By Jared Downing
It’s Friday night in Yangon, and you want to go on a bar hop. So what if the city shuts down at 11 p.m.? Is a little curfew going to kill your fun? No way.
All it takes is a little planning and a little viceful creativity. Since I have neither of these qualities, so I called on Frenchman Jean Curci, former party planner in Shanghai who revived the formerly defunct Mojo bar into an award-winning nightlife hotspot. These are some of Jean’s tips:
Plan, plan, plan ahead
“There’s not much room for improvisation,” Jean told me. Sometimes the best spots are few and far between, and the last thing you want to do is waste the night trying to direct taxi drivers.
Plan for three phases: Pre-hop dinner, bars and finally night clubs.
Aim for one-stop shops
Yes this is a little counterintuitive to the bar-hopping spirit, but in Yangon, night might only include one or two hops. No problem—sometimes less is more. Look for places that offer dinner then cocktails then music, like Fahrenheit, Escape and, yes, Mojo. “You start in Mojo, you stay in Mojo until midnight,” Jean bragged.
In America they set out at ten.
In France, things barely get started at midnight. But in Yangon, shoot for an early dinner and launch the crawl at around 7 p.m., leaving a good four or five hours to play with.
Aim for happy hour
“People are fighting for the longest happy hour,” said Jean, but we’re the ones who win. A happy “hour” might last until 9 p.m., which is a very happy hour indeed.
Know what you want
Jean poo-poo’d the legendary 19th street bar cluster: “If you are a poor journalist, then you go there.” Well, I happen to be a poor journalist, and I think 19th street, famous for its glowing holes in the wall and sizzling BBQ’s, is heavenly. The important question: Who do YOU feel like tonight? A beat poet, maybe, or a refined diplomat? This table will help you chart the course.
The once-defunct spot on Shwegondaing Road and Inya Road rose from the ashes in with rustic-pop décor (think: classic movie posters and antique doors) and an armful of Myanmore Awards. It has a short but sweet menu of Asian/Western fusion dishes, shisha and imported cigars.
This small, under-the-bridge Lebanese joint at Shwegondaing junction is Yangon’s definition of classy-yet-casual. It sports a robust wine and cocktail list and its delicious gourmet tapas are perfect for a dinner that lasts all night.
Or the Roof Liquid Alchemy Bar, to use its full name, is Yangon’s new experiment in “molecular mixology,” i.e. colorful, mad scientist style cocktails that foam and sizzle. It isn’t cheap, but with its neon-lit vibe (featuring glow-in-the-dark hookahs), it has style.
Bar & Grill
The place to end your night if you find yourself stuck downtown, this reggae bar packs live music, Rastafarian décor and, of course, the presence of owner/legend Mario Ebanks. Go out with a blazing, tri-color “Flaming Marley” cocktail.