Hello friends, the Bread Crumbs Trail blog is currently being migrated to its shiny new home, I’m very excited, but all this tech stuff takes time, bear with me!!
our new address: http://www.ourbreadcrumbstrail.com/
Hello friends, the Bread Crumbs Trail blog is currently being migrated to its shiny new home, I’m very excited, but all this tech stuff takes time, bear with me!!
our new address: http://www.ourbreadcrumbstrail.com/
Well ok marathon distance is 42.195km or 26.2miles, BUT this particular one will probably feel like the longest in the world as is goes through 59 of the world’s most famous Chateaux and private vineyards around Bordeaux, France, 19 wine stops…and oysters stops…and entrecotes stops (what really?)…yes and all that in 6.5 hours!!
ah did I mention that fancy dress is mandatory?
I can’t wait – It’s gonna be a blast!!!
If anyone has done it I would take tips and tricks on how to get to the finish line in 6h and 29 minutes!!! I promise I’m taking the Go-Pro for this one 🙂
For anyone interested, incriptions just opened. Sign up on this page (click on the image below), first in first served basis, and don’t forget to let me know of course!
Now off to the gym… (or wine tasting maybe?)
Yangon was Burma’s capital during the British occupation, and remains one of its main business centres. The city is booming so fast that it feels a bit like a teenager that’s quickly outgrowing its clothes. We had a little taste of the “expat life” for a weekend, guided by Mr & Mrs J. He’s actually becoming so local he’s now rocking the longyi style! Next thing you know, he’ll be chewing on betel… https://instagram.com/p/xMUPV0SnTo/ I’m not sure why but the French must love Myanmar, as the authorities count as many as 600 foreign nationals living in the Country (growing up to 90% per year). The same goes for tourists apparently, as French tourists are the most numerous to visit. Generally speaking the growing number of European and other western expats living in Yangon reflects the fact that the Country is at a turning point: the “big question mark” as Professor Robert H. Lieberman describes it. Indeed, daily conversation topics range from “what will the 2015 election mean for the Country and its legal framework” to “when is the next visa run to Bangkok?”, and of course to “where can I find some baking chocolate?”.
Many expats, all with different stories but common complaints: difficulties to find a suitable accommodation in a growing city where housing is actually not that cheap; impossibility to get a long-term visa (for now at least); lack of places to find fresh salads and western healthy food…so many obstacles that could turn into great business ideas? Yes, but not always. Foreigners are officially allowed to own no more than 49% of properties & companies, making Myanmar investors open to partnership a hot commodity! I’m glad I saw Mr & Mrs J (loving that new nickname) well settled in a cosy apartment and with a few business ideas up their sleeves!! As for us, for a weekend only, we marvelled at British car models with their steering wheels on the left driving on the right side of the road while stuck in traffic; bought Myanmar-baked croissants; crossed streets featuring a Buddhist temple, a Christian church and a mosque; had cocktails the colonial way; marvelled at the giant reclining Buddha. In term of tourism we very much enjoyed the free walking tour run by Gino. Thanks again, we had a great time listening your tales of Yangon, but also exchanging views with the group and …playing chilone!!
And obviously, we had to go and see the Shwedagon Pagoda, featuring one of the biggest stupa in the world and containing relics of the four Buddhas. It’s a puzzling sight at first, very crowded with tourists, prayers and monks; or sometimes all in one really, as we were welcomed by monks taking selfies on their ipads (really!?)…the temple is overlooking the city and stretches over a large area, with dozens of shrines and stupas. Legends and stories are, in my opinion, the most exciting part of such a site. I found the legend of the Pagoda on this page, I found it very interesting but poorly translated, so if anyone has a better version of it please let me know!
Rangoon Hail, Mother! Do they call me rich in trade? Little care I, but hear the shorn priest drone, And watch my silk-clad lovers, man by maid, Laugh ‘neath my Shwe Dagon.
A few articles and points of views on the topic: Expats in Myanmar The expat burden in Myanmar – on the The Myanmar Times A make or break year for Myanmar – on The Diplomat In Orwell’s footsteps – a photo album published on the NYT 36 hours in Yangon – by the NYT, with restaurants and good eats lists The Economist Intelligence Unit country report, always a good go-to page
From my trip in Japan in Spring last year, I brought back quite a few things; and no, I’m not only referring to the cotton Hello Kitty emergency underwear I bought to make-do while waiting for the temporary lost suitcase. I also came back with 2 packs of matcha.
What the h*ll is matcha? It’s basically green tea powder. Instead of infusing tea leaves, just dissolve the very bright green powder into hot water. According to the legends, it has been drunk in Japan as part of the tea ceremony for almost 900 years, and is used by Buddhist monks to keep them alert, awake and focused during long days of meditation.
Reality is that, I was very curious but I never used it. It’s been decorating my “exotic product” kitchen shelf for months… With an expiry date approaching soon, I really needed to find a good use to this green gold, and I was pretty unlikely to hydrate myself the way bodybuilding.com recommends!!! (sight).
Granted that the butter and chocolate in those cookies probably outweigh the weight loss alleged benefit, however the “mind improving” power was clearly quite strong – or maybe it was just the amazing night with the girls in Paris… Perhaps. But try them, you’ll tell me.
I initially tried the Americano-Japanese soft backed cookies and while they were good, I found them a little bit “too much”. Also I could never quite reconcile in my head the quiet Japanese tea-room atmosphere with those gooey white choc naughty things!! I love the green tea / white chocolate combination though, and I thought I would come up with something a little bit more Japanese-lady like.
