Monthly Archives: May 2017

PB Travels…Taman Negara

We left Melaka nice and early for a 6 hour drive to Taman Negara, one of the biggest national parks in Malaysia. I was very excited, hoping to see lots of birds and wildlife.   The drive was decidedly depressing. The scenery was nothing but palm palm palm. 6 hours worth. The road? Trucks of logged trees. I know needs must and all that, but it was sad to see it. 

Where am I staying?

Xcape resort is fully equipped with basic and clean cabins, a lovely swimming pool and beautiful grounds. The plan was to spend 3 nights here, so I’m glad to say the hotel wasn’t bad. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor – non existent. Sheets, towels, bathroom – everything nice and clean. 
  • Bed: 9/10, comfortable, and even more so seeing that I spent a whole day ill in bed. 
  • Shower: 6/10. Functional and clean.

What did I eat?

I’m beginning to realise that breakfasts in Malaysia, however extensive, do not cater for the likes of me – it would be hard even if you’re vegetarian. BUT (and a big one at that), baked beans are prevalent (whoo!) and so is peanut butter.  Sadly the peanut butter is just OK – full of sugar, salt and oils (yes, palm). So I’m trying to stay away from it, and I tried one brand for breakfast – one bite and I was done. Thankfully the beans saved the day. Non Brits can’t understand the appeal, but beans on toast for breakfast? YUMMO. 

Lunches were varied. On the drive down we stopped at a roadside Malay restaurant where they had at least 16 dishes – ALL with meat or fish. My lunch was a cup of lemon tea. Appropriate since I was coming down with a cold. NOOOO!  Other lunches? Once in the Seri Mutiara Taman Negara resort – mainly because it was closest to the park entrance. I had a stir fry vermicelli noodle dish – alright but too many noodles. What went down well was the fresh, unsweetened celery, apple and cucumber juice. BLISS. Another simple lunch was at our stop on the river ride. Simple lunch of baby bananas and Nasi Goreing – fried rice hit the spot. Delicious – and even more so because of the surroundings with all the drangonflies and butterflies flitting about. 

Dinners? There are lots of floating restaurants on the river front, and the Family Floating restaurant was the venue for the night. I had a carrot juice – lol – watered down and super sweet, and an excellent veggie stir fry with oodles of fresh ginger. Spicy, peppery and crunchy this was exactly what my system needed. We went back to the Mutiara resort for dinner and all I wanted was a salad – no rice, no curry, no spices. And I got it (along with another fresh juice). Lettuce, apple, peppers, olives and and and – Avocado with sunflower seeds and lime. Oh salads, I have missed you so much. This was sublime – nothing fancy, but flavours i hadn’t had for a while. I hoovered the whole thing. I also ordered a watermelon and gin – nice and refreshing. A perfect meal. This place is more expensive than the local places – but worth it as it reflected in quality and portion size. Final Dinner – the plan was to find another local restaurant but the rain started again and it was torrential – to the point that you could not see anything a few feet ahead of you. So we stayed in the hotel. I had a vegetarian mee (noodle) goreing. Very moreish, very delicious and very edible. 


Snack update. Well well well. In terms of savoury snacks, Malaysia is full of funky flavoured crisps – some with quirky names – but why why why do they have to contain so much crap and MSG? I’ve been having Lays plain crisps when I can find them – which is rare. My other staple are nuts. I do try and get local snacks when I can – like when I found these savoury pastries (that look identical to a sweet Indian pastry) stuffed with potato. Like a samosa – crispy, soft and super tasty. And kuih – traditional Malaysian sweeties. These ones were made with pandan, coconut milk and rice flour. Pretty chewy – which I don’t mind as I like mochi.. Delicious and not to sweet. And less than a ringgit each! Whoo! 

What did I do?

In terms of the town, there wasn’t much of it, or much to do, the main action and attraction was the park on the other side of the river (yep, I was on the wrong side). But not to worry, it was easy to get across via water boat for a ringgit. 

In terms of the park, there was a lot to do. Unfortunately, on the first night that we were there, it rained. And rained. And rained. So not normal for this time of the year, but it basically rained so much that the canopy walk was closed, we couldn’t do the river rapids (too much water, no rapids) the next day. Fortunately for me, that meant spending a much needed day in bed as I had got a bit of a cold and was quite congested (I think it was down to all the street food I had in Melaka) and I needed a rest. 

