Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Myanmar Travel Tips

I recently visited Myanmar. It's my first time there, and as a new destination.. I really didn't know on what to expect. That plus the fact that not many friends have visited here.

Well, here are some travel tips that I have on my very first trip to Myanmar (and as far as I know, the first amongst many friends).

1. Currency Exchange
Rude shock - Malaysian money changers do not carry the Myanmar currency, Kyats. Not even the popular money changer in Mid Valley.

So what I did was to change the Malaysian Ringgit into US Dollars first. And I also carried some Singapore Dollars with me.

When I reached Myanmar, I could then change these currencies into Kyats.

Oh, one more thing to know - the money changers there give different rates not based on the total amount of money you are exchanging, but instead based on the value of each note. That means a USD100 note gets a higher value as compared to a USD20 note!! Also, they only accept 3 currencies - USD, SGD and Euro!

Kyats will be a good way to use in the country, though at certain places like the hotels and tourist places - they do accept US Dollars too.

2. Transportation
Taxis charge a flat rate of about 2000 Kyats, but depending on where you flag down a cab, the price may vary. This especially happens when I flag it from my hotel - which is a more high end hotel... hence the price is usually 3000 - 4000 Kyats per trip.

For short distance like from my hotel to the Shwegadon Palace, I actually walked.. it's only less than 1km, but weather is rather hot.

I also tried the bus - which is really those old school (antique type) buses. It's way cheaper (bout 200 Kyats per person). It's open air but I don't mind for that short distance.

3. Food
Local food are quite delicious and fits the Malaysian taste buds (this might differ if your taste buds is not so open to Asian taste). I like the local noodles but don't dare eat the ones at the street as most of them use their hands to mix the noodles, with no pipe water around (instead clean their hands in pails).

I however found some at a "coffee-shop" on the way to the Shwegadon Palace. The noodles were tasty.

I also tried the local pea pratha.. which is like "roti canai" but the dhall is more raw, and yummy too. It's probably my best local food in Myanmar, though the local mangoes come a close 2nd!

On a note, I had a lil tummy upset upon returning home, so I'd just like to warn other tourists to be a lil more careful.

4. Hotel And Accommodation
At this point of writing, Myanmar don't seem to offer much here. It's 2 options - either the very high end or the "lower end" ones.

I having traveled a fair bit, do like to stay in budget hotels but that is not available here. And while there seem to have a few cheaper hotels but the reviews online are not convincing... for they usually have some bad reviews amongst the other reviews.

This being the first time visiting Myanmar, I took a safer option and stayed in probably the top 3 hotels there - the Kandawgyi Palace. The hotel is 5 stars, and have good facilities plus a nice room. The only setback of this hotel is the swimming pool which the pump didn't seem to be working when I visited.

5. Sight Seeing

Pagodas are the main attractions here - like the Shwedagon Pagoda. Now, this is a huge place and can take up to a few hours to fully cover it.

The other Pagoda I visited is the Bohtataung Pagoda, which I got lucky as managed to visit it at night (for it was Wesak).

Yangon is also famous for its lakes - and I visited the rather huge Kandawgyi Lake. It took a good 45 minutes (slow walk and taking pictures) to reach from one end to another - and I actually just covered part of it.

These places do have a cover charge (USD5 for Shwedagon Pagoda and USD2 for the Kandawgyi Lake).

6. Shopping
While malls are starting to sprout out in Yangon but they are really not in the same league as yet to what the other cities in Asia has to offer. The range is a lil limited and prices are a lil steep.

I bought some longyi from this pretty lady seller :)
The better option would be to visit the Bogyoke market. Despite it being quite a huge place but still options are a lil limited and are more of the cheaper stuff. But still, one can find some gems in between - like postcard paintings at cheap price.

I also bought some longyi (aka sarungs).. which I've seen many Burmese men wear. However, I doubt that it's made locally and believe that they are imported from Indonesia or Malaysia (?)

7. Dressing
I visited Myanmar in May, and it was hot.. though it had some rain in between. I was happy that I opted for tops, singlets and short pants as much as I could.. However, I realised that I was the only one wearing the singlet around!

I actually read a sign that says that tourists are advised not to wear sleeveless shirts nor shorts into the Shwedagon Pagoda, but somehow I managed to get through. Luckily on that day, I wore long jeans.

