Myanmar cuisine – A Tasty Journey (Part Two)

June 13, 2015

A dish which can be found on every menu is Hin; this is what curries are called in Myanmar. All dishes which include the word hin are curry based. Burmese curries are only moderately spiced, they are mostly prepared in the morning and are sold all day long. Due to the long cooking, an oil skin will develop at the top, which effectively protects it from pollution.

The curries themselves are easily made. A beef curry consists of beef. If you are hoping for a variation of vegetables, you are wrong and you probably should order some vegetable as a side. What you should definitely taste, if you get the chance, is garlic or cashew curry (please let your kissing partner eat some of it as well!).

Mouth watering at the thought of it? In the following, you will find a recipe for pork curry. However you can also use different types of meat.


900g pork meat (diced in small pieces)

2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp light soya sauce

3-4 garlic cloves

1 tbsp freshly chopped ginger

¼ cup or rapeseed oil

1 onion (diced)

2 tbsp paprika seasoning

Coriander for garnishing

Marinate the pork meat by placing it into a bowl with turmeric, fish sauce, soya sauce, garlic and ginger and mix well. Sauté the onions in a pan on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. It is ok for the onions to turn a little brown. Mix the paprika seasoning to the onions so that all onions are seasoned evenly.

Now add the meat and mix well. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 45 minutes until the meat is tender. Keep an eye on the temperature, the meat should not get burned. Season to taste at the end and add salt if necessary. Now garnish using the coriander. As a side, Jasmin rice is recommended.

Without meat? No problem, the‘tha’lu will do (free from killing animals)

Vegetarians do not have to starve in Myanmar. Different variants of dishes are likewise available as vegetarian dishes and are served with tofu. However, it may happen, the base ingredients of the dish is prepared with either fish sauce or meat broth.

The country has a large variety on vegetables. One of my highlights is water cress; cooked in broth I can eat a ton of it. Another snack-addiction which I have developed an addiction to is roasted cashew nuts.

For pescetarians the coast of Myanmar is a mecca – either in the south around Dawei and the Myeik Archipelago, or on the Bay of Bengal coast. Here you can get seafood nonstop. From huge fish, which you can easily divide by four, to lobster, fish lovers can be served whatever they desire.

Also, people who enjoy raw vegetables, will be able to enjoy the tastiest dishes. Their order can be of yummy seaweed or tea leaf salad. The tea leaf salad, Le-Pet Thouk in Burmese, is a favoured dish and usually doesn’t cost more than 1.000 Kyat at the restaurants. It is a salad which is made of fermented tea leaves. There are many different ways on how to prepare the salad. Traditionally, the green tea leaves are stuffed into bamboo roots and buried in the ground for half a year. Less strong teas are softened by steaming them, kneaded together and the liquid squeezed out using hands. The consistency of the tea is like spinach. The leaves are seasoned to taste using dried prawns, garlic and oil. People often add in spices and nuts themselves.

As you can see, this salad is somewhat a piece of art. If you feel to have enough patience, definitely try it out. However: it will take several days.


1 cup of dried, loose green tea

1 cup of finely cut kale

½ cup coriander (chopped)

½ cup spring onions (cut into small rings)

1 tbsp garlic paste

2 tbsp finely chopped ginger

2 green chillies (finely chopped)

Juice of 1 lime

1 pinch of salt

3 tbsp peanut oil

1 whole garlic head (all cloves finely chopped)

2 tbsp lightly roasted sesame seeds

3 tbsp roasted peanuts

3 tbsp beansprouts

3 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds

½ cup finely cut tomatoes

2 tbsp dried prawns (if required, soften in water for 10 minutes and drain)

1 tsp fish sauce

1 lime cut into slices

The fermentation and preparation of the tea leaves

Pour four cups of water over the tea leaves. Stir well, until the leaves have straightened and softened (about 10 minutes). Drain the leaves and remove hard leaves or any stem. Squeeze the liquid through a sieve. Place the leaves back into the lukewarm water and press down using your hands. Now drain the liquid again (this time however catch it and place to the side) and press out the leaves. Repeat the procedure for a third time and add the water which was placed aside back in. Let the tea rest in the water for an hour but preferably overnight. The more time you let the tea rest, the less it will taste sour or bitter. Now drain the water for the last time and squeeze leaves to get rid of any excess water.

Using a bowl, mix in the tea along with the kale, coriander, spring onions, ginger, garlic paste, the pinch of salt and the juice from the lime. For the extra kick, add in the chillies. Cover up the mixture and place the bowl into a cool dark place for two days. After the two days you can place the salad into the fridge, it is now ready.

