Category Archives: Cultural

That Time I Ate My Weight In Street Food: Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia was a big surprise for me, as it’s so incredibly different than all the other spots in Malaysia I experienced.

Georgetown is quaint and quirky: my kinda spot!

Georgetown is quaint and quirky: my kinda spot!

We spent a few days in the capital, Georgetown, which as you might be able to concur by the name was colonized by the British.

Georgetown is well, adorable.

Georgetown is well, adorable.

The town is full of two-story British colonial style shopfronts and homes, which, if you’re imagining this in your head, might seem pretty regular, except now add in the fact that they are covered with Chinese or Indian writing.

Exploring.

Exploring.

This is where things get interesting. As the rest of Malaysia has a very high Islamic population, Penang does not, because the majority of Penang’s population is actually Chinese, followed by Malay, followed by Indian.

British with a serious Asian vibe.

British with a serious Asian vibe.

They all peacefully coexist, and all while inhabiting these traditional British colonial structures in the intense heat and humidity.

Our hotel. Not the best pic, but a very special space.

Our hotel. Not the best pic, but a very special space.

So the scene has been set. We arrived at our hotel, the charming Nam Keng, on a peaceful street in Georgetown late at night. The hotel was once an old British mansion, now decorated with rich wood and Chinese characters, with a beautiful courtyard in the middle, shutters thrown open to let the Malay sun shine in. Or in our case, the night moon. The hotel was perfect. Jorge always makes fun of me and how much time I spend researching the perfect hotels for us but when you are on the road for six weeks, it’s amazing to come to a hotel and feel like you’ve arrived home. We immediately headed to Lebuh Chulia, which is the “backpacker” street. This to me translates to me as “incredibly cheap street food for broke travelers.” And cheap it was. I got some kind of noodle dish with pork for 3 riggit (about 50 cents) and on the pricier side at 5 riggits, Jorge got the famous Char Kway Teow….. which is a famous Chinese Malay dish of rice noodles, complete with juicy pork, peanuts and shrimp. We also got fresh juices which came in a trusty bag, I got mango and Jorge orange and carrot. These cost about 50 cents each. Having stuffed our bellies for a combined total of approximately two euros, we headed back the hotel to crash after a long day of traveling.

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We awoke the next morning and I was ready to explore the street art scene. Penang is famous for its art, and we were lucky enough to be in the city during the Georgetown Arts Festival.

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The festival is one month long and offers several temporary art and photography exhibits as well as some dance and music shows. But first, we wanted to start with that permanent street art that Georgetown is known for.

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So we braved the 100 degree plus heat and started off. The street art did not disappoint! I loved the way the artists incorporated 3D items into the art, like a real bicycle and then children painted on the walls.

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It was so much fun to take cheesy photos with the street art and just seeing all the people enjoying it.

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Street art is so cool because it doesn’t discriminate: it’s for everyone! Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the art, free of charge, anytime.

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This art really gives Georgetown its own quirky character.

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We also braved the heat to enjoy two temporary art exhibitions in town for the festival, one from French sculpture artist and another by a Malay photographer called Panic, who edits his photos to create distortion and disarray.

The jetty's didn't impress me much.

The jetty’s didn’t impress me much.

We also headed down to the Clan Jettys, which are houses on stilts where Chinese people live over the water. I was previously excited to see these, but I unfortunately wasn’t that impressed in person, as I found them super touristy and just kind of smelly and gross. Oh well. It was still a neat experience to see them.

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We were starving and considering we’d probably sweat out half our body weight in the heat, it was time for lunch. We decided to try the most famous Indian restaurant in town (I used the word restaurant lightly—it was more like street food with a roof on top), Kapitan. As I previously mentioned, Penang has a huge Indian population and Little India is a great place to chow down. Kapitan is famous for its chicken tandoori. We ordered two sets: one with clay pot biryiani rice and other with butter garlic naan.

The best meal I've ever eaten.

The best meal I’ve ever eaten.

This was the best chicken tandoori I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve been to India. The flavors were unreal: the chicken expertly crisped, the tandoori sauce spiced to perfection, the naan buttery and soft…I was in heaven! I almost hugged our server I was so happy…I feel like at least 1/3 of my life in Madrid is spent trying to find delicious Indian and ethnic food…one can only eat so many croquetas you know? Oh, if only I could have this amount of SPICE in my life on a daily basis! It was so amazing that we’d end up back there AGAIN the next day, I just couldn’t get enough. In fact, it’s only been a few days and I’m already dreaming of those flavors. Better get that out of my head, because I’m a girl who’s been ruined: I know I’ll never find Tandoori like that again, at least not in Spain! After this I decided I needed a back massage, which I quickly found and was amazing. I figured I need to start preparing to get my daily massages in Thailand.