Btw, I saw many Burmese men wearing the longyi (aka sarungs) and I got one myself. I actually wore this to the club too! Again, I was the odd one out here as just like I read, not many actually wear longyis when they club. I was of course allowed entry.. and err.. actually managed to dance in it too (yes to the amusement of some local fellow clubbers).

I hope my insight and tips on traveling to Myanmar is helpful. Yangon and Myanmar is still a good place to travel now, despite its limitations. As I can see, this place will be changing really fast as the city is opening up. By the next 5 years, some info on this posts may probably change..

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kraze Burger (Singapore) Review

Kraze Burgers has long queues and full tables. The interior is pretty decent too (not lavishly decorated but ok) and they have rather well designed menus.

All these to make me assume that this should be a good burger joint.

But oh, how wrong I was about this burger joint that originates from Korea!

While the burgers look close as those from the menu, but the taste is blend.

And that's quite shocking. For not that cheap burgers (prices above SGD10, averaging around SGD16), having queues and being full house.. something seems really wrong here.

But I'm not alone. My 3 other friends with me felt the same. If not for the company, this would be a rather disastrous outing.. except for the extra side dish we ordered - the fries.

Now that was above average though a bit too lil to "save" this place. I mean, a burger joint should be known for its burgers first, no?

I guessed I feel kinda disappointed, and "cheated" in some ways. I still don't get it on the queue - doesn't Singapore have good burgers? Or is it just a "Singapore thing" - to queue.. for everything?

Sorry, Kraze Burgers for this negative review. I rarely review places that are not nice usually.. but I felt there's so much more you can offer. But till then, I'll probably not go back - long queue or otherwise..

*10 Bayfront Avenue
#B2-55 Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 66887844

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ampang Yong Tow Foo (at Jalan Imbi)

Even before I moved to KL, I've been coming to this stall for its Yong Tow Foo (yong tau fu).

Now that I'm here, I still do come here - for it does serve really fresh and affordable yong tow foo. And which are pretty delicious too!

There's a range of the dishes - and usually I'll take one of each.. like the stuffed ladyfingers, chillies, bitter gourd and fried sui kow.

The ones that I usually take extra are the rather huge stuffed brinjal and the must-try stuffed tau fu. These are usually amongst the best selling items here and sometimes they do run out if late.

Btw this stall is located at the open air hawkers centre.. which is beside the Honda Showroom (and diagonally opposite the 7-11). It is the busiest stall at the area!

It opens from evening (bout 6pm) daily but closes on every Tuesday.

This is one of the top ten KL food stalls I like, and have recommended it to both my local and tourist friends - with good feedback!! :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How I Celebrated Mother's Day 2013

It's not often that I spend time with my mum.. with her being in hometown Malacca, and me here in KL.

While we do meet up every month or so, but still.. that never seems enough. Weekends are always short!!

So, when Mother's Day came.. I thought I'd spend some time with mum. The idea was simple - to just spend time :)

And so, I went back to hometown Malacca on the Saturday. This is quite something for me, as I was just back in Malacca the previous weekend for voting. And to go back again is quite unexpected for me!

But, well I (surprisingly) did :)

The first thing we did on Mother's Day was to go to the temple and we then went to buy some pineapple tarts. I know these has nothing much to do with Mother's Day, right...

We then headed for lunch at this newly discovered restaurant, Baboon.. which is located in Hereen Street (aka Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock). 

This to me, was the highlight.. as it was the "Mother's Day" lunch for us.. though it's just burgers. But well, good burgers at a very lovely restaurant it was!

After lunch, we went back home to rest (Malacca weather is as always - hot!). 

Then in the early evening, we went for a movie. I've already watched all the blockbusters currently showing.. except for Star Trek. So, we went to watched this movie. 

I've never been much of a Star Trek fan, and well.. this movie kinda confirms it - for it's always bout the ship! It wasn't bad but just not in my favourite list. Mum however seemed to enjoy it more, so that was good. 

Post movie, was time for dinner. We tried going to one of the Japanese restaurants mum wanted to go, but that was full. In fact, lots of restaurants were full on that day. Wonder if it was because it's Sunday, or because it's Mother's Day or many tourist just haven't left the city!

But anyway, we just headed to one of the other nearby restaurants.. and it happen to be this Taiwan inspired restaurant. Which btw has a logo of cute Polar Bears as its theme.

The food was pretty standard - "Taiwanese" style. I kinda enjoyed it but this time round, mum wasn't so into it though.

