Thursday 29 May 2014

Travel: Mandalay, Burma

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Before leaving for Burma (way back in January!) a friend of mine wished me a good trip and said she was looking forward to the accompanying blog post.  She also mentioned there was no rush as she knew I probably wouldn't be able to get to it until April. I felt incredulous at the time - April was so far away! - but looks like she was right, heck it's practically the end of May and I'm just getting to it now. I need to get better at this.

And so, here we are with the first of 4 instalments of our time in Burma over the Chinese New Year holiday.

Mandalay is a big city with a small town feel. Known as the key city to "Upper Burma" Mandalay is a well laid out grid of streets situated at the base of Mandalay Hill along the banks of the Irrawaddy River. Considering the true size of Mandalay (approximately 1.5 million) I was surprised by how sleepy the city felt.  This is a place that knows what a siesta is and takes full advantage of it.

Overall Mandalay wasn't my favourite stop on our little trip, and though there are some good choices in terms of food, touristing and entertainment, if you're tight on time more than 2 days would feel like a waste.

The Green Elephant - This is one of those charming garden restaurants that always seems to have a clinking of glasses, tinkling of laughter, and an aroma that draws you in. The Green Elephant serves traditional Burmese food to those looking for a taste of local flavours in a setting that is relaxed and elegant, and it does it well.  I particularly recommend the coconut rice and coupling dinner with one of the  puppet or dance shows, both of which are near by.

Too Too Restaurant - To say this little restaurant is bare bones is a bit of an understatement. Hole in the wall is the term usually given to places like this, but that's usually where some of the best food is to be found and this place certainly didn't disappoint.  Offering local Burmese food, this little place is a great little rest stop on a busy day of touring.  Simply walk in, order from the display of dishes behind the glass, and enjoy. Set prices will include a main, rice, and side dish - extras cost extra (go figure!)

Marie-Min - This cozy little cafe and restaurant sits on the second floor with an open air balcony that looks into a popular thai restaurant across a tight alley, it also happens to be entirely vegetarian (score!). With a fairly extensive menu that will serve anything from tea leaf salad to avocado and coffee milk shakes (all three of which are recommended) we happily passed a couple hours resting our feet and escaping the scorching heat after several hours of touristing.

Mandalay Hill - While the barefoot climb to the summit of the 240 meter hill on a series of covered stairways (with plenty of stops and viewpoints on the way) is worth it, you can also travel up by a combination of car and elevator. I personally recommend the walk, but if you're not able the latter option will also reward you with a striking panoroma of the city and access to Sutaungpyei Pagoda. The combination of the view, and the old and new world charms that were visible in the refurbished pagoda are well worth the trip and was a personal highlight for me.

Shwenandaw Kyaung - I could have spend hours looking at this intricately carved teak monastary. Each panel had something to admire and the blend of it all together was nothing short of striking.  Originally built as the royal apartment of King Mindon, it was once taken apart and put back together again just outside the palace walls and converted to a monastary after King Thibaw declared he could no longer stand the ghost of Mindon, who had died inside the apartment in 1878. Though not huge there is plenty to look at, and once inside men are allowed to explore the space that was once used as a bedroom where King Mindon passed.

Mahamuni Paya - One of the neatest, and most jarring, realities of the temples in Burma is that they are still widely used by local people today, which means the  aesthetic has changed over the years to include neon lights and a whole lot of glitz. This is perhaps most evident in Mahamuni Paya where throngs of people still go to visit the 13ft seated Buddha. Again, only men are allowed into the main room that houses buddha, but open air windows allow for view from the outside of the golden statue.  The courtyard and surrounding buildings of this Paya also hold many interesting artifacts to make note of and also offer some solice from the inevitable crowds.

Take a stroll - As I mentioned, Mandalay is a big city with a small town feel and it's worth just taking a walk along the unpaved roads to take in the sights and sounds that greet you. There's plenty to see, but watch out, traffic can get hectic and I only noticed a handful of traffic lights on my journey.

Until next time!

Sunday 18 May 2014

Wide Angle: Vol. 12

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Sometimes I talk like someone with a lot more street cred than I myself possess, so you'll forgive me when I say … it has been hella busy up in here.