So the next day, feeling a bit better,  I went for a canopy walk in the national park. This was so much fun – more rustic and a lot more wobbly than the bridges in Costa Rica. We didn’t see many animals or even birds for that matter, but just walking around was good enough for me. Thankfully the place wasn’t too busy, adding to the magic of the place. It was stunning. 


A river ride on a dug out boat was also extremely enjoyable. We did see a majestic hornbill and a couple of monitor lizards, but once again, that was it. I have to say I’m really surprised at the obvious lack of wildlife here. I’m also realising how much I’m missing the wildlife element of my travels – can’t wait to get to Borneo! We stopped for lunch in a very scenic spot, surrounded by butterflies, dragonflies and water sliders. Very nice and scenic, and a really good place to skim rocks (one of mine bounced 6 times!!!). 

On our way back, we stopped to get off the boat and visit the Old Man of the Forest – the biggest tree in the national park. So the guide suggested to go into the forest barefoot as the path from the riverside to the tree was very muddy. Very good idea -it was a surreal experience walking in squelchy mud and in the forest barefoot. It was also grounding, humbling and very appropriate seeing that I was visiting such an amazing tree. And even more so that I was visiting the Old Man of the forest on what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday. On the way back we eased back to the boat, after wading through some water on the makeshift jetty,  jumped in the boat, looked at my feet and, hello leeches! I had about 6 leeches all trying to get comfortable. Eugh. They were promptly taken off before they suctioned on – apparently once they start sucking you should let them carry on and let them fall off on their own – or the would will go on bleeding. Saying that, one macho boy decided to keep a leech on his leg – and we watched it grow fat – and even he was squirming but once it’s on it’s on. Eugh eugh eugh. 


I also went on a night walk in the national park – but was warned due to the wet weather we are likely to see very little. It didn’t matter – it was excellent. Why? Never have I heard such a deafening sound of cicadas and frogs in a jungle. So musical and loud and the sounds! Absolutely amazing. We did see quite a few stick insects, grasshoppers, beetles and scorpions – but no bigger animals. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never miss the opportunity to go on a night walk! Spot the frog, snake, grasshopper and stick insect.  How these guides spot these tiny things with nothing but a torch is beyond me. 


Taman Negara national park is a beautiful place. I think I saw and did a decent amount, even with all that rainfall. I loved loved loved this place. Slap bang in the middle of nature – where I am most happiest 😊. 

PB Travels… Melaka

Hello Malaysia! The flight from Yangon to KL was short and sweet. There was a lounge in Yangon airport (yay) and I actually got a really decent meal (rice, dal, tofu – looks grim but tasted amazing) on the flight. I’ve always liked Malaysia Airlines – another airline I’ve never been disappointed with. 


So after a short overnight stop in KL, the first proper stop on my Malaysian adventure in Melaka. It was quite easy to get to, a metro ride to the main bus station and then a two hour ride on a local bus. The bus station was massive and air conditioned, very well organised and oh my word. What a change! I was cool! I was relaxed! I wasn’t fanning at a feverish pace (don’t even know where it is!). A Malaysian local bus has seats and leg room and air conditioning – wider, longer and cooler than any other bus I’ve been on.  Very nice change from the boiling tin can in Burma. 

I warmed to Melaka the minute I got there. Quirky, full of character and small enough to walk around. My kind of place. 

Where am I staying? 

Hotel Mimosa, a 10 minute walk from all the action. Perfectly alright for the time I was there. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: low. Nice and clean with crisp sheets 
  • Bed: 8/10. Hard bed with pillows of the right height. Yay!
  • Shower: 6/10. I need more power!! 

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts in the hotel – a decent enough spread. I went for the usual – banana on toast SANS PB. I have finished my lovely unadulterated PB, and it is very very hard to find one here that doesn’t have any hydrogenated oils. Why!!! Peanuts are oily enough!! And why add extra sugar and salt and other cr*p?! Aargh! 

Dinner? Street food! And enough options for me! Lime soda was the default drink. I tell you, it is made for the heat :). What did I have? Mushroom galore – barbecued and sprinkled with this spicy mix and Laksa! Vegetarian! Spicy, hot killer broth, tofu pieces, veggies – seriously delicious. Similar to but nothing like a tom yum. Same same but definitely different. I also had another go at durian (topped with coconut milk) and managed to have a mouthful, but I’m sorry. It is not a fruit for me. Gotta love you and leave you durian. 

