Sunday, 13 December 2015

Joie by Dozo - Edible Eye Candy

I’m a meat-lover, the idea of a meatless meal had never appealed to me. Yet last week WHO is pretty much suggesting meat causes cancer, not just processed stuff, even a good-looking dry-aged premium quality steak does no good to our bodies. I somehow find it hard to believe. Anyhow, Mama Chan is a fan of rabbit food, so treating her to some fancy vegetables makes sense.

Joie by Dozo served modern vegetarian cuisine. I was skeptical, and I know Papa Chan would too if I had told him, so I didn’t mention ‘no meat’ to anyone. We were led to a private room overlooking the rooftop garden. The decor was not to my taste, the patterned lacquered walls, mini chandeliers that look decidedly acrylic, just look a bit cheap, trying-too-hard and outdated. It was okay by Asia standard. Service was excellent though.

Amuse Bouche crushed iced passionfruit juice
A refreshing passionfruit juice to whet our appetite.

Starter: Chef’s selection of Assorted Platter of Pickled Carrot, Seaweed Cracker with Horseradish cream and Whole-wheat cracker with Raspberry compote
The carrot was presented to look like salmon sashimi; the texture was slightly crunchy with a sweet undertone behind the gentle acidity. The mild kick in the smooth horseradish cream masked the seaweed flavour well, so even Papa Chan ate his. My favourite was the raspberry compote, neatly contained in a thin jelly film and exploded its tangy sweetness in mouth.

Transparency of Manchego Cheese cherry tomato, bell peppers, croutons, walnut and black olives
We all ordered something different from each section, so we could try more dishes. Though very pleasing to the eye, there was little surprise in terms of flavour, the powerful cheese took on the array of pairings. I liked it with black olives most, but obviously preferred it with Spanish bellota jamon. Oh sorry, no meat.

Gratinated Champignon with mozzarella button mushroom gratin served with Tennessee heirloom potato puree and Belgian endive, focaccia
This wasn’t as exciting as it sounded on paper, it was baked cheese and mushroom in a snail dish, minus the snail – can’t go wrong.

Matsutake Cake steamed Japanese mushroom with rosemary gel, golden enoki and crème patissiere, pistachio crumbs
Matsutake is a small Japanese fungi, usually quite potent in flavour with a delicate fragrance, though it’s quite subdued when infused into the sponge. It worked well with the clear rosemary jelly and the silky cream helped to moisten up the cake. I quite enjoyed the subtlety of this dish.

Tempura Platter on Mash charcoal coated yam, eggplant, apple, banana with Japanese orange sesame dressing
The charcoal tempura drizzled with gold paint looked… interesting, I guess they were striving for the black shiny stone look. The batter was paper-thin and greaseless, unfortunately so was the eggplant and apple so it was like eating very crispy paper; the citrus sesame dressing was delicious, like yuzu but slightly punchier.

Clear Tomato Broth with Garbanzo tomato and chickpea with orzo pasta and spinach dumpling;
Infusion of Cepes and Truffle cepes mushroom perfumed with white winter truffle oil and black truffles;
Pumpkin Velouté pumpkin velouté with tomato ciabatta and edible petals
The soup course was lacking surprise; each soup was good and tasted as it should. The mushroom soup was probably the least interesting; tomato broth was marginally better with a swimming dumpling.

Snow Pear and Napa Cabbage Consommé double-boiled rich vegetable stock with baby pear and almond
This soup won the best presentation. It resembled slow-cooked Chinese soup, the taste was clean and crisp with hints of fruity sweetness.

Truffle Risotto risotto with black truffle, cepes and edamame with mascarpone cream, parmesan crisp
I have had quite a few truffle risotto, and strictly speaking this is ‘risotto with one small flake of truffle’; there was no trace of truffle fragrance at all – it was purely for illustrative purpose. I prefer my risotto in a thicker consistency, this version was quite watery and was not dissimilar to mushy rice. I think the kitchen could have done better, though the mouthfuls with mascarpone was delicious.