Before serving, the other ingredients can be added. Heat up a big pan on medium heat. Firstly add the sesame seeds into the pan and roast for 3-4 minutes. Shake the pan every so often so that the seeds don’t burn. Take the seeds from the pan and place them on a plate to cool.

Now heat the peanut oil until it is really hot and add the chopped garlic. Let the heat cool a little and fry the garlic on medium heat (about 5 minutes). Fish the garlic out of the oil and place to the side. The oil is later used for the dressing.

The salad can now be mixed together, or served with the individual ingredients. In any case the tea leaves should be mixed along with the garlic oil. Add a splash of fish sauce and the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Taste the salad one more time before serving, then add the nuts and seeds.

Evelyn Narciso

Did you know you can book Shan cooking classes on our Inle Lake page? See booking options on right sidebar of that page.

Find out more about food and eating out in Myanmar here.

Look out for the third part of this blog, including different styles of rice and drinks, in the coming months!

This blog also featured on Landmeedchen – the food and travel website.



Dawei and Maungmagan Beach

OverviewAccommodationGetting ThereGetting Away
Dawei is a sleepy tropical town with a number of beautiful beaches in the vicinity. It has a long history of trade and features some interesting colonial architecture, with many old wooden, thatch-roofed bungalows and some brick and stucco mansions. Under British rule Dawei was known as Tavoy, and is still sometimes referred to by that name.

The Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda is the main religious site in Dawei, and is set in a charming little complex. The short walk from the centre of Dawei is also a pleasant one, following streets lined with colonial era-buildings. In the centre of town, the busy Si Pin Tharyar and Minagalar markets are worth a visit – they can be found opposite each other.

For a wider selection of photos, go to our Dawei Flickr photo album.

Maungmagan beach

12 kilometres west of Dawei is Maungmagan beach (also spelt Maung Ma Kan), with its beautiful setting of hills rising straight up from the shoreline. There are a host of simple restaurants serving fresh seafood here and a 30 minute walk south will take you to a characterful fishing village with small boats nestled in its harbour – and some picture-perfect beer stations where you can relax and take in the views and sea breeze (check out our YouTube video from the village).

Maungmagan is quite unlike the more tourist-focused beaches you will find on the Bay of Bengal coast. Here, most people are local and bathing practices are somewhat different – you may find the people wading in their jeans and shirts, particularly on public holidays; foreigners in swimwear are not frowned upon, although they may get some friendly attention. One unfortunate side-effect of the lack of tourism development is that refuse is not always cleared; this is not unsafe, but can sometimes be a little unsightly.

To see more photos, go to our Maungmagan beach Flickr photo album.

There are a few hotels at Maungmagan beach, the best being the Maung Ma Kan Resort (located on the beach) and the more foreigner-friendly Coconut Guesthouse and Restaurant (located 500 metres behind the beach); a tuk tuk to Maungmagan beach will take around 45 minutes from central Dawei and cost K10,000. Dawei itself has a wide choice of hotels.

We offer a variety of tours of Myanmar that include Dawei, its beaches and the surrounding area – find out more here.

Other beaches near Dawei

There are a number of stunning, untouched stretches of coastline to be discovered in the area. Whilst Maungmagan is popular and fun, it can get busy at certain times of year and the sand is not perfect. But near Dawei there are dozens of idyllic white sand beaches where you are unlikely to see another soul (other than the odd fisherman), particularly on the peninsula towards Dawei Point.

Beach highlights include:

  • San Maria Bay. Around 45 minutes to the south of Maungmagan, this beautiful spot is located on the road to the Myawyik Pagoda (which, if you are looking for directions from a local, is the name you should use); the shrine itself is on a headland 500 metres to the north of San Maria Bay, and stretches out to sea on a long footbridge that can be a seen for miles around. A charming beer station can be found at the north end of the beach, on the road that continues to the pagoda.
  • Teyzit beach. Located further south, this gorgeous and pristine beach makes for a full day trip. From Maungmagan, you will need to drive south, beyond Dawei, to Launglon village (which has a number of little teahouses for refreshments). The turning to Teyzit beach is 15 minutes further south, then half an hour westwards on a rougher road through the mountains, which open out on to Teyzit beach. Again, there is a small village with a beer station at the north end. Watch our YouTube video from Teyzit beach.
  • Nabule beach. Away from the Dawei Peninsula, this seemingly endless and empty stretch of brilliant white sand can be found 18 kilometres north of Maungmagan. At the north end of Nabule there is a hillside pagoda with a small restaurant nearby, which offers great views along the beach and out to sea. Check out our YouTube video from Nabule Beach.

