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The place is dimly lit. Not to hide anything, but to save on the electricity costs and heat I imagine. The walls are covered by what look like brick. On closer inspection, it’s wallpaper. Blocky, ‘digitized bricks.’ I imagine it came from a Windows 95 background wallpaper. Seems fitting, though I doubt it was planned as a tongue-in-cheek joke for nerds like myself, most likely it was cheap.
This is where I’m working out of these days. As a digital nomad for the last two years, I’ve found myself in plenty of interesting places to work, but none quite like this little cafe in Mrauk U.
Mrauk U was once a kingdom, but things change over 500 years, and now it’s little more than a village with a bunch of temples in Western Myanmar near Bangladesh. This is the town’s first internet cafe, a hole in the wall with 16 computers to share. The internet cafe is called “Skynet II.” I find out the first Skynet is in Yangon. This is its first week open for business.
The manager runs an Ethernet cable with the absolute worst crimping job I’ve seen in my life to my laptop, he pops in a few IP addresses into my network settings and I’m connected. The internet speed is faster than it was yesterday, where I imagine it was close to 1K/second.
Checking my e-mail and sending a few off took 90 minutes, and accessing Facebook and Twitter wasn’t happening. Today it feels much faster. I even run a speed test.
The internet comes in via satellite connection. The modem is leaning against a wall, and a fan is pointed at it to keep it cool. I ask the manager how fast it is. 1 Megabit?
“Oh no no no, 256K” he says. In hindsight, I’m surprised it’s that fast.
An hour of computer use here will run you 1000 Myanmar Kyat. That’s about $1.20USD. Expensive by the standard in the country, where internet access is still scarce except in the cities and is usually half that price or less. To keep it in perspective, the average person around here makes about 1000 Kyat in a day.
The speed is brutal. No tech news in weeks, just emails and a quick log in to mobile Facebook to keep the bandwidth down. Not ideal for an entrepreneur dealing with year end duties for a company back home, a new blog about technology for travelers (ahem), and other online projects.
But still… at least it’s an internet connection.
Read more on the state of the Internet in Burma / Myanmar.