Hedgehog Summer Mushroom braised and fried monkey mushroom with oriental spices, celeriac puree and truffle foam
This chunky blocks of monkey mushroom is the closest texture to meat, like braised lean meat. Despite the juiciness, it was still quite a grisly fungi, partly due to its thickness; Mama Chan took her time chewing through the well-seasoned blocs. 

Duo Ravioli Platter duo of pumpkin and spinach ravioli, flower emulsion, basil cream sauce
The ravioli were good, though again, slightly overcooked; I preferred the pumpkin ones as they had a more distinctive flavour than spinach. The basil cream sauce was beautifully rich and thick, Papa Chan really enjoyed it.

Trio of Sphere wild rice with lentils, butternut pumpkin risotto ball with curry mayonnaise, asparagus bundle with butter mash
My trio of tasters was probably the least substantial main. Despite the enticing presentation, it was quite disappointing. The asparagus was just asparagus on a bed of mash; the quinoa was exactly how you’d expect quinoa to be, mixed with small cubes of mushroom; the risotto ball was undoubtedly the best of three, where pumpkin and mild curry flavours complimented each other, packed with some stretchy cheese in the middle.   

Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Indulgent, bitter-sweet chocolate fondant can’t go wrong

Cheese Cake
Both Papa Chan and I went for cheesecake. It was a good cheesecake.

Truffle Crème Brulee
This was really good. The custardy egg was infused with small bit of truffle, the fragrance was remarkable.

Iced Mallow Apple Melody mallow flowers, apple and guava juice
While Papa Chan and Auntie Amy decided to go for boring coffee, Mama Chan went for a refreshing pot of iced apple tea. Delicious.

Mocktail of Love cranberry, orange and pineapple
And I finished with another iced drink served in test tubes, on ice.

In general we all enjoyed our lunch at Joie. I believe the alluring presentation made a huge contribution, as well as the excellent service, perhaps even more than the food itself. The ingredients were quite repetitive; various kinds of mushroom and pumpkin appeared multiple times throughout the courses. It’s somewhat understandable, especially when Singapore isn’t known for its wealth of food resource. I think the kitchen did well to deliver a relatively wider range in the menu. It was still more style over substance - totally up Mama Chan’s alley.

Me? I would probably still prefer a good burger. Oh, and no one noticed there was no meat.

181 Orchard Road
#12-01 Orchard Central

You may also like: Corner HouseLes AmisSaveur

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Soul Food Mahanakorn, Bangkok

There was no shortage of choices when it comes to restaurants in Bangkok. After crossing out Japanese, Korean, European and chains (it was only Day 2 in Thailand, we weren’t Thai-ed out), the list was somewhat shorter. Soul Food Mahanakorn came up on a few bloggers’ recommendation list, and the menu looked promising.

Nested in an abundance of Japanese bbq restaurants, hostels and massage parlours, SFM was a short walk from Thong Lo BTS station.  We booked a table for 8:30pm after an excellent massage at Diora, and the place was still packed – 90% of clientele was tourists / foreigners. I might have missed a trick by just reading travel blogs (– doh! what was I thinking). I was thankful when the waitress led us upstairs near the window, as the ground floor absolutely stank of sewers from the toilets. No idea how the other diners managed to eat through the stench. We started off with a couple of cocktails. His Sour Punch was refreshing though too bitter for my liking, preferred my Jai Yen Yen with passionfruit sweetness. For some reason we were struggling with the menu despite the variety; perhaps we weren’t hungry or we were trying to avoid items geared towards Westerners. And no, we weren’t going to choose a Burmese curry.

Yam Makrua Yao Sour, smoky Bangkok classic with grilled eggplant, soft-cooked duck eggs, mint, coriander, house-cured bacon
The thick strips of aubergine were plump with savoury and tangy dressing, smoked to spongy softness. The soft boiled duck eggs with the gooey, candied yolk accompanied the juicy veg perfectly, adding more texture to the strong flavours. This was our favourite.

