Where to Sleep as a Foreigner

Myanmar has a system of licensing hotels and guesthouses for accommodating “foreigners”. This means that not all guesthouses and hotels here are able to take in foreigners even if they want to – unless they can afford to get the licence.

As a researcher the issue is the same, the category “foreigner” still applies. As anthropologist the ideal working condition includes staying with a guest family to reach a deeper understanding of language and culture as active participant of family life.

The University here has a guesthouse, so for the moment I am fine. But it also means a 30-45 minute motorcycle ride to my field sites. Without motorbike there is a dependency on mototaxis and due to my current stage of Myanma language this does not always work out. Discussing times and meeting places at an unfamiliar place with a less systematic approach to street names and house numbers can mean some pitfalls.

So in total, I see my situation critical as I cannot involve completely at field sites but also the campus life doesn’t offer a chance to do so: Especially after 6 p.m. when the pitch black night has already arrived and there is no street lights on the surrounding roads it gets difficult to go out without a motorbike or the like. Not even the hostels of the other teachers on the other side of the campus seem in reach and they return home before the dark. And at my guesthouse I am the only guest because it is exclusively for foreigners. There is also no kitchen or shared room, so inviting others for more then a tea doesn’t work either.

Possible solutions would be finding another place in the city, where there are street lights and neighbours (which is difficult as mostly a contract of minimum 6 months is necessary and I had the spectacular idea of doing fieldwork at two sites, so staying here less than 4 months and making my research life a little harder) or a mix of sleepovers in nunneries and temples, where they also host pilgrims, and my staying at the guesthouse and being mobile with a motorbike.

It consumes quite some time and I hope it is normal that it takes a while until one is settled and things run more smoothly…

Where to Sleep as a Foreigner

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