Only in Yangon: Looking for ear cleaners?

/ 05:40 AM December 17, 2018

YANGON — Ear cleaners, roadside plumbers and typewriters for hire: Just a sample of the antiquated jobs found on the pavements of Yangon’s Pansodan Street, where old-world businesses still find customers.

For years, tourists have been fascinated by odd trades in Yangon, from cycle trishaws swerving through traffic to roadside clerks going clickety-clack on typewriters.


Some professions have become victims of the political and economic reforms that started in earnest in 2011.

Iced water sellers melted away as improved power supplies made fridges viable; bus conductors lost out in the revamp of the city’s transportation network; and landline phone stalls are a relic in the mobile era.

But Pansodan, the beating heart of Myanmar’s biggest city, remains home to obscure professions and evokes nostalgia among those who have plied their trade for decades along the potholed pavements below aging colonial architecture.

Built by the British and once called Phayre Street, the downtown artery runs south from the train station to the river, where traders arrive by morning ferry.

Sitting among plungers, pipes and a spare toilet lid serving as an advertisement for his services, Min Aung is a veteran of Yangon’s small army of streetside plumbers who still find work in the rapidly modernizing commercial capital.

“As long as there are toilets, there is work for us,” the 58-year-old said, puffing a cheroot as morning traffic whooshes by.

Close by is Khin Ohn Myint, 47, who provides quick manicures, fixes ingrown toenails and syringes ears to remove wax buildup.

“I didn’t have money to invest in other businesses, so I did this for a living,” she says, smiling.

Earning around $10 a day, she has put her children through university so they can pursue other careers.


She says she enjoys helping relieve people’s suffering and has even had to remove the occasional cockroach from a customer’s ear.

“Pansodan is a historic street for us,” she says as she digs out a piece of dirt from under a customer’s toenail.

The street is also famous for its pavement booksellers whose offerings include everything from 19th-century literary classics to tomes on Myanmar’s real estate laws and taboo subjects like the Rohingya crisis.

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