One of the best snacks I had was cendol. Pronounced chendol, this was a serious pleasure to eat – and ‘Me friendly’ without having to modify it! Shaved ice, brown sugar, pandan worms (what else are they made of?!) and coconut milk. Yummy. Perfect dish for the heat – cooling, icy, textured. This was an excellent eat.


What did I do?

I did the typical tourist things and loved it. The only thing I didn’t do is the river cruise, as I practically walked up and down it. Lots of beautifully maintained houses, cafes, hideaways – very picturesque. 

What was very impressive and a definite don’t miss was the Baba Nyonya museum. Baba Nyonya is the name given to the people who have Malay/Chinese heritage – who created their own culture and food. The museum was and still owned by a prominent local Baba Nyonya family. We paid 16 ringgit and got an hour long fascinating tour – you can’t take pics inside unfortunately but it was still excellent. Loved it.  

We sat on pimped trishaws and got cycled around. We went to the Dutch square, a stunning place with maroon/red buildings in a Dutch colonial style, and a stunning Chinese temple. We also went to the A Fomosa fort, with very scenic views of Melaka. 



Jonker Walk was also very interesting. It starts off with a food market, morphs into a street market that sells everything and anything and then into a street food market. Full of character, chock full with locals and tourists and a brilliant place if you wanted to buy junk or eat amazing food. 


I also had an amazing reflexology massage. My masseuse was so amazing, she pinpointed what was physically bugging me – she was spot on – and also what I should or shouldn’t do. Go here! 

I loved loved loved Melaka. So much to do and so much to see and eat. I can see why it is one of the highlights of Malaysia! 

PB Travels… Yangon 

Final stop in Burma – Yangon. And our mode of transport? Overnight train from Mandalay to Yangon.  I’m pretty comfortable with such sleeper trains and the ones in Burma are similar to those in India. So as long as you have a good support system (snacks galore, good company, strong thighs for hovering in the loo on a swaying train) you’re good to go. Thankfully I was was equipped on all fronts :).  Another reason to be thankful was that the train station was a lift away from the hotel – so we got there (via a supermarket stop) and found our berth for 4 with enough time to spare. 


The train ride itself (I will not mention the heat again – it was hot but that little rotating fan worked very hard), bumpiness aside, was a lot of fun. We spent the night eating, drinking, laughing hysterically – but I was glad to be off it in the morning. We got into Yangon at 8.30am (not 6am as informed), ready for a day of sightseeing. 

Where am I staying?

Hotel Panda, a fairly nondescript Yangon city hotel that is using the WWF logo as their own (is that allowed?). Big rooms, lots of space (for my laundry to be strewn about.. hahaha), good enough for one night before I leave the country.  

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor – low but a tired room. 
  • Bed: 7/10. After the bumpy train ride, the bed was very welcome!
  • Shower 7/10. Powerful and hot for long enough to wash me and my clothes. The water was tinged orange and had a rusty smell though. I’m still alive so it can’t have been that bad. 

What did I eat? 

Breakfast in the hotel was alright. Lots and lots and lots of options but not much for me – but what they had was good enough – tofu, vegetables and papaya, all washed down with a green tea. No pic. 

On another day we went to a typical Burmese tea house for breakfast. Lucky Seven is a popular chain, all staffed by young school boys (supported by the restaurant to stay in school). Lovely Chinese tea and a lemon soda to start. There was only one thing I was going to order off the expressive menu – yep. Aloo Puri. Again. Good choice. It was excellent – crispy, light, nice potato curry – perfect breakfast. This was such an excellent experience – I loved it! No other lunches for me – too hot to eat!

Dinners? Well, after our epic lunch in Mandalay to prep ourselves for the train ride, my ‘dinner’ consisted of nuts, local crisps, Oreos (coconut flavour – they were alright, but wouldn’t buy them again!). And local Mandalay rum with warm coke. The rum was cheaper than most of the food we bought! It was very pleasant and went down very very well! We also kept hydrated….as for the names of the water.. lol, very macho! 


Our final dinner in Yangon was at New Doreen where the menu made me chuckle. Lemon soda and a stellar tofu, spinach and pineapple (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) dish with rice. Most enjoyable, but not as much as reading the menu. 


What did I do?

While on the train? Not much other than eat and laugh and check out people at station stops. There wasn’t much sleeping, and before it got dark we did see a lovely sunset. We did have the local train lads popping in a few times to practice their English and get us cold water. Very entertaining!