Start mixing the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and almond powder; throw a spoon of matcha powder and watch the mix becoming weirdly green.
Dig a little whole in the middle and break the egg in, and add the softened butter. Stir well. You will probably need to add about 3 spoonful of milk to get soft dough (depends on the size of your egg).
Shape the dough as a big sausage, wrap in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 20min.
Pre-heat the oven, 180 degrees.
Roll the dough on a flat surface and cut the shapes with a cookie cutter or a round glass. If you prefer the almond or sugar sprinkle version then roll the edges each biscuit into crushed almonds / sugar ahead of baking. Otherwise bake first and cover in white chocolate later.
Bake for ~15min at 180 degrees.
Cool on a rack while softening the white chocolate in a water bath. Once melted throughout, poor into a piping bag (or a freezer bag where you will cut a tiny corner) and start drawing on the biscuits. Let cool and dry. Enjoy!!
Next stop…red bean paste? Not sure if I can manage that!
my fix of matcha sweet in London at Yauatcha, Soho
yes!! 3 weeks before leaving to Guatemala and I’m really excited!!
So while I’m counting days, I’m reading Mayan legends, browsing through travel blogs (I have been studying what the chaps at Eat Drink Culture did for example), trying to find hiking boots (well I have to admit, I desperately want the boots that Cheryl Strayed wears in the film Wild, but that’s for another topic), watching documentaries, in particular I watched the excellent When the Mountains tremble and Granito by Pamela Yates, and I’m getting my photo gear in order…
I’m also trying to work on a trip planning that works for just a week, following a weekend in Guate City, for a long overdue catch up with friends. Guatemala looks like a small country but I am having a hard time fitting it all in one week so please feel free to comment and advise if you think I’m making any major mistake there!
06:30 Flight to Flores
Arrive in Flores and transport to Tikal
Sunset tour in Tikal
Overnight in Tikal
Sunrise tour in Tikal
Shuttle back to Flores
18:30 Flight back to Guatemala city
Overnight in Antigua
Walking and discovering Antigua
Overnight in Antigua
Pacaya volcanoe hike
In the afternoon transport to Antigua
Overnight in Antigua
shuttle from Antigua to Chichicastenango Market
Overnight in Pana or maybe Antigua, not sure yet?!
Boat tour around Lake Atitlan
Back to Guatemala City and to London on the Saturday morning!
Is it too much to cram in 1 week?
I was dying to go trekking to but just could not resolve myself to miss Tikal…
any good guides recomendation? hotels? food I shouldn’t miss? precautions to take?
OMG, I just got really excited. I love clever mapping, and I can’t remember what the world was like before Google maps!? I also love linking places to popular culture, and sitting in a cinema watching James Bond driving accross the Istanbul Gran Bazaar and thinking “oh I was there a month ago”, is almost as good as the trip itself (almost). So I got really excited when I found this post: those guys created a map including over 300 Oscar winners from the 1950s to the present day, the best actor/actress as well as 5 top box office hits from the last 30 years.
Check it out:
Just back from the Italian Dolomites Alps where snow was pretty scarce, but nevertheless 4 days of sun, good company and gorgeous food made up for it! Cortina D’Ampezzo is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, about a couple hours away from Venice and about 4h from Milan making it a resort of choice for Northern Italians looking to parade a fluffy fur. The village has that atmospheric old-fashioned chic to it, but it’s actually their fennel flavoured bread that I will dedicate this post to.
The “Puccia” bread is a brown, fennel and cumin seeds flavoured bread from Trentino Alto Adige (it seems there are also other versions of it in the south). In local dialect, “puccia” means that it “came badly”, i.e., it didn’t raise much, describing that flattish shape.
Ingredients for 2 loafs of 500gr each:
– 500gr rye flour
– 200gr refreshed white manitoba 50:50 leaven
– 300gr tepid water
– 2 spoons of malt sugar
– 8gr of salt
– 1-3 tbs of fennel seeds
– 1 tbs of cumin seeds
Take 200gr of refreshed starter leaven and stir it lightly with 100gr of tepid water. Put the rye flour in a large bowl, in a “volcano” shape and pour the diluted leaven, water and malt sugar little by little, while mixing at hand (or at slow speed in the bread mixer). Rest for 15min.
Add the salt and seeds and knead for another 5-10min and until well mixed. Let it rest in its covered bowl for another hour or couple of hours (depending on how active your leaven is, and the temperature of your room).
At this stage I actually retarded mine overnight in the fridge.
Shape in 2 round flat loafs and let rest another little bit while pre-heating the oven at maximum temperature; and when ready, turn down the temperature to 220 and bake for 25min, then turn it down again to 200 degrees and bake for another 25min.
It’s delicious with a soup, I tried the earthy mountain version of the Zuppa d’orzo (barley soup), yum!
other recipes in Italian, but I couldn’t find any using wild yeast:
I tend to be pretty sceptical about New Year “good” resolutions, you know, stuff that we say we do, and know we won’t. And hell, there’s enough of the “annual objectives” that Boss will announce at the morning meeting on the 5th…this blog is about the good stuff, so here are the top #5 things I’m looking forward to in 2015: namely travels, sporty challenges, baking and knitting home time, soaking up London’s cultural scene and last but not least, making time to attend dear one’s life events, weddings, births, birthdays and anniversaries…
1. Discovering two new countries per year (at least) is my aim…2014 most notable ones were an amazing wedding in Tokyo, Japan and an inspiring trip to Myanmar. 2015 will start with a romantic wedding in Guatemala…and let’s see where the wind takes us next but it could be a pretty frosted trip (hint!)…
Note to self: best photo apps discovered this year were Pro HDR to replicate long exposure shot with a phone camera, and Hyperlapse, the fun, fast forward, lapse-like video app.