Our spa.

Our spa.

Although this one was rather pricey: about 8 euros for 30 minutes, it was amazing and well needed after many days of planes, trains and automobiles, not to mention tons of walking around. That night, Jorge and I decided that we needed more Indian food and headed once again in the direction of Little India. We tried to get samosas but they’d run out for the day, so instead we got Roti Jala, which is a type of soft bread with a curry dipping sauce. As if I hadn’t had enough bread and spicy sauce already that day! It was insanely amazing and just 3 Riggit. This plus a couple of fresh juices and we were full. We decided that we wanted to splurge and head up to a fancy rooftop bar to get an overpriced beer and views of the city.

The view from the rooftop bar.

The view from the rooftop bar. A bit blurry, but you get the idea.

So we found one called Three Sixty, which is on the top of a hotel. It has a revolving restaurant and an outdoor Sky Bar for drinks. We ordered two beers for a total of 40 riggits (8 euros or so) which actually cost more than the total of our dinner three nights in a row! But it was fun to see views of the city at night, so it was worth it. We try to walk that fine line between splurge and save during our trips, so this was definitely a fun splurge. However, since Malaysia is Islamic, they don’t brew their own beer, which was disappointing. Instead, the offerings were mainly European, which is why I found myself drinking a Carlsberg (ew).

Unfortunately, a bit hazy at the top of Penang Hill.

Unfortunately, a bit hazy at the top of Penang Hill.

The next day, we took the local bus (an experience in itself) about an hour to the base of Penang Hill, and then prepared to take the funicular up. After waiting in line with a lot of annoying tourists, we headed up.

A lookout point on the hill.

A lookout point on the hill.

The views from the top of the hill were massive, since it was hazy, it wasn’t the best day to see for miles. It was still neat to be so high up though. I will say the hill is very much geared towards families, with tons of things for kids to do (extra $$$ of course) but we stopped into the mosque and the Hindu temple at the top and then ordered some chick pea masala for a $1 that was delicious.

My favorite part of the excursion, the street food.

My favorite part of the excursion, the street food.

We headed back down to then head to the Kok Lo Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, perched at the base of the hill and quite possibly one of the most spectacular temples I’ve seen.

The temple.

The temple.

However, it was unbelievably hot out, so this temple excursion was definitely a sweaty one. We grabbed the local bus and then of course, got off at the wrong stop, but it was fine as we wandered through a more authentic area of Penang, where locals went about their business, shopping, working, cooking up a storm of street food. We finally discovered the entrance to the temple, which sits at the base of the hill. Covered with market stalls on each site, locals try to hawk you souvenirs too you as you make the climb up uneven, dark stone stairs. Once near the top, there is a creepy pond filled to the brim of turtles that looks rather like a construction zone, and then the temple fun starts.

The famous pagoda, with its three design styles.

The famous pagoda, with its three design styles.

The structure itself is enormous, with several pagodas and twists and turns. Of course, too many Buddhas to count. As the temple is perched up high, there are so many spots that make awesome panoramic viewpoints. The first section of the temple visit is free, but if you want to climb the famous Pagoda of “Ban Po Thar” or Pagoda of the Ten Thousand Buddhas, you have to pay 2 Riggit per person, about 40 cents or so. The structure is extremely interesting because it combines three main architectural styles: Burmese, Thai and Chinese. Having visited many temples in Myanmar, the first thing I noticed was the top of the pagoda, which is gold and tapered in the typical Myanmar style. Whereas I am sure there are more accurate architectural terms to describe the differences in the three styles, I did notice the typical Thai minaret peaks in the middle section and then the base of the structure is Chinese.

Views from the pagoda.

Views from the pagoda.

The view from the pagoda was amazing and each level provided a difference angle of the city, perfect for taking an excessive number of photos, which of course, we did. It’s worth noting that during the Chinese New Year, you can finish the temple at night, when it’s lit up with Chinese lanterns. It must really be a sight to see!

