A Travellerspoint blog

More Chapatis Please!

And a few to go too!

sunny 37 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

Mandalay. What a town. We left the beautiful garden capital of Yangon the other day and have been touring around the last seat of Royalty of Myanmar for a couple of days. We had been following the Lonely Planet guide book to find some restaurants and shops and such for the past few days but had little luck. Either places had moved or they were closed. The Lonely Planet redeemed itself though with an author's choice pick for an evening restaurant. A streetside chapati (wheat flat bread) stand. Ohmigod! These things are awesome. The first night in town we went to eat and I had 3 chapatis, chicken curry and dal and a tamarind dipping sauce. Jen had some fried veggies, dal. tamarind sauce and a double fried egg with hers. It was fantastic but it was too much even for me. Last night, we went looking for a place to eat but did not see anywhere that really grabbed our eye so back to the chapati stand we go!

With slightly more self-control, I stayed to only 2 chapatis and Jen had 1. We were getting up very early the next day to ride to the Mandalay Hill that rises NE of town right out of the plains, so we packed up some dal and 2 more chapatis to go. We are probably going to go there for supper again tonight, and likely when we pass through again. A good enough reason to come to Mandalay...for sure!

But there are many more. Today for example, armed with our trusty, and not very rusty, push bikes, complete with fenders, we rode out to Mandalay Hill at 6 am to watch the sunrise. We were able to get there just before sunrise and watch it come up as we climbed the many stairs on foot. At the top we rested and soaked in the beautiful view. After that we decided to head down to the ferry that would take us up and across the Ayerawaddy River to Mingun. A village that has several old temples and what would have been the world's largest Pagoda but it remains unfinished. The world's largest (90 tons) intact, ringing bell is also there. We decided to take some back roads along Mandalay's streets and found ourselves bumping along the alleyways and side streets of the port and sawmill district. The smell of teakwood dust in the air was actually quite nice. We did receive many quizzical looks as I think this was not "typically" part of the tourist route. We looked quizzically back though as we were pretty lost a few times. We got to the Jetty with lots of time to spare so the boat captain pointed us to a tea shop across the street.

At the shop, we created quite a stir as the young boy who came to take our order did not speak english and he was very excited to try to decipher our hand gestures and english. He called to the shop owner who understood we wanted 2 cups of tea only. A few minutes later, a plate of samosas arrived. Yep, that's exactly what we thought. Our burmese/english and hand gestures are getting worse. But it turns out these are put out each morning to the customers and you pay for what you eat. The tea showed up a few minutes later. We were able to understand the price so for us, it was a huge victory! As we left they all were giggling at our "cei zu be" and "mingalahba"'s.

While waiting for the boat to be ready, we watched as the very busy river port was alive and bustling with trishaw drivers, loaders, goats, and pretty much everything else you would imagine. There are many "rustic" trucks in Myanmar and they still have a hand crank start and huge open flywheel on the other side. The trucks are able to haul quite a lot but don't appear to have much for a braking system. One fellow had sand on the back and it was so heavy that he could not get up the little hill to the street on the first try. To keep him from rolling down the hill, a young boy runs beside him to throw rocks under the back wheel to hold him in place! After he went up, a man with hand pulled rickshaw came down the hill hanging on for dear life as his massive load of 45 gallon drum barrels tried to push him into the river. Pretty exciting to watch over tea!

We got to Mingun with little effort and were instantly greeted by many vendors trying to get us to pay for them to guide us, tell us which shop was theirs or buy one of the many souvenirs we had already seen elsewhere. They must have been to Vietnam for training because they used every trick in the book. Ask questions about you to build a relationship, send their really cute kids to visit with you while you walk and failing that, pretty much follow you till you bought something. It was here we decided to take the 174 steps and free scramble to the top of the Mingun Paya ruins to escape. It was very peaceful. In light of this new found peace and quiet, we sought out further refuge from vendors. So we went walking through their village which is off the tourist track then stopped for tea at a small local shop at the village edge.

After the hubbub of the vendors died down, we headed back out onto the road where Jen said, " We should take a Ox cart ride back to the boat". I couldn't have been more suprised to hear those words come out of my wife's mouth. Animals in a harness, made to do work for humans, and us riding not moving under our own power. I could not believe it. It was a lovely, bumpy ride that was made to feel very authentic as the ox pooped as they walk only inches from the edge of the cart. Thank goodness for the clever design.

After seeing the rest of the sights we went for a beer at a small restaurant overlooking the river. Three young boys greeted us upon our arrival and promptly made their way to clean up a chair for us. After we sat, one of them who spoke very good english got us a beer and the Lonely Planet phrasebook ( which has had very few phrases correct when I use them) actually had one right for once. The boy saw that we wanted peanuts too and he understood! Two language barriers broken in one day. Definitely time to quit while we were ahead. The boys, Toos, his cousin Cho Cho, and friend Kyaw Zin, all started talking to us and were quickly telling us stories. How at 12 years old, they were going to Mandalay University to study engineering. It was fun so they laughed at our burmese and visited with them back and forth for quite some time. At one point, they came back with a cigarette and offered it to us. This wasn't the first time we were offered cigarettes by kids while eating in Mandalay! We also had a small lunch before leaving. At the end of it all, we could not help but pay the exorbitant price they charged us because it had been so entertaining. We were also likely the only customers that day as ours was the last boat to leave the shore.