You can get a taxi or tuk tuk, but the freedom of exploring by motorbike is the best way to get to these places; they can be hired in Dawei and at Maungmagan, costing around K10,000 per day.

If you head to the Dawei Peninsula, it is important to note that there is little infrastructure in the area – the roads down to the beaches are bad (and hard going in parts) and the habitations are mostly simple fishing villages where you may be able to buy fried rice and a drink, but little else. Most accommodation is in Dawei or at Maungmagan beach, which are both within day-trip reach of the whole peninsula – but there is simple beach hut accommodation at the well-named Paradise Beach Bungalows.

For a wider selection of photos, go to our beaches in the Dawei area Flickr photo album.

ATMs and practical info

A Visa- and Mastercard-ready KBZ bank ATM can be found at 14 Neikban (Niban) Street in Dawei, which runs parallel and to the north of the main east-west thoroughfare, Arzarni Road.

If you are going to explore the beaches around Dawei, it is a good idea to have a mobile phone with GPS and pre-load maps of the area so you can use them offline if you are struggling with directions.



Mawlamyine (Moulmein) and Thanbyuzayat

OverviewAccommodationGetting ThereGetting Away

Mawlamyine – the city

Mawlamyine (also spelt Mawlamyaing and sometimes known by its colonial name, Moulmein), the charming tropical capital of Mon State and one-time administrative centre of British Burma, has many old colonial buildings lining its quiet streets, and is famous for its markets and seafood. It was a visit here that inspired Rudyard Kipling to write his famous poem Mandalay.

The city is located at the mouth of the Thanlwin (Salween) River and its focal point is the Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda, which towers over Mawlamyine and offers great views of the surrounding area. Built in 875 AD, it is said to contain a hair relic of the Buddha and it is encircled by 34 smaller stupas. Take a look at our YouTube video taken from the Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda at sunset.

There are a number of other places of worship that are of historical and cultural interest in Mawlamyine, including St Patrick’s Roman Catholic church, the Soorti Sunni Jamai Mosque and the abandoned, red brick St Matthew’s church.

If you want to sit back and relax, the riverfront Strand Road is a pleasant place to be at sunset and into the evening; it has a number of drinking spots and places to eat, including Grandmother and Grandfather restaurant (a charitable venture for the elderly that serves good local fare) and an outdoor space where food and beer are served till late (located around the mid-way point of Strand Road).

Other activities

Other sights to be found in the area include the world’s largest reclining Buddhaat Kyauktalon Taung, 20km to the south of town; the caves of Kawgoon and Payon, famous for its numerous Buddha images, stalagmites and stalactites; and the Kyaikkami Pagoda, perched on rocks by the sea and joined to the land by a covered causeway. They can all be reached by taxi or pick up from Mawlamyine.

See our YouTube video from Mawlamyine’s Lower Main Roadand for a wider selection of photos, check out our Mawlamyine photo album.

There are Visa- and Mastercard-ready ATMs dotted around Mawlamyine, including a CB Bank ATM at 151 Strand Road – which is towards the northern end, near Strand Hotel.

Bilu Island

Across the water immediately to the west of Mawlamyine can be found the charming Bilu Island, also known as Ogre Island. As well as taking in the friendly, rustic atmosphere (there are few other tourists) and the distinctive local Mon culture, you can find a wide variety of handicrafts on the streets of the island’s many villages – including walking sticks, slate writing boards, bamboo hats and even hand-made rubber bands.

Taking the boat from Mawlamyine is an enjoyable journey in itself; when you get to the island you will be able to find a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi to take you around. There is no no accommodation on Bilu Island and you may be asked for your passport at the jetty.

The Death Railway and Thanbyuzayat Allied War Memorial

Around 60 kilometres south of Mawlamyine is the town of Thanbyuzayat. Here you can find the Allied War Memorial Cemetery, where prisoners of war who lost their lives during the building of the infamous Burma Railway (otherwise known as the ‘Death Railway’) are laid to rest. The atmospheric site is beautifully tended to by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and can be found 500 metres west of the centre Thanbyuzayat, on the main road heading west out of town. It is open daily from 7am to 5pm.

The Death Railway Museum Thanbyuzayatprovides has photos, paintings and sculptures documenting the building of the railway – but it has been built purely as a commercial venture and if you’re looking for quality research or a fresh perspective, you’ll be disappointed (open 9am-5pm, K5,000 entry fee). The museum and a lone steam locomotive commemorate the spot where the railway itself ended. This area is located 1.5km down the main road south of Thanbyuzayat, immediately after a railway level crossing.