After the temple, we headed back down to the city center. After exploring some street food in Chinatown, we decided all we wanted was more Indian food in Little India, so that’s exactly what we did. Two tandoori chickens, two carrot and orange smoothies and two foot massages later, we ended up back at the hotel. The next day we were finally heading to the beach, but not before exploring the morning market. Many markets in Asia are in the evening to beat the heat, so I was surprised to hear their market was open all day.

The chaos of the market.

The chaos of the market.

Of course, we headed there on the early side and the market was filled with locals, both selling and buying food, like noodles and curries for breakfast and also things like raw fish and meat for the week, fruit etc. The market also sold housewares, clothing, even lingerie!

A guy selling fish and other unidentifiable items at the market. I find it interesting,, so many locals sit like this all day long. I've been taking yoga for 20 years to be able to hold this posture for like, 11 seconds.

A guy selling fish and other unidentifiable items at the market. I find it interesting that so many locals in Southeast Asia sit like this all day long. I’ve been taking yoga for 20 years to be able to hold this posture for like, 11 seconds.

Jorge and I picked up a few things and then it was time to head to Thailand. As I plan to spend the next two weeks doing pretty much nothing besides lying on the beach, doing yoga and eating Penang curry, there won’t be much more happening on LSM until my next trip (don’t worry, got a lot of plans coming up soon). I hope you enjoyed following our adventure this summer and cheers until next time!

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Istanbul A Few Days After The Attempted Military Coup

Welcome to my fabulous trip diaries, where I’ll chronicle my 6-week summer adventure. Hopefully, someone other than my mother will be reading this. The adventure begins in a far off land bordering both Europe and the Orient: Turkey. Enjoy!

The lovely Istanbul and beyond.

The lovely Istanbul and beyond.

I was super excited for our long layover in Istanbul to do the free city tour that Turkish Airlines offers for passengers with stops. We’d specifically planned in this stop to spend the day touring Istanbul, a city I’ve been wanting to visit for years, and everything seemed to be in order. Famous last words. When preparing for bed Friday evening, just four days before our trip, images of military and gunfire invaded my social media. Gasp! It seemed that there was an attempted military coup, where the military basically tried to take control of Turkey. Long story short, it didn’t work and the President is now using this as an excuse to get rid of (literally, take out) a large portion of the military. It’s also an excuse for him to create more dictator-like laws and fire many school teachers and close down many charities–anything that doesn’t seem to agree with his political ideals.

But this isn’t meant to be a political post, it’s meant to be a travel post, so we were clearly concerned that this would make our coming journey unsafe, especially as the military temporarily took control of the airport. As of Tuesday morning, things seemed to have calmed down, although the US media still portrayed the situation as alarming, I chose to listen to European media which said things were much more tranquil. We took off at about midnight on Tuesday, nervous but excited. We actually loved our 5-hour Turkish Airways flight. We had a whole row to ourselves, the food and service was great and although we didn’t really manage to sleep, we entertained ourselves with movies on the personal screens. We landed at about 5 am and headed out into the airport, which actually seemed incredibly calm. We napped for a couple hours in the arrivals hall before the tour began. Although we were pretty exhausted after night one with no sleep, we were running on adrenaline for the tour, which involved 42 tourists from countries all over the world on a bus.

Delirious after a night of no sleep, but ready and raring to go on our tour bus!

Delirious after a night of no sleep, but ready and raring to go on our tour bus!

I usually opt out of these style of giant group bus tours, but as this was a special exception, we boarded the bus with all the other annoying tourists.

A breakfast of Turkish delights.

A breakfast of Turkish delights.

We headed into the city center and started off with a traditional Turkish (and free) breakfast, with a boiled egg, various cheeses and bread with honey and jam. There wasn’t any coffee but there was tea.

Admiring the Blue Mosque.

Admiring the Blue Mosque.

After breakfast we walked through the city center, which I thought was adorable, and started at the blue mosque.

Finally mosque appropriate.

Finally mosque appropriate.

Despite my long dress, I was still deemed “inappropriate” and had to cover my arms with my sweatshirt, hair with my scarf and they gave me a sarong like skirt to put over my legs.

What you can and can't wear.

What you can and can’t wear.

After putting all that clothing on, I then had to take off my shoes. It made me laugh a little to think I had just put on a million layers and then had to take something off, but such is life.

An outside glance.

An outside glance.

