Just this weekend past, Flo and I flew away to Yangon. He had actually booked us tickets as well as accommodation few weeks ago which was really sweet of him especially because that period was rough-going for me. Initially, I wanted to be kept in the dark as to where we were off to, and to be surprised once we reached the place. Subsequently, I changed my mind because me being me, I wanted to research on possible good food places to visit and once we were at the airport, I’d find out anyway.
We met at the airport around 3.45pm for our 5.10pm flight. I was totally confused by the time difference between Singapore and Yangon the whole first evening we were there. I think we arrived around 7pm Yangon time i.e. 8.30pm SG time, just that I kept thinking that Yangon was 2.5hours behind us and not 1.5hours.
Anyway, it took us a while to get on a taxi and reach our hotel. Flo chose this beautiful teak wood hotel, Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, that is situated right by the Kandawgyi Lake. Since it was quite late, we decided to save the exploring for the next day and have dinner at the Japanese restaurant located within the hotel compound – Ō Ta-Ke.
It looked exactly like a Japanese Inn and was so quaint. It felt as though we were entering someone’s home. It was rather on the quiet side when we went, and we had a private room all to ourselves. Flo had a Bento Set while I went for the Hotate Teppanyaki.
I know right?! Who goes to Yangon and eat Japanese food? But I had to share this meal with your eyes because the scallops were amazing! Quite possibly the best I’ve had so far in my life!
Unlike some places in Singapore that go heavy-handed with the sauces and oil, the chef displayed a deft hand and good restraint over the seasoning of the vegetables and seafood. The scallops were large and sweet without the presence of excessive sauces – just a touch of aged miso on top and it was heaven. The vegetables as well, retained a perfect crunch without being raw. Perhaps it was hunger that made the food taste exceptional. Whatever the case, the flavours are well and truly etched in my mind, and I have Flo to thank for for being so generous with me. Love you!
First thing Saturday morning once we’d had our tummies filled with breakfast, Flo and I made our way down to the boardwalk along Kandawgyi Lake.
There was a little monastery to the side of the Karaweik Palace, a barge inspired by the Pyigyimon Royal Barge. It was constructed to face the Shwedagon Pagoda so that visitors can not only take in the view of Shwedagon, but also bask in the midst of Myanmar culture while revelling amongst nature.
The barge looked so regal sat along the lake, even with the overcast skies above. The lake itself was a jade green in colour from the algae floating near the surface, but that further highlighted the golds and greens of the palace.
As the sun peaked out and the temperature rose, Flo and I decided to turn back. As we walked carefully over the uneven, unstable planks on the boardwalk, these two little friends ran by us with a bunch of balloons. This photo I took invokes in me a sense of carefreeness that I felt watching them.
They were probably no older than 8 but running around without an adult in sight. In most countries these days, it’s uncommon for children to wander far away from home by themselves. Here in Yangon however, it still feels normal. It still feels safe. It’s still part of the old world charm where people don’t need to have their doors locked every night before bed, where neighbours don’t need to knock before entering, where children can spend their day barefoot catching insects and getting muddy.
Anyway, after Flo and I rested some more after our walk, we went off for lunch. I’d pinned down Rangoon Tea House which has had lots of rave reviews about their modern spin on local Burmese food.
We chose the Pennywort Salad,
Pennywort leaves chopped, hand tossed with peanuts, shallots and tomatoes
Tea Leaf Salad,
House pickled tea leaves, diced tomatoes and crispy nuts served on a bed of shredded cabbage
And Catfish and Daggertooth Mohinga (Small).
Two fish-based broth made with lemongrass, coriander, fish sauce, fresh chickpeas
I think both our favourites turned out to be the salads. Mine the Tea Leaf Salad and Flo’s the Pennywort. Both had interesting textural contrasts from the crunch of the nuts/beans which were much appreciated. The fresh, tangy acidity of the lime juice helped cut the bitterness of the greens while highlighting the sweetness of the shallots and tomatoes.
We weren’t so blown away by the Mohinga. The broth was too light in flavour and I was expected a bit more punch from its colour. I did have our hotel’s rendition of mohinga on our last morning in Yangon and that was more to my taste – a more robust broth with a kick of fiery spice and a gentle savoury-sweetness from the fish.
