Myanmar Voyage

As promised, I’m trying my best to cosy up my posts during this festive period.

You know… speak of things closer to home… avoid those top-10 restaurants type of food posts…
So I thought it would be a good time to chronicle a wonderful trip, taken earlier this year with my cousins.
To colourful Myanmar…
with breathtaking landscapes, littered with ancient temples…
dusty, busy city centres…
and idyllic lakes, with floating villages…
bamboo forests…
mountaintop temples…
and of course…
The food!!
Yeah baby…!
Before you continue, please make sure you have time at hand to enjoy this photo-rich holiday post.
Rather than break it up into a series of posts, I’ve put the whole trip into a single photo-story.
Cousin trouble organises the best holidays, they’re never cookie-cutter tours, we prefer going off-the-beaten-track.
And this trip had a bonus, we got to see cousin Dom who lives in LA! This banquet-like meal in Yangon was like a reunion meal, some of us had not seen Dom for more than a decade!
Our money changer experience was hilarious. It was at the back of an art gallery, very ‘secret gambling den’.
We started off in Yangon, a bustly city, but Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon still remained a beautiful oasis of quiet and contemplation.
Because there were ten of us, we were the entire tour group!
So it’s very personalised, the same guide right through the trip, and a bus to ourselves.
The tour took us through a number of local markets…
We asked specifically for local food, so the guide took us to places more frequented by the Burmese.
Many of our meals were wonderfully banquet-like. Trillions of dishes… all shared.
And great sauces that pack a punch, with fresh garlic, chillies….
The denominations in Myanmar Kyat are oddly small to the point of being funny. This 69,000k lunch needed a really thick wad of notes! Sometimes, the staff would just eyeball how tall the stack is, and accept it.
We visited a Toddy plantation on the way to the mountains. This midday “La Phet” snack of pickled tea leaves and assorted nuts was delightfully refreshing. Good with tea.
We should bring home this concept and offer something like this for Chinese New Year!
This village scene is my favourite picture. That’s a giant catfish in the basket.
This scene’s taken from the base of Mount Popa.
Our resort at Mount Popa was beautiful, with stunning views of Taung Kalat temple, perched atop an outcrop of rock.
Climbing up to the monastery was quite an effort though…
…but the view was really peaceful.
Temples have this air of calm and reverence about them.
But we’re not quite that ‘holy’, so to speak. Here’s us enjoying our toddy liqueur (made from palm sap) as we watched the sunset from our hotel balcony.
Even in the morning, the view’s so breath-taking.
But the next leg of the trip was what we came to Burma for.
Located in Mandalay Region…
We really wanted to visit the ancient city of Bagan.
I read about Ananda temple in art history books, and was happy to finally walk on its sacred grounds.
Bagan was beautiful as a landscape, magnificent little spires poking out of the mist across the endless plains.
But the temples had a lot of touristy activity, including kids who’d learnt fast to pose adorably for photos, and then instantly turn ugly in the face, demanding photo-money.
That sort of spoiled our experience there, but thankfully we had food to look forward to.
At a buffet-style local restaurant in new Bagan.
Part of the tour included a horse-drawn carriage across dusty sand roads, to the sunset stupa.
The steps up the stupa were quite steep, and quite harrowing.
Even the monks felt a joyous thrill climbing it.
But yes, the views of Bagan from atop the stupa were beautiful. Such breath-taking landscapes.
And so different from Angkor Wat. In Angkor, everything was covered by jungle so you can’t really have this kind of panorama.
We were next taken from the hot dry plains, towards cooler climes…
Into Lake Inle.
The lives of the peoples here all revolve around the lake.
There were floating villages,
and floating farms…
Even our hotel rooms were on stilts, over the water.
And the Inle people power the oars with a very unusual technique. They use their legs with a strangely hypnotic movement.
At such a young age, these kids already do it perfectly.
I think we enjoyed the food in this region of Burma the most.
Fascinatingly different. That’s cardamon root at the bottom of the picture.
This is Shan rice, light and refreshing.
This stuffed whole Inle fish was amazing, so much coriander inside.
The food’s just so wildly different at these local places, I really loved it.
There were no cars in Lake Inle. The only way to get anywhere is by boat.
The tour really took us quite off the beaten track, I think.
Right into the heart of water villages. Here, the kids aren’t spoiled by tourism. They were genuinely happy to see visitors.
But even when you feel you’re really far away from the world
A small cup of tea is always around the corner, for tourists, anyway… :p
We went further out the next day…
And the boat took us through scenes like this
And this…
At a fishing market, these kid monks were so cute in their bright red robes.
But they once again asked for photo-money, brats.
Speaking of money, the currency in these distant villages gets a little grubby.
Once again, the guide brought us to another random location for an interesting meal.

He helped order unusual dishes,

like this delicious pickled tea leaf salad,

cardamon root salad,

And this nutty green tomato salad, yum!
We found that Burmese food had more parallels with Chinese cuisine rather than Malaysian, Vietnamese or Thai.
I hold magical memories of Lake Inle.
Dragonflies skimmed the lake
in a mating dance.Romance could be found
within the bob of the hyacinth,
hidden behind curtains of reeds.The mud river mountain gives fruit
to villages, floating tomato gardens,
and a fisherpeople way of living
that’s both difficult and beautiful.And what I remember most:The hypnotic dance of sea-sturdy legs
steering oars, that almost
lifeline like twist-and-pull: the
pelvic fulcrum of Inle fishing life.
We spent our last days back in Yangon.

It’s a chaotic city.
It’s a buzz that’s interesting to experience.

And I’m glad us cousins got to experience it together…
So many things to see that’s different from my home,
that’s why we go on holidays for,
to see a different side of things.
Thanks, cousin trouble, for bringing us together, and organising this culture rich holiday.