The latest and greatest Coconuts Originals: Yangon dump fires, Singapore LARPers, Bali volcano refugees, and nervous Uber drivers in Hong Kong

This is the latest story in a promotional series about our new membership and subscription program COCO+. Subscribe to Coconuts today, before our Special Introductory Offer price ends on July 1.  

Late last month, at a garbage dump outside Yangon, under meters of waste, a fire was quietly burning out of control, sending noxious fumes into the surrounding village.

The fumes sent dozens to the hospital, but no one in the English-language press seemed to be reporting on it. No one, that is, until our Coconuts Yangon editor traveled out to the fire, pulled an N95 mask over his face, and went about finding out what exactly was going on.

When Coconuts first launched in 2011, we quickly earned a rep for bringing you the wildest, funniest, most outlandish stories in Bangkok … then Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bali, and, most recently, Yangon.

That reputation was well earned. Hell, it still is. That story we ran last September about penis-shaped waffles? No shame. Why? Because it was laugh-out-loud funny and that’s part of what we do. What a lot of people don’t realize is that stories like those are just that — part of what we do.

Covering news like the Yangon garbage fire — which we finally brought to the attention of international news outlets — is just as important a part of our mandate.

When Mt. Agung in Bali was still smoldering, Coconuts was on the side of the volcano interviewing displaced villagers; when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was closing the tourist island of Boracay, Coconuts was talking to the small business owners most affected by its closure; and when Bangkok’s ancient Mahakan Fort community was torn down last month after years of legal squabbles, Coconuts was there to document its final day.

In the past year, we’ve made it our mission to crank up the volume on those kinds of stories — award-winning original content with that same unique voice you’ve come to love over the past seven years.

That means digging deeper than ever to bring you the stories — the touching ones, funny ones, controversial ones — that you won’t find anywhere else.

Ever wondered what it must be like for Uber drivers working in a city where what they do isn’t even legal? We did. That’s why we spent weeks building trust within that community so they could tell us exactly what they were going through to give you a ride when you can’t hail a cab.

Ever wondered why the faces on Southeast Asian TV are so much … well, whiter than the ones on our streets? We did. That’s why we spent the better part of a month visiting so-called whitening clinics and interviewing people addicted to the process. Quite honestly, it was heartbreaking, but it was also an incredibly important story to tell.

In just the past few months alone, we’ve introduced you to (foam) sword-swinging Live Action Role Players in Singapore parks, Hong Kong domestic workers who toil as journalists on their one day off, and a little-known female warlord in Myanmar named “Uncle” Olive Yang.

And this week, while local Malaysian media was sleeping on it, we were bringing you the details of former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepdaughter’s eye-opening social media attack on her own family.

Our editors are also fearless when it comes to sharing their opinions about the social issues and trends shaping our region. We promise you’ll hear our voice loud and clear when it comes to standing up for the little guy, even when that stance isn’t necessarily popular.

In Indonesia, we recently tackled the issue of discrimination in job ads. When employers demand applicants be young, pretty, and of a certain height? That’s illegal, but it’s also incredibly common. That’s why we asked government officials and human resource professionals alike why it’s being tolerated.

We also weren’t shy about asking our own readers to think about their own attitudes toward the domestic workers in their homes and whether using terms like “helper” and “maid” only makes it easier to exploit a workforce that’s already incredibly vulnerable.

And when a popular drug store chain used black face on a model as a way to signal “unattractiveness,” we opened up with both barrels (and will the next time they do it as well).

In the last three years, we’ve even won three Society of Publisher in Asia (SOPA) Awards for our original stories, which you can read herehere and here.

In the year ahead, you can expect to see not only see more opinion pieces that challenge the status quo, you’ll see more original, one-of-a-kind stories of every stripe on Coconuts. Everything from investigations, to social media scoops, to local videos, to some of the best writing you’ll encounter on the food, lifestyle, and travel scene.

Oh, and waffle-shaped penis stories. Those, too.

Chad Williams is Editor in Chief of Coconuts Media. 

Read more about the launch of our COCO+ membership and subscription program below: 

Say hello to COCO+

7 reasons why COCO+ may very well be the most spectacular membership program this planet has ever witnessed

In defense of paid content, or how we learned to love the paywall

9 things that cost more than joining COCO+