|Dealing with the Difficulties of Living in Myanmar.|
By Moe Zaw
Wednesday, 25th September 2013
Myanmar’s rapid re-engagement with the international community is attracting an increasing number of expatriates and contributing to an incredible demand for residential property.
Yet as new arrivals to the country quickly discover, the same factors that make Myanmar an exciting country full of potential and opportunity also lend to challenging living conditions.
The quality of infrastructure often taken for granted by many from more developed countries is lacking or unreliable in the country. Power supply issues, unclean water and enduring a tropical climate, which can manifest in unbearable heat or torrential monsoons, are a feature of daily life for the expatriate in Myanmar.
Whether seen as minor inconveniences or frustrating barriers, these matters can be mitigated somewhat by ensuring Myanmar residential property contains several important amenities. Whether these items come with the property or need to be purchased, they will make your life in Myanmar more convenient and comfortable.
The country suffers from poor electrical infrastructure, which struggles to meet increasing demand, particularly during the hot season when temperatures can climb into the 40s, resulting in frequent brownouts and power surges.
Rechargeable fans can, and should, be purchased and used in an emergency, but batteries run out after a few hours. A personal, diesel-powered electricity generator can supply enough electricity to cope with the heat and keep essential appliances running until power is restored. But it won’t be enough to run the compressor of your split system air-conditioner.
Air-conditioner and fans
Myanmar is nice and temperate during the cool season between November to February. During the hot and rainy seasons, however, an air-conditioner of some type is essential as fans will not be enough to beat the heat.
Whilst many Myanmar residential properties have air-conditioning already installed, this is not always the case. Particularly in smaller properties, the previous tenant may have installed their own air-conditioning system and, on vacating the property, dismantled the unit to take with them. Sometimes, the unit may be old, not energy efficient or functioning optimally or you may simply need to buy more units.
Air-conditioners of all varieties are widely available in stores in Myanmar’s larger towns and cities. Frequent promotions and plenty of competition means prices are reasonable, but shop around and be aware of a system of dual-pricing which some stores operate and be sure to avoid them.
The store you purchase the unit from can also recommend or assist with future servicing or repairs.
Unfortunately, the compressor won’t function during a brownout or in periods where the supply voltage is too high or low, as is sometimes the case in some parts of Yangon.
This is where fans are useful as an emergency backup cooling solution, which can be powered by your portable generator or, in the case of rechargeable fan units, the battery you charged up when you had electricity (you did remember to do that, didn’t you?).
Taking precautions when it comes to electrical safety is especially important in Myanmar. Voltage supply is irregular and power surges are frequent, and a regular yet preventable cause of fires in Myanmar properties.
This extends to protecting compressor units, such as those found in refrigerators and air-conditioners, which can be damaged by surges. Voltage protectors specifically designed for refrigerators and air-conditioners are afford and readily available in supermarkets and electrical stores throughout Myanmar, costing no more than USD8 or USD9.
As a rule of thumb, never plug an appliance directly into the wall socket of a Myanmar property. Remember that not all power points in Myanmar are earthed and, in a small number of cases, may not be wired properly or functional at all!
Beyond large appliances, consider installing a surge protector in the distribution board of your residential property. Always use an electrician to perform this task.
For desktop computers, invest in an Uninterruptable Power Supply unit and connect the unit straight to the wall socket – do not connect it to a power strip, even one with a surge protector.
Power strips of all types, price points and sockets are available in Myanmar. Cutting corners to save on cost is not advisable and may even be dangerous if you buy a poorly made unit, which may malfunction. Invest in a well-made power strip with enough sockets to meet your needs, a surge protector and built-in circuit breaker, preferably from a manufacturer based in a country with recognised electrical equipment manufacturing safety regulations.
Water safety and supply continuity
Myanmar struggles with antiquated and inadequate water supply infrastructure. This results in water scarcity or unreliable and unsafe water supply to many Myanmar properties. Myanmar’s government acknowledges these problems and steps are being taken.
Water is supplied to properties in different ways. In Yangon, many residential buildings and compounds have overhead storage tanks, which collect water from wells or rainwater, which is then pressure pumped into houses. Unfortunately, these tanks aren’t always clean and accumulate sludge, which can sometimes end up in the building’s pipework. A delay in replenishing the tank will interrupt water supply.
To deal with potential supply issues, large plastic storage tubs of water should be kept indoors, and the water changed weekly. Drinking tap water is not recommended, and for cooking purposes use purified water. At the very least, boil tap water for 10 minutes. Filtered and purified water can be purchased from many local suppliers.
Water pressure and temperature
Myanmar’s water system is not pressurised to international standards and not all Myanmar properties have hot water systems. In Myanmar’s cool season, this means starting your day with cold, low-power showers.
A home water pressure pump and shower heater are good investments and can be readily sourced in most electrical stores, whose staff can assist with installation.
Protection against insects
Myanmar is home to a large mosquito population, which can enter even the most sterilised of properties. A tennis-racket shaped bug zapper will keep them at bay, and a mosquito net will prevent evening bites or disturbances. Both items are widely available, inexpensive and effective.
By making sure your residential property has these amenities, you can mitigate the difficulties posed by the country’s infrastructure issues and enjoy life in Myanmar.
About the Author:
Moe Zaw is managing director of Myanmar Deals Leasing, a Yangon real estate agency aimed at the corporate and diplomatic market.
For more information and to see available properties, visit myanmardealsleasing.com