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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

Our visit to the village of Kannee was the first time white-skinned people had ever stopped here.  These people were fascinated by us, and had trouble figuring out why we were so light-skinned.  They were very curious about us, and also very friendly.

Although they do not have the high standard of living and material possessions that we do, they seem very happy and contented.

For lunch, the soup was oriental chicken.  Mains were a  fish fillet sweet and sour with jasmine rice; a club sandwich; and spaghetti arrabiata.  The dessert was Burmese carrot pudding.

The pattern of frequent pagodas appearing, even in the middle of nowhere, continued as we cruised to our final stop on the cruise, Pyay.

For dinner, appetizers were a green salad with bean sprouts and cashew nuts or Thai style spicy grilled beef salad. The soup was tomato ginger soup topped with roasted peanuts.  Mains were a whole roasted beef loin with sautéed spinach and jack potato in red wine sauce (my choice); and fillet of butter fish with lemon grass fresh vegetables on jasmine rice; and Burmese vegetable curry with jasmine rice; and I had red wine. The dessert was chocolate nut brownie with ice cream and vanilla mouse.  It was one of the best dinners on the cruise.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

Next morning, Viking played a little game with us in Magway.  They gave us the English name of something that we had to buy in the market, and they gave us money.  We had to figure out what the item was by one way or the other.  My item was "tobu"; the tour director pronounced it "tosu". It occurred to me that it sounded like "tofu", which most people are familiar with from Chinese menus.
After walking around for a while, I saw someone who had what looked like a block of cheddar cheese.   I mentioned the word "tosu".   She nodded yes; I luckily had my item but not everyone did. It was interesting walking through their market, and I got quite a few photos of things like betel nut, thanaka wood, and various foods.
 For lunch, we had chicken soup with vegetables. The main dishes were Burmese fish with peanut curry; grilled vegetable sandwich; and pasta bolognaise.   For dessert, chocolate cake and an assortment of fresh fruit.

We toured the town of Minhla, another location in Myanmar that was difficult to find anything in my travel guide books or the internet.  This is a small town, and oil drilling and refining are big in this area.  Minhla is known because of the presence of Fort Minhla,  which was built by two Italian brothers as a defense against the British invasion of Burma.

For dinner, the appetizers were tomato salad with cheese and classic shrimp cocktail.  Mains were baked chicken breast with shallots and mashed pumpkin potatoes; or sea bass fillet with fresh vegetables and tomato lemon vinaigrette (my choice); or bell pepper stuffed with carrots, tomatoes, onions, and olives served on turmeric fried rice. The soup was vegetable cream, and I had white wine. The dessert was crepe suzette with orange sauce and ice cream.  This was another good dinner.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

Pha Kha Nge Village was interesting to walk around.  As in other locations, the locals are generally very friendly, especially the youngish adults and children. They are fascinated by white-skinned people, whom they have not seen often.   Although they do not have the same material wealth of those in the West, we all felt that they were a very happy, contented people.

The soup for lunch was Chinese style sweet corn.   In addition to the usual salad bar selections, there were three selections for the main dish - beef in oyster sauce with bell peppers and jasmine rice (my choice); tuna salad sandwich; and pasta with creamy mushroom sauce.  For dessert, there was a bread and butter pudding and a selection of fresh fruits.

Magway was a good sized town, however, I could not find any specific information on it so I will not try to make any comments.

For dinner, appetizers were Italian crostini with tomatoes and basil or salmon tartar. The soup was creamy cauliflower. The main dishes were grilled butter fish fillet with lemon sauce and vegetable ragout (my choice); pork chops with potato roti and snow peas with rum sauce; and Myanmar braised pumpkin with jasmine rice. The dessert was mocha cake or a selection of fresh fruits, and I had white wine.

I saw betel nuts sold in markets in Myanmar and also, I observed stores preparing the stuffed leaves.  Usually for chewing, a few slices of the nut are wrapped in a betel leaf along with calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) and may include clove, cinnamon and/or tobacco.   Betel leaf has a fresh, peppery taste, but it can also be bitter.  Our tour guide told us that Buddhist monks use the betel nut frequently.   I and others noticed when close to a monk who was speaking, that he had red blotches on his teeth, and this was from the use of betel nut.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

Next morning, we stopped at the village of Tan Kyi-Taung to attend an elephant dance.  At one time, real elephants performed a dance in which their masters or trainers performed actions and movements, which the elephants imitated. This elephant was an elaborately decorated dummy with two men inside performing movements, accompanied by a band of musicians. 

Some local artisans came aboard to demonstrate the art of using rattan to make various decorations and practical objects.

For lunch, the soup was chilled gazpacho.  The main dishes were a Burmese egg curry with vegetables and jasmine rice; chicken salad sandwich; or pasta in tuna sauce with capers, sweet corn, and scallops (my choice).   For dessert, we had a chocolate banana tart and various melons like papaya, yellow watermelon, and dragon fruit. The taste of dragon fruit has been described as being very bland like a melon or kiwifruit with a mild sweetness. We had both the white-fleshed and red-fleshed at different times during the cruise.


As we cruised, more of the golden stupas. They are everywhere, even in isolated areas. 

Salay is a colorful old religious center in central Myanmar.  It is about 1 ½ hours south of Bagan. There are numerous ancient monasteries adorned with beautiful wood carvings. 