In Yangon? We went to a couple of highlights for me in Burma. One was the Shwedagon Pagoda. Slap bang in the middle of city, it is a sprawling temple complex with lots of mini temples and stupas – all blingy, but this time, not a bad thing. I walked around taking in all the temples (there is a handy temple map) and even went to the onsite museum. Primarily because it was air conditioned but once I got there I was genuinely interested. My kind of museum – not too big, full of interesting stories about the Buddha, rooms of relics and mini stupas – very good. I also people watched for a long time. It was interesting to see how people used these temples – sleeping, chatting, praying, chanting, having picnics under the Buddha – very informal and relaxed. I really liked this place. 

The other place that was excellent was the reclining Buddha. Now everyone who goes to Wat Po in Thailand is impressed with the statue there. I thought that this was much better – less people for starters, and the Buddha’s feet were particular impressive. What I also loved were the little Buddha statues surrounding the big one – all holding various mudras. We are all the same!!!! The only thing that I wasn’t sure of was the effeminate face of the Buddha. Other than that – all very amazing. 


We also wentaround the city centre and were taken for an obligatory tourist stop – the Scott/Bogyoke Market. Was it worth it? Hell NO. Don’t go, unless you want to be be bored out of your mind seeing stall upon stall of the same jewellery, jade and wood carvings (made in China, of course). 

However all was not lost. I found a cool little shop outside the market called Yangoods – full of quirky Burmese momentos, but most were made of leather – which I wasn’t going to buy. I did find some beautiful ceramic coasters – job done.  

So that is all of Burma done and dusted for me. Bagan and Inle Lake were amazing – but I would go back when it is cooler. You can layer up and get warmer, but when you’re baking and there is no way of cooling down you’re fried. Pun fully intended. So it won’t be country I will come back to, but really glad I visited it. 

PB Travels… Irrawaddy River and Mandalay

I would not recommend this part of this trip to anyone. The plan was to spend 2 days on the Irrawady to Mandalay. 2 reasons – our ‘cruise ship’ turned out to be a cargo boat, and secondly – it was BAKING HOT (yes, Burma has been hot). So yes, this might also be my fault – bad choice of trip and timing, but never again. So the tour company obviously tried to romanticise it by throwing in sentences like leisurely going up the Irrawady and sleeping on the upper deck underneath the stars. Far from. Check out the inside.. luxury! 

So the boat was pretty rubbish, but I did meet some travellers later who also did a cruise (on a much nicer boat – but different time of the year and they loved it.) One man’s poison..  The only redeeming factor? The food. We got to Mandalay to – thankfully – a decent hotel which helped enormously.

Where am I staying?

Hotel Marvel, on top of one of the main train stations in Mandalay.  The rooms were lovely and cool – both in choice of colour and temperature. Don’t ask me about walking distances to the nearest attractions – you’re having a laugh! 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor? Zero, zilch, nada. 
  • Bed = 9/10. Perfect bed, perfect pillows – I slept like a baby, but that might be because of the lack of sleep the previous night. 
  • Shower= 10/10. Lovely hot water, amazing showers and lovely toiletries. Best one so far. 

What did I eat… On the boat

The food was proper home (well, boat) cooked food and it was so so delicious. Breakfast? Papaya, caramelised bananas (read: deep fried), toast, green tea and my PB. YUMMO.

Lunches were simple but stunningly good. And so much variety. Soup to start off with – looked like river water but tasted sensational. Full of vegetable goodness. I had tofu with bean sprouts, morning glory and this white bean mushy dhal kind of thing. With rice and a soy chilli sauce – whoa. Really really good, hearty and delicious. There was chicken and fish for the omnis. Dessert? These amazing sesame, peanut cookies which I could it!!!! I cleared the whole plate. Crumbly, nutty, moreish – we couldn’t stop eating them. 

The next day? Vermicelli and carrot soup (yummo) and veggie fried rice, jam packed with vegetables. I also got to try another Burmese dish – green tea leaf salad. On paper, just my kind of dish – green tea leaf, peanuts, garlic, chilli. Unfortunately everything was deep fried and it was one oily mess. I didn’t like it at all. 

Dinner was good, a green fest – rice with green beans, spinach and aubergine. The aubergine wasn’t as nice as the salad I had the other day – so left it alone. Not nice. I also tried the local beer – Myanmar – I needed something to cool down. Nice and light, but pretty sweet. 

