Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Culinary Experience - Yangon, Myanmar

Train Station - Yangon

Tasting local food while traveling is a must!  Otherwise our trip will not be perfect… 

These two soups are the common soup for breakfast in Myanmar; Moh Hijn Gar and  Kyar Zan Chat soups.

Moh Hihn Gar is fish soup with rice vermicelli (bee hoon); using cat/butter fish in thick soup mixed of onion, soya sauce and condiments such as crispy corn crackers, coriander leave, chili and two other fried stuff which I have no clue what they are...
Moh Hihn Gar, fish soup
Kyar Zan Chat soup is bean vermicelli (mee hoon) with clear soup mixed of chicken, types of mushroom such as black fungus and regular white mushroom, slices of boiled egg, soya sauce and as condiments are coriander leaves and chili.

Kyar Zan Chat, clear soup
The similarity of Myanmar and Indonesian food is that both like deep fried food!  Yes, many things are deep fried and that what makes food is crispy and yummy... 

Ohn Noh Khauk Swae
Ohn Noh Khauk Swae is another Myanmar soup for breakfast. The ingredients are yellow noodle, soup is made of coconut milk with chicken. Similar condiments like any other soup. Or is it just me who put those condiments in my soup? LoL. As i like coriander so much, I added these leaves to my soup with no regret... It gives extra flavor to my soup.

Without having any reservation, I walked to Monsoon at Theinpyu Road for early lunch. Luckily, a table was still available. However, big tourist groups arrived after me, so definitely reservation is a must. 

Logo of TripAdvisor was sticked at the front of the restaurant. That's how I found out about this place!  It is situated at a nice old building.  Restaurant is in the ground floor and bar is above. Plus there is also an NGO office "Helping Hand". 

Fried Tempura, vegetable @ Monsoon
Vegetarian fried tempura is crispy and with its in-house sauce, it became perfect. 

I decided to try the fish cake with tomato sauce. Eat it with warm rice and it is so good. The coriander leave gives good flavor. 

Fish cake with tomato sauce @ Monsoon
Ca phe sua da, iced Vietnamese milk coffee is available!  It isn't just Vietnamese coffee, but it is Trung Nguyen coffee! 

Ps; both Kyat or US$ payment is doable. Anyway, a money changer is situated within a few meters only.

Le Planteur

Within his busy schedule, my wonderful Mr. Right, Mr. MK (his business counterpart) and I went to Le Planteur.

Clock wise: foie gras, ravioli tomato as appetizer, green outdoor garden
& beef or lamb? I couldn't recall, but I recall it's yummy!

Please note that reservation is a must.  The restaurant is situated in a big green garden with a nice old house. Cute decoration with old cars! Inside the restaurant lobby, there is display of jewelry for sale too. 
As in the fresh weather that evening, we sat outdoor under the stars… 
Clockwise: cheese platter, yummy cake, dessert platter & another yummy cake!
All food tastes good!  I like the way they serve the “cheese” and “dessert” platters.  Two persons bring the trays/trolleys closer to the table and guests can choose… what a luxury… 
Interior part of Padonmar @ Yangon

As recommended by the hotel concierge we went to this restaurant. The concierge girl is so smart, it wasn't only giving info about this place but she also called the taxi and bargained for us.  Yup, taxi in Yangon does not have any meter.  All is based on negotiation i.e. bargaining so we have to know the average price.  
Soup as appetizer
Padonmar is situated in an old house and big garden.  Tables set up outdoor to cater groups.  Without having any reservation, we sat inside.  Indoor area is also nice...

I started with virgin mojito which is two thumps. 
Selection of our main course
Ordering Burmese set menu is a good choice for lazy couple like us -J. The restaurant offers Thai food as well. 

Two main course dishes are chicken and prawn curry, watercress and mushroom sautéed and cauliflower salad.  As condiment; deep fried wonton (pangsit goreng) and pickles. 
Fried banana with honey sauce
(bilang aja pisang goreng....)
Dessert, couldn't leave without one, was fried banana with honey... 

In overall, it was a good experience and service.  The staff is friendly and helpful.

Caramelized apple cake & latte
@ cafe near our hotel, Yangon

Saturday – Learn Lessons

Saturday was our last day in Yangon, so we decided to take a walk to Bogyoke Aung San market to buy Aung San Suu Kyi’s mug that I had not purchased the days before.  It was my silly ego.  I thought the vendor would reduce the price, and/or I would find other vendor who sells better quality mugs…

Here’s the story about the mug and Bogyoke Aung San market Shopping & Visiting Religious Sites

We walked to the market and found out that it was closed!  “The market is closed on Saturday”, people said in that road.

I was speechless.  Mr. Right was disappointed.  I felt so guilty of not buying that mug.  Five days in Yangon, I didn’t see any vendor selling such mug except two ones in front of that market.   
Birds - utility pole - blue sky - Yangon
Nothing else I could do except saying millions of sorry to my loved one. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time to a couple of days earlier, stood in front of that street vendor and bought the mug… He took me to Yangon during his busy meetings, all what he wanted was a mug, and I didn’t buy it. Hiks…

Life goes on...  I was not left behind in Yangon though -J  Thanks dear!

