Thursday, the 12th of May: marked in our agendas as probably the most important day of data collection. This day, the stakeholder forum would take place at the Green Haven hotel in Kalaw. For the past one-and-a-half week, we have met so many people who have shared valuable information with us about our research topics – either in Kalaw, Pindaya, or somewhere along the trekking routes. And now, finally, the day has come to share our initial findings, and discuss them with our stakeholders. The day started off with a nice 30-minute walk to the outskirts of Kalaw where the meeting would take place. After tackling the usual technical obstacles and discussion on where the beamer should be to get the best result, everything was set for our presentations.

Our well-prepared translator, with whom we had practised the presentation the day before, eventually did not have to translate as all visitors spoke English. While she could enjoy some free time, the three groups shared their findings with the audience. We can conclude that there is a lot of potential for future development in the tourism industry. For example day-tours to Pindaya can be made more diverse by adding new activities such as a honey-tasting. For the Kalaw to Inle trek there are opportunities to involve the local community more. And with regard to souvenirs there’s potential to focus more on traditional, hand-made products.

Kalaw_Focus_Group3Kalaw_Focus_Group2After a tea-break with spring rolls and cake, the audience split up into three focus groups (“interactive conversations”). This allowed us to ask more indepth questions. The focus groups were really interesting as the respondents could react to each other’s comment. People from Inle Speaks were also present; Inle Speaks is a community awareness and communication program. One of their activities is offering English language training to tourism professionals in Kalaw. Those representatives had substantial experience with the tourism sector providing a valuable contribution to the conversations.

One final group picture and the stakeholder forum was closed. And therewith our field research of IFP 2016!

When the stakeholder forum was finished, we were invited by Inle Speaks to join them to their school. We were welcomed by a group of students who were singing songs (in English, of course). Some of us waited hesitantly whereas others sang along with ‘We are the world”. After this musical highlight, the group split up; some stayed with the ‘singers’ to collectively answer the barrage of questions. The others went to another room to have a conversation with local students in small groups. Since it is the low season right now, there are few tourists in Kalaw for them to practice their English. After basic questions such as ‘Where are you from’ and ‘How long do you stay in Myanmar’, the topic changed to their culture. The Kalaw region has many different ethnicities. They told me about various traditions which was not only interesting but also very helpful for our research on souvenirs! We ended our visit with a jam-session together with the local students. Myanmar has shared its beautiful culture with us for the past 2,5 weeks; we tried to do the same by singing “Het is een nacht” and “Brabant” by Guus Meeuwis. I am not sure if they regretted asking us to sing something in Dutch… But Myanmar people are much better (and louder) singers!


After all the blood, sweat, tears and even more sweat, Lieke and I decided to end this day on a recreational note. One of our supervisors in Kalaw – Marlo, who has been living and working in Myanmar for the past 1.5 years – pointed out that there was indeed a local swimming pool in our town! Finally we could cool down in the right-temperatured water. And with a karaoke-machine in one of the cabins surrounding the pool, there was no shortage of music either. A wonderful way to end the day!

Thanks again to all the travel agencies, trekking guides, hotel managers, shop owners and translators we have talked to. Without you we would not have been able to conduct our research! Also a thank you to our supervisors Marlo, Malena, Erdinç and Sebastiaan, who gave us feedback and tips on how to do research in Kalaw. And last but not least, my fellow students who were in Kalaw all this time. Sharing information on which hotel to avoid and what restaurant to definitely visit; we had a lot of fun!

For now: Tata, Kalaw; Mingalaba, Yangon & Thailand!

Authors: Saskia (with the help of Marijn)