Sufficiently covered and sweating of course, I headed into the Blue Mosque. If the inside was as spectacular as the outside, with towering domes and pointy minarets, I knew it would be worth it.

The inside of the mosque.

The inside of the mosque.

 

The millions of tiles that cover the ceilings and walls of this mosque are pretty incredible, though I did prefer the outside view (I always like the outsides of things better).

The outside view is always more impressive in my humble opinion.

The outside view is always more impressive in my humble opinion.

Many people were praying and there were also many tourists just looking around.

The HGS!

The HGS!

After the mosque, we visited the Hagia Sofia (just from the outside), another gorgeous building and then headed over to the Topkapi Palace, where we were given 50 free minutes to enjoy some lovely gardens, gorgeous panoramic views and some of the Sultan’s Chambers.

The entrance to the palace.

The entrance to the palace.

Although there were plenty of different rooms with museum exhibits, we only had time to do a few, and selectively decided on the weapons room, filled with swords and old-fashioned guns richly decorated with opal and pearl, and the Islamic room, housing the scepter Moses allegedly parted the Red Sea with and a man who’s been reading the Korean 24/7 since the 17th century (well, not actually him the whole time, but turns are taken). This was especially insightful, as I am trying to understand what drives people to partake in the Islamic religion. With everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, empathy and understanding is key, and it’s difficult for me to see why people want to participate in Islam, especially women, but I’m trying.

A view of Istanbul.

A view of Istanbul.

The Sultan's Chambers and gardens.

The Sultan’s Chambers and gardens.

After this, we headed over to lunch with a view.

The lunch spot, all ready and set for our group.

The lunch spot, all ready and set for our group.

The food included traditional Ottoman specialties like Shawarma, which was decent. I mean, I can’t complain as this was TOTALLY free.

Yum! Lunch Did I mention it was free? I like free things.

Yum! Lunch. Did I mention it was free? I like free things.

After lunch, we got back on the tour bus to head to the airport. It’s worth noting I saw no signs of an attempted military coup, except for possibly some new flags hung around the city.

Turkish pride.

Turkish pride.

I felt very safe and very comfortable walking around and at the airport, and I can’t wait to return and spend more time in the city, exploring it at my own pace and in my own way. If you have a flight with Turkish, I encourage you to build in a long layover and take this free tour, you’ll love it, as it’s a great introduction to a city with quite a bit of history.

A Turkish ice cream, where they mess with you when you try to take the cone!

A Turkish ice cream, where they mess with you when you try to take the cone!

After a very long customs line, we were able to grab an ice cream (traditional Turkish), and prepare for another night of (not) sleeping on a plane.

Adios Istanbul! Off to KL!

Adios Istanbul! Off to KL!

We boarded our 14-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, and stayed tuned for my next post, which will be on the obvious next stop of Kuala Lumpur!

A Hidden Gem: Mandalay

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After three sweaty yet amazing days in Bangkok we headed to Mandalay. I was really unsure on what to expect. I really couldn’t find too much info on Mandalay and what to do there during my pre-trip research. In fact, many people just head to Yangon, Inle Lake and Bagana and skip Mandalay entirely—some say Mandalay isn’t even worth a visit.

Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much. I chose Mandalay as a gateway city instead of Yangon before heading to Bagan because you can’t fly into Bagan from any international airport and it’s super monsoon season in Yangon. So Mandalay it was, and I went in with very low expectations.

A local having a nap

A local having a nap

I was in for quite I surprise. I find myself right now actually sad to leave Mandalay after a wonderful few days there.

Day 1

I suppose I should start at the beginning. We arrived and hopped into the free AirAsia shuttle bus that conveniently stops about a block from our hotel. Changing euros at the airport was no problem, so we had literally hundreds of thousands of KYAT on us! We then checked in and everyone was overwhelmingly polite. Our hotel, the Sahara was about $28 per night and included a small, impeccably clean room with fridge and a bathroom.

We dropped our stuff, enjoyed a few magical moments of air conditioning and headed out about 3 pm to find a spot for lunch. We consulted the hotel staff and they suggested a traditional Burmese spot about a 25 minute walk away called Mingalada which also means hello in Burmese (the only word I managed to master so far!).

