Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Hin Lai O

With publishing power centres in Yangon and Mandalay, there are very few bookshops to be found in the smaller towns across the country. Kalaymyo, a former Shan town on the northern edge of the hills that mark the beginning of Chin State and only a couple of hours drive from Tamu on the Indian border is probably the last place you would expect to find a bookshop to rival any in Yangon.

Its name, Hin Lai O refers to the popular four curry pot in Burmese cuisine, a dish with many varied ingredients and a not so subtle reference to the wealth of genres curated by the owner.   Burmese literary fiction and non-fiction are all represented, as well as a dedicated section to books in the Lai Hakha and Siyin ethnic Chin languages (there is a large Chin population in Kalaymyo, many from the Teddim and Siyin groups), religion (bibles and korans), philosophy, poetry, self-help.  4 curry pot is apt.

Towards the counter on the left, there is a freestanding shelf with a lovely collection of books from Burmese writers in English, including a couple of works by ethnic Chin writers that I have never seen in the shops in Yangon.  The prices are no more than what you would expect to pay in the major cities which is surprising given the cost in trucking the books up from Yangon.  The shop itself is very well known amongst the writers and publishers in Mandalay and Yangon, a testament to the owners love of literature.

If you find yourself in Kalaymyo, it is well worth a visit.  From the airport, turn left and follow the road for about half a mile, it will be on your right.  If you reach the police station, you have gone too far.

Address: Bogyoke Aung San Road (Airport Road)

Tel: 09 250641998/09968240830