The Race for Rangoon

After decades as an international pariah, Myanmar is suddenly open for business. Whether you think it’s ready depends on your appetite for chaos
Street life on Anawrahta Road Photograph by Christopher Wise for Bloomberg Businessweek

On a sultry afternoon in May, Richard Friedman sits in the back of a 1990s Buick with faulty air conditioning, mired in traffic in downtown Yangon (formerly Rangoon). The rainy season in Myanmar—also known as Burma—has just begun, and the sky is a leaden gray; the temperature is pushing 95F. Friedman, one of the highest-profile American investors to be lured by the siren call of this newly opened Southeast Asian country, peers out at a sweep of colonial-era buildings, many of them derelict. We drive past the old British Customs House and the former Pegu Club, where Rudyard Kipling spent his only night in Burma, in 1889, while traveling from Calcutta to San Francisco. The stories he heard there inspired his poem “Mandalay.”

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