2. Carry on running Europe…2014 was an honest running year, with a very scenic Venice marathon. My heart is more or less set on Vienna for 2015, and I’m hoping for (well errrr soon starting training for) a better time, maybe even a PB!
Note to self: remember to sign up for The Marathon du Medoc in February…looks like so much fun
3. Enjoying London. It’s all well to travel and be out and about all the time, but I feel like I should be spending more time at home. And hell there’s so much going on!!
In 2014 I became a proud V&A member and an Art Fund member so I have quite a few cultural items on the agenda, in particular but not only:
– Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at the Royal Academy of Arts (Jan 15)
– Alexander Mc Queen: Savage beauty at the V&A (March 15) – Ok I almost got my V&A membership for this one. I’m not going to hide it, I’m excited. Plus is coincides with the London Fashion weekend
– Inventing impressionism at the National Gallery (May 15)
– Audrey Hepburn: portrait of an icon at the National Portrait Gallery
– The world goes pop at the Tate Modern (Sept 15). They had a pop culture oriented one last year at the Barbican last year, but this looks interesting too
– Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts (Sept 15)
Note to self: beloved 40 winks people are organising talks in 2015 – must absolutely go
3. I was reading this article the other day, about how easy to embed a little fitness in your everyday life; while for someone who’s already quite fit, the marginal cost of getting fitter gets higher and higher.
Fair point, but I disagree with the way thtey go about it: there should be no need for boot camps and other weight loss gimmicks. It’s being active and having fun that really matters for me.
So for 2015, more activities, but above all more fun please!! A few months ago we started practising acro-rock and roll with Steve and it’s the best use of my Monday night – ever. It’s tough but real fun, cardio, fitness, couple bonding (and some awkwardness) it’s all there.
Note to self: try and go to Pole Dancing more regularly
4. Enjoy home, time together, friends, laughs with loved one. My gran taught me how to knit this Christmas and I can totally see this becoming my winter-warmer (keeps your knees toasty)
Note to self: travel like a Wooly Gangsta
So I wish for 2015 to bring its lot of friendly dinners, weekends with my family and lovely time. In that respect, Christmas was the best reset break to start to 2015 on the right note!! Plus, on the planner we have 6 weddings to attend to in 4 different countries, a couple of big birthday parties, of which, my gran’s 90’s, and a big gathering 10yr anniversary, it’s going to be big (!!) ….
Note to self: hire dresses, since Christiana posted this review, it got me intrigued
Bring it on 2015, I’m ready!!
We came back from Myanmar 2 weeks ago and stepping into a full blow Christmassy London right back from the beach slightly startled me! It’s only this weekend when we travelled to Alsace, the French border region with Germany, that the true Christmas spirit hit us. I came back home with lots of baking ideas, and in particular I was keen to improve my “pain d’épice” recipe. (scroll down for the ultimate recipe)
Alsace is a culturaly quite peculiar French region. First, it benefits from a central European position and Strasbourg, its capital, currently host the European parliament. But also because during centuries of history, Alsace has bounced back between several national allegiances; most recently in the 20th century, Alsace moved from French to German and back again a couple of times between the 3 main pan European wars. As a result maybe, the local culture is very strong, with French, German, Austrian, Swiss influences (but not only), that can be witnessed today in the architecture, literature, and the cuisine of course!
The Christmas markets (“Christkindelsmärik”) are traditional in the region and if big cities like Strasbourg offer large markets, we were expertly guided toward smaller but super cute villages. In particular, village of Riquewihr, nested in the vineyards, hosts a seasonal market where we sampled (very) large quantities of regional food in random order until we could not walk anymore. Ohhh you need to try some choucroute! oh and my dear you can’t leave without trying this kouglof, surely.. how about that Munster super smelly cheese? a piece of Flàmmeküeche maybe? oh and the smell of roasted chesnuts…
The “pain d’épice” is a cake that was introduced in Eastern France in 1596 according to the legend but I personally doubt that spices like cinnamon, ginger or vanilla could have been available at that time so I guess it was more like a strongly honey flavoured cake.
Last year I used Anne-Sophie’s recipe from her amazing Fashion Cooking blog, which was really good. But with all that extensive tasting this weekend, and talking to local producers, I wanted to step up the game, revisit my proportions, add candied orange peel and maybe ginger too.
One obvious but important note is that up to 40% of the pain d’épice is made of honey, depending on the baker and the recipe. The quality of the input is crucial as it’s what gives most of the taste. So off I was to A.Gold, my favourite honey provider in London. Especially because those guys sell the postcode urban honey which is not only delicious but also helps our city’s green life. One day I’ll have my own hive I promise, but this will be for another post 😉
The base of any of those cakes should be made of flour (about 40-45%), a mix of honey and sugar (same, 40-45%) and the rest made of the “liquids” (milk or water and eggs). Butter is optional but adds softness. And then the complements, nuts, candied oranges, spices etc.