Then it was back to home. And before going to bed, we had mum's own cooking of white fungus (and more) dessert. It was a nice ending to Mother's Day.

This wasn't a big day with lots of events or something really fanciful, but I enjoyed this day.. having spent my time with mum. Maybe, I might just consider going back Malacca more often? :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

KL's Best Burger: My Burger Lab!

I love burgers. And tell me a good burger joint, and I'll definitely go try it out.Well, so the story goes for the oh-so-popular My Burger Lab.

The thing is, this “fast food” restaurant has been opened close to a year now.. but it took me a while to visit it. Stories of its long queue just puts me off.. no matter how much I've heard bout it.

But well, time has passed.. and I thought it was a good time to visit the restaurant.

And well, secondly, my friend, an avid food lover “swears” by this burger joint.

So, when he invited me again - I knew I jumped on board. 

The time to meet was 430pm, half an hour earlier than the opening time. To him, it's better to queue before the opening than once it's opened. 

And he is right. We were lucky to be the 3rd group in queue. Soon, the queue started to form.. all the way from the shop to a few rows down. 

And at about 5pm sharp, the "gates" were opened.. and we started to queue behind the counter. The mistake we made - we kinda forgot to "book" a seat.. and soon tables were being filled up. But lucky us, we managed to squeze with some fellow burger fans. 

Btw, there's a host of burgers listed on the menu.. but the popular one is probably Beef The Hulk and Popular Mess. The names already sound good, right? :)

All of us added RM6 for fries and bottomless soda (self service). 

Honestly, I couldn't wait to eat them burgers. I just wanted to see how good the burgers were.. with the queue plus my friend's recommendation already confirming that this should be good.. But the question is how good? 

And so, the burgers came, and I sinked my teeth into those black buns (chracoal buns). And OMG, it is really good!

The meat is tender and juicy. The buns are soft. And added with cheese, the rather simple dish.. is simply the bomb!

I got to admit, my curiousity is answered. My Burger Lab deserves its tagline to be the best burger joint in KL... even better than my previous review of Malaysia's best Ramly burger

And that comes from one who eats quite a fair bit of burgers around the city. But hey, don't just trust me.. why not check it out yourself? :)

Very satisfied burger fans!
My friend Mark who introduced My Burger Lab, with gf. 

For me - I can't wait to go back again. Those burgers are tempting!!

14, Jalan 21/22, SeaPark, 46300 PJ, Selangor. 
Opens Tuesdays - Sundays, 5-11pm. 

*They state on the website that the burgers are from grass fed Australian beef. Don't other beef come from grass fed too? :)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Malaysian Tsunami (Pakatan Rally)

My black tee.. for the night!
The 58 Ubah (Black 505) carnival like gathering yesterday was awesome!

Friend, Ben CMX and me - our first time attending such a rally
I sat with fellow Malaysians of different races and ages from youngsters to even the older generation.. all of us listening and cheering the speakers as they came one by one on stage.

The crowd was massive. We sat in the middle of the field!

Full of Malaysians, of all races, religion and background.. young and old!!
Malays who sat beside me. Cheers :)

Many big names gave their speeches including Rafizi, Nurul Izzah, Lim Kit Siang and of course Anwar Ibrahim!

The speakers of all Pakatan parties spoke mainly in our Bahasa Kebangsaa, with some English. They mainly shared the fraud issues that happened, and the need to elect a winning government - one that has won the Rakyat's popular vote!

The crowd has been very supportive and responsive, cheering with the MC and them.. to the words like "ubah", "reformasi", "ini kalilah", etc.

Before dispersing, the huge crowd (some estimate 50000-65000) sang the national anthem together!

The post event was just as great - I met some friends and took photos with fellow Malaysians - some in "masks", some holding banners, many in black tees.

Bumped into my Indian friends. Like his tee!
Someone grabbed my shoulder in when in the field, giving me a shock (was thinking it was gonna be a fight).. but no lah, it was my friends!! :)
At the end before leaving, a Malay guy came up to me and friend.. shook our hands and said "I have Chinese friends". Nice gesture :)

Pakatan Rakyat may not have "won" to form a new government, but if there's one thing in this whole GE.. Is that it has brought us Malaysians even much closer than before.

Personally Pakatan Rakyat can take credit for that. Just see the turnout that supported them!!

They don't need slogans with mega advertising but instead just pure intentions to help Malaysians of all races!!

To that - I say, Syabas!!