Our trickshaw driver and new friend, Challaou

Our trickshaw driver and new friend, Challaou

Upon heading out, we were stopped by a trickshaw, a man with a bike with a “sidecar” of two seats attached. I normally steer away from those offering tuk tuk or taxi services but something about this guy was different. So I asked a price and he told me 1200 Kyat. I did a quick calculation…less than one euro. Cheaper than one ticket in the Madrid metro. We happily accepted.

We had a great time talking with him and asked him if he would come back after lunch, pick us up and take us around the city to see the sights, and he told us he would for 7000 Kyat, about five euros. Sold!

Now onto the food. We sat on the floor around a table and ordered a traditional Burmese lunch. It works like this: you order the main dish, like duck, or chicken curry (we got one of each) and then they bring you a million sauces, side dishes, veg, salad, soup and more in little plates and also dessert.

This is only about half the plates!

This is only about half the plates!

So our table was literally set with 100 plates and the food was good! I prefer Thai and Indian curries to these because the Myanmar curry was very oily, which is typical of their curries. However, the presentation was fun and dessert consisted of seeds mixed with chili, which was crazy. Not my favorite, but certainly an experience. Jorge accidentally put a giant spoonful of picante pepper seasoning in his mouth thinking it was something else and the entire wait staff was cracking up. He’s still dealing with the consequences two days later, LOL.

It’s also worth noting the wait staff spoke basically no English, although the menu did have the dishes in both Burmese and English. The menu also had no prices, so we were slightly concerned we might get cheated. Then the bill came.

6200 KYAT for a full meal for two including dessert and drinks. 4.50 euros. Insane, right?

Our friend/guide Challou was waiting for us outside with his trusty trickshaw bike and we headed out. He took us to some amazing shrines as well as simply driving through some of the areas in town that are less touristy.

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He also showed us the old monastery he lived in during the days when he was a monk.

Jorge playing some game with the locals! He did pretty well I would say!

Jorge playing some game with the locals! He did pretty well I would say!

Jorge also played this game with locals that is similar to hacky sack where they kick the ball around.

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During this tour, so many people and children waved to us, said hello, in fact, we were the only Westerners we saw all day! Tourism is still new in Mandalay and we really didn’t see many at all, however, we did hear there are quite a few tourists from India and China which makes sense because those countries border Myanmar.

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The people are poor but friendly and for the most part, they don’t try to cheat you. In fact they just seem awed at the fact people with blond hair and western features are in their country.

This kid, sitting naked on garbage tugged at my heart strings

This kid, sitting naked on garbage tugged at my heart strings

Children seem especially excited, and love to say hello and come shake our hands. It was our fifteen minutes of  “fame.”

 

Almost every single person here wears a Longyi, which is a long skirt that you tie at the waist. Woman wear it more wrapped around their waist and men tie it in a knot. Children also wear it and it’s surprisingly comfy and airy. I couldn’t believe that 99% of the people wear this. It just seems like such a different world (it IS). Locals, especially women and children also put a yellow like, glittery substance on their cheeks and face which our guide told us was like a natural kind of sunblock. Besides the fact that the sun is very strong here, Myanmar is no different to any other Asian country in that they are obsessed with having whiter skin.

It’s also interesting to hear about their anti-government sentiments. We were told not to pay to go inside some of the government monuments because the government gets the money, and clearly doesn’t use it to help and support their citizen.  I listened carefully and decided not to contribute to the government and their cronies by choosing to simply see the outside of these monuments.. Of course, by staying in a hotel, I already was handing money over to the government but obviously I had to have somewhere to stay.

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Anyway, our awesome tour ended with a visit to the banks of the Irrawaddy river, where I surprisingly saw locals bathing! Yes, it’s true…many people in Myanmar don’t have running water.

A local chatting me up after a quick bath in the river

A local chatting me up after a quick bath in the river

In fact, I saw a lot of stone wells too during the trip, and people using them to fill up buckets with water. Also, no one seems to have the luxury of a washer here, and most wash their clothes in the river or using the water they have in wells.  That means squat toilets and outhouses too.  In fact, there aren’t really any laundry places in Myanmar as you see in Thailand where backpackers can drop off their laundry. Why? Because of course, no washers! No one wants to wash scuzzy backpacker clothes by hand!

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Checking out the river was beautiful and interesting. We were able to see the beginnings of the sunset, which was very peaceful.

Flowers on a moto!

Flowers on a moto!

Then, we made a quick stop at the flower market, where most locals bring flowers on their motorbikes to sell. It’s curious because the flowers are typically purchased not for peoples’ homes or gifts, but as offerings to Buddha. Flowers may be a luxury not many can afford, but they will splurge only for Buddha. Lucky guy, that Buddha!