Crab and Lemongrass curry with Rice Noodle Spicy coconut, lemongrass and fish and crab curry, served over fresh rice noodles with herbs and crispy vegetables
We didn’t expect this to be served as individual components, it was almost like Vietnamese dishes – makes it sharing and the assembly quite tricky on our small plates. The fish and crab have dissolved in the thick curry, leaving it quite sparse of substance. The taste of crab roe was very prominent, however, with its distinctive rounded creaminess and deep richness. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though; though I quite enjoyed it, it could have been better.

Southern Thai Fried Chicken Crispy, herbal Thai-style fried chicken served with spicy and sweet sauce and pickled watermelon rind
Having decided on a curry-based dish, we wanted something dry and narrowed the options down to smoked duck larb, lamb grapow and steak nahm tok and the chicken – we did rock-paper-scissors to conclude -.-

This reminded me the Korean chicken that have taken over the world; large chunky pieces of chicken with bones deep-fried in a seasoned crunchy coat, served with a sticky dip. The meat was succulent and well-seasoned even under the batter, and can’t really go wrong with the distinguished Thai sweet & spicy sauce. It was good, but nothing special – fried chicken afterall right?

The rationale for the pickled watermelon rind is related to Asian wisdom, where deep-fried and baked food are thought to increase ‘fire’ within our bodies, and disrupts the balance of elementary forces within us. The rind is thought to extinguish the flames and keep our bodies balanced.

We didn’t try their famous coconut ice cream, coz he doesn’t like coconut and we wanted to check out a night market.

Overall SFM was good; plenty of variety and the food was packed with flavours, though familiar flavours I would add. Given it targets tourists and foreigners, the heat and spice level was also tuned to Western palettes. Nothing wrong with that, just means it’s not that special as I could have this outside Bangkok. I suppose it’s a cool place to hang out with good cocktails, as long as they sort the toilet out.

56/10 Sukhumvit Soi 55
(Soi Thong Lor)
Tel: +66 0 2714 7708

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Bo.lan Essentially Thai, Bangkok

The highest ranking Asia's Top Restaurants is in Bangkok... serving Indian food. I’ll save that for next time. It’s been 10 years since I last visited Bangkok, Skytrain was only a vague idea back then. I decided we should stick to Thai cuisine, so I chose Bo.lan from the Asia's Top list and made a reservation a month early. As well as this being our first (hopefully) quality meal since Myanmar, it’s also a belated birthday treat - it calls for fine dining.

It was raining on the night so we didn’t see the garden properly, but we gathered it would be nice to sit outside for lunch. 

We were served a mildly sweet barley drink and three small baskets of nibbles: toasted rice, caramelised cashews and roasted monkey nuts, which were boiled to give a soggy and mushy texture. We didn’t have to ponder over the menu for too long, as there were only two to choose from: the more elaborate Bo.lan Balance or the simplified Bo.lan Brief. After 10 days of very average meals in Myanmar, the full menu sounds about right. We started with a signature cocktail, which was strong but refreshing, and a roasted coconut juice.

Our waitress gave us the option of Thai Spicy, Thai Medium or Not Spicy. Knowing my limits I went for medium; he Thai Spicy.

Ya dong grachai dum served with local sour fruits
I had no idea what the menu was describing. I still have no idea what it was. I think the shot in the cocktail glass was Mekong whiskey, I can only guess because I didn’t want our waitress to repeat herself for the fourth time. It was strong, like nose-scrunching, eyebrows-crookingly strong, leaving a glowing warm fuzzy feeling in the stomach. Perhaps the plan was to get the diners drunk upfront… The shot was followed by a pandan water cleanser to wash away remaining bitterness. That titbit of green sour fruit, dipped in chilli flakes and sea salt, was true to its name, its acidity pierced through like it had been soaking in vinegar since the beginning of time, cutting through the battle between salt and chillies. The something berry was also terrifyingly sour…

I can’t pretend I enjoyed this platter of chaos, but it definitely woke all my tastebuds.

