Myanmar: Spectacular Sunset at Mandalay Hill

After we visited the Kuthodaw Pagoda, we decided to go up to the summit of Mandalay Hill to watch the sun stunningly vanish over the horizon, giving way to a thousand others.

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

This beautiful hill is popular for its superb valley views. It is situated at the corner of the moat of the Palace, northeast of the city center and about 240 meters above sea level.

From the top of Mandalay Hill

We hired a taxi to take us around Mandalay and before he drove us back to our hotel, our last stop was in Mandalay Hill. When we arrived on top, we removed our shoes, and took the elevator to go up.

at the top of Mandalay Hill

We went up 30 minutes before sunset to soak up the atmosphere, and stay until dark. It’s lovely up there! In spite of the huge crowds, we enjoyed the fresh air with spectacular 360 views of the city and the surrounding countryside. It’s a gorgeous place to witness the entire city and the palace grounds, encased by snaking rivers to one side and distant mountains to the other.

From the top of Mandalay Hill

at the top of Mandalay Hill

At the top of Mandalay Hill

Wandering around slightly at the top of the hill, we came across many nicely decorated pagodas, stupas and monasteries that have been the pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists for about two centuries. We also noticed the king of the ogres with his armies at the four corners of the top terrace, and saw many creature statues such as rabbits, cockerels, and lizards which represent Buddha experiences – his birth, suffering, death, and rebirth. The temple complex at the top is worth the journey alone – it’s wonderful with gorgeous artifacts and a cool marble floor as you go without shoes.

at the top of Mandalay Hill

Later, we found a quiet place. We sat there. Far in the distance, we watched the blazing yellow sun sinking low in the sky. Then the sky was dyed with the splash of colors. We savored the moment. It was romantic. It was magical. And, this beautiful sunset reminded us that no matter what happens things end in a beautiful way.

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

Spectacular sunset in Mandalay Hill

Certainly, Mandalay Hill is a fascinating historical place and watching the magnificent sunset is definitely a must see if you are in the area.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • There is no entrance fee. But you have to pay a fee for your camera and for the shoe box.
  • A lot of tourists visit the hill for sunset.
  • It is accessible to everyone. There is a one-way motor road, an escalator and a lift for those who are unable to climb up the stairs.
  • Try to get there a while before sunset and stake your spot otherwise you’ll be knee-deep in tourists.
Advertisements

Taste of Home: Potato, pumpkin and Leek Soup

I made potato, pumpkin and leek soup several times cause my family really loves this fabulous soup! It’s really hearty – the leeks with the pumpkin and potatoes make for a really full flavor combination. Also, my son gobbled this right up and asked for more.

Potato, pumpkin and leek soup

The last time I made this soup was 2 weeks ago when some of our friends came over during the weekend. They love it very much, and I shared my recipe with them.

In my recipe, I didn’t put a lot of cream as the soup was already rich and tasty on its own. Usually I serve it with baguette as we really enjoy dipping some buttery bread in it.

Next time I make it, I’ll try to add a wee bit of ginger, I think it adds zest and fragrance to the soup.

It’s a great soup – easy, quick tasty and healthy, and a comforting cold-weather soup puree. The rave reviews from my family and friends make it all worthwhile to share my recipe with all of you.

Potato, pumpkin and leek soup

Ingredients good for 6 persons:

  • 1 small pumpkin, seeded, peeled and cut roughly
  • 1 big potato, peeled and cut roughly
  • 3 stalks leek, cut roughly
  • 25 cL fresh cooking cream
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

How to make it?

  1. Put pumpkin, potato, leek and 1 L of water in a large pot. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Blend it for 1 minute or until it becomes smooth. [If you do not have an immersion blender, you can use a blender to puree the soup. Just be careful in transferring the veges to the blender as it’s still very hot.]
  3. Add fresh cream, salt and black pepper. Stir.
  4. Let it cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Et voila! Serve, share and enjoy!

 

Myanmar: Hike up to Mount Popa

The day after temple hopping in Bagan, we set off bright and hiked up Mount Popa, a sacred site and an iconic Myanmar postcard sight.