Fitted for my very own Longyi

Fitted for my very own Longyi

Finally, a stop at the night market for Jorge and I to purchase our own longyis! When in Myanmar, do as the Myammar(ians?) do! I am still trying to master tying mine!

Jorge getting fitted for his Longyi

Jorge getting fitted for his Longyi

Day 2

Our day tour was so wonderful we asked Challou if he would drive us around to see the famous U-Bein bridge and sure enough, he asked his brother to do so who happens to be a taxi driver. It was perfect because the hotel had quoted us $50 for a full day tour with driver who speaks limited English, plus another $30 for a guide to  explain more things in English for a total of $80. However, Challou said he would accompany his brother in order to translate and the full cost would be $45. Deal!

Meditating with the women while the men got to see the Buddha. Not fair!

Meditating with the women while the men got to see the Buddha. Not fair!

We started off with a visit to the Big Buddha, which is placed in elaborate shrine made of gold. To my dismay, only men could enter! So Jorge happily sauntered in while I sat meditating with the other women. Blah.

Our boat ride over to Amanpura

Our boat ride over to Amanpura

Next stop would be Amanpura, a small village just outside of Mandalay featuring the famous U-Bein bridge, the longest wooden teak footbridge in the world at 1300 yards. We started on one side of the water and took small boat over to the other side, which was fun.

Boarding the boat

Boarding the boat

They we explored the village, visiting a weaving factory, pagoda, a Buddha shrine (they are all starting to blend together) and then finally walked back over the bridge.

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

The bridge made for beautiful views and we encountered some friendly locals as well and all in all it was a delightful experience.

Jorge making friends with local children

Jorge making friends with local children

Us in front of the U-Bein bridge

Us in front of the U-Bein bridge

Locals use their heads to carry heavy goods across the bridge

Locals use their heads to carry heavy goods across the bridge

Walking back across the bridge

Walking back across the bridge

 

Next stop, lunch at a local Burmese spot. Delicious curries, again, a table with one million plates, and for four people (we treated our guide and driver) to eat a huge meal, the bill came to a whopping total of…about 8.50 euros. Mind-blowing. Also interesting to note that the locals eat the rice and curry with their hands. It’s a bit shocking at first, but once you realize everyone does it you get used to it.

Lunch with our guide, Challaou, and driver, Mr. A

Lunch with our guide, Challaou, and driver, Mr. A

We then took a small speedboat over to the village of Inwa, where we  paid for a horse cart and driver to take us to a monastery and some pagodas. The shrines were gorgeous, but the horse cart was bumpy and this is really the only spot I encountered pushy locals trying to sell me crafts etc. It reminded me of Siem Reap…which I am sure most of Myanmar will be like when the tourism boom hits in the next five years or so.

We bought these cool etchings in one of the temples for our apartment

We bought these cool etchings in one of the temples for our apartment

Until this point it had been refreshingly authentic, but I guess it’s normal that these people want to make a living and really the only people who come to this ancient protected city are tourists.

Hanging out with Buddha

Hanging out with Buddha

Horse and buggy in Inwa

Horse and buggy in Inwa

Love this shrine, so much zen!

Love this shrine, so much zen!

 

Chatting with the big B

Chatting with the big B

Jorge being Jorge

Jorge being Jorge

 

We ended out the day driving up to Sagaling Mountain for beautiful shrines and some breathtaking panoramic views of Mandalay, where you can see the river, lakes, greenery and tons of temples. I think this was my favorite part of the day, as I am a real sucker for panoramic views, plus a bunch of gold shrines that were really stunning.

They call these the "cage" buddhas because they are technically behind some caged gates

They call these the “cage” buddhas because they are technically behind some caged gates

The views

The views

This little girl was wandering around the temple alone. I just love this photo!

This little girl was wandering around the temple alone. I just love this photo!

Thank goodness for the selfie stick!

Thank goodness for the selfie stick!

Enjoying the views

Enjoying the views

 

 

The tour was incredible and I really had no idea that Mandalay was filled with so many special and historic spots.

We had a small rest after the tour and then headed out for dinner. Since there are so many Indian and Chinese people living in Mandalay, a huge part of the Myanmar cuisine is actually Chinese and Indian food, so we selected Indian. It was good, but decidedly similar to the more oily curries of Myanmar.