What did I eat… In the hotel

Breakfast in the hotel was a massive carnivorous spread. They had a vegetarian section full of French toast and waffles and pancakes. But they also had cereal. Cornflakes. And bran flakes. And SOY MILK. And cashew nuts. And dried fruit. And I had two bowls. After all the rice and veggies for breakfast, having a simple bowl of cereal (in an air conditioned room) was pure bliss. It has definitely made me even more grateful! I also had green tea and fresh, supersweet papaya and watermelon. 


Now. I’m sure Mandalay is a nice city and there is a lot to eat, but in that heat, I wasn’t going anywhere. So the rest of my meals (thankfully I was only there for one night) were in the comfort of the hotel. Dinner – Thai green curry with rice. Creamy and spicy and luscious.

Lunch? A delicious tofu and veggie fry with rice – and a massive portion at that. Super delicious with a punchy chilli kick. That was good thing as out guide told us to fill up on lunch as it was likely we wouldn’t be able to eat the food that was available on the overnight train to Yangon. 

What did I do?

There wasn’t much to do while cruising on the Irrawady. The scenery was dry, apart from a bridge or two or a temple or six. We literally sat around fanning ourselves trying to find a cool spot. The painful monotony was broken by meals and me reviewing my ankles – or should I say cankles. I have a decent pair of ankles if I say so myself but they had disappeared completely. What did I expect in that heat! I’ll spare you a picture of them. There was also virtually no wildlife around – though we did have a lot of luck playing spot the cow/buffalo/goat. 

The evening is was as it had cooled down, and I was looking forward to sleeping under a mosquito net under the stars. Sheets were crisp and clean, the bed, rather, mattress comfy. Sadly I didn’t take into account that some of my fellow passengers were snorers – serious ones at that.   If I share a room with snoring friends/families/partners they know what will happen to them it they snore – a sharp kick. But I couldn’t extend that gesture to my fellow travels. Lets just say it was a looooong night. 

We did disembark to go see a typical Burmese pottery village. This I loved – it was like stepping back in time. A real eye opener that made me feel even more grateful for what I have and the things I experience. 

We also nipped into Mingun – a town with a number of attractions. The second largest bell in the world at 90 tonnes, the stunningly mesmerising white wavy Mya Thein Tea pagoda, and my favourite – the unfinished pagoda. This was a spectacularly colossal structure – awe inspiring and mind boggling. It was built because of a case of mine will be bigger than yours – Kings I tell you. I absolutely loved this place – it was perfectly unfinished. 

The sunsets (top pic) and sunrises (bottom pic) were also spectacular – calming and peaceful and oh so beautiful. 

As for Mandalay, the thing worth seeing was the U Bein bridge – the longest teak bridge in the world. 1.7 km long with 6 rest houses at selected intervals. I didn’t do the whole stretch – too hot, yes, how ever did you guess?! But what I did do is steal ice from the drinks vendors on the bridge, stick it down my top, walk to a rest house and people watch. I could have sat there for the whole day.  So many interesting characters – rude boys checking out pretty girls, family days out, nuns, monks – loved it. 


So this has been another whinge post, and I think the combination of cooler weather and a nicer cruise boat would have made me think differently. Saying that I still enjoyed it – the pottery village, the unfinished pagoda and the U Bein bridge were highlights…

PB Travels… Bagan

The road to Bagan (forget Mandalay for now) was horrible. We were supposed to board a local express AIR CONDITIONED bus at 8am for our 8 hour journey (including 3 stops). We boarded. The AC did not come on. We were fobbed off for a while (even by our guide). But then it dawned on us.  NO AC.  For the whole journey. The whole way.  8 hours in 38 degrees c and not a trace of a breeze. 

OMG. Horrific. Looking back I’m not quite sure how I did it. Saying that though, at least I wasn’t on the more rustic local express!! Might have been cooler come to think of it.

A few things did make me chuckle… how many people had ginormous phones that they couldn’t even hold, and this sign – we are not usual people in Burma!!! 

Where am I staying?

Thazin Garden Hotel is a beautiful hotel. Set in lush grounds, the rooms were also very pretty. And there was AC so I spent about an hour lying comatose on the bed trying to cool down. And there was a pool. And the grounds were stunning. It actually reminded me of hotels in Goa. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: non existent, I am pleased to report 
  • Bed: 6/10. Nice bed, horrible pillows 
  • Shower: 6/10. Decent enough to get me clean. 

What did I eat?

Breakfasts were in the hotel. The usual suspects – toast, eggs, but there was also a massive fruit plate, which was lush. And fresh fruit juice. Lusher.  I also had some fried rice. Fuel for the day, nothing more. The next day was better – beans on toast. And very Heinz-esqe tasting. I was a happy bunny. It is really the simple things I tell you. 