All that before 1 pm today. Following this hectic schedule, we are heading for home or a beer station before returning to have chapatis again tonight for supper. If you weren't sure, Mandalay is a very cool place.

Posted by jented 00:00 Archived in Myanmar Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

New names, new world!

Ming a la bar from Burma!

sunny 37 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

We are in the Motherland as Ted calls it! We arrived in Rangoon on Tuesday and were overwhelmed with the welcomes and generosity!

Our day books are very full with social engagements and therefore we haven't had much time to email! Let me give the run down!

First of all, Ted and I love the beautiful parks and the city of Rangoon...it was great to get out of the Backpacker world of Bangkok! Yangon (Rangoon) has a lot of the old British architecture and the parks are immaculately maintained. As is the Shwe Dagon Pagoda (the most famous Rangoon landmark)...We are just a short walk to the Pagoda!

The first day, Diana and Megan (Ted's second cousins) picked us up from the airport and helped us with some organizational things (ie., you can't change money at a bank , you must go to a Money Changer and they only deal in currency as high as 1000 kyats = $1 US....It was very interesting!). They took us on a brief tour and out for lunch! They are wonderful ladies and they were so excited to see Ted and meet more family! Diana works as a Travel Agent and Megan is a lawyer.

The next day we went to their house for lunch and met their older brother Robin. They spent the entire morning making us some of the best food ever! (Shrimp curry, mutton curry, pennywort salad and many others... before serving great banana pudding and congyabaung - a great glutinous rice dish). We had a great time sharing pictures and stories! The meal was typical Burmese (I think we were there for 4 hours!). That evening we went out with our friend, Kya Kya's sister and husband (Melody and Than Tun) and had more wonderful food!!

The following day was tonnes of fun as Diana took us on a tour of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. We made offerings to the Buddha (there is a Buddha that you pray to for the day of the week you were born). We also laid gold leaf on a Buddha. We were really excited to go to the Astrologer that Diana has visited. She was amazingly accurate and gave Ted and me wonderful fortunes. Apparently, we are a very lucky couple (because we were born on Wednesday (Jen) and Monday (Ted)). She told us many interesting things! She also gave us new Burmese names that mean that we will grow and become famous!

That afternoon we located an old school friend of Ted's dad, Don. Percy and Don grew up together in Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin). We met him and he treated us to an afternoon of Kachin beer, great Dagon beer and many funny stories. We spent several hours becoming slightly tipsy in his living room! He and his son, Kim took us for lunch and by the end of the day we were exhausted!!

Friday, The full moon holiday, was low key as Ted and I went to a lake and had a picnic! We had another great walk and spent the evening with Melody, Than Tun and Daw Kyi Kyi. We had an amazing meal of many of our favourite foods!

We are so lucky to be in Burma. It does feel like you step back in time. Monks line the streets, everyone wears longyi and people first stare at us and then smile! We are definitely off the beaten track. We are really excited to go back to Diana and Melody's tomorrow for Mo Hinga (one of my favourite meals).

Signing off for now....Aye Chan Myint (Jen) and Hein Tet Zaw (Ted)!

Posted by jented 22:46 Archived in Myanmar Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Fast moving monkeys and man eating fish

Our Trip to Kanchanaburi and Erawan Lake

sunny 37 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

After settling back in Bangkok and finding a fabulous new guest house (Roof View Place). I got sick again with Traveller's Diahhrea. We decided to hang out in Bangkok until Wed. morning (March 12). We took the train to Kanchanaburi and found a great little guest house on the Kwai River. Smells and food was still causing my stomach to revolt so we played it easy the first day....heading down to the Bridge over River Kwai and having a light supper.


The next day we decided that the best way to beat the heat is to ride bikes and find museums that were cool. We were both really interested in the Burma-Thai Bridge that the POWs built during WWII so we headed to that museum first. The museum was impressive and we really began to understand how atrocious the situation was. The POWs were building a railway with an impossible schedule, in impossible terrain with horrible conditions. In fact, the workers in the most dire circumstances were the Burmese, Malay and Thai workers who were promised contracts and improved working conditions. The cemetary adjacent to the museum was very well kept and many POWs from Britain, Australia and the Netherlands were buried there.

We took our pedal bikes (they don't move very fast but they are sure better than walking) across the river into the country side to visit the Chong Kai Cemetary. We had our PB and banana sandwiches (we finally found wholewheat bread!) and picnic along the river. We were finally entertained by a group of Asian tourists as they cruised by on a Karaoke Barge! We took that as a cue to get going.


We finished the day at the JEATH War Museum. An interesting collection that Monks put together. The museum covered everything from prehistoric Thailand to Miss. Thailand costumes! We felt like that was full day!

