March 27, 2015

money in Myanmar

perhaps one of the stranger things in Myanmar is the paper money  

back in 1972 there were bank notes for 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 kyats [yeah it looks like you could say cats but the right way to say it is 'chat' but i thought they were saying 'jot' so that's how i say it]. in 1985, the 25-, 50-, and 100-kyat notes were demonetized [that means worthless] without warning, though the public was allowed to exchange limited amounts of the old notes for new notes.  the same year 75-kyat notes were introduced, the odd denomination chosen because of dictator Ne Win's predilection for numerology and was followed by the introduction of 15- and 35- kyat notes.

35 kyat front
two years later, the government demonetized the 25-, 35-, and 75-kyat notes without warning or compensation, rendering some 75% of the country's currency worthless. seriously? this is an all cash economy. it's 2015 and i can't use a credit card except a few locations and less than 5% of the country has bank accounts.  can you imagine if all your paper money suddenly became worthless?  then on September 22, 1987, banknotes for 45 and 90 kyat were introduced, both of which incorporated Ne Win's favorite number, nine. WTF?

american dollars have always been in demand here.  but only some american dollars.

i've never had a good explanation of why other than 'the governement insists' as to the acceptance or refusal of dollars but they insist dollar must be pristine. all of the below american dollars, which i brought with me from the states, were rejected.  any stain, crease, fold in the corner or GOD FORBID a pen mark is reason to reject dollars.  it's pretty common to see foreigners [not just americans] screaming at a vendor in the market or some other tourist site about their american dollars being refused.

i've never seen such pristine american dollars as i see here.  seems like they must get them directly from the Federal Reserve.  they are such fresh notes that you'd never get them in the US.  i speak from experience. knowing the dollars are an issue  before i left the US i went to six banks before i found a cache of fresh $1 bills.  try it next time you are standing in front a teller.  if your bank can give you fresh $1 bills, i'll bank there.

what you can expect in return are these.  disgustingly dirty, dingy, crumpled kyat notes.

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