Night markets are becoming a new craze in Yangon. “Signature Night Market,” which was held at Yangon’s People Park in December, was so packed full of visitors that all the seats in the dining area were constantly occupied. The event organizers planned on hosting another event on Jan 4, 5 and 6 at the same location to replicate its success.
Let’s compare our markets to Thailand’s. Themed night markets such as Thailand’s “Bangkok Night Markets” are also rising in popularity among the young festive visitors. Renting a space at such markets can range from 50,000 kyats to 100,000 kyats per night depending on the location. In Chiang Mai, there are night markets which are open every night. The famous Sunday market is held weekly by closing and converting the kilometer long stretch of road into a night market. There, one can find a myriad of intriguing shops like the DIY tee shirt shops where you can choose which design you want on your t-shirt and they make it in front of you.
However, night markets in Yangon are held on an ad hoc basis, and are mainly focused on only selling food. There are some stalls which sell clothing, but overall, there is a very limited shopping experience. Local handicraft stores, handmade goods, and other creative products are very few in number.
Markets and night markets is a great way to promote tourism as well as to boost income for the locals. Visitors can learn more about our culture, and at the same time shop for local “Made in Myanmar” products. It can also promote arts and handicrafts since this will potentially provide a venue for small businesses to thrive.
The Yangon government has taken the first steps to relocate and bring together food stands on Strand Road, but a more structured market designed to attract both locals and tourists is greatly needed.
Potential venue for such market can be created by transforming existing large markets such as Bogyoke Market, closing a road weekly to convert into a night market in the evening or holding regular events at one of the large public parks. Key factors for its success would be accessibility, vibe, safety and convenience.
Another issue that needs to be address is food safety. Even locals have great concerns regarding hygiene when it comes to Myanmar street food. The organizers need to properly install amenities and utilities, as well as schedule frequent maintenance. Gloves and clean running waters are essential, as well as training for cooks on how to prepare and preserve food hygienically. Certificates can be given to those who has passed the training to ensure quality control. There also needs to be regular inspections. All these controls and services definitely don't come free, however, it’s an investment in the country. It provides for a long-term sustainable solution where everyone has a great experience, these requirements are definitely crucial for the success of the markets, and the reputation of Myanmar’s tourism in general.
A carefully designed and managed night market can do much more than generate revenue. It can build communities, promote entrepreneurship, and provide a much-needed space to hang out and relax on weekends.
Min Thein is a Myanmar repatriate who is currently working at a leading bank in Myanmar as corporate communication associate. He graduated from Roanoke College (USA) in 2016 with Cum Laude (distinctions) in Bachelor of Business Administration with double major in Arts. Min has experience in business development, marketing, branding and communications. Min works closely with the senior management for a number of key initiatives including handling content development for annual reports, website, press releases, speeches, letters and presentations.