Bo.lan amuse bouche

The ensemble of 5 canapes was simply delightful. From the fragrant, chewy black glutinous rice to the lemongrass chicken rice-cracker, each one was bursting with distinctive and delicate flavours, carefully constructed so that textures complimented each other. My favourite was the savoury egg pudding that was velvety smooth and lusciously rich.

We were served slightly different amuse bouche, arranged in a slightly different order too. He had the custardy steamed egg as a sweet finish after a gradual build-up of heat, while my spiciness plateaued half-way.

Single plate of the day – Spicy vermicelli salad
It was almost 90mins in and we were still on our starter; our neighbours were rounding off their mains. It was a thick vermicelli with tender slabs of pork and small cubes of pig’s blood jelly. The noodles were full of bounce and coated with the mildly spicy dressing, made interesting by the array of herbs. The Thai spicy version had more chopped chillies. I have noticed that local dishes here throw a lot of pig offals in the mix; I used to like offals when I was young, until I watched a documentary a slaughter house in China. These should be fine. 

Local fern salad & Phang Nga Bay prawn with shrimp paste dressing
It was a very crunchy salad with slices of fresh, bouncy prawns and plenty of herbs. The shrimp paste wasn’t as pungent as expected, it carried a distinctive fragrance from the fermented shellfish, toned down by the dollop of coconut cream. Mine was perfect, his had an edge with an extra handful of chillies, it felt like my throat was getting scratched by the devil’s trident.

The remainder of the mains were served for sharing

Stir-fried pork tender red curry, kefir lime leave and snake beans
We were served two different pork dishes; I had given up on matching the dishes with the menu. This one reminded me of double-cooked pork in sichuan cuisine. The thick slices of pork belly and loin slices were stir-fried with a thick chilli paste and snake beans. The heat was sharp and forceful at first, then left a tingling feeling on the tastebuds. It was pleasantly different to the coconut-based sauces.

This was the other pork dish with leaner cuts… Other than the meat being fairly chewy, I don’t remember too much of this… I’m guessing it was okay.

Relish of preserved rice simmered in coconut cream served with chicken stuffed young chilli and crispy eggs
I don’t recall any chicken in this dish but by process of elimination this had to be it. The coconut cream curry was buttery and full of mild spices, we were told to dip the chilli tempura and pickled vegetables on the side into the cream. The tempura have a fluffy coat of birds-nest batter that soaked up the curry, making it a very juicy bite. 

Banana leaf wrapped grilled curry of “KU” beef shank & betel leaves
The hunk of beef was reduced to dense mass of shredded meat with a generous spice rub. The beef wasn’t as soft and succulent as I anticipated, the meat was very lean as there wasn’t much juice; it was still quite good. What I really enjoyed were the ribbons of this unknown green veg. It was not dissimilar to seaweed in terms of texture, but the slithery strings  absorbed the herbs and fragrance from the leaf - delish!

Coconut based soup of sustainable seafood with a hint of turmeric
The soup was good, though I didn’t have much space left after two helpings of rice. The brown rice was particularly good, slightly sticky with more chew.


Our desserts were served with hot lemongrass and ginger tea

Dessert: Banana four ways
The four ways included mashed banana in coconut milk, sticky rice with banana, grilled banana and banana with coconut milk. I enjoyed it; he wasn’t a fan.

Petits Fours 
Our waitress lit a twig of pine wood and trapped it under a bell jar with the peanut brittle. The brittle absorbed the smoky aroma; it was quite christmassy. The rest of the board was much less exciting, a variation of very sweet palm sugar sweets and stiff jellies. Safe to say we prefer western-style petits fours.

