Joko MacKenna

The road to Nay Pyi Taw

The Myanmar adventure continues.

Where am I?

I sort of know where I am, but no one knows how to spell it.

Nay Pyi Taw
Nay Pi Daw

However it's spelled, it's my first night in the capital of Myanmar, Thailand's unusual brother to the west.

No place is the strangeness of this country exemplified more than here in it's created capital. The city is only ten years old. Built for several reasons, none more important than creating a buffer between the regime and the biggest cities.

Naypyidaw is about half-way between Yangon and Mandalay. In other words, it isn't close to either one and their potentially riotous inhabitants.


Here I am, and here I will stay for the next four months. My TESL journey has taken me to a place I never would have imagined I would be before I started this adventure. This is a city like no other. My language institute employer assigned me here, and although I did have a veto right to being sent here, I didn't exercise it.

Naypyitaw is allegedly a very boring city. Nothing is going on here. Everything is very far away from each other. Yangon wasn't like Bangkok, but objectively, Yangon was an exciting city. I've given that up. I've gone into exile in Burmese Siberia because my company asked me to.

It's a government contract. I'll be teaching a minister and his lackeys. 10 hours a week teaching time. On paper, it's a sweet gig...


As I was planning this move, I heard some blowback from trolls on a Thailand teaching forum. They said I was supporting an oppressive regime. They said I was becoming part of the problem here, not the solution. Look. I'll let the Myanmar people figure out their own politics. I have no horse in the race. Same thing in Thailand, right? Who are we, as foreigners, to express any opinion or take any action to influence the politics of our host nations?

Now, I've known some friends who've been in SE Asia 20+ years. They've got Thai or Burmese wives, and even mixed-race children. For these guys, sure, it's like it's your country too.

I'm not there yet.

In the meantime, I'll take the government contract here in Nippledew, enjoy the high speed internet and breakfast buffet. I'll make the government connections via my teaching, and who knows how that will benefit me in the future.

So,'s Senior Myanmar Correspondent has now moved to the strange heartland of the Golden Land and it's created capital... however it is spelled.

I encourage you to check out my new YouTube video and see the journey of which I write.

I also have a YouTube page with lots more stuff about the teaching lifestyle in Myanmar



"They said I was supporting an oppressive regime..."

'They' being teachers living in Thailand... that's what irony is. isn't it?

One country inching forward trying to undo decades of oppression and embrace the new world being criticized by the flotsam living in a country headed in the opposite direction! Hilarious.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (17th August 2015)

Agreed with Mark.

Joko just do your thing teaching there man, don't focus on the political stuff. Educating people, even those in an oppressive regime, can hopefully have some great spill over effects. Who knows, maybe you'll have a hand in opening a few hearts and minds.

By Aaron, Bangkok (17th August 2015)

Would be very interested to hear a follow-up to this story 4 months from now......a 'before/after' piece. Whatever local insights you may have from this proto-capital city would be an interesting read.

By Matt, BKK (17th August 2015)

"Well, it's not really a 'teaching' forum, is it. It's a playground for a handful of yobbos killing time between classes when nobody has brought a copy of The Bangkok Post to work"

I have nothing whatsoever to do with them anymore - and life feels so much better for it.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (17th August 2015)

"a teaching forum..."

Well, it's not really a 'teaching' forum, is it. It's a playground for a handful of yobbos killing time between classes when nobody has brought a copy of The Bangkok Post to work.

Joko has a personality and spirit of adventure that are good fun to read about. One of the highlights of this website is his view of a very strange world (to most of us) from his 'everyman' point of view.

What makes his perspective more appealing to me is that many of us older expats are almost walking in his shoes. I don't really want to hear about kids scarfing down pad thai. I've had pad thai before. I'm not enlightened or inspired by gap year kids teaching in the jungle who can't buy socks that fit. Who cares.

Keep doing your thing, Joko. It's always a genuine pleasure to hear about it - or to put it in terms that might appeal to older Brit readers...

Carry on up the junta!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (17th August 2015)

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