Lunches? By the poolside one day. The pool was just the right size, not deep though, but supercool. You might think ‘she can’t stop carrying on about the heat’. But as some of you, well, most of my close friends, know how unstable my temperature gauge and window are, I was pretty uncomfortable. 

Anyway. Lunch. CHIPS, like the chips of my childhood at PSC. Fat, crispy, soft, perfectly done. All I needed was a dodgy ketchup and an orange Fanta :).  I also ordered another Burmese speciality. Tomato Salad. Tomatoes, onions, peanuts, peanut sauce and chilli – YUMMY. Cooling, refreshing, peanutty. Delicious. A G&T completed the meal. Perfect. I was too hot to eat lunch on any of the other days.

Dinners? So after the epic bus ride, we went out for dinner to a local shack and I ordered veggie curry with coconut rice. As soon as the food arrived, I looked at it (it looked very nice) and instantly became nauseous.  Too much heat.. I had to walk away, run to my air conditioned room and collapse. I woke up the next morning feeling much better. 

Final Bagan dinner in the hotel. Too hot and lazy to go anywhere, we sat in the hotel grounds under a lit stupa. Definitely one of the nicest places I’ve had dinner. What was for dinner? “Tomatoes cooked the local way with vegetables”. Hmmm. Intriguing.  Menu description. I was thinking a ratatouille. I even asked if that it what it was – yes madam. Yes. I got a bowl of tomato sauce and raw vegetables for dipping – more tomato, cucumber, lettuce, herbs and about 5 potent chillies. Served with rice. 

I mixed everything up and it tasted pretty good. Those tomatoes were so super sweet and tangy and delicious, I absolutely loved eating this. 

What did I do?

I saw multiple stupas and temples. Dhammayangi Temple, Sulamani Temple, Paya Thone Zu temple, Ananda Paya… To be honest I was so hot to keep track of each of the places, but I will say they were all stunning. There is old Bagan and new Bagan. Old Bagan is where majority of the stupas are. I absolutely loved this place. A refreshing change after all the gilded gold stupas, these were made of brick – untouched, unassuming and grand. 

We went to a number of temples and drove around all the stupas, it was excellent. One of the temples we went to had massive statues of the Buddha. Depending on the angle, the same Buddha could be serious or grinning.  There was a blingy temple, so OTT that it actually looked really good. 


We also went to the five level temple for the sunset. Really steep stairs going up and down, but there was a handrail that was used by virtually everyone. Other downside? There were loads of people there for the same reason -‘so it was pretty packed. Everyone was huddling on the top most level – I decided to stay on level 4. Good decision, and the views stunning. The guys above me said it got too busy up there and it was more about jostling for a spot rather then enjoying the view. 

Even just walking around the stupas stumbling across villages was brilliant for people watching. I love taking photos of people and this was definitely the place for that. I know we touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of temples and stupas in Bagan, but my oh my. What a beautiful place. Really breathtaking. I’d come back when it is freezing cold and do a hot air balloon ride… An absolute must see – please add it to your list if you haven’t yet been. 

PB Travels… Inle Lake

Ok. Let me be honest with you. My first impressions of Burma were not favourable. First of all, the temperature shot up by about 8 degrees – from a bearable 28/29 degrees c to a stifling 36/37 degrees. Combine that with a bus with air conditioning just for show and NO cool air/breeze, sheesh. I was not happy!

Border crossing from Thailand to Burma was effortless. I came in at Tachiliek and yes. You can use an e-visa here, despite all the conflicting info you read on the internet. I went to the embassy in London which wasn’t a problem for me, but other people in the group I’ve joined had to send theirs off at additional cost and worry. You don’t have to!

We made our way to the airport near the border. Airport? Well think of your standard bus station in rural India – that was the airport. No cooling facility, (naturally) heated metal seats and very very grubby. The service on the flight with Yangon Airways was very good, and so was the food for those who experienced both. Everyone got 2 cakes and coffee/tea – I  couldn’t eat the cakes, so no food for me. 

The plane was filthy as hell though – I promptly feel asleep once in my seat and didn’t wake up until we landed. Maybe that is why the flight was good 🤣. We finally got to our hotel in Nyang Shwe – the gateway to Inle Lake. 

Where am I staying?

Hupin Hotel, a road away from the main street and market, a 10 minute walk from the pier to Inle Lake and that is all I can tell you. 

