Sidewalk booksellers have long been a common sight along Yangon’s main thoroughfares. Merchant Road and Pansodan Street used to be the main “book streets” until 2016, when the Burmese government relocated over 70 vendors in an effort to clear the pavements.
U Win Hlaing has been selling books ever since he gave up being a bus driver 12 years ago. After being forced to relocate from Pansodan Street, the 50-year-old can now be found plying his trade on 37th Street, close to some of the city’s leading bars, cafés and galleries. Here, he tells us more about life as a bookseller in Yangon.
“I set up shop at 7am and close at around 5pm, regardless of the weather. I actually seem to sell more during the rainy season.”
“I have to read a lot of books. It’s important to know what we are selling, so we can recommend titles to our customers.”
“My books are chiefly sourced from suppliers, everything from novels to comics; sometimes, authors also visit and give me a few of their works as a gift.”
“Being a bookseller isn’t hard, but if you ask me if it’ll make me rich, the answer is no. I make just enough money to feed my family and support my children’s education. But I am happy.”
“Books are full of information, and I enjoy sharing this knowledge with people.”
This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.