We rounded off our lunch with Gate Sone aka Black Tea for me, and Shan Fusion Espresso for my man.
Then we set off towards Bogyoke Aung San Market.
Along the way, we walked through Maha Bandula Park where their Independence Monument stands. One thing Flo and I both noticed about being in Yangon is that the Burmese are very warm, hospital people and quite often, they would engage in conversation with us just so that they can practice their English.
Here, we were also spoken to by a local who shared with us a bit about himself, and with his knowledge on Buddhism, got us to find out what our animal is. Apparently, each day is represented by an animal. So based on the day you were born, you find your animal. It’s a little like the zodiac. Turn out, Flo’s an elephant and I’m a tiger. ROAR!
Just across from the park is the Sule Pagoda. It’s a little blurry unfortunately but the other picture I took wasn’t quite as pretty.
It seems to me as though every road in the city ends up leading to the Sule Pagoda. We didn’t visit this pagoda, but it was a beauty. Surrounding the inner core of the pagoda were lots of little booths, some had fortune tellers in them while others sold flowers for prayers.
We carried on some more and finally found ourselves at the Market.
Only, we got ourselves distracted by the new mall directly opposite called Junction City. At first, we went inside to find a comfortable place to pee, but the City Spirit in us unleashed itself at the blast of air-conditioning in our faces as we entered. It felt so damn good. We convinced ourselves that we’ve had more than enough of markets in other Southeast Asian countries so we happily ran amok along the supermarket aisles looking at what interesting things they had, before settling ourselves down to a cup of KOI tea.
Around 4.30pm, we taxied our way towards the Shwedagon Pagoda which is further north of the main city. There are quite a lot of stairs leading towards the main pagoda so it might be a little tiring for older folk. Tiring or not, it’s definitely worth a visit.
The pagoda may not look that big but some of the monks were up there checking on the building, perhaps doing some maintenance work or something. It took a while before we spotted them simply because they looked so tiny, like a pinhead! That’s how big the pagoda is!
As the sun started to make its way down, Flo and I stood in awe at the way the gold of the pagodas glowed. The skies were a perfect blue with a smattering of pure white clouds floating across. It was breath-taking!
And remember the little story I mentioned above about your birthday DAY animal? So what happens is, around the pagoda are all the days in the week and this one below is for the ‘elephant’ people who are born on a Wednesday. What they do is they take water and clean the statue of Buddha and/or the gold elephant below, and in return, they are blessed.
As evening began to move towards night, Flo and I left towards Strand Road Night Market. We were expecting something more along the lines of our pasar malams where small stalls are set up selling anything and everything. We were a little disappointed upon arriving because not only had it started to pour, but it was a simple line of stalls all selling food that we were unsure of.
We scampered off quickly to another place on my ‘To Eat’ list – 999 Shan Noodle Shop and arrived at 6.50pm. We only realised as we pored over their menu that they closed at 7pm. How very blessed we were!
We shared a bowl of Shan Noodle Soup in chicken broth. It doesn’t look very impressive but trust me, a mouthful of those noodles and impressed you will be! They were ever-so-slightly chewy but not in an undercooked way. They tasted of rice noodles with a little something something extra. Definitely something I’d hanker after on a cold, rainy day.
Their stir-fried watergress (I’m guessing it’s water spinach aka kang kong while Flo says they meant watercress) was lovely, fresh and crunchy. Not heavily seasoned at all which meant two thumbs up from me.
The last dish we shared was a bowl of their specialty wantons. I wasn’t so blown away by these although I have the admit that their wantons were generously filled with meat. They were also generous with the wantons. Flo loved these though. I think they seasoned the meat with a little turmeric which I’m not so accustomed to.
The lovely people at 999 Shan Noodle Shop very sweetly gave us a complimentary plate of local dessert. It was mont lone yay paw (I had to look that up) which is like a glutinous rice ball stuffed with a mix of jaggery and grated coconut. It was tasty, a little sticky and very chewy (think mochi but more chewy) albeit a bit too sweet for me. Still, it was a simple dinner, but an immensely enjoyable one that I’m sure both Flo and I will reminiscent about whenever we think about Yangon.
I didn’t think I’d write this much about our first full day in Yangon so I’ll continue on to our second day in my next post. Sit tight!!