Biking around the palace

Biking around the palace

 

DAY 3 

After a long day out, we crashed and woke up fresh the next day for our final Mandalay morning. We rented bikes from our hotel and braved the Mandalay traffic to lap around the nearby palace. That may seem like a short trip, but the giant, square Royal Palace complex is a huge square surrounded by a moat that is actually two km on each side. So to bike the whole thing is eight km. We had decided not to go inside for two reason: one because I didn’t feel like paying 10 euros to the government and two because I heard it wasn’t that interesting inside anyway. Everything was reconstructed in 1990 and nothing is original, so I didn’t think it was worth it to pay the 10 euro entrance and support the government. So we decided to simply enjoy the outside instead.

Biking around the palace

Biking around the palace

We biked along the first two sides and then stopped to see a few pagodas, one of which I fell in love with, the Sandarmuni Pagoda. It’s simply stunning: many small white shrines with a giant gold one in the middle. The cloud formations were just perfect and the photo ops were insane. Each little tower has small chimes on top and the deserted temple with the chimes blowing in the wind just about converted me to Buddhism, it was such a zen setting. If only I could induce that feeling of the chimes blowing in the wind into my daily life (perhaps I need to get some wind chimes in my office lol?).

My favorite!

My favorite!

Our bikes parked outside the temple

Our bikes parked outside the temple

 

We then lapped the last two sides of the palace on our bikes and arrived back in time to check out of the hotel, head out for a brief lunch of Chinese food (good, but nothing particularly exciting, though we did finally sample Myanmar beer which I give two thumbs up). Then we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Bagan.

Some not-so-subtle gold temples

Some not-so-subtle gold temples

 

The flight to Bagan we managed to purchase online a month before on a travel agency, which I wasn’t really sure if it was even real because it’s extremely difficult to purchase flights online and ahead of time.  Really, until a few months ago, inter-Myanmar flights could only be purchased in person by a hotel or travel agency once you arrived to the country.  I also see this changing very soon…especially with the increasing presence of internet and tourism.

We got to the airport and went to the Air KBZ desk with an printed email I was assured was enough to secure our reservation. Turns out it was, hooray! However, there was no one at the Air KBZ desk and I was directed to another airline’s check in and actually flew with Mann Yandanarpon Airlines (try saying that 10 times fast)…I still am not sure if I totally understand what happened but the point was after a 25 minute flight in a propeller plane, we landed safely in Bagan. Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that no one once checked my ID and security was kind of a joke.

Stayed tuned for Bagan, coming soon! In the meantime, I leave you with a little poetry from Rudyard Kipling:

Come you back to Mandalay,  
mandalay imagesWhere the old Flotilla lay; 
 
mandalay imagesCan’t you ‘ear their paddles clunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay? 
 
mandalay imagesOn the road to Mandalay, 
 
mandalay imagesWhere the flyin’-fishes play, 
 
mandalay imagesAn’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!”

Eat Your Heart Out At The MadrEAT Food Truck Festival

Spring has arrived and it’s time to experience the Madrid Food Truck Festival, MadrEAT. The event features over 40 different food trucks, stands and market stalls where you can find all sorts of different cuisines and enjoy an afternoon eating in the sunshine.

Welcome to MadrEAT

Welcome to MadrEAT

 

I must say I am impressed in how quickly Madrid has grown to embrace international foods. When I first moved here six years ago, you could barely find a sushi restaurant, and now Madrid is quickly catching up to other major cities and offering a much more “exotic: food selection such as Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Latin American and more.

Some Korean BBQ sassy sauce bottles

Some Korean BBQ sassy sauce bottles

I visited the festival for the first time last March, and have since then noted it will be continuing on in the AZCA complex each month this spring, starting again today! More practical info at the bottom of the post.

A yummy arepa from the La Cuchara truck

A yummy arepa from the La Cuchara truck

Last time, I was able to sample some Korean BBQ which was amazing, Venezuelan arepas from La Cuchara, a Feltman’s hotdog and some delicious dessert cakes, topping it all off with a four euro bottle of Sidra. Prices are reasonable and I indulged in several treats & snacks for a total of under 15-20 euros.

A delightful snack of Sidra and Hot Dogs

A delightful snack of Sidra and a Feltman’s Hot Dog, yum

I plan on attending again Saturday and who knows what I will indulge in this time? Perhaps a gourmet burger, perhaps a taco?