We enjoyed Bo.lan; cooking was exceptional, showing off the broad range of Thai dishes beyond the usuals. Every course was beautifully prepared and presented (after the sour fruit attack), not to mention plentiful. The option to choose the level of spiciness was a bonus. Service was exceptional. As usual we took our time over dinner and the waitresses were great to accommodate our pace. The couple next door was already on their petits fours when we were half way through our mains, and they sat down half an hour after we did. I thought the dining room was quite chilly towards the end of the evening, our waitress unwrapped a new shawl so I could cover my shoulders. This somewhat supersedes them only semi-passing the napkin test.

Another great meal to remember.

House No. 24 
Soi Sukhumvit 53
Klong Toey Nua
Bangkok 10110
Tel: +66 2 260 2961

You may also like: Burnts EndLes AmisIggy's

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Mandalay ~ Sagaing ~ Amarapura, Myanmar (Burma)

We arrived at Mandalay after a 5-hr bus ride, most locals get off at Chan May Shwe Pyi Bus Terminal, about 10km south of downtown. The minibus driver took our hotel’s address and dropped us off at its door (Shwe Ingyinn Hotel). 

Famished, we set out for dinner. Before we made it to the night market on 34th street, we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall noodle joint, while we pointed to order, the locals stopped and stared; the glowing celeb caused quite a stir and I swear one of the waiters had a crush on him. We had dumplings and fried noodles, but like most of the food here, it was heavy with MSG. We still had space to taste all kinds of snacks from the night market.
A lot of stuff was deep-fried. As long as it was fresh off the grill or hob, we figured it’s least likely to kill us. He became best friends with the vendors quickly, particularly with a couple of ladies selling fried tofu and sweet melon. After an array of crispy and greasy snacks, which all tasted like fresh hot dough, we felt courageous enough to try some yoghurt, sold in two tins stored in a polystyrene box. The vendor mixed in some honey and topped it off with coconut shavings. I’m guessing he was popular as locals bought bags of it to take home. It was a good yoghurt. 
The other stalls were mainly selling noodles, most of which had Chinese writing as well as Burmese on their menu. He opted for a bowl of hot and spicy thick vermicelli. Unfortunately I react to MSG; a small amount is tolerable and I just get swollen and bloated; any more it's cold sweat, breathlessness and lethargy. Apparently sugar helps. I only tasted the noodles as I could feel the MSG building up. It's almost inevitable here, just eat more bread and fruit at breakfast.

On our way back to the hotel, we passed a local fairground, where he tested his football skills (we’ll blame it on the ball) and we saw the most primeval ferris wheel. The shaky wheel was packed with people crammed into steel cradles, and powered by a man running like a hamster inside it. It was like waiting for disaster to happen. The guys waved at us to join… I don’t think our travel insurance would cover that.

The next morning we hopped on a motorbike taxi to catch the 9am boat to Mingun. The motorbike taxi whizzed us to Gaw Wein Jetty in 8mins; would have taken longer in a taxi. Yea the road was dusty and the helmet was a bit loose, but I loved it – it’s day 1 on the back of a bike, of course I loved it. Ferry tickets at 5,000 kyats pp for a roundtrip; the journey takes 1 hour up Ayeyawady river and returns at 12:30pm, which left us 2.5hrs in Mingun.

‘Taxi’ is a loose term. At Mingun it refers to a cart with a straw roof, powered by two cows, moving marginally faster than a slug dragging through peanut butter. But I kid you not, there are takers. More in abundance than taxis were local guides who attached themselves and started showing us around to practise their English. We politely declined his company and were left alone. It’s a small town, we could manage. The 5,000 kyat entry fee for Mingun & Sagaing Archaeological zones, however, was unshakeable. That said I don’t recall anyone checking tickets when we went into Sagaing the following day… I suppose if we had walked along the riverbank and entered town via the white pagoda pass the checkpoint…
Like everyone else, we walked around Mingun Pahtodawgyi, aka the world’s largest pile of bricks. The king back in 18th century wanted to build the biggest monument, but his prophet said the king would die upon its completion. So it was left unfinished until the earthquake hit 50 years later, hence its striking appearance. We climbed the 174 steps to the top where we could see the bums of a couple of lions facing the river and a birds eye view overlooking the town. It was hot. Unforgivingly hot.