Railway, Yangon. View of the train station from the back (white building)

..... So long Myanmar… Thanks for the wonderful experience and learn lessons…

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shopping and Visiting Religious Sites – Yangon, Myanmar

Sightseeing continued and so did the shopping!  It was a good excuse as Mr. Right forgot his cufflink for his meeting.  

Luckily there are two jewelry shops in the hotel, one of them has two sets of silver cufflinks which are decent quality but such US$ price do not match with their quality. So I decided to walk out of the Hotel...

Bogyoke Aun San Market or it used to be called Scott Market
Travel trip: must bring sunglasses, hat, umbrella and fan!  Sunblock might be good too.  Perhaps it is time to try Tanakha powder… It is secret of the natural beauty of the Burmese girls which is further enhanced with flowers and cheeks brushed.

Poster in a local theatre, see the girl on the right who's wearing Tanakha powder

Bogyoke Aung San market in Bogyoke Aung San road was my destination. On my way walking there, I followed my intuition to stop by at Traders Hotel. It is located in the cross section of Sule Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road. The jewelry shop has three sets of gems cufflink. The jade ones look nice. Mission accomplished!

Street painter in front of Bogyoke Aung San market

I continued my jalan-jalan and shopping to the main destination which is the Bogyoke Aung San market.  My guess is that this market is similar to Ben Thanh market in Saigon or Chatuchakin Bangkok. I was right. It is where the tourists go for souvenir and stuff.

Bring enough cash for shopping in Yangon! Kyat is the local currency
This traditional market is sometimes called as Scott Market as its British name.  It is occupying an old building and accommodating 2000 shop owners selling gems, jewelry, clothes, sarong or locally known longyi, souvenir, art and everything else such as girl hair stuff and even food… 
Inside part of Bogyoke Aung San market
The two-storey building itself; exterior shops are bigger and nicer condition with air-con or fans, interior shops are more crowded with no air-con.

Beautiful umbrella
The appropriate dress code would be knee-high pants and t-shirts!  Bargaining skill is also good.  Based on my experience, the shopkeepers are polite and do not seem to be pushy. 
Among all of the textile shops, I noticed Batik clothes. I came closer to pay more attention, how beautiful they are, colorful in different patterns... Decent packaging in plastic, but wait...the logo on the plastic is familiar to me... It looks like...Batik Keris! Indeed it's Batik Keris from Indonesia!
Food vendors at Bogyoke Aung San market
Some jewelry shops has signs government license. It is safer shopping in these shops.

Myanmar T-shirts for souvenir
In front of the market, there are a few street vendors selling t-shirts and mugs with Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama pictures.  There is also street painting, old coins, and food sellers.   

Should I buy Suu Kyi’s mug?  As Mr. Right had said that he would like to have one as souvenir.  Curiously, I asked its price and the seller did not intend to lower the price.  So I walked away…  There would be another seller, I told myself.  But, the other seller had only the ‘black & white’ mug and they are not so nice.  Oh well, I still had time in Yangon, maybe I would find it somewhere else.

One of the building nearby Bogyoke Aung San Market
At the opposite side of Bogyoke Aung San market, there are also a lot of street vendors along the street.  It looks like flea market, some counters sell second hand books.  No Suu Kyi’s mug was seen... I started to worry...

The Reclining Buddha - Chauk Htat Gyi

Reclining Buddha - Chauk Htat Gyi

This is the second Reclining Buddha that I had ever visited after the Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand.  Here’s more story that I wrote about it Thailand, visit the most popular highlights of bangkok in one day

Reclining Buddha, Yangon

Chauk Htat Gyi and Wat Pho are different in style and size.  The Wat Pho Reclining Buddha is 43 meter long.  Meanwhile the Chauk Htat Gyi is 70 meter long.

Feet of Reclining Buddha, Yangon

Anyway, pic of this two Reclining Buddha tells explains all…

Reclining Buddha in Yangon (left) & Bangkok (right)

The work on Chauk Htat Gyi was started in 1899. It was extended and modified during construction.  Extensive reconstruction completed in 1973 extended the length of the image to what it is now.

The Monestery of where the Reclining Buddha is

The Botataung Pagoda

The lady at the Tour Desk told me that this pagoda is well-known by the locals.  It was first built the time as was Shwedagon Pagoda—according to local belief, over 2500 years.

Entrance of Botataung Pagoda

Small shops around Botataung Pagoda

I found there are two interesting things here.

First, the pagoda is hollow within, and houses what is believed to be a sacred hair of Gautama Buddha. 

Buddha Bronze Image at Botataung Pagoda
Second, it is the Buddha’s bronze image. It was made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and lead in different proportion.

Andrew, my tour guide, told me an interesting legend about it.  This Buddha’s image was cast from Mandalay Palace in Myanmar and was shipped to Britain by the British Army in 1888.  The image was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

This bell was made in 1913
It was finally returned to Myanmar as per order of Queen Victoria, the Queen of Britain.  Andrew said that in the legend, the Queen had dreams of this Buddha’s image.  The same dream happened three times in three continuous days, and that that caused her headache when she woke up the next morning. 