– 175gr honey (choose one with a strong taste you like)
– 250gr flour: mixed 50/50 white flour and wholemeal or rye
– 25gr full fat milk
– 2 eggs
– 50gr butter
– 75gr brown sugar
– 10gr baker’s yeast + 1 ts baking powder
– spices: 2 ts of cinnamon, 1 star anise, 1 ts ginger, a few cloves, cardamom, grated nutmeg, a vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)
– a grated orange peel
– 75gr candied orange / lemon peels and / or candied ginger
– pearl sugar for topping
Heat gently the milk, sugar, butter and spices, cast aside for a while. The longer it will infuse the stronger the spice taste will be (30min minimum recommended). Add the honey and stir on the hob at minimum heat (we’re not making caramel here!). Take off the star anis, cloves, cardamon seeds and vanilla pod if needed. Make sure it’s not too hot and stir the yeast in.
Pre-heat the oven at 180.
In a large pot, add the flour in a little well shape and pour the liquid and start mixing in. Incorporate the dried fruits and the eggs and mix well again.
Pour in a cake tin and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 1h at 175 degrees.
I wanted to complement my Christmas hampers so had to use individual paper cups (I recycled the individual panettone ones that I had never used). On the market a baker recommended to serve it slightly warm, with a scoop of home-made vanilla ice-cream….got us mouthwatering.
Note that for individual tins I had to reduce the cooking time to 40min.
Next year I will try to steal my friend’s Kouglof / Gugelhupf recipe and try this little beauty at home. It’s a sort of fruity brioche baked in a hollow ceramic mould…yuummm
According to the UNESCO, Bagan is the capital city of the first Myanma Kingdom, the site measures 13 by 8 km and contains over 2,500 mostly Buddhist monuments (temples, stupas, monasteries, etc) built from the 10th to the 14th centuries AD. Several of these monuments are still highly venerated by the population, and attract numerous pilgrims and devotees from all over the country, particularly at festival times and on Saturdays. It was fun to see mini-buses full of Myanmar people, wearing tour-operator hats actually, but at times quite busy!
The UNESCO never gave the site the status of “World heritage” but regularly helps the restoration, in particular of mural paintings as they constitute a unique corpus of paintings of that time in southeast Asia and have been the most reliable source for the history of the Kingdom.
And it does feel like a sacred and privileged place. Especially at sunset where it turns to a truly magical spectacle, as dusk casts a golden spell on the brick ruins, highlighting the shadows of the countless temples…
Bagan can be reached easily from the Nyaung U Airport in 10min. We stayed at the Blue Bird, a recent boutique hotel in New Bagan, which was a real treat, modern and with a walk-in shower that I soooo wanted to take home. Well, the fact is that showering had become quite an obsession after long days spent mostly barefoot in temples or wandering in the dust in flip flops!
Renting bikes or electric bikes makes all the difference at the site is quite vast, once again I was glad to have a flash light, as it gets completely dark about 20min after sunset. Despite that, we ditched the idea of getting a driver (useless) and spent 3 days loosing ourselves in a maze of temples and soaking the atmosphere, where I was pretending to be a repentant Queen about to build my own pagoda.
Indeed, the alleged 2,500 temples carry much legends and folklore. I loved the Dhammayangyi Temple, that was built by King Narathu to repent for murdering his father, brother and a wife (charming compensation!). The legend is that Narathu’s wickedness was so perpetual that he chopped off the hands of temple masons for faulty workmanship. ahh!!! I’ll tell that to the builders next time…
My Christmas present was a balloon ride over the site and I enjoyed every minute of the unique bird-eye view. Getting up at 4am was well worth it, those guys didn’t make it to the Lonely Planet cover for no reason! Even without going on a balloon, getting up before sunrise is strongly recommended, the haze dissipating and temples bathed in an early morning light make for a great spectacle.
And finally we spared a morning to pay our respect on the Mount Popa. I think the Lonely Planet had a great recommendation: going without a guide is a little bit like watching a foreign movie without subtitles. We couldn’t find one unfortunately, so we started by reading a few stories that I found on different blogs and website, and ended up chatting people and creating legends of our own…there’s a certain story about losing a ring on the way out and finding it several hours, plus all the stones, one by one, on the road. If that was not a miracle, I’m not sure what else it was!?
Mingalabar to Myanmar, generic recommendations to read when preparing the trip
An absolutely wonderful country, we had a fantastic time discovering a diverse and rich culture. Myanmar is attractive in many aspects and tourism is starting to develop. I felt like before posting photos and also to avoid novel-long posts, I should maybe start with a little introduction.
One thing is sure, you will be welcome, the government has actually sprinkled large signs displaying a “warmly welcome and take care of tourists” message all across the country. But Myanmar is not Thailand, if it’s amazing resort, beaches and nightlife that you are after, the quality for money may be better in the neighbouring country. For us at least, it was a cultural, quite active trip where we mostly rose up early and went to bed a couple of hours after sunset. Depending on your city / country balance it may change but even on the beach side, night life is down to a chilled cocktail and a good book.
Some of our friends organised their trip with a specialised travel agency that booked plane tickets, hotel and visas for them, it’s an option that I decided to skip. One because most of local travel agencies belong to the government, as well as airlines though, but also because planning is half the fun and I thoroughly enjoyed reading books, blogs, articles, asking expats and friends about their experiences.
Here are the bits and pieces of fact-finding and recommendations I collected, hope it can be useful.