For more on the Burma Railway and the memorial cemetery, take a look at our Death Railway blog and for a wider range of photos, go to our Thanbyuzayat photo album.

Thanbyuzayat can be reached by bus, train or private car from Mawlamyine; the journey time is around one hour.

We offer a variety of tours of Myanmar that include Mawlamyine, Thanbyuzayat and the surrounding area – find out more here.



The Death Railway

July 22, 2015

Heading south on the road from Mawlamyine towards Dawei and the tropical Tenasserim hills, there are two moving memorials to the loss inflicted on Allied forces during the Second World War whilst building the infamous Burma Railway.

Often dubbed the ‘Death Railway’, the 424 kilometre-long line was constructed using forced labour in hellish conditions in order to secure Japanese supply lines. Two labour forces worked on the railway from either end – one from Ban Pong in Thailand, and the other from what is now an otherwise unremarkable market town in central Mon State, Thanbyuzayat.

The Allied War Memorial Cemetery

The first commemoration of the fallen is the beautifully maintained Allied War Memorial Cemetery; originally built by the Army Graves Service to lay to rest those who had perished along the northern section of the Burma Railway, it is now the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Although foreigners only head to this part of Myanmar in small numbers (if you visit, you are unlikely to encounter anyone else other than the friendly old groundkeeper, who will greet you in broken English), the cemetery is meticulously tended to, with grass, trees and flowers all neatly pruned – and verdant, staying well watered even in the heat of the dry season.

An estimated 13,000 allied prisoners of war died during the construction of the Burma Railway, of which just under 3,000 are buried at the cemetery in Thanbyuzayat. The bodies of Americans were repatriated, but the graves of soldiers from a number of other countries, including Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, India and a number of Commonwealth countries can be found here.

Being at the memorial cemetery is a sobering experience. After you pass through the large entrance gate, you are faced with a white stone slab which says, simply, ‘Their name liveth for evermore’. And as you wend your way through the uniformly-designed metal grave headstones, which are laid out in a huge semi circle between the entrance and a large stone cross at the back of the site, you will find that many carry personal – and affecting – messages. Some of the names are notable for their distinctiveness and bring real character; a personal favourite of mine was a machine gunner named TJ Fury what a name! But the wide variety of nations and cultures you will find reflected in the names reflects the global horror wrought in this corner of Southeast Asia – and possibly even more moving are the sheer number of graves belonging to the unidentified dead, simply marked ‘A Soldier Of The War, known unto God’.

The end of the line

Around 2km south of the cemetery is a smaller memorial site that marks the western end of the Burma Railway itself (a short drive or long walk through the town of Thanbyuzayat – its streets lined with shops and simple teahouses). Just beyond a level crossing where the main road southwards crosses the Yangon to Dawei railway line, you will find an old, lone steam locomotive that has been placed on an isolated section of track to memorialise the events that took place here; it is surrounded by the eerie, broken remnants of stone statues of soldiers. A few metres further down the track is a sign that reads ‘Myanmar Thailand Japanese Death Railway line starts here 1942-1943’.

There is talk of sprucing up the area and opening a museum – and if they do as thorough and sensitive a job as at the other end of the Burma Railway at Kanchanaburi in Thailand, then that should be welcomed*. But for the moment, Thanbyuzayat remains a quietly atmospheric addition to a trip down south.

We offer a dedicated railway tour of Myanmar which takes in Thanbyuzayat, as well as the train journey to Mandalay and the famous Gokteik Gorge on the route from Pyin U Lwin to Hsipaw. For tour highlights, itinerary details and pricing, go here.

For a wider range of photos from Thanbyuzayat, go to our Flickr photo album and for more information on rail travel in Myanmar, go here.

Marcus Allender founder, July 2015

*January 2016 update: a Death Railway Museum has been opened in Thanbyuzayat, but it is a purely commerical venture and has not been well received by those interested in historical insight or respectful commemoration.



Yangon's distinctive photography scene

October 09, 2015

No one can deny Myanmar’s status as one of the world’s truly astonishing destinations to visit as a photographer. Whether you’re a professional seeking the perfect sunset behind a mountaintop temple, an enthusiast exploring a bustling ethnic market or a selfie-fiend just practicing a bit of one-upmanship on Facebook, Myanmar ticks all the boxes.

The country is blessed with an incredibly diverse natural beauty and its isolated past has preserved festivals, customs and traditional ways of life long-lost by other parts of the world. In summer, when the skies are untroubled by clouds for months on end, it’s a place where the ‘magic hour’ before sunset never fails to live up to its name.