Mount Popa

Mount Popa from afar, on our way to the base

Mount Popa, is an extinct volcano, about 1,500m above sea level, and situated about 48km south east of Bagan. It is a famous spiritual place and considered as one of the oasis in Myanmar.

Mount Popa

at the peak of Mount Popa

at the top of Mount Popa

From afar, the views of Popa are stunning, and we loved seeing it dazzling in the distance.

Mount Popa

We trailed 777 steep steps up to the peak of Mount Popa and took the same steps on the way down. There was a plethora of local market stalls set up from the base of Popa and along the stairs. As we climbed up, there were lots of monkeys cheekily adorning the passageways and dirtying the area. Personally, I did not find the hike a nice experience as we clucked up the steps bare feet through monkeys’ wee and poo which unfortunately is not properly cleaned.

Mount Popa

Mount Popa

From the top of Mount Popa

Although there was nothing much to do at the peak, to me it was still worth it. The top of Popa is a gold filled affair – monasteries, shrines, stupases, statues and bells, all covered in gold and shimmering in the sunlight. Also, from the top of the mountain, the views of green scenery of the environment and the surrounding countryside are magnificent.

From the top of Mount Popa

From the top of Mount Popa

The views from the of Mount Popa

Mount Popa

at the top of Mount Popa

at the top of Mount Popa

Overall, we enjoyed our visit to the important Burmese pilgrimage mount even though it was chaotic, noisy and dirty (rubbish and monkey droppings)! But if you have a free half-day in Bagan, popping over to Mount Popa is worth it.

From the top of Mount Popa

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • We took a private car and the cost was USD 35 for a round trip from Nyang Oo, Bagan. It was around an hour drive (one way), and we spent around 3 hours at Mount Popa.
  • Wear appropriate clothes – no shorts, no vests, no socks, no shoes, no sleeveless shirts, no hats allowed!
  • Watch out for the monkeys. They are aggressive. Some of them might steal your stuff from you, so put your things in zipped compartment.
  • No entrance fee. We only paid $1 for the shoes locker.
  • Bring wet wipes to clean your feet. bring some wipes for cleaning your feet after the climb. There are copious amounts of monkey poo and it’s impossible to avoid it completely!
  • Don’t bring any food or drink to avoid unwanted attention from the monkeys.

Taste of Home: The French toast – Savory Lost Bread

Have you ever tried or heard about Lost Bread? Personally, I hadn’t heard about it before, until very recently (2 weeks ago), Alan introduced it to us. And, since I love it, I tried making it myself.

The “Lost Bread” is a popular French toast. In France it is called pain perdu (pronounced pan pare due), a dish that rescues a dry bread that would be lost.

Lost Bread, Pan Perdu: The French toast

In this recipe, days-old bread is used not only for its thrift but also because it soaks up a lot of egg mixture without falling apart. The slices of bread are dipped in a mixture of scrambled eggs and milk or cream. Then fried in butter until browned and cooked. While frying, it smells so good that I could hardly wait to get it on my plate.

Lost Bread, Pan Perdu: The French toast

In France, pain perdu is usually eaten as a dessert or an afternoon snacks, as the cooked slices are usually served with sugar or sweet toppings such as jam, honey, fruit or maple syrup. Since we don’t really like sugar, we made it savory. I love it! It’s very rich. It’s fantastic, simple and easy. Plus, it makes a fun meal.

So, for those who would like to try, here’s a recipe of pain perdu (lost bread):

Lost Bread, Pan Perdu: The French toast

Ingredients good for 3 persons:

  • Days-old sliced bread
  • 10 eggs, scrambled
  • a cup of milk
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • grated cheese
  • 200 grams butter
  • 2 slices of ham per slice of bread

How to make it:

  • In a bowl, crack the eggs. Then mix thoroughly.
  • Add, milk, salt and black pepper. Stir.
  • Dip the sliced bread one at a time. Make sure to soak the slices of bread for at least 1 minute, and flip them over a few times in between to ensure the bread has thoroughly absorbed the egg mixture.
  • Melt butter in the frying pan.
  • Put the bread into the frying pan, turning both sides until they are browned and cooked.
  • Top it with a wee bit of cheese and ham.
  • Et viola! Serve, share and enjoy!