“We want people to come to Burma, not to help the junta, but to help the people by understanding the situation: political, economic, moral – everything.” U Win Tin , NLD leader, 2010
In a country that was opened to tourism only a couple of years ago, and where democracy is still a challenge, it’s a tough question to tourists. It’s almost impossible to know if and how to choose and agency, which hotel to book, and if to buy jade earrings or not. I am no expert and I probably did some things wrong, but that doesn’t mean there is no point trying. On top of that, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to sustainability issues: how to accommodate thousands of foreigners flocking a country that has (extremely) limited rubbish collection system, dubious water sewage etc…how to find a hotel that doesn’t recycle the chlore’d water from their swimming pool directly into the Inle lake?
It is generally held that in Burma we do not have four seasons, we have only three, the hot season, the rainy season and the cold season. Spring is largely unknown although in the cooler border regions there is a stretch of pleasant, spring-like weather that we refer to as summer. (Letters from Burma – Aung San Suu Kyi)
A friend of us could only take time off work in August and still says that it was well worth the trip, adding a few light weight waterproof layers and heavier footwear. From what the locals told us, it seems that the rain season isn’t as heavy as in, say India for example, and especially in the north. Yet some attractions such as ballooning may not be available.
Proper summer starts in January until March and the touristy season starts before that. November was a great choice, not overly hot yet, the nature was really lush while we enjoyed a clear blue sky everywhere we went.
Visa: the embassy now offers an online service for $50 where one has to send their passport and gets their visas back by the post. I didn’t like the idea of mailing my passport and made a quick trip to the embassy, chit chatted with other travellers in the waiting room for 25min where we exchanged useful travelling info and only paid £14. It’s takes about a week to get the visa and they will keep your passport for that time. In theory you will need to have your flight booked already when requesting for a visa, but mine weren’t and I just left it blank…worked either way.
Money: I have seen a couple of ATMs, one of which at the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon actually, but by far the easiest is to bring brand new $100 notes with you and change them at the Yangon airport (we tried a few others downtown but this is where we got the best rate). Most change agents will only take crisp new notes and you will get a better change rate with $100 notes.
How much do you need? We have been counting at large to make sure we wouldn’t end up blocked, roughly airport transfers are the equivalent of $5 to 10, even treating ourselves we ate really well for less (sometimes way less) than $50 a day for 2 including a couple of local beers. I had pre-booked some of the hotels before leaving, you can get a good idea of how much you should budget for hotel spending using the Lonely Planet as a guide, and same for the main activities (hot air balloon needs to be pre-booked and paid online, things like trekking can go up to $50 a day for 2, renting bikes is normally only a couple of $. And we spent really little more than that, a few souvenirs, bike rentals (no more than a couple of $ if not free in some hotels), horse carts ride in Bagan ($7) or the odd boat rental in Inle ($15-20), and a few taxis especially in cities like Yangon or Mandalay.
* I opted for a 55L front opening zipper bagpack with a 10L extension that proved a great companion. I followed other bloggers recommendations and loaded it with around 12kg, and left space for souvenirs and other little Christmas presents.
Also having a rucksack fitting in the overhead locker was hugely helpful for the local flights. Never mind the liquid limitations, there just isn’t any.
We have been recommended the packing cubes method as well for the ones who take a longer break especially, and I still am in love with the vacuum bag method.
* A large scarf, mine is a very large silk scarf. Silk is magic, keeps warm in the cold but is breathing in the heat. Take it long enough that is can turn to a skirt / cover your legs.
* A pair of flip flops is absolutely necessary to visit temples (and there are many, many of them), some light shoes (trainers, sandals) and a pair of heavier duty trainers or walking shoes especially if you want to trek but I will come back to this later (see Kalaw to Inle).
* A couple of jumpers, the forecast may tell you it’s 33 degrees in Yangon, but the planes and buses are freezing, and nights get chilli.
* And one for girls, try and keep the hemline relatively low, light trousers may be more useful than shorts, comfortable and modest wear will be the choice. Most locals wear a longy, a sort of ankle long skirt that is held by a knot at the wait, in colourful fabrics for women and brick or bottle green checks patterns for men. We found it easier to adopt for women clearly 🙂
* A little torch lamp. I was a bit sceptical about that one but listen to friends recommendations and appreciated it. Most roads don’t have any lighting and for those who want to go trekking it will prove even more important.
* And the usual basic essentials: mosquito repellent and calming spray, sun cream, wet wipes, dry wash, a basic emergency kit (plasters, disinfectant, etc)…
Myanmar is a country with a complex history, and I feel like going without any research would be a real waste.
Once there I also felt my knowledge about Buddhism was not good enough to appreciate and fully grasp the importance of some temple and traditions and bought the “Buddhism, A very short introduction” by Damien Keown. And by the way, if anyone has better recommendations, please share!
The glass palace – Amitav Ghosh
Starting in the 19th century in Mandalay, with the intertwined stories of the royal family send to exile in India and the one of Rajkumar, an Indian boy emigrated to Burma, it is a great way to understand history with an entertaining story.
Under the dragon – Rory Maclean
A BBC British journalist who travelled to Burma, in the early 90’s.
He goes around the country to seek a bamboo basket seen in a photo taken by a fellow traveler in the late 19th century and stored in the British museum archives. Many encounters with peculiar characters will result in an interesting collection of stories, each describing aspect of the country.
Letters from Burma and Freedom from fear – Aung San Suu Kyi
The lady – Luc Besson
Filmed before Aung San Suu Kyi was released from imprisonment, the story is based on family, friends, colleagues, and international associations’ testimonials.