And yet photography has never flourished in the Golden Land as it should have done. Decades of rigid censorship and a lack of educational opportunities can be considered the most detrimental factors, but simple issues such as the storing of paper and film in a country with sauna-high humidity and intermittent electricity have also contributed. As photography underwent a digital revolution a poor economy and high import taxes made new cameras luxury items. As the world witnessed the rise of the camera-phone, in Myanmar it still cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to own a SIM card.

However, like in almost every sector of the country at the moment, things are changing. With censorship being relaxed, the smart phone suddenly ubiquitous and a rising economy making photographic equipment accessible to an increasing proportion of the population, Myanmar has finally caught the photography bug. But anything you might consider a ‘photography scene’ is still small, and distinctively Myanmar.

Yangon Photo Festival, hosted annually in February and enjoying the patronage of Aung San Suu Kyi, is one of the few long-time stalwarts of Yangon’s photography scene. Each year a diverse program of international exhibitions, talks and events are organized, and many of Myanmar’s young photographers will have first learnt their shutter speeds and apertures at one of the festival’s workshops. Now beginning preparations for an impressive 8th incarnation (focusing, for the first time, on local photographers) the opening up of the country in recent years has allowed the festival to spread beyond the confines of its base at the Institute Francais and take in new venues throughout the city.

One of those venues is Myanmar Deitta, a non-profit gallery and teaching space housed on the top floor of a spacious colonial building in downtown, and still the only gallery in Yangon dedicated to contemporary photography. Focusing on documentary work and hosting a rolling program of exhibitions and events, as well as developing Myanmar’s first photobook library, it’s becoming an essential spot for anyone in Yangon seeking a photography fix.

The meteoric rise of social media in recent years means that a photographic portrait of modern Myanmar, once so isolated, can be found as easily clicking on an Instagram feed or a Facebook group. But the images produced before this new era, during its turbulent past, are an essential window into a history unknown to a lot of visitors.

Even with the difficulties posed by a government unsupportive of taking photographs and an environment not conducive to storing them, there are collections that have survived. One of the best belongs to U Aung Soe Min, the irrepressible owner of Pansodan Gallery, and thankfully after years in storage it has finally been put on display at the newest addition to Yangon’s small photo-gallery scene, Pansuriya. Just a couple of blocks west of Myanmar Deitta (and a few doors along from the office), Pansuriya is a treasure trove of black and white prints documenting an astonishing cross-section of life in Myanmar over the last century and a half.

So if you’re looking for swathes of contemporary photography galleries, high-end printing and shops stocked with the latest equipment then Myanmar may not be the place for you. But if you’re hoping for somewhere you can take in an exhibition or wallow in a photobook in a beautiful old colonial home; where you can explore the history of a fascinating country through someone’s personal collection of original prints; where you can still step into a tiny family-run studio and have your portrait taken in front of any manner of fantastical backdrops for a couple of dollars, then maybe Yangon’s small but distinctive photography scene is for you.

And if you’re a photographer then what you probably want is beautiful light, staggering scenery and wonderful people, all of which Myanmar has in spades.

Matt Grace, Myanmar Deitta founder, October 2015

Matt is an expert guide on our photography tour of Myanmar.



Myanmar cuisine – A Tasty Journey (Part Three)

December 09, 2015

Like in every Asian country, in Myanmar rice is at the top of every menu. Very popular are two different kinds – one sweet, the other a little heartier.

Khetan Kyitauk – sticky rice in roasted bamboo: the name may vary in different parts of the country but it always is sticky rice which is served in roasted bamboo. Khetan Kyitauk is a very old Burmese speciality. Even in primeval times the rice was roasted like this – before mankind used pottery, copper or steal pots. If you only roast the rice without coconut milk or sugar, it can be eaten for up to three to four days.

The sticky rice is particularly favoured in the rural regions. In these areas people roast mounds of rice in order to sell it in close by villages, or to travellers on the train or at the side of the road. During our train journey, once the train came to a stop, Khetan Kyitauk was passed through the windows and passed down through the train compartments in order to be sold. For a short time, a very energetic merchant accompanied us on our journey. Noisy and with a charming laugh he offeres us a bite of his sticky rice. Courageously he slammed down the bamboo roll onto a seat and pealed the rice stick like a banana. He let us taste a little; the young gentlemen was a marketing genius, because a lot of the people do bought one or more rolls from him.