The hotel itself was not bad at all. I forgot to take a picture of my bedroom. It was bright, spacious and airy.  Ratings?

  • Grubbiness Factor: low, just a bit tired in places. 
  • Bed: 7/10. Nice hard bed but soft pillows for me. 
  • Shower: 9/10. Powerful, rain shower and really nice toiletries. Whoo!

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts were included in the hotel, eggs, pancakes, sausages, fried rice, banana bread. Nothing for me so I had the standard – banana and PB on toast. Didn’t take a pic of that. But what I did take a pic of was the breakfast that awaited me the next day. When the manager found out that I couldn’t eat much, she offered to bring me a home made breakfast. LOOK! 

Bearing in mind I haven’t had Indian food for about three weeks – this was a welcome sight. Roti! Puri! Aloo! Oh man. I had all those puris, one roti and most of the aloo. I was in heaven. I even took the rest of the food for the bus ride later that day. Thank you Hupin Hotel Manager! 

Lunch? One day – a simple one in the airport – a room with green plastic chairs and garish stuffed toys. I ordered a sprite – and I’m not a soda drinker, but I needed something to combat the heat and lack of air conditioning. I ordered mixed vegetables – which were loaded with pepper, not a bad thing in my book. Delicious, although I would have liked to have a bucket of ice at this point. To eat but preferably to sit in. 

We had lunch on the lake one day, and I was told by my guide that the eggplant salad is a speciality of Burma. I decided to dive in and order it. What arrived (along with my lime soda), was a seemingly simple and squishy plate of food. But my word. Aubergine is back on the menu! Loaded with fresh onion, fresh green chillies and a killer sauce, it hit the spot. Oh, and a snack of fried bean curd with a soy chilli dipping sauce also went down very well. 

Dinners? Hupin Restaurant, a 2 minute walk from the hotel – I couldn’t manage walking more in that heat. Thankfully the food was stunningly good.  I had the same stuff – tofu with veggies, fresh chillies and steaming rice. Proper Chinese food and it was excellent. Soft tofu, tangy, hot sauce (no MSG), crunchy veggies = bliss. 

The waiter was so so lovely, he even got me my own veggie soup when he found out I couldn’t eat the complimentary chicken soup. That soup might not look like much but is was so full of flavour. YUM! So recommend this place for the food and also because of the Bollywood movie playing in the TV screens 😬. 

What did I do?

I got hot and stayed hot. Other than roasting and sweating, we got on a long tail boat that took us across Inle Lake. Stunning scenery and we came across these fishermen of the lake, putting on a show for us.  




We made our way to a market that is held every 5 days – and this was a wonderful experience.  As you have now gathered, markets are a highlight for me. This one was still so raw and organic and full of so many interesting things – food, flowers, pots, mild intoxicants. And the people. Super friendly and curious, always up for a sign language conversation. After  walking around I ordered yet another sprite from the local market caff and people watched. Loved loved loved it.  

We then embarked, still on our boats (thank the Lord for brollys and cool breezes), on checking out the local craft action. I’ve seen silk weaving enough times, but what amazed me this time, and I’ve never seen it before, is thread made out of the stem of the lotus plant. Amazing to watch. The stuff produced is a really labour of love, and very expensive. I’m talking $90 USD for a thin long scarf. 


The other thing that I hadn’t seen before was cheroot making. Girls with beautifully manicured nails expertly rolling up cheroots, with a lining of newspaper and a corn husk filter. They also had them in different flavours – star anise, rum and banana – they all smelt pretty horrible.. whatever floats your boat I say. 


Next? A pagoda with 5 mini Buddha statues. Or they were once – you can’t see them anymore as people have plastered them with gold leaf. So although this was a temple and there were lots of locals, there were also lots of tourists – which meant someone decided it was a good idea to charge 500 kyats if you wanted to take photos. I decided not to pay – on principle – not with all the postcards and posters on sale all over the temple. I was also not impressed that women can’t get near the Buddha statues. Don’t appreciate any culture/religion that imposes such restrictions. 😤

Finally, another highlight. Even more so because the weather had cooled down so much and it was raining. Whoooo! The floating gardens of Inle Lake. Sweet potato,  chillies, and 60% of the region’s tomatoes are grown here. No pesticides, grown on the mud dredged from the lake, it was a very impressive sight! 


Inle Lake is very beautiful – it is really like a mini city and there is enough going on so there is something for everyone. The first taste of Burma – so far so good. Onward to Bagan, via public bus. 

