Last year, we saw only about 300 to 400 visitors a day, most of them Burmese, with only a handful of foreigners. Now, we see at least 1,500 visitors a day, including about 200 foreigners. [Editor’s Note: Local shopkeepers gave similar estimations. Due to eased restrictions on internal travel, there has been a sharp increase in Burmese visitors, too.]
However, I haven’t seen my life change much at all. I don’t sell many more hats than I used to. The local businessmen who own tour companies ensure that tourists are driven directly to shops that they or their friends own. So street vendors aren’t profiting much at all.
Tin Tin Myint taking a tea break from her work as a street vendor.
While some people become richer and richer, for most of us here, our lives remain quite difficult. I earn between 2,000 and 4,000 kyats a day [about 1.50 euros to 3 euros]. This is not enough to make ends meet. My husband died four years ago, and I have three daughters to support. I have to borrow money from others every month to feed them, and I pay a very high interest on the loans. We live without electricity, and bathe in a stream. Many street vendors here live like me. Often, parents can’t afford to send children to school, and force them to work in restaurants, tea shops or as porters for tourists. Some children are even sent to beg in the streets.
A young woman working as a porter for tourists.
Personally, I don’t know how much longer I can pay for my children’s school fees. I think I’ll soon have to take them out of school, too.