Un indovino mi disse – Tiziano Terzani (translated to English to A Fortune Teller Told Me)
The true story of a (superstitioous) Italian journalist who was told by a fortune teller that a great mortal danger would come “from the sky” in 1993. He took it seriously and subsequently carried on his travelling accross South East Asia solely using ground transportation that year…
Burmese Days – George Orwell
Chroniques Birmanes (translated to Burmese Chronicles) -Guy Delisle
comic book, in French, writen by Canadian Guy Delisle, father of a young boy and whose wife is an MSF doctor (Medecins Sans Frontiere) and therefore has a light and fun insight on a few countries like Myanmar. A refreshing, yet well informed view.
They call it Myanmar…lifting the curtain – Robert H. Lieberman
“I tried to make a movie that was not political,” said Mr. Lieberman, “but of course, that was impossible in the end.” Shot clandestinely over a 2-year period, this documentary provides a rare look at the second-most isolated country on the planet. It lifts the curtain to expose the everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years.
or also try The Guardian selection
** 7 days example (done by an agency): a super-packed itinerary, quite high-end
Day #1: arrive in Yangon. Kandawgyi Palace Hotel for check-in and overnight.
Day #2: transfer to Bagan and see the main temples. Overnight at Tharabar Gate Hotel.
Day #3: drive to Nyaung Oo.
Day #4: Morning flight to Mandalay, the city of the last Myanmar Kings. Upon arrival drive to Amarapura the “City of Immortals” and visit the 150 year old Mahagandayon monastery, and famous Buddhist learning centre.
Day #5: Morning flight to Heho in Shan State to see the Inle Lake. Overnight at Myanmar Treasure Inle Resort.
Day #6 and #7: transfer to Thandwe to spend the weekend on Ngapali beach. Overnight at the Sandoway
**11 days itinerary (also done by an agency) in the rainy season, August
Day #1 and #2: Arrival Yangon. Overnight at the Kandawgyi palace hotel
Day #3 and #4: transfer to Bagan and sightseeing. Overnight at the Thiripyit Saya Sanctuary resort
Day #5: Bagan – visit Mount Popa
Day #6: transfer to Heho by flight and visit Pindaya cave
Day #7: Nyaung shwe and boat excursion in Inle Lake. Overnight at the May Guest House
Day #8: Inle lake – Inn Thein market boat excursion
Day #9: Heho to Mandalay by flight and visit Sagaing – Ava- Amarapura. Overnight at the Mandalay Hill resort
Day #10: Mandalay – Mingun by boat and Mandalay city tour.
Day #11: Mandalay – Visit Pyin Oo Lwin
** Other interesting:
– trekking around the Inle Lake, starting from Kalaw
– take a cruise from Mandalay to Bagan along the Ayeyarwady river
– with more time, go and explore the Myeik Islands
From the very start when I started preparing the trip and seeing Charlotte’s and other friends photos, I knew I was quite curious about going trekking, meeting people outside of the beaten path. And I am immensely glad we did it as it was a major highlight of our 2 weeks trip in the country.
It is an, albeit touristy, it remains an authentic experience. It’s not that hundreds of travellers suddenly decided to go all trekking on the same path but rather that it’s the only route where the government doesn’t have any (lengthy) pre-authorisations process. We started from Kalaw where our guide John Sylvester, got us to fill a simple form with our names and passport numbers that he then dropped at the police stations, a 5min business. In comparison, fellow travellers who wanted to explore the southern region, border of Thailand, had to wait for over 2 weeks, ask for local help, and a pinch of luck to get their permits to go exploring the band of shore land on a bike. Amazing adventure that I hope they will relate soon on their blog 😉
I have to make one big acknowledgement there, John totally made the trip worth it. He started as a young boy as a porter in the family business and learnt English by having tourists in his environment from then. Passionate about his region, trekking and the world in general, John has been running his own trek company for 15 years and knows his job well. He also speaks a very good English which makes the whole difference between seeing the region and experiencing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent in villages, sharing freshly cut tea and discussing about the recent changes in the country.
We started in the afternoon and spent the night with the Nepalese family who runs the little shelter at the view point, after having enjoyed a magnificent sunset. And finally, shared the evening activities with them, steaming the fresh tea leaves and preparing the dinner mostly.
The next day was longer, we probably covered about 35/40km, stopping in different villages and …sharing more tea. The tribes we met with are organised in different ways, have different traditions. And as we advanced, the landscape also changed much. From tea leaves, to tobacco fields, rice terraces quite labour intensive and helped by ox carts, gingers and chilly fields, sesame, Our little company was pretty tired and didn’t last much after night fall. Some houses will have a little solar panel but must don’t have electricity at all and “pitch black” takes a whole new dimension. How shinny the stars are in the middle of the mountains…
On a house-keeping note, for those interested by the trek, it’s a good idea to carry the following:
– A 20L day pack
– Comfortable walking shoes, we went at a sustained pace (about 35km a day) and I’m sure that John is more than happy to take it a little slower but in any case, sports shoes are a good idea
– A little torch lamp
– Light sleeping bags – most families will provide you with blankets but I felt more comfortable having my own
– Sun cream and mosquito spray
– A good jumper for the evening and the early morning
– A camelback type of water supply or a water bottle
– Leggings or cropped pants instead of shorts, especially for girls. I started in shorts and quickly changed into running trousers with a longer hem line.
