With that severe lack of work-life balance in Singapore, we are perpetually fixated on the next vacation to tide us through work blues. I had the privilege to travel to 8 countries in 2017. A very special year for travelling indeed. Well, this post is dedicated to my trip to Myanmar.
They’ve been known to be an insular country, but to really know a country’s culture, landscape and people, you’ve gotta go there in person and immerse yourself into the life there first hand. Put aside the pre-conceived notions that media reports on the Rakhine crisis seek to shape. Walking along the streets, you will not see soldiers in military garb, or pro-democracy protests clogging up the streets. Yangon was pretty peaceful. Grab functioned perfectly, bringing us from the airport into the city.
The roads were jammed up with cars. While I was deep in thought, absorbing the sights and sounds of the city through the rear windscreen, a knock on the car door nudged me back to consciousness. And there was a man peddling jackfruit and pears in the middle of a traffic jam. Very interesting. Politely declining the offer, we set off into the city, where we spent the next half of the day loading up on carbohydrates at Rangoon Teahouse, where we had a taste of Burmese-Western fusion food. The place was humming with conversations among expats over lunch, glasses clinking, cash registers ringing. We indulged in good comfort food- the briyani and local milk tea, before making our way to Sule Pagoda in the scorching midday heat.
Yangon’s a lot less humid than Singapore, which makes travelling on foot more pleasant. We took off our footwear as a gesture of respect before entering the temple compound. It was a blinding lot of gold for my eyes to take in, with the blazing sun hung high in the sky, and intricate Buddhist architecture and towering spires bathed in gold.
After that, we made our way to the bus station, where the overnight bus would take us to the Inle region for our hike.
Their bus station was teeming with backpackers, scrambling to clean up for the day. Charger ports had plugs cables streaming out for a last minute battery top up.
Our first taste of original Burmese food, was during a food stop 3 hours into the bus ride. We had Nanjitoth, some kind of local Mee Goreng. I had some noodle soup that I hastily ordered in my famished state, and found out later that if could very well be pig skin broth. *gags*
Aroused from my sleep a few hours later, I was told that we had reached Kalaw. The bitter chill stung me out of my drowsiness the moment I got out of the bus. I only survived the trek to our hotel because of my down jacket. Squinting at the GPS screen and rustling along the gravel path in pitch darkness, gave me an odd sense of satisfaction, that I had attained ruggedness.
As with most tourists, we made it a point to wake up at 5 to catch the Kalaw sunrise. The Ombre tones painted a beautiful start to a day.
The pine trees with acorns were a pretty sight to behold from our dining area. Here’s me striking a pose with the pine trees as a backdrop.
We started our cafe-hopping adventures, first at a a vegetarian cafe that served wonderful guacamole, bruschetta and chai tea cake.
Guacamole will feature in many of our meals I will describe later, inspiring me to replicate that flavor back home. Dinner was at a cozy cafe New Simple Life. They served wholesome homemade Chicken Spaghetti and pumpkin soup with a drizzle of olive oil, made from produce from their backyard farm. If there was one thing they benefited from British rule, it was the Western recipes they had inherited while serving their colonial masters.
We started the trek into the hills of Kalaw early. The terrain was slightly rocky and uneven. I immediately regretted not getting a proper pair of trekking shoes. I thought I would just wear a pair to throw away since the road was going to be muddy. Well, it felt as if my worn-out Asics were on the verge of falling apart with the grind. The universe sure does not put a premium on ignorance, for a first time trekker. I kept my eyes on the ground because the uneven terrain was hard to manage. Thankfully, the lunch of Chapati and Guacamole, revitalized my senses for the rest of the trek.