September 29, 2012

Exam season

The exam season is upon us, and it’s a stressful and anxiety-filled time - not for the kids sitting for their exams, but for the parents J  This time round, I’ve been really lax.  Yiu Yiu had her Penulisan exam for Mandarin and BM this week, and I hardly did any revision with her.  The fact that she wasn’t well earlier this week due to an attack of gastroenteritis didn’t help.  On top of that, her papa was overseas so I had to manage the girls by myself after work.  All that I managed to do was to go through her BM textbook casually, and let her practice on her cousin’s past year exam paper the day before both exams.

Luckily, her daycare centre had been conducting revision sessions with them for the past 2-3 weeks, with extra classes on Saturdays as well.  Otherwise, I may have to resort to home tutors to coach her.

Next week is the crunch time, where she’ll have six papers in four days.  So this weekend we’ll quarantine ourselves at home for revision.  Knowing her, I foresee a weekend of nagging, nagging and more nagging at her to pay attention L  Maybe I should just get a tutor from TutorSpree and spare myself the headache.

September 11, 2012


Yiu Yiu had some orange juice in her tumbler and had just finished taking a sip from it when the naughty mei-mei snatched the tumbler from her.  Naturally she got upset and scolded Yan Yan.  Papa reprimanded Yan Yan and asked her to apologise to jie-jie.  Yan Yan refused and so papa scolded her and gave her a lecture about asking for things politely.  The little one sulked, went to one corner of the dining room, squatted down and said in a pitiful voice, “爸爸不愛我了。姐姐也不愛我了。沒有人愛我了。(Papa don’t love me, jie-jie also don’t love me, nobody loves me anymore).  I almost fell off the chair laughing, but I had to hold my laughter J

Hearing this, Yiu Yiu quickly went to Yan Yan, put her arms around Yan Yan and reassured her.  The sisters ended up hugging each other.  Sweet!  Yan Yan then, without prompting, apologized to jie-jie and papa J

September 08, 2012

Dining in Yangon

Bamar cuisine contains many regional elements, such as stir frying techniques and curries, which are not hot but richly spiced with among others, fish paste, onions, garlic, ginger, dried chilli and turmeric.  The most well-known Bamar-originated dish is mohinga, rice noodles in a broth made from fish and beans.  Vegetable fritters, slices of fish cake, hardboiled egg and crackers are usually added.  This is the most popular dish for Myanmar people, especially at breakfast.  It doesn’t look appetizing but it is really delicious - I tried this for breakfast at the hotel.  I even bought two packets of instant mohinga home, and they tasted pretty good too, even without all the condiments.

Photo from here

Dining in Yangon is not cheap, considering the standard of living of its people.  Here’s a round-up of foods I had while in Yangon:

My first meal was a traditional Bamar lunch in a local restaurant.  My guide and I had pork curry which was rich, flavoursome and with a stew-like consistency, a fishball dish and stir fried vegetables.  The meal came complimentary with some local salad, a soup (which was reallt nice) and sides of fermented beans and pickled tea leaves.  This meal cost us 4500 kyat (~RM 16).

L’Opera is idyllically situated in an old colonial-era building set amongst manicured gardens beside the romantic Inya Lake, a short walk from the Inya Lake Hotel where I stayed.

Photo from L'Opera website

Its menu features traditional Italian cuisine like homemade pastas, authentic wood-fired oven pizzas, cold cuts and cheese, fresh salads and many main dishes.  The breads were delicious, and they came with a variety of dips.  I had the grilled pork chop – it was OK, tasted like any other grilled pork chops.  This meal cost about USD 16.

During the training, we had lunch at the hotel.  The lunch set comprises (clockwise from right) deep fried fish, stir fried vermicelli with pork, stir fried bean curd, pork curry and chicken. 

Monsoon Restaurant and Bar is housed in a classic colonial town house and serves a mixture of Burmese cooking with dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  The atmosphere is relaxed and cosmopolitan but service was a tad slow.

Our (my colleague and I) meal of stir fried kalian, pork curry (again), Laotian stew beef dish (which to our surprise, came in a soupy dish) with rice and drinks came up to about USD 30.

The managing director of the Myanmar office took us for a team dinner at Phai Lin Restaurant, which serves Thai and Chinese cuisine.  We ordered mostly Thai dishes and they were all pretty tasty.  No photos from here, and the one below of the exterior of the restaurant is borrowed from here.

Shanti Indian Cuisine serves buffet-style meals with meat dishes, vegetable curries, soups and Indian breads.  Desserts include homemade Indian sweets, yoghurt and fruits, and coffee and masala tea to round off the meal.  As we had this meal after the field visit, our Myanmar colleague paid for this but a search on the internet states that it costs 2900 kyat (~RM 10) per person.  Not sure if the information is outdated but it seems a tad too cheap – food wasn’t great though.

Padonmar Restaurant is housed in an old residential house built in the 1920s, its original structure and charm still maintained.  The name Padonmar means lotus flower, and it has two separate kitchens that whip up traditional Myanmar food and Thai cuisines.  The restaurant is decorated with rich, wall paintings of Bagan temples.