– Wet wipes / hands dry wash and a small Eco toilet paper roll (and their little zip bag to bring the rubbish back with you)
And our full itinerary and packing list can be found here
Opting for a neutral shade mani (unless you have a shellac) is probably a good idea to avoid some unsightly chipping. I have to confess that waiting rooms and airport lounges normally make my own prime time for a home made mani but I don’t think I can recommend doing that, the dry-time is usually at risk…
packing the following items (I leave them constantly unpacked, ready to grab):
– disinfectant wipes or gel (I prefer the wipes because it normally “cheats” the liquid policy)
– make up removal wipes
– blusher / bronza with a little hand mirror preferably
– a pair of sunglasses
– a shawl or scarf, neutral colour
– a mini hair brush, or a foldable one with a mirror (plenty of options at boots)
in the security plastic bag:
– extra hydrating moisturiser (some even use overnight masks)
– your usual moisturiser, mini format, I use the Clinique dramatically different but loads of other brand also have good travel size formats (Clarins is my second favourite)
– mini water mist / home made rose water spray
– mini deodorant or individual wipes
– eye puff cream (again I use the all about eyes one from Clinique)
– lip balm (neutrogena. occitane, chapstick…whatever your usual best-friend is)
– BB or CC cream (Nivea and Clinique have great ones)
– mini mascara and mini lipgloss
– hand cream or a “do it all” cream like the Nivea essential
– hydrating eye drops
This is the one thing that you can not bring from home as it won’t go through security; and I find that even amazing airlines just do not give access to enough water, on long flights I can drink up to 2L. So it doesn’t matter that water seems to be as good as gold in airports, I always get one or two big bottles. No moisturiser will ever be as good as water. Get plenty of it.
Either before boarding if you have time to spare, or once in the plane, I remove all make up with a wipe (they don’t count as liquids in most airports), dry and moisturise. If I am travelling with my boss / prince charming / a client (tick the ones you care wearing make up for) just wear a moisturiser and / or a BB cream.
To refresh while traveling, use a mister of mineral water and add a dab of moisturiser. In my future life I also want to have a little spray bottle refilled with rose water. It’s still on my to-do list but it’d be a great thing to have.
– apply lip balm
– apply hand-cream after washing your hands and keep them off your face and hair as much as you can during the flight
wearing mascara, it smudges with the eye mask, but take a mini one with you, to refresh when you land
long lasting lipstick, it dries up in a not-so-sexy manner
Take eye drops uni-doses so that it doesn’t take up too much space and in in desperate cases, ask the waitress for an ice-cube that you will wrap up in a washcloth.
If you are off to a meeting or any social event before you get access to any proper bathroom then you may also need to use deodorant wipes. I wash my face, apply a bit of anti-puff magic cream (mine is All About Eyes from Clinique), a light moisturiser and / or CC cream (should be both as the skin is really quite dehydrated after a longfflight)
A bit of blush or bronza, and that is as good as it gets.
The first time I travelled to Milan, I was in for a huge disappointment, and it was partly my fault: no, going mid-August is not a good idea, as for ferragosto the Milanese just shoot off to the lakes or the sea, leaving a drained, hot and dusty city behind them. Also I had in mind a great romantic impressive city….if that’s what you want go to Rome, to Florence, to Venice…you name it. But not to Milan.
So this year I decided I was going to start our relationship from scratch again, and spend a full week there, with the right kind of expectations.
With a total GDP of €114,784m, Milan produces 7.3% of the whole country wealth. Easily the wealthiest city in the country (€36,000 per capita), but far behind on tourists go-to lists. I think it is a great city to experience when one has “something to do” there. It is also a city that’s better appreciated with a few friends; it’s a busy social place.
Some of the MUST do things, pick and choose to make your dream combination:
* Sightseeing: it doesn’t take that long but you will at least want to see the magnificent Duomo and get to the rooftop if you can. Don’t forget there’s a strict no bare knee or shoulder policy in place.
* Culture, museums and exhibitions: plenty of choice there, the Museo del Novecento, Pinacoteca Brera (website is only in Italian: closed Mondays, open 8.30 to 19.15, longer on Fridays) and the Triennale, focused on Italian design. Booking to see the Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci, is a bit of an achievement in itself. It takes lots of advance planning, but I eventually made it, and it’s worth it.
* Take on some activity: learn Italian, take a cooking course, a fashion design course….they’re good way to meet people and experience the city rather than visit it.
* Shopping and wandering around: this seem to be the most praised activity in Milan. I was hugely frustrated as I went a week before the sales period would start and missed all the bargains!! For your records, Winter Sales Season in Milan usually starts the first Saturday of January until mid-February; and Summer Sales Season usually starts the first Saturday of July until August. In term of good neighbourhoods, try Brera and Porta Ticcinese, both lovely areas with lots of cafés and a good mix of chains and independent shops. For a more thorough list, check Alexi’s blog there
* have an Aperol Spritz aperitivo on the navigli and panzerotti (deep fried mozzarella) at Luinni’s (via Santa Radegonda).
* Indulge on a bigger-than-life ice-cream at Cioccolati Italiani. Their cones are outright impossible to eat without smudging your make up, but who cares? eat like no one’s looking. The other delicious alternative is Grom.
* going to the Scalla Opera to enjoy an opera or a ballet
* going out clubbing al fresco: Just Cavalli (Saturday night recommended) or the Byblos are good options. Or party like Bob Sinclar and Andy Warhol, wear your most glamorous outfit, be ready to wait and go to Plastic.
* having pizza for breakfast at Princi on your way back when the sun rises, and in clubbing outfit.