 

Taste of Home: Pommes de terre farcies

Are looking for an easy-to-make recipe for lunch, dinner or party? Try Pommes de terre farcies also known baked stuffed potato filled with healthy ingredients. It surely makes a fun dinner.

Pommes de terre farcies or baked stuffed potatoes

You can fill this simple baked potato with minced beef, parsley and spring onions or you can use up all kinds of leftovers from the fridge. You can topped it with Emmentel cheese or you can top it whatever you want – with sour cream, avocado and cilantro or bacon bits if you wish.

It’s varied, rich and balanced! Plus, you can depend on the fact that it will keep you and everyone full and happy! I love it!

So for those who wish to try making Pommes de terre farcies or baked stuffed potatoes, here’s a recipe for you:

Pommes de terre farcies or baked stuffed potatoes

What you need (good for 3 servings)

  • 2 fresh large-sized potatoes, washed
  • 400 grams minced beef
  • 1 pack parsley, chopped
  • 8 spring onions, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced
  • Butter
  • Emmental cheese
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 4 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Aluminum foil

How to make it

Step 1: Marinate the meat

  • In a bowl, put in the minced beef. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, basil, and black pepper.
  • Mix together. Marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Step 2: Bake the potato.

  • Wrap the whole raw washed potatoes with a foil.
  • Bake it at 250 DC for about 2 hours.

Step 3: Prepare the fillings.

  • Heat a pan with olive oil.
  • Put in the marinade. Add parsley, spring onions and tomatoes. Stir.
  • Let it cook for about 10 minutes.

Step 4: Putting together.

  • Cut the baked potato into 2. Then half scoop out the inside.
  • Butter the inside of the potato.
  • Then add the filling.
  • Add a bit of cheese on top
  • Put the stuffed potatoes in an oven dish.
  • Put it back in the oven at the same temperature for about 10 minutes.

Step 5: Et Voila! Serve, share and enjoy!

 

Temple Questing in Beautiful Bagan

The major reason for our travel in Myanmar last December 2017 was to visit the staggering ancient city of Bagan, the capital of the Pagan Empire from 1044 to 1287 and one of the world’s greatest archeological sites.

Bagan, Myanmar

At the top of Shwe Leek Too Pagoda

Ananda Temple, the most beautiful ancient temple in Bagan.

Bagan, Myanmar

Between the 11th and 13th centuries, a plethora of temples, pagodas, stupas, stupors and monasteries were built by the kings of Bagan in a magnificent setting – a verdant 13 by 8 km plain, part-covered with palm trees caught in a bend of the sluggish-flowing Irrawaddy River and framed by the reddish-brown and silver-grey of distant mountains. It’s a Buddhist belief that to build a temple was to earn merit.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Thatbyinnyu Pagoda, the tallest ancient temple in Bagan.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Rising from the plain’s canopy of green you can visit about 3,000 out of over 10,000 of the religious monuments still existing in Bagan Archeological Zone today. So, literally you can see temples after temples after temples in view from every angle as far as your eyes can see. Truly, we were blown away by the sheer number of temples in Bagan. It is beyond amazing!

Bagan, Myanmar

Shwezigon Pagoda

colorful temple puppets

Bagan, Myanmar

Once there, we hired a taxi and visited different beautiful temples, stupas and stupors in Old and New Bagan by ourselves. We wandered through the pagodas and its surroundings. We noticed that many temples have been restored by UNESCO and are superbly preserved. Some temples contain carvings, frescoes and statues of Buddha, big and small.

wandering around

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

We also climbed some temples and saw the fantastic views from above.

at the top of the temple

Very narrow way up to the top of Shwe Leek Too Pagoda

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Around 5pm, we managed to make our way through a crowd as the artificial hill was packed with hordes of tourist just to watch the sunset from the hill overlooking the temples. Simply breathtaking during the day and the sunsets are just gorgeous. We were truly, mesmerized by its beauty.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Out of about 3,000 temples that still exist today, only a handful are regularly visited by tourists. In spite of the mounting number of tourists coming in and many local hawkers are beginning to appear, this site is still a gloriously unblemished destination. I hope that it doesn’t lose its magic as the number of tourist increases.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

While wandering around, we observed that there were so many kids selling souvenirs and not going to school, and that breaks my heart.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is certainly an amazingly magical place and its temples are stunningly beautiful. And, WOW, the pictures I saw before I came did not do it justice. So, if you are a temple quester, Bagan, Myanmar is a perfect place for you. Visit now while it is still relatively quiet.