Then we made our way to Mingun Bell, the largest ringing bell in the world, and Hsinbyume Pagoda, which the king built in memory of his wife. It was supposed to mirror Mount Meru and its neighbouring mountain ranges – exactly 100 steps up to the top.

2.5 hours was just right; a few minutes to spare on the arts & crafts stalls and buying our third 100+. Mingun was charming; perhaps we were lucky in picking a quiet day, but I appreciated its tranquillity and it was really worth the half-day trip. 

Back in Mandalay, we hopped on a motorbike taxi to take us to the East Gate of the Royal Palace. We weren’t really sure where we wanted to go, but the general direction of Mandalay Hill was about right. Perhaps I’m uncultured, but I have never been a fan of museums and palaces, something about walking through rooms of artefacts and photographs make my eyes water from yawning… non-stop. And somehow all museums blend into one melting pot. We hadn’t decided if we wanted to see the palace, but lunch at CityMart was a sure thing. CityMart is a proper mall; aircon, restaurants, a Waitrose-equivalent and Chatime, yes, a fricking Chatime! He would never pass a Chatime:)

We had Kyae Oh at YKKO, one dry with pork and one in broth with seafood. The portions were huge compared to what we had on the street, plenty of pork strips and offal bits and crabmeat, around 4,500 kyat each. It was like vermicelli – quite good.
Two power-cuts later we had our Thai iced tea ice cream with banana and brownies at Ice Mania. The girl ‘chopped’ the ice-cream mixture with bananas (he was going to have kiwi, seriously, a kiwi Thai iced tea with brownies?!), then smeared it across the ice cold metallic surface, which instantly turned it into a sheet of ice-cream - It was magic! 
This was the first time we had seen it, later we found the same store in Bangkok. Finally, with a roasted bubble milk tea in hand, we made our way towards Kuthodaw Pagoda. It was a leisurely 20min stroll from CityMart, via a residential area where cows were living right next to people’s houses. 

The 10,000 kyat fee for Mandalay archaeological zone was sunk cost (I feel so intelligent when I use this term), apparently. Well, it includes entrance to all the main temples in the city and Amarapura, but no one checked when we went. We visited Shwenandaw Monastery, the teak temple with detailed carvings, and Kuthodaw pagoda, the biggest book in the world. Each stupa houses a slab of stone inscriptions with 2 pages of tipitaka - 729 stupas on site. It was quite special.

Then it was a race up Mandalay Hill. We could have taken a motorbike taxi… but why when we could walk?! He didn’t actually plan to walk… I have a feeling he obliged after I said I wanted to. They say the 1,729 steps take 45mins to climb; it was 5pm. Shoes off, we charged to the top, barely paused at the temples and buddhas along the way.

And we made it in just over 30mins, just in time to catch the glowing sun sink behind the mountains. 

A couple of motorbike taxis brought us back to downtown, the downhill ride in the dark was quite gripping. We had claypot noodles for dinner… same MSG story. For dessert, we wanted to try Htoe-Moun, a special sweet treat that could only be found in Mandalay. It’s a glutinous rice cake topped dried fruits or buttery crumb. Our hotel recommended Myint Myint Khin down the road, and judging from the local crowd at 9pm, it should be good. The girls at the counter didn’t speak English, but she served up a platter for us to sample.

The bits on the left to the front was Htoe moun, which was very sweet, very chewy and quite rich. My favourite was the moist custardy cake at the back and the fragrant banana cake in the middle. The crunchy jelly cake wasn’t my kind of thing. Though not the most delicious desserts, it’s quite a good souvenir to bring home.

