a lot of research ahead of time. Sometimes though, you need to be on location looking and getting a feel for the local barbershops in the area.
So during our time in Yangon, I walked up and down the streets and looked at approximately a dozen shops. The majority of the shops I saw did not have an online presence. Typically, I check the shops out from the outside a little before going inside to ask about the services.
After filming at a colorful local neighborhood street barbershop and Golden Hand, we visited Burman Barbershop which opened in June 2018. This luxury shop is in a very niche market in Yangon. A blend of locals, expats, and travelers come to the shop and share their interesting stories from around the world.
The shop is in a colonial era building that was built in 1923. Part of the reason they chose the location is because of the heritage on this particular road. Bogalay Zay Street, previously known as Brookings Street, is known for its concentration of colonial era buildings.
For the shop, they went for a 1920s – 1930s Prohibition style. They want their customers to come hang out, have a great haircut and shave, and enjoy the conversation and atmosphere.
Burman Barbershop And A Shared Passion For Men’s Grooming In Myanmar
When we visited Burman Barbershop, it was great to sit down with Co-Founder Eddie Hein for an interview. Eddie grew up in Yangon and later went to school in Singapore where he trained as an architect. Although he and his business partner Jeremy Kyaw are not barbers, they share a passion for men’s grooming in Myanmar.
Eddie says he remembers visiting a barbershop around 20 years ago when he was a kid. There are still neighborhood barbershops that only locals in that area know about. However over the years, Eddie feels barbershops were fading away and salons began to take over in the country.
Over the years, barbershops were fading away and salons began to take over in the country.
Specifically in Myanmar, Eddie believes the salon concept came from China and Korea (locals are huge fans of K-pop!). He recalls his personal experiences at salons and says they never knew what he wanted to do with his hair so he wasn’t content with his haircuts.
It wasn’t until Eddie was studying in Singapore that he visited a barbershop and experienced an atmosphere so different than any salon he had ever visited. The way they treated their customers, communicated, and cut hair. It was an inspiration!
He left feeling happy with his haircut and he was also happy going to the shop. This is what they want to bring to Myanmar.
They invited barbers from Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand to share knowledge with their barbers.
“Giving Free Haircuts To Yangon Gents”
A couple years ago they began spreading love in their community by “giving free haircuts to Yangon gents.” Their movement, #MoreThanAHaircut, is giving back with random acts of kindness to the average Burmese.
“Burman is more than a barbershop. We do not have borders or boundaries when it comes to taking care of someone.”
“We approached everybody and talked to them on a human level. During the haircut, it’s an intimate thing and you really witness someone come out of their shell and start talking to you a bit deeper about their life and situation.”
To some people it may just be a haircut, but for the person in the chair it becomes a brighter beginning with a boost in confidence.
Traveling To Bangkok Or Singapore For Haircuts!
Eddie shared people would travel on the weekends to Bangkok or Singapore for haircuts! He explained no one was getting consistent good haircuts locally so they got tired of going around. Friends would always ask each other where they got their haircut because they were struggling to find a good place in town.
Now they are super happy and thankful they can visit Burman Barbershop!
90 Bogalay Zay St.
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