Khetan Kyitauk

Maybe, at a certain point, you will be in the mood for something sweet. In warmer countries you usually look vainly for chocolate; to be honest it is not usually tasty in Myanmar anyway. Fruit is so much healthier. But in some situations even fruit doesn’t help. It should be sticky and you just want to smack it loudly. In Myanmar streets you will find Kauknyintik, which is a delicious treat wrapped in banana leaves. Don’t be scared when biting into it: due to the cooking, the colour of the banana changes to red. The ingredients and preparation are no witchcraft. Therefore: try this at home!


1.5 cups of sticky rice (uncooked)

1 can of coconut cream

1 can of coconut milk

1 cup of coconut flakes

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

15 banana leaves (alternatively you can use tinfoil, this however will temper with the taste)

4-8 ripe bananas

2 tsp sesame seeds

– Wash the sticky rice and place it in water overnight. The next day take half of the coconut flakes and set aside.

– Dissolve the sugar and half of the salt in the coconut milk. Drain the rice well, add the coconut milk mixture and set aside.

– Cut the banana leaves into quarters. If they are really thin, you can double them. If they are too rigid, simply heat them a little and they will soften.

– Peal the bananas and cut them into slices.

Now on to to wrapping the packages. Firstly place 2 tsp of rice onto the banana leaf. Add 1 tsp of coconut cream and 2-3 slices of banana. Cover this with 2 tsp of rice. Now tightly wrap the mixture into the banana leaf so that itís resembling a rectangle. If the packages are loose simply tie these with cotton, or use the fibres from the leaves which came off. Steam the rice packages in a bamboo steamer for about 45 minutes. During this lightly roast the rest of the salt and the sesame seeds.

For serving, open the packages (careful, hot!) and sprinkle with the roasted sesame seeds and coconut flakes.

How sweet – the drinks

When drinking in Myanmar, it may happen that you pull a face due to the sheer sweetness. Cold drinks are mostly the typical world known soft drinks, but local drinks are also offered. There are mounds of fresh juice and shakes (Avocado shake – yummy!)

If there is a nation drink, it would be green tea. In restaurants, Chinese-style green tea is mostly offered free of charge. Often, the tea is already placed on the table in a thermos and little tea bowls are being used to drink it. Green tea is enjoyed pure; often the tea is served with fresh tea leaves floating in the warm water (like our well known fresh mint tea).

In other coffee and tea varieties there is no trace of purity. Sweet Tea and Coffee is mostly given as an instant substance. Sugar and Milk are already mixed in so the drink is just bursting with sweetness. Rarely you will come across a freshly brewed black coffee, however if you do, it is likely served with sweet condensed milk. I do however have to admit, that black tea with sweet condensed milk is really delicious, especially as a little stomach-filler in between meals.

Sweet tea

Here is a little help with phrases to get through the Burmese tea jungle:

Pon maen – not sweet, not bitter

Cho pot – rather bitter

Pot kya – very bitter

Faen cho – sweet and bitter

Kyauk pa daung – strongly sweetened

Sometimes the tea will be refined by adding a pinch of salt.

As for alchohol, in Myanmar you can of course also enjoy a little sundowner, though foreign spirits are often only available in bottles. The locally produced beverages are whiskey and rum. The favoured beers are Myanmar and Mandalay beer. Wine is also grown is some regions of Myanmar.

As you can see, you do not have to worry about being hungry or thirsty when travelling to Myanmar. Rumor has it, that in regards to the food not being as good as its neighbourís Thailand, yet the country does offer a large variety on specialities.

Evelyn Narciso

To find out more general information, go to our food and eating out page.

This blog also featured on – the food and travel blog



Myanmar's liberated and diverse art scene

January 31, 2016

It’s an exciting time for both artists and art lovers in Myanmar, a country whose unique mix of cultures and diverse geography provides a well of resources for creativity.

The art scene is still relatively close knit yet there are new galleries popping up each year giving support to more new artists. And with the country opening up, there has been increased interest from collectors both local and international. Whether you’re a gallery owner looking for undiscovered talent, an artist looking for inspiration, or simply a lover of art, the galleries of Yangon will give you a compelling insight into the psyche of a nation. If you’re looking to buy, you will find prices that remain reasonable.

With a country this beautiful it’s unsurprising that much of the art work draws from the rich landscapes of the countryside and coastline and the pagoda dotted plains of places like Bagan. Other popular inspirations are the people of Myanmar’s regions, each with different cultures, festivals and clothing. Painted in a realist style by the top artists, these paintings are stunning – and there are many artists choosing to add new perspectives to these traditional scenes, experimenting with colours, angles and giving their own unique take on Myanmar culture.