We wanted to visit Sagaing and Amarapura on our last full day in Myanmar. Since we weren’t interested in Inwa (Ava), we took it slow and set out for find our motorbike drivers around 10:30am. May I introduce Laurel and Hardy…

Our drivers spoke little no English. We told them we wanted to tour Sagaing for the day, then to Amarapura to watch sunset. They both nodded with utmost enthusiasm and smiled and we agreed on a price. Off we went. 

Sagaing is far. The excitement of sitting on a motorbike was starting to wear thin, and it was a good 45min ride from Mandalay to Sagaing, if not more. We briefly stopped at a buddha academy and passed numerous monasteries before arriving Sone Oo Pone Nya Shin Pagoda on the top of Sagaing Hill. It was very similar to Mandalay Hill, except this was green. I think the numb bum and the heat was starting to get to me…

We hopped back on the motorbikes, thinking Laurel and Hardy was going to drop us off at the next temple on Sagaing Hill… but that would be too ideal. When we were crossing the bridge again, we stopped them to ask where we were going. They said something we couldn’t understand. We should have stopped them there - but we didn’t. Lo and behold, where did they decide to take us at 12:30? Amarapura! U-Bein Bridge! Where we should be at 4pm! Not now - at 12:30! I was so ready to unleash my wrath… 

After much pointing at the sun and the watch and the motorbikes, Laurel found an English-speaking local from the restaurant to mediate while Hardy kept flashing his advert-worthy smile on his lolling head. We finally agreed on a revised itinerary with a small top-up. Back to Sagaing. 

In hindsight, we should have written them a list of all the places we wanted to go, shouldn’t have assumed that they knew the main sights. The man made a very valid point that while we were having a lie-in, all the good drivers were probably taken by the early-birds who wanted to start at 7.

The Sri Lankan-style Kaunghmudaw Pagoda is quite far into Sagaing. Built 700 years ago, the enormous golden dome was only painted gold about 5 years ago by the military government, it used to be white to signify purity. I overheard the guide saying the locals weren’t happy about it. For Laurel & Hardy to think we didn’t want to visit this when we hired them for a day...

Then we made our way back up Sagaing Hill to U Min Thonze (Cave Temple). Since most people visit in the morning, as it’s right next to Sone Oo Pone Nya Shin Pagoda, the place was completely empty. That worked out quite nicely for us. If it wasn’t for the detour, we may have been able to see a bit more, but I was happy to have seen the main ones. 

For the second time we returned to U Bein Bridge in Amarapura. There were plenty of boats offering rides out to the lake to watch sunset. We walked along the bridge to the middle and waited for sunset on a cart:)

We had to try mohinga before leaving Myanmar. It’s known to be the national Burmese dish that is usually eaten in the morning. I read ZayCho market still have it in the evenings. It was Saturday night, that market looked like a scene from Residents Evil before a zombie attack - dark and deserted, roadside stalls set up on mats with portable lamps and people moving in slow-mo. The locals pointed us to one stall that was selling Mohinga. The lady began assembling our noodle soup from her tupperware boxes, finished with a thick broth from her steel pot hidden behind the table. This could kill us.

It was… an acquired taste. The fish-based broth was quite pungent with strips of fish (!), deep-fried dough and rice noodles. All I could taste was MSG. Not wanting to offend, we got through half a portion. While I survived (coz I have a stomach of steel), he was less fortunate.

The taxi to Mandalay airport from downtown took 45mins, 12-15,000 kyats. The flight to Bangkok took about the same time.

We enjoyed 9 beautiful days in Myanmar; there is an untouched charm to the country - magnificent scenery, admirable culture, kind and genuine people. Even with Laurel & Hardy. No doubt it’s developing at the speed of light, and with that mass tourism will start flooding in, then things start to change - for better or worse.

I’m just grateful that I have experienced the place now.

I’m just grateful. Because I'm so lucky.