However I would avoid…:
* going in August, it’s empty, suffocating and full of mosquitoes
* I’m a huge fan of going jogging to discover an area but really Milan isn’t the greatest place. I took part in the Milan half marathon this year and…disappointing, it doesn’t go through the centre as much as I would have liked it (starts from the Castillo and ends in the arena, via the peripheral ring road; nothing to fret about). And the jogging track is a mere 3.5k in the Parco Sempione, dogging tourists and old ladies’ dogs, not ideal.
– taking the overground tramway if you don’t have a “Man vs. Wild” type of sense of direction. It’s pretty and looks vintage, but you’ll need a local to get around – or at least I did. On the other hand, the tube is AC’ed and the easiest thing in the world!!
A recently sprayed graffiti depicting Milan’s rich history caught my attention. Not only because it’s a beautiful way to illustrate it, but also it was made on request of the parish of the very central Basilica St Lorenzo Maggiore. How unusual!? The piece is also highly interesting because the symbols it represents, understanding those few figures pretty much already gives the main keys to understand the city. The open-air story board starts at the time of the Romans, when Milan was called Mediolanum, for it was located in the middle of the plains. If the Roman heritage is great all over Italy, Milan has few obvious visible traces. I carries on with Sant’Ambrogio who worked for the city to become an episcopate; followed by the Attila the Hun and the barbarian invasions in the 5th century, the fall of the Black King in the 15th century, Ludovico Sforza or The Moor, youngest son of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan; Napoleon, Verdi, Alessandro Manzoni, Visconti and Sforza with the Snake and the Eagle….and many more, keep the history book at hand!
Milan is great scene of crime it seems, or at least that is what the litterary scene suggests!? Mani gialli or “yellow books” (crime novels) are set in Milan, I was particularly recommended this one:
Un Delitto Molto Milanese by Antonio Steffenoni. Beyond the criminal story, what I was really after was the description of the city, and the atmosphere … a catching thriller but not exactly a kind & warm description of the working environment in Milan!!
Other resources to prepare your trip:
I was given for my birthday a really handy guide: 101 things to do in Milan (101 cose da fare a Milano). It’s full of charming places and urban legends and describes another way to approach a city that doesnt have a fame for being especially welcoming. Marco translated most of them on his blog.
One marathon a year has been my target for the past few years; and last weekend was Venice marathon turn. The scenic run easily makes it to the most beautiful in my ranking. A memorable way to see Venice, a unique experience, however not one for great times, mostly due to the 14 bridges at the end, and if you are anything like me, the “OMG this is unreal” moment on Piazza San Marco will make you loose another few seconds, just gazing in disbelief!!! Continue reading Venice, the magic marathon
You can hear the rain pounding on the window and if you’re anything like me, your next thought is: when do I get to see the sun again? I could tell you to jet-off to Hawaii for the weekend, it would spare me a post but eyyy… maybe next year.
So were to go for a winter-sun quick fix? Continue reading Where should I go for a short winter-sun break?
Adult travelers and holiday-goers (i.e. not backpackers), and I’m sure just most female young or old travelers in the world just find it difficult to cut-down on packing.
Leif Pettersen at The Lonely Planet has just published this article and it did crack me up; at a time where I’m scratching my head and wondering how to pack for Myanmar (the very exciting countdown until November has started!!), I thought it was a good idea to bring up the topic. Continue reading Stuff you should never take on a trip
Sicily is one of those places that just tick all the “romantic weekend” boxes in my book: the perfect weather, the abundant food, the powerful wines, the awe-inspiring views, the crystal clear water…
I’m just back from an otherworldly weekend to celebrate friends’ wedding, and as the excellent Italian blog Memorie di una Vagina puts it: “last weekend I went to a wedding in Sicily where I understood that Sicily is just like an excellent lover: as soon as you leave it, you want to go back and make love”
“Lo scorso weekend sono stata a un matrimonio in Sicilia e ho capito che la Sicilia è come un amante eccellente: appena se n’è andato hai voglia di rivederlo e di rifarci all’amore.” (translation is mine)
She’s absolutely right. When are we back again?
Sea side photos are mostly taken from the Capotaormina Atahotel where we had a fantastic relaxing time. Views are mixed, as a sea person, I just really enjoyed the view and multiple beach accesses, the sunset in the overflow swimming pool…that being said, some prefer being up the hills in the village to grasp more of the local atmosphere. (The Metropole was highly recommended by friends)
Views from the Greek theatre are spectacular, it can be either visited in the daylight, or rather, to see it alive, check performances organised in the evening during the summer season. From up there one has a wonderful view on the bay, the town and the volcano; a friend even managed to attend a performance where the opera music was “accessorizing” a stunning sunset and a lava eruption in the background…
With a car, it’s also possible to drive up to Castelmola and watch the bay from even higher up. The little village is smaller and less touristy but nevertheless fantastically picturesque.
Next time? (yes because there will be) other friends decided to cut the beach time short and go hiking up the Etna volcano, which sounds quite tough but worth it; although it would depend on the level of activity of the volcano as well I guess.
Now let’s get back to diet after the rather insane amount of food we just feast on if you please…
Oooh Norwegians… they’re lovely, blond, tall, spend their free-time running uphill and their holidays in wood cabins, they don’t drink, don’t smoke, they have the best-managed oil fund in the world, split kids nursing between father and mother in a more balanced way than anywhere else in the world, and to sum it all…they’re even one of the happiest people in the world…right, let’s stop, this is getting frustrating.