PB Travels… Chiang Rai

Next stop – going to spend a few days in Chiang Rai, mainly to check out the White Temple and relax… even more. Chiang Rai will also be the gateway to my next destination – another first, Burma or Myanmar. Yay!

Where am I staying? 

Diamond Park Inn Hotel, literally 5 minute walk to the night market. Excellent location and there was even a nice pool. 

The room was nice and spacious, with the beds on a raised platform. Highly inconvenient as it meant clambering up and down every time you wanted something from the bed or left anything there. 


Ratings? 

  • Grubbiness factor: low. The room was really clean, what I didn’t like was the AC (desperately needed) which had a damp smell. Not nice.  
  • Bed: 6/10. Mainly because of that ledge, the pillows were lovely though. 
  • Shower: 8/10. Nice and powerful. Lots of toiletries – decent ones at that too. 

What did I eat?

The hotel breakfasts were the best so far (I’m in Thailand after all, they’ve being doing this tourist thing for long enough and it shows). Massive buffet spread with loads of food. 

I had some lovely supersweet pineapple and watermelon, followed by some veggies, rice, carrot and beetroot. Yes. For breakfast. And I would do it again. SO delicious. Next day? More or less the same, but I finally found a soya yoghurt in the.. wait for it.. local Tesco.. known here as Tesco Lotus. Delicious! Oh, and a green tea bag I found in my backpack from the plane. 


Lunches were at Cabbages and Condoms, an NGO set up to support family planning in Thailand, with all proceeds going to the cause.

One day I had the papaya salad – EXCELLENT, and another time I had the Tom Yum Hed. MORE EXCELLENT. I love love love Thai food. Nice to have good food again… This stuff was perfectly balanced – sweet, sour, salty, hot – all boxes had a big fat tick. Yumyumyum. Tipple of choice – a lime soda. This soda water is particularly bubbly, making it a really refreshing drink in this heat! And it is hot here (sorry London, muhahaha). 

Dinners? In the night market. There was a stage set up with singers and cabaret performances (read: ladyboys).

The food was, well, again, EXCELLENT. I went for a Thai Green Curry (known as Green Curry in these parts 😆) and oh my word.  Creamy, hot, flavourful – superb. The other night I went for a simple dish of stir fried veggies – even that was excellently done. 

What did I do? 

The White Temple is the must see attraction – just outside of Chiang Rai, on the way from Chiang Mai. Now. I usually don’t read up reviews or research most of the main attractions in a town as I feel it might be hyped up and then I expect too much. 

WELL. I’m going to hype this up. This temple is awesome. After seeing loads of red and gold temples in Laos, here is this white and silver temple. So impressive from the outside, and it seemingly looks like every other temple… until you step closer, and see the robot king.. or the depiction of hell and heaven (see all those hands reaching out for you? Hell). Fascinating. 

Sadly you’re not allowed to take photos in the main temple. But I will say this much – completely expect the unexpected. The walls are covered with the most amazing murals, featuring not only the Buddha, but also Marvel and DC Comic heroes (yes, you read right), to cartoon characters and political figures.  It is such an impressive space! 

There is also a small gallery and a larger exhibition featuring the works of the genius behind this temple. I LOVED both. His artwork is so insightful and expressive, absolutely loved it.  And there is shop at the end. Due to space, ongoing travel and fear of flattening issues, I only bought a few magnets, postcards and a small poster. BELIEVE THE HYPE! Go here!! 

What else did I do? Natural hot springs – one for boiling eggs (98 degrees C) and one for boiling feet (much cooler, thankfully). So dipping my feet into hot water in hot weather was actually a very soothing experience. Really enjoyable – another recommend, but only if you’re passing by. 

Obviously I went for more massages. I didn’t think I could have a bad massage in Thailand – but now I know you can. Avoid this place.  

I went there for a foot massage, which turned out to be one hour of a girl massaging the same spots on either side of my legs. Shockingly bad.  Thankfully redeemed by a SUPER Thai massage here – monmueng lana massage. My masseuse was an effeminate young lad – super tall and super skinny and super strong. I was howling in pain at the time, but I felt super great afterwards! Go massages!

I also checked out the night market – same same but different and I’m waning a bit to be honest. It is all the same – nothing stands out so will patiently wait until I like something. 

So Chiang Rai really surprised me. I was expecting it to be a boring place, but I enjoyed my time there. They even have a cat cafe (shudder), but each one to their own I suppose. 

Bye Bye Chiang Rai!