At the end, this Buddha’s image was returned home, to Myanmar, in 1951.
Botataung Pagoda
Home is a place where our heart belongs.  Even though I enjoy traveling to different places, deep down inside my heart, there is always a place that I always call home…

My mind wandered...

Could I go home without Suu Kyi's mug that I hadn't bought for my loved one?  No worries, I'd buy it on Saturday before we meant to leave Yangon...  

Next story – culinary experience in Yangon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sightseeing in Yangon, Myanmar

Sightseeing is always an exciting thing to do.  It is even more exciting in the first visit.

Yup, it was my first trip to Myanmar. The country is opening up! 
Sule Pagoda (left), City Hall (right)
Try to check the hotel room rates in Yangon and you will be amazed.  The demand is high and the number of hotels remains the same.  The room rate of five star hotels is probably around US$ 250-300/room/night.  Please note, the condition of five star hotels around the world varies.

Do you see many birds at the lamp?

Thanks to Google, I gathered some information in advance of the places I wanted to visit in Yangon.  I just walked out from the hotel and turned right leading to a bridge.  As from this bridge, I could see a pagoda (temple) at the end of this big street.

Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda is situated in the center of Yangon, or to be exact it is at the roundabout of Sule Pagoda Road and Mahabandoola Road.  It is a busy area where cars and buses pass by and people cross the street.

The Mosque at the opposite side of Sule Pagoda
Anyway, crossing the street in Yangon is not a challenge.  Have you tried crossing the street in Saigon?  All the best for the newcomers! 

Sule Pagoda is said to be over 2,000 years old.  It has always been a religious and historic site.  The Pagoda is open for public with an entrance fee of US$2 or US$5, I can’t recall, my apology.

Pigeons in front of Sule Pagoda
There are a couple of women at the main entrance of the Pagoda who offered foreign visitor to feed the pigeons.  I often see pigeons flying around the Cathedral, but it was the first time I saw pigeons in front of the Pagoda.  It gives the same effect though, the peaceful atmosphere.

Sule Pagoda (back entrance)
The surrounding area has a few interesting attractions.  When I stood up at the back entrance of the Pagoda, I could see the City Hall cross the street.  The white building that was constructed in 1926 and designed by Burmese architect still looks elegant.

Independence Monument

I walked a little bit towards the Mahabandoola Park and saw the Independence Monument.  It is where the Independent of Declaration was signed, when Burma became independent from the British Colonial.

Its shape, an obelisk with a height of 46 meters, somehow reminds me of the National Monument in Jakarta, my home town.

I continued walking and saw Immanuel Church, and next to it is an ancient colonial style building that apparently is the High Court.

High Court

The Court building is very eye catching due to its red brick.  At first, it looks like a church to me.  In front of this Court, there are many street vendors selling food and drinks.

Cling cling cling... Did I hear church bells?  Tettt, wrong answer!  The sound is coming from a street vendor who is selling sugar cane juice!  The guy just puts bells at his small machine to squeeze the sugar cane!

While walking around Yangon that whole morning, I noticed Yangon still has the clear blue sky!  Some pics became more beautiful with the gorgeous natural blue color in the sky. Hope Yangon stays the same... Please keep the pollution level low...

Shwedagon Pagoda

Andrew, my tour guide says that if you have not visited Shwedagon Pagoda, you have not visited Yangon. I must agree with him.

Light to be switched on when it's dark
Shwedagon is 99 meter high and the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese. It has existed for more than 2,600 years, according to legend.

Sunset at Shwedagon
Best time coming here is at sunrise or sunset.  I visited the Pagoda just before the sunset.  The entrance fee costs US$5 for foreign visitors includes camera fee.

There are four entrance gates: south, east and north that are facilitated with elevators except the west. 
The west entrance was closed for many decades due to fire destruction in 1931.
It is now reopened, and is the longest of all the staircases, with 166 steps.


Andrew took me around the Pagoda.  He has good knowledge about Myanmar history. 
What is his educational background?  Yangon University, the Faculty of Myanmar History! 
His previous work was in F&B department of a Hotel in Yangon.

He asked me to stand in one particular spot somewhere in the Pagoda.  It is a little bit far from the crowd... 
When the sun hide from the earth...
when it started to get dark at sunset...
when the light was switched on…. 
See that tower with white light?
“Look at that light at the top of that tower. What color do you see?” he asked.


“Move one step forward. See that again. What is that color now?”


“Now, move one more step here. See that now? What’s that color?”


Amazing!  The same light at the same tower keeps on changing color depending on where we stand. 
Surprisingly, that change can only be seen with bare eyes.  I tried taking pics, my camera couldn’t capture that changing color.  All looks white. 
Andrew confirmed, it can only be noticed with bare eyes.

Peaceful prayers at sunset at Shwedagon Pagoda

I guess some things can just be appreciated naturally without sophisticated technology.

Thanks for taking this wonderful pic, Andrew!
Next?  More stories on Myanmar continue including the culinary experience…