The next day we spent on a tour. We are somewhat opposed to tours but decided that it may be the best way to see several things out of town in a short period of time. The other travellers were Kiwis living in Australia and were great to hang out with. We stopped at Erawan Lake National Park. We had until 11:30 to see the falls and swim. The hike to the falls involved 7 different levels ending at 2200m high. We kept hiking as the park wasn't very busy and we thought we could find a pool that was empty (our philosophy is to get away from Tourists - even though we recognize we may actually be one of them!). We ended up swimming at a few levels. The pools are filled with fish and they are definitely hungry as little and big fish (piranha - as Ted, the fisherman, believes them to be) started biting at our bodies. Some of the fish were at least 12 inches long! We decided there were just love bites and tried to igore them. We knew we were tough and couldn't be scared off by fish.


We felt the pressure to get going so we descended and half way home we were thrilled to see monkeys on the path! We took a few pictures and the whole family came out to play on the handrail. We knew that the monkeys were proned to steal things but we didn't have any food so we made an attempt to get past them. Ted was first. He looked the monkeys in the eye, and all of the sudden he had one on his arm and two nipping at his ankles! I freaked out (as did the Kiwis behind us) and ran up as two monkeys were biting at my ankles! We narrowly escaped them and survived intact! It was a close call but once again defended ourselves against these vicious beasts!


We spent the night hanging out with the Kiwi couple, Jamie and Hannah.

We were really excited to head out the next day as we rented a motor bike and packed another picnic and headed back to Erawan Lake. We really wanted to hang out without time restraints. Ted has become a very proficient driver! We had a blast that day...no monkey encounters but the fish still thought we were yummy. We had an awesome picnic and decided to visit an Elephant Refuge Park on the way home. We did meet some Elephants but disappeared before the big Bus Tour arrived.

We really enjoyed our trip out to Kanchanaburi! We also found out that our Burma Visas arrived in Bangkok so we headed home the next day (Sunday March 16th) to pick them up and enjoy St. Patty's day in Bangkok at the carnival (Khao San Road)!

Posted by jented 20:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Farewell Vietnam

A short entry

rain 27 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

Well we made it out of Vietnam in one piece last night. At one point it became a bit questionable. A good rain started in the afternoon then quit for a few hours. During this reprieve, we grabbed a cab to this great outdoor restaurant for rice panckes and rice rolls with shrimp and bean sprouts. Both were excellent. As we got up to leave it started raining lightly and how fitting was that, as if Vietnam didn't want us to forgot that it rains (after spending many biking days thoroughly soaked) it started to pour, and I mean POUR!!! Streets and intersections were over knee deep in places and our taxi was stuck in traffic enroute to the aiport. A few other vehicles were stalled and being pushe out of the way and I could hear the sound of running water sloshing against the underside of the car. And then our driver saw and opening and decided to go for it! He stepped on it and luckily made it through without stalling but then more water ahead slowed our progress again.

Finally, without much further delay we got to the airport and boarded our lovely 747 back to Thailand. It was also nice to be on Air France as we finally felt able to understand a the flight staff's language completely rather than just the usual words we can pick out like "two", "chicken", "please", "excuse me", "thank you".

With one last adventure, were out and we are stuck with the memory that it rains in Vietnam.

Posted by jented 00:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

The fast paced life in the Big City

sunny 32 °C
View Our trip through SEA on jented's travel map.

We are far from the sandy beaches of Phu Quoc! We headed back into Saigon yesterday morning and were on the road for 12 hours. We took a shuttle to the bus stop in Dong Doung (Phu Quoc) to board a bus to the the ferry terminal to get on a ferry (the SuperDong - no kidding!) to get a motorcycle taxi to a bus in a back alley to take a 6 hour ride to the bus station in Saigon to catch another taxi to our Guest House! Yeah, that is what we thought!

We were so proud of ourselves for finding a way to get back to Saigon in one day by buying two tickets from this Travel Agent on the island. We were less impressesd when we got off the ferry. We were told that we would have transportation to the bus. However, when we got off the ferry we met a couple from Sweden who also had the same tickets we did. Apparently, the "private" bus company pays motorcycle taxi guys to transport us to a back alley! We didn't even have time to think and collect our thoughts before we were manhandled into a mini-bus - into the back seat where four of us sat (with our feet on top of our backpacks) with limited air conditioning and Vietnamese music for 6 hours! The driver thankfully turned off the music when we asked as the speakers were next to our ears! I'm not sure how familiar you are with Vietnamese music but it is best appreciated when the volume is low and in small doses! Needless to say, it is always benefical to see what you are buying before you pay!

We actually did have a nice end to our Phu Quoc trip - we went Scuba diving on Thursday. We did two good dives - the visability was limited but we did see some jelly fish and an eel and some other lovely fish! We celebrated with a hot pot that night at our funny little resort!

Today is a new day and Ted and I are ready to get back to Thailand! We have had a blast in Vietnam but the amount of motorcycles is beyond me! Today we went and had fresh bread (and our first bagel) at a nice little coffee shop with a mango shake and Vietnmese drip coffee. We headed to search out a massage school. The massage therapists are all blind! It was fun! The sweet girl that did my massage was only 17 years old! We are going to search out one more good restaurant before heading to the airport!

Tam Biet!

Posted by jented 20:17 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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