This is a compact city of colonial buildings, monasteries and pagodas. There are several impressive colonial houses.  The British were living very well here.

For dinner, the appetizers were mixed green salad  or shrimp cocktail calypso. The main dishes were fillet of salmon with spinach and potato wedges (my choice); chicken ragout; and vegetable lasagna with tomato sauce.  I had white wine, and the soup was creamy carrot ginger. The dessert was red wine pear with ice cream. This was another good dinner.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

Cyclone Pam is on the way....

A Nasa satellite image of cyclone Pam shows the eye of the storm just east of Vanuatu.

But nothing serious happened here  - just some rain and wind.  Nothing to write home about, as they say.  Guess we were lucky......

New jersey, to add to the collection.....

CBD (Central Business District) and surrounding venues.....

... on a nice day.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

After lunch, we visited a lacquer craft shop  - they cut bamboo into very thin strips with slits at the end and then shape the strips into the type of product desired.  They then attach the bamboo strips using the slits at the end. The lacquer is acquired from the acacia tree, which is sapped like rubber from a rubber tree.

And then to Mamuha Temple, which was built in 1059 by a captive king to improve his karma for future incarnations.

And then to Shwesandaw Pagoda, which was erected in 1057 in celebration of a military victory and to enshrine hairs of the Buddha.

Then back to the ship -  appetizers for dinner were a green salad with grapes, bacon and croutons; or a tomato and mozzarella salad with basil-pesto sauce.  The soup was creamy pumpkin.  The main dishes were parmesan crusted chicken with green peas and rice; fresh inle bream (fish) with fresh vegetables and sautéed potatoes (my choice); and stuffed tortilla with vegetables . The fish was excellent, and I had white wine.  For dessert, there was fried banana with honey sauce or an assorted fruit and melon plate.

Viking arranged for a professional puppet troupe to come aboard to present a puppet show.   Puppetry is popular throughout Asia and the Burmese have a tradition of being highly skilled at puppetry since the 11th century. 

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

A nice 40.5 km bike route, which peaks out at 239m.  One spot where I stopped was at a home named after a castle in the Czech Republic.  A very interesting story that I got from the lady of the house - an elderly woman whose husband died 14 years ago.

It is a large property with lots of trees in the front part, so you can not even see the house from the entrance. There is a little booth between the entrance and the Křivoklát sign, where the woman sells avocados - a very common thing around here.

 Single-lane bridges on rural roads.
 I saw a minivan at the end of the driveway getting ready to leave, so I waited at the entrance where we chatted for a couple of minutes. I asked her about the sign, and she explained that the famous castle was where her husband lived before leaving the country in the 1950's.

She said he was a forester and lived along with a bunch of other workers in one of three houses on the castle grounds. In fact, she said, he was born on the castle grounds.

A couple of climbs on Kara road and then return eastward on SH14 with a nice fast downhill towards the hospital and then the short section of bike path through Raumanga Park.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.



Thursday, 5 March 2015

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

The ruins of medieval Bagan are scattered over an area of roughly 26 square miles, southwest of Mandalay on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River.  Formerly inhabited by between 50,000 to 200,000 people, the lost city of Bagan is now largely deserted, with most of the local population and tourist-related businesses confined to settlements on the peripheries, leaving the monuments rising in a state of charismatic isolation. 

I ask myself why I have not read anything that does not classify the religious structures at Bagan as one of the Wonders of the World.   It is bewildering, because I think they deserve this distinction.  
Pya Thet Gyi Pagoda - perhaps we stopped here to get a panoramic view of the Bagan area. 
Thapyinnyunt Temple - construction of this temple introduced the idea of placing a smaller "hollow" cube on top of a larger Bamar-style structure, whereas the previous Mon-style shrines were only one storey.   The center of the lower cube is solid, serving as a foundation for the upper temple, which houses an eastward-looking Buddha figure.

The Ananda Temple, completed in 1091, is considered the masterpiece of Bagan’s surviving Mon architecture. This temple was inspired by eight Indian Buddhist monks who told the Burmese of a legendary Himalayan cave temple whose beauty inspired the Burmese to build Ananda Temple.

For lunch, the soup was sweet and sour fish.   In addition to the usual selection of fresh bread, various salads, cheese, etc, the main dishes were pork "tauk tauk" with jasmine rice; or smoked salmon sandwich with cream cheese (my choice); or Burmese fried noodles with vegetables and fried egg. The dessert was cake and yellow watermelon.

We also had mangosteen for desert.  The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, and somewhat fibrous. I thought that they were alright, but not spectacular.

Next blog - continuation of day
Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....


Whangarei Falls are on the opposite side of town from where I live, so it would be about a half hour ride to get there (mainly because of low speed on the climb) but going back is a lot faster - maybe 20 minutes.   
It seems to be a popular spot for travelers to stop for lunch on their drive farther north - places like Bay of Islands and beyond.

The picnic tables are along hiking trails, which go along the Hatea river from the falls.  I believe they also connect with trails going up Mount Parihaka, which is not very far away.

For me, it is a place I frequently bike by on one of my favorite training rides, which is about 1.5 hours total. The falls are close to the end of my ride on the return leg - normally, I do not stop here.

In fact, I usually do the training ride about twice a week, and another shorter, weekly one that also goes by the falls.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.