Photo from Trip Advisor 

My colleague and I had pork curry with mangoes pickle (I think you can tell by now that I’m in love with the pork curry), Yangon chicken curry, traditional Karen soup (which was very yummy), gourd with vermicelli soup, aubergine with dried shrimps, rice and drinks.  The total bill came up to USD 28.

Some of the restaurants provide free wifi access, and my colleague even managed to dial in for a t-con while waiting for our food at Padonmar.  I, on the other hand, was looking at a website about Meritline, trying to purchase a memory stick online.

One thing I dared not try was their street foods, just to be on the safe side, hygiene wise.  Here are some random shots of street vendors in Yangon.

September 05, 2012

Yangon – Inya Lake Hotel

I was booked at the Inya Lake Hotel during my stay in Yangon.  It is located amidst 37 acres of verdant gardens and along the shoreline of the serene Inya Lake.  The large, 4-storey colonial style hotel has 129 guestrooms.  A check on Trip Advisor before I left revealed that it is a very old hotel with rundown rooms so I was prepared for the worst.  And since I had expected the worst, I was pleasantly surprised when I find that it’s not that bad.  Sure the room is dated with old furnishings, but it was very spacious and has a clean toilet (which is the most important to me).  The bed was comfortable with clean sheets and pillow cases.  The lift smelt really musty though.

Beautiful view from my room

It had a decent breakfast selection with a variety of breads and juices, egg station, bacon, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomato, French toast, stir fried vegetables, fried rice and noodles, porridge, Burmese noodles and pancake or waffle. 

My room came with complimentary internet usage and I was pleasantly surprised with its rather good speed.  My only grouse was the occasional dropped line.

An interesting fact about this hotel is that the entire 2nd floor is occupied by two United Nations offices, the UN World Food Programme and the UN Office for Project Services.  Some rooms on the 3rd floor are the residence for the employees of these two offices so you can see lots of foreigners in the hotel compound.  I also spotted the International SOS office near the car park of the hotel.

However, the rate for the hotel, USD 150/night during the period that I was there, is way too steep.  If I were to pay on my own, I would definitely not stay here as I don’t think it’s worth the price.  You can get a room at the much newer and nicer Traders Hotel, which is right in the centre of Yangon city, for the same price.

September 02, 2012

Yangon attractions – Part 3

In the city centre, there remains quite a number of old buildings built in the time of British occupation.  They were constructed in the middle of 19th century, before the Second World War in 1940 and retain a faded colonial charm.  The Yangon City Hall faces the Mahabandoola Park, famous for its rose gardens.  Inside the gardens is the Independence Monument, built to signify Myanmar's independence.

Yangon City Hall

Independence Monument in Mahabandoola Park

Nearby is the building of the Supreme Court.  Painted in red and yellow, this Victorian building was constructed between 1905 and 1911.

A short distance to the west is the oldest and most famous hotel in Myanmar, the Strand hotel built in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers (of the E&O Hotel, Penang).  After years of neglect, it has now been restored and furnished with modern facilities, with a price tag ~USD400/night.  Close by is the post-office.

Strand Hotel

Post office

Located on the bank of the Yangon River is the Botahtaung Pagoda, a typical gilded dome that tapers gradually to the top and is capped by a symbolic fan-shape spire.  Unlike many pagodas, Botahtaung is hollow inside allowing visitors to walk through to admire what is considered the highlight of any pilgrimage – a glass case containing a sacred hair relic of the Buddha.  There are also glass showcases containing many ancient relics and donated artifacts.  Botahtaung Pagoda is named after the 1,000 military leaders who escorted the sacred hair relics of Buddha, brought from India over two thousand ago. 

 Entrance of Botahtaung Pagoda

 The glass case containing the sacred hair relic of Buddha (circled in white in the picture above)

The road in front of the pagoda has a colourful array of shops selling fruits, flowers and other offerings items.

On the way back to the city centre to the Bogyoke Aung San market, formerly known as Scott's Market, we made a quick photo stop at the Sule Pagoda.  Located in the middle of the busiest intersection in central Yangon, Sule Pagoda is a 46m octagonal-shaped stupa that, according to the local story, was built during the time of the Gautama Buddha and is therefore more than 2,500 years old.  The temple is believed to have been built to house a strand of the Buddha's hair.  Sule Pagoda has important historical and cultural significance – it is said that royalty and astrologers convened here over 2,000 years ago to determine the present-day site of Shwedagon Pagoda, while the British used Sule Pagoda as the centre of their grid town planning when redesigning Yangon in the 1880s.

Our last stop, the Bogyoke Aung San market, is housed in a prewar structure and is the most famous shopping place in Yangon.  Myanmar arts and handicrafts, lacquer wares, wood and ivory carvings, tapestries, silverware, brassware, silk and cotton fabrics, and shoulder bags as well as gem stones and jewelries are some of the items on sale at the market. 

 Picture from here

Different sections of the market, clockwise from top left: gems and jewelries, tailoring and fabrics, daily items such as slippers and bags, arts and paintings

Nuns asking for alms at the market