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • The area of Bagan is enormous, at least 2-3 full days here is good before traveling on to your next destination in Myanmar.
  • There are several mode of transportation for you to visit the place and get lost in what feels like a magical land. You can
    • rent ebike (electric scooter) if you wish to enjoy more freedom of getting around the area.
    • hire a taxi. In our case we paid $35 for the whole day.
    • hire a horse carriage (dusty and bumpy though).
  • Go there very early in the morning to see the sunrise with an oxcart or a horse carriage, you will be alone and discover one of the wonders of this earth.
  • It can be hot walking barefoot in full sun on heated pavement, so consider a “siesta” during the hottest hours.
  • Wear appropriate clothes (very long skirt or trousers) – shorts and sleeveless are not allowed.
  • Wear slippers or sandals so it would be convenient and easy for you to remove and put it on back as you have to explore each temple barefoot.

 

 

 

Myanmar: The Stunning Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

Last December 2017, we traveled to Myanmar to spend our Christmas/winter break there. Our first stop was in Yangon, the former capital city of Myanmar. Before going there, we didn’t really have a lot of expectations about the city since some of our friends who have been there were not really impressed about the place. Before our trip, we were also never aware of Shwedagon Pagoda being one of the famous ones in the world. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we found the place very imposing. After our visit, we understood why it is one of the wonders of the religious world.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Here are some highlights of this super stunning Shwedagon Pagoda we learned during the tour:

Shwedagon Pagoda is the crown of Myanmar and the most iconic landmark in Yangon! It is at least 2,500 years old – the oldest Buddhist Stupa in the world. I have learned that it is the holiest Buddhist site for the people of Myanmar as it houses the relics of the four Buddhas who had attained enlightenment.

It is an archive of Burmese heritage – architecture, sculpture, history and art.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

It stands about 110 meters on the Hill of Dagon Township in the center of Yangon City.

Shwedagon Pagoda

The amazing Shwedagon Pagoda is covered with thousands of gold plates. The top of the stupa is encrusted with about 5,450 diamonds, 2,300 rubies, sapphires and other gems and at the tip is a single 76-carat diamond.

Shwedagon Pagoda

The main stupa is surrounded by so many colorful temples, stupas and statues where devotees from all over the country could come and pray.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

There are also several planetary posts, and each planetary posts has a Buddha image and people who were born on that particular day offer flowers and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

While wandering around, I observed many devotees doing many different activities – washing the statues, offering flowers, worshiping, meditating, and doing other rituals. I saw fabulous names of each area such as Shrine of Sun and Moon, Victory Ground, Hall of Wizards, Hall of Great Prosperity, Pagoda of the Eight Weekdays, and many more. I love the beautiful ornate architecture.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Certainly, no visit to the Union of Myanmar is complete without a visit to this mesmerizing tourist and pilgrim attraction. So, enjoy yourself – it’s an impressive and beautiful pagoda!

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • It is located in the center of Yangon, walking distance to some gardens, restaurants, shops and other pagodas.
  • It is open daily, and last admission is at 21.45.
  • The entrance fee is US$ 8.
  • It is best if you visit around sunrise or sunset, so you can beat both the crowds and the heat (you won’t burn your feet as you explore the place barefoot).
  • There are 4 entrances to the Shwedagon Pagoda (North – Arzarni Road, South – Shwedagon Pagoda Road, East – Gyatawya Road, West – U Wisara Road).
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Women should wear loose trousers or long skirts (up to toe level) otherwise the security won’t let you in.
  • Shoes, socks and stockings are not allowed inside. So, bring a plastic bag for your shoes. Bring some wipes (wet tissue) as your feet are putrid by the end.