If your taste leans towards the more radical, then you won’t be disappointed either. While certainly not as popular as more traditional subjects, there are a rising number of artists exploring more diverse styles, from the abstract to the surreal. Politically-inspired artwork is also gradually appearing, from explicit symbolism to more covert satire.

River Gallery

While the current art scene is bursting with optimism and creativity, it wasn’t always this way. Before 2013, artists had to submit paintings for approval prior to exhibition, which led to many pieces being deemed unsuitable for public display. With an art scene resting on the whims of officials, who often perceived criticism where there was none, it was unsurprising that artists felt stifled and the industry suffered.

Thankfully, with the relaxation of censorship laws and increased international attention, art lovers from around the world are increasingly being drawn to a burgeoning scene. The relative coziness of downtown Yangon means that a day of gallery hopping is a perfect way to spend a day for art lovers.

One place that’s on everyone’s to visit list is Pansodan Gallery. Since its opening in 2009, the place is a regular haunt of both locals and foreign residents and is known for its unpretentious atmosphere and long running Tuesday night gatherings, which are open to all. The gallery is currently spread out over three spaces. The original Pansodan has a large collection of modern paintings from local artists, while Pansodan upstairs is a collection of vintage works. Pansodan Scene, further down the street, is a larger space for exhibitions and events and has a café which is a good place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown’s busy streets.

Further down Pansodan street is the Lokanat Gallery, a non profit institution located in the renowned Lokanatt building, which dates from the early 20th century. Also close by is River Gallery and River Ayeyarwaddy Gallery.

If you wander out behind Bogyoke market you’ll find yourself in the Yaw Min Gyi street area, an upper middle class enclave built around the most BEHS Dagon 1, the most prestigious public high school in the country. There are a number of Art galleries in this increasingly trendy suburb. Gallery 65 is located on the western end of Yaw Min Gyi in a beautiful teak house and garden and shows a mix of contemporary and old masters with the occasional performance. Of the other end of Yaw Min Gyi is Nawaday Tharlar, known for its friendly atmosphere and contemporary artists. The next block over, Nawaday Street, hosts Think Art gallery, which plays host to a number of upcoming artists in the Myanmar scene. Finally at the top of Yaw Min Gyi, close to La Pyay Wun Plaza, is New Zero Art Space, which alongside paintings, is best known as a patron of performance art. If you’re a fan of cutting edge, this might be the place for you.

Overall, if you’re a long time collector, or simply looking for something unique from your time in Myanmar, then a day gallery hopping is a great way to spend a day. There’s something unique about visual art in that it transcends language, so even if you don’t end up mastering Burmese, a wander around the galleries of Yangon will give you an entrance into Myanmar culture like no other.

Ewan Cameron, January 2016

For more information on Yangon’s art galleries and museums, go here. We also offer an art tour of Myanmar – to find out more, go here.



Taking the sleeper train from Bagan to Yangon

January 13, 2017

I’d read quite a few accounts of this 17 hour train journey before deciding to go ahead and buy the tickets for us both on the 4th January 2017 from the very helpful people at Would I recommend it? Absolutely! But don’t expect the Orient Express. A rule of thumb is that if you enjoy independent travel or have backpacked you will not be daunted by the facilities or length of trip. The few other non-Burmese on the train were all European, which perhaps says a lot about who this trip would appeal to.

There are several ticket options, but in reality upper class sleeper tickets are best if you want to get some sleep, although you need to book in advance rather than turning up at the station (which is beautiful!). Tickets were a very reasonable US$28 through this website. It’s worth noting however that sleeper tickets are only available if there is enough demand in Bagan for them to put on a sleeper carriage. Luckily for us there was. Although there were a couple of Italians who didn’t get a sleeper berth and ended up in upper class seating, where I suspect they had access to a bar and the opportunity to mix with the locals.

We arrived at 4pm with the train due to leave at 5pm. We were able to board our 4-bed compartment immediately, where we met our two Slovakian companions for the trip. As we could not access the main train from the sleeper carriage, the train attendant took our orders for dinner and breakfast. Menu choice was pretty limited – chicken curry or chicken curry – but the supply of cold Myanmar beer (recommended!) made up for it.

