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Impressions from Kalaymyo 1 – Changes between the last and most recent trip

The SEAM team regularly visits Kalaymyo in order to check out local staff and clients, and to get updated with any developments in the local situation. 
In January (2016) Tim and Rose Cooper, along with Frank Xing, made a week long visit to Kalaymyo. They employed another Client Manager, did some intensive staff training, and visited the main markets where the clients do business. Rose has described her most recent impressions of the city, and one of the visits to the market. 
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More Background of Kalaymyo

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Although Kalaymyo is only 45 minutes flying time west from Mandalay, it has remained an isolated backwater due to the terrible road access between the cities. Several major escarpments running north/south mean that road transport is difficult at the best of times, and promises of better roads have yet to be realized.

Changes between the last and most recent trip

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Against the exciting though challenging backdrop of political change in Myanmar, with the landslide election of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, we noticed a number of significant changes ourselves.  These are most noticeable in Yangon itself, especially as the numbers of foreign tourists increase. Five years ago the typical taxi was a rust bucket, complete with holes in the floor through which you could see the road!  Now it’s hard to find anything other than late model imports, and the buildings themselves appear to have been washed with bleach, rendering the original colonial structures very attractive to the modern eye.

On the other hand, changes in Kalaymyo are harder to spot, due largely to its isolation. But we did notice some, the first of which being, as in Yangon, an increase in material wealth for the middle classes. This translates into more actual cars on the road – on my first trip I saw only one car amid the numerous other transport choices available – and growing numbers of hotels at the higher end of the market.

However, as far as SEAM is concerned, the most significant and devastating change is that caused by the terrible floods of July 2015. These impacted most tragically the very poor who had been living on the flood plains along the banks of the river. Livelihood and homes were often lost together, and many simply took whatever they could salvage and made their way to the big cities – a typical response to such catastrophes in many parts of the world.

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