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The festival has a fun, kitschy vibe

 

This is a great festival and my main recommendation would be to arrive there EARLY especially if you plan on going Saturday and Sunday. The spot gets extremely crowded with a lot of strollers blocking the walkway (annoying) and so it’s best to arrive sooner rather than later.

One of the trucks

One of the trucks

Happy chowing!

You can hand out and eat outside

Enjoy snacking outside at MadrEAT

Practical Info

Spring Dates:

17, 18, 19 of April
8, 9, and 10 of May
19, 20, 21 of June

Location:

AZCA, entrance by Paseo de la Castellana 89, by Orense 16 or through the Central Comercial Moda Shopping. There is free parking in Moda Shopping (from 12:00 to 20:00, Saturday and Sunday). Metro: Nuevos Minsterios or Santiago Bernabéu, Bus: 27 – 40 – 126 – 147 – 150

Opening hours:

Friday from 12:00 to 18:00
Saturday from 12:00 to 24:00
Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00

 

Beyonce ¨Mrs. Carter¨Concert in Milan

Last week I was able to attend the Beyonce concert in Milan.  The show was incredible!  I had a wonderful and she put on a fantastic concert.  She even sang a little bit of Whitney Houston!

Beyonce opened with Run the World and sang most of my favorites:  Single Ladies, Crazy in Love, and of course my number one favorite Freakum Dress.

I was so impressed with her costume changes as well…I think she probably had atleast eight different outfits.

Enjoy the photos!

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Guest Blogger Post: La Boutique Éphémére

I am proud to announce my very first guest post here on Life and Style Madrid.  My fantastic friend Heather Evans and her lovely boyfriend Jesús Hellín found an amazing market of hand-made items, La Boutique Éphémére in Paris, and took some amazing photos and wrote up a summary of it below.  I am so excited to be able to share this with you and a huge thanks to Heather and Jesús for their contribution!  Enjoy!

La Boutique Éphémére Paris26 La Boutique Éphémére Paris10

Recently in Paris there have been pop up, indoor fashion markets in all the coolest neighborhoods. The most famous (and the most inspiring) is La Boutique Éphémére that assembles the newest & best fashion designers who all hand make their items. For a few days these talented designers get together to display their most recent work. You can find gorgeous, unique pieces from skirts to purses, belts to hair accessories , bowties to watches, each just as cool as the next… not to mention über chic.

Olivia Phélip is one of these designers.  Her line, Jicqy Les Mirettes sells bowties, ties, jewelry and head pieces. How did she become such a talented designer? Olivia was a teacher who had lost her drive and two years ago she decided to take a year off to study and practice music, one of her passions. However, she got a little side tracked and started making jewelry. Next, because her boyfriend started wearing unique ties, she thought it would be cool to get into making them, too. She started with bowties, then ties six months after.  For her first bowtie, she used her grandfather’s vintage Hermés bowtie as an example. She tore it apart, took measurements and, using her thigh as a ‘neck’, learned how to create beautifully handsome, impressive bowties. She also quickly included braided women’s head pieces in her repertoire – good thing!! They are ahhhmazing!

The chains used in some of the jewelry and head pieces are from a fantastic small store that sells pieces to make jewelry. Because her specialty is braided work, she incorporates these delicate chains into intricate braided pieces.

The fabrics she uses are truly unique. She sometimes takes fabrics from a fabric wholesaler in Paris that has the latest materials straight from  the Parisian couture designers (Hermés, Dior, Chanel…) She also collects fabrics from her travels; silks from India, kimonos from Japan, …  each of her pieces is powerful, has a history, depth and couldn’t be more special.

There are two very hip boutiques that currently sell her creations and of course sells online through her website.  She sells at some of these indoor markets as well as doing custom work for weddings, special events, etc.  (Imagine your groom & groomsmen with Jicqy Les Mirettes bowties!)

And check out this  video of Oliva Phélip or follow her on Facebook as well!

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Post by Heather Evans and Photos by Jesús Hellín

Best of Madrid: Mahou Tapeo

I really enjoyed myself last weekend at the Mahou Tapeo.  This year there  were only a 38  participating restaurants, which was fewer than past years, but it was still excellent.  I hope you enjoy my photos of the delicious tapas and the event below!  Until next year!

Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo Mahou Tapeo