There's only 12 teaching days left before exams start, and then only about 5 days after that to get it all marked. Then another week to pack up our life here, 1 week to do some last minute travelling (I cannot leave this country without visiting the Great Wall) and then go HOME! It's so close I can taste the daily salads and free flowing drinkable tap water as I type this, and oh it tastes good!

There's been a lot going on behind the scenes lately too, so let's take a look.

1 and 2: I did one of those things that makes my life sound like a movie. I had a bachelorette party in Singapore. I dressed my nails up like tuxedos for the occasion, I got dressed up and ate fancy food on top of fancy buildings, and (not pictured) I danced my tukus off with 5 great friends until the very, very wee hours of the morning.

3 and 4: I've already written about it here, but I discovered a great fondness for Nepal. Here are two shots from the guesthouse in Kathmandu - one from the street just outside and the other from my room.

5: I made mug cakes for days after this.

6: Sometimes people surprise you with really nice things - like Starbucks and homemade muffins in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

7: Because I just can't seem to sit still, Other Half and I hiked around Tiger Leaping Gorge for a couple of days on a recent long weekend. This was basically the view the entire time. There were many moments of awe.

8: More surprises, this time my favourite colours in my favourite pattern. Love.

9: Wedding planning is fun. Pretty notebooks and lavender coffee make it even better.

10: I've owned many pairs of Converse shoes in my life time (often many at one time), but these new leather ones with fluorescent trim might just be my favourite. I called them my grown up sneakers because they're made of leather - Other Half promptly reminded me that grown ups don't wear fluorescent pink. Hah! I'll show him!

11: This little fella was hanging out at school the other day, his wings are magical.

12: Don't mind me… just going to go on a little over night trip to the beach and call it work. This will be a tough job to leave.

Well, that's me! What's new with you?

Thursday 8 May 2014

Link Love-In: Shifting

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via designlovefest

It was my Birthday yesterday and I turned a scary age. Never in my life have I dreamed of being older. From the time I was 10, I knew I was in the glory days of life.  I was pretty sure there was no better age than the one I was living and I have no single memory of thinking "When I'm older, I'll be able to...." While I've mellowed out (a little bit) about the idea of getting older, I still have a mini freak out each year at the thought of growing up, and gaining more and more responsibilities to carry around (this whole sentence makes me sound like a terrible person, maybe I am). Each year however I realize I never feel different than the day before, and I get over it pretty quickly. But this year feels different. No, I didn't turn 30 or anything like that - I turned the big 2-9. The age every woman claims to be as soon as she is older than that.

This year I'm very conscious of being in the last year of my 20's. Even though I feel very far away from my early 20's (and in many ways happy about it), I can't shake the feeling that it's somehow a big shift. I've never felt 'old' or even very 'mature' and I still don't, but the last couple of days have been hard.

I think we can all agree I just need to take a deep breath, put on my big girl pants and hope it passes like all the years before, yes? Hmmm I'll work on that.

In the mean time, let's take a gander together at some of the great things the world wide web has to offer us!

  1. I'm a bit of an environmentalist (like, quite a bit) and while each new solution for issues we create as humans has it's own set of problems, this one out of Harvard is quite interesting. (via PolicyMic)
  2. Oh The Hairpin, you appeal to my heavily sarcastic soul so much. Recently they've delighted with Horoscopes from Galactic Rabbits and plots from my childhood fave Goosebumps illustrated from memory. (via The Hairpin)
  3. The story of the artist who created a book detailing all possible colour combinations 271 years before Pantone ever existed has been all over the place, if you haven't seen it yet it's an interesting read. (via This is Colossal) 
  4. Recently, a student at school wrote an excellent speech on the importance of the comma. I think she would have really enjoyed this. (via HowStuffWorks)
  5. After discussing the word "sup" and it's general overuse (which, naturally, got more intense as soon as I told a room full of 16 year olds I was tired of it) I'd like to believe that this man's point is true. But clearly this author has never received an essay with "r" and "u" (instead of "are" and "you").  (via Time)
  6. I've been rocking a range of these desktop wallpapers lately and loving it. (via DesignLoveFest)


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