Bagan railway station

Rattling out of Bagan with the windows fully down you got a real sense of the countryside, which was magical as sunset approached. As darkness fell, we spent a few hours drinking beer and solving the world’s problems between the four of us, before settling down to sleep. Not sure if it was the beer or the rocking of the carriage, which at times felt like we were gong to get catapulted out of the windows, but none of us found it too hard to fall asleep, despite the noise of the wheels and the occasional massive jolt as the train changed track. The pull out beds were comfortable enough and a small pillow and sheet were supplied. In terms of other facilities, there was an overhead fan that was pretty effective and the toilet was adequate enough – no water in the pan, just a circular view of the railway track! The most dangerous aspect of the journey was successfully navigating the short journey from your seat/bed to the toilet and shutting the door while bouncing off the walls as the train rattled along.

The nearer we got to Yangon, the less picturesque our journey became. But I guess that’s what you would expect. The lack of care for the environment was evident with lots of plastic and rubbish. But there’s something about the track running right through towns and villages that also gave you a real sense for how people lived. Something I suspect you wouldn’t get on the bus driving through a major road.

On rails from Bagan to Yangon

As the sun rose we got a fascinating glimpse of daily life from people washing in streams; locals selling huge platters of food balanced on their heads; children travelling to school on bikes or motorbikes, sometimes three at a time; farmers cultivating rice fields with oxen and cart; basic wooden living accommodation with livestock running freely around the yard. As we got closer to the city of Yangon, a more urban lifestyle emerged.

We were due to arrive in Yangon at 10am. Our actual arrival time was 11.30am, but as the train never got faster than about 27 miles per hour I suppose we were lucky to arrive without any real major delays or incidents that can sometimes happen.

So, if you are up for an adventure, are not stuck to a strict itinerary, don’t mind a lack of comfort, meet likeminded travellers and want to a closer view of life in Myanmar, then I’d highly recommend the sleeper train.

Deborah Benn, January 2017

Check out our detailed guide to train travel in Myanmar and our dedicated railway tour of Myanmar.



A community-based haven in rural Myanmar

March 25, 2017

Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake… many in Myanmar live in these places, trying to fullfil the tourist needs and desires. How are the other people outside of the tourist spots living? Discovering a country off the beaten track can be a refreshing change from the norm for a traveller. One suggestion: Yenangyaung.

Yenangyaung? Yes, there is no Shwedagon pagoda or Golden Rock. There really is no spectacular draw in the town attracting bus loads of camera clickers. Of course, you can also visit a pagoda or a food market in Yenangyaung – like in almost every town in Myanmar. But the main reason to visit this historical town on the banks of the Irrawaddy River to the south of Bagan is the community of open hearted people and laughing kids who will leave a lasting impression on you.

The reason why I came to Yenangyaung is the Light of Love Private High School, one of the originally just two private schools in the whole of Magway Division. This particular school, perched high above the Irrawaddy River, was built by Eric Trutwein to support orphans and half-orphans from poor families from his birthplace. In fact, newly the government schools don’t have fees anymore so they are for free, but even then it’s almost impossible for those kids to contribute for example the costs for the additional tuition they need to pass the required tests.

Eric had me hooked with his story: he had been working as an engineer and after he found out that he was HIV-infected he retired and decided to go back to his hometown. In 2002 he began to teach and provide for children who lost their families due to AIDS.

‘My heart’s desire is to give a chance for education to the children and to facilitate a good life to every one of them’, Eric said to me. With this selfless motivation, he and his staff give their best every day. Meanwhile, he cooperates with the German NGO Förderverein Kinderhilfe Birma, the Swiss NGO Hirten-Kinder, and many other supporters including individual volunteers. Thus, the school is able to provide high-grade education to over 100 children who are studying in hope of a better future.

To reduce the dependency on the NGOs, Eric began in 2006 to build a guesthouse nearby the school. Started with just three bedrooms, the guesthouse Lei Thar Gone was extended continuously. For five years, foreigners have been allowed to stay at this enchanting place, with its 15 characterful and comfortable rooms with amazing views, a swimming pool, green garden and a delicious breakfast with homemade bread and jam.

The restaurant pampers your pallet: Enjoy selected three course dinners with fresh local ingredients after a sunset from the terrace. Lei Thar Gone is more than a guesthouse. Every stay helps to fund the nearby Light of Love High School.

Set in beautiful natural surroundings, the town of Yenangyaung istelf is like a little paradise in the middle of nowhere – not only for the children, also for visitors. Just two to three hours from Bagan by bus, or less by car, it is a worthwile travel destination for everyone who wants to discover the simple, rural life of many in Myanmar.

Roger Vogel and Svea Meerholz arranges tours of Myanmar that include Yenangyaung and Lei Thar Gone; to find out more about our tours, go here. You can get in touch with one of our travel advisors by filling out this form or emailing