Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – Burma, Chapter Six

Here is Chapter Six of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book. We'll publish each chapter over the course of the summer (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book direct from EarthPhotos Publishing, or at Photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Burma Gallery at

Aye Chan Zin, a 22 year old competitive bicycle racer, once raced from Rangoon to Mandalay and back. He fell and lost both incisors to gold teeth.

"Road very bad out there," he grinned, goldly.

Aye Chan ("EEE-Chan,") was a kid of relative privilege, a third-year vet school student with parents with government jobs. His dad was Chinese, a doctor working in Burma on a leprosy project. His mom was a philosophy teacher at Yangon University. A family album he kept in the car was chock full of smiling brothers and sisters.

He had his Dad’s tan Toyota with tinted windows. We hired him as our driver, and on Tuesday the seventh of February or, as The New Light of Myanmar newspaper called it, the eighth waxing of Tabodwe, 1356 ME, we set out for a drive into the country.

First on Chan’s tour of Rangoon hotspots, “That's military headquarters.”

Did the leadership live there?

"Not live just work."

There was the parliament building far across a lawn. It was not possible to visit the parliament building. You can tour the White House, the Kremlin, the Great Hall of the People, but not the Myanmar parliament. Up next came Myanmar Television and Radio, and then, "ice factory."

Guides have their peculiarities. A man we once hired in Beijing forever wanted to try out his English.

"That is tree. Tree?" Zhong from Beijing would ask.

Here in Burma, Chan was factory infatuated. Before the end of the day we saw: ice factory, milk factory, brick factory ("you want to take picture?"), rice factory and garment factory.

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