Myanmar, day three, Yangon Food Tour
Day three started nice and gently, I’d stayed with Ma overnight, earplugs in, eye mask on and woke around seven to find her still fast asleep. We’d planned to do a food tour before heading to the bus station for our overnight journey to Nyuang Shwe but had not heard if the tour company were able to fit us in at such short notice, so we had a relaxed breakfast, discovered some pretty fine hot chocolate and milled about chatting and packing. While we were waiting Trish noticed that our bus tickets were for the twelfth, not today, the eleventh. Totally my fault it has to be said, I’d chosen the wrong day and in all the back and forth emailing of plans no one noticed the mistake. We’ve been using Exotic Myanmar for all of our travel and they’ve been great, responsive, informed and helpful and today was no different. Unfortunately it was too late to change our tickets but there was availability on a bus today and if we swung by their offices they would issue the tickets. Yay! Crisis averted we made plans to stop by after our now confirmed tour.
Our guide James from Yangon Food Tours met us at our hotel at twelve and off we went, walking through the streets towards our first stop for samosa salad. The stall is on the edge of a wide alley way a short distance from the Sule Pagoda. A few other stalls fill the alleyway and share tiny kids chairs and tables, there was a more western size bench seating area but having seen all the locals at the kiddie size ones we squatted down as they were. The chairs were actually pretty sturdy and made a surprisingly comfy seat. James pointed out a huge tub of msg, stressing he always made sure they didn’t add any to the food on his tours, they really didn’t need to. I’m not a huge fan of Indian food and had low expectations only to be blown away the food was so delicious. Crispy samosas were chopped with cabbage, peanuts and tomato and covered in a fragrant broth. I would for sure return for this dish again were we there longer.
This was followed by a very short walk to the adjacent stall run by the husband of the the woman serving the samosa salad. A piece of white bread was placed in a bowl, topped with the same green noodles found in cendol, tapioca, sweet sticky rice, sliced up jelly made from evaporated milk and gelatine, a ladle full of sugar syrup and then coconut milk on top and it was ready to eat. Hmmn interesting, not sure I need to repeat the experience but it’s always nice to try new things.
Next we headed to a Chinese shop with great steamers full of pork and red bean buns at the entrance. James ordered sticky Shan noodles, wonderful plump steamed buns, one filled with rich pork and one with red bean paste and a noodle dish with soft chickpea tofu which was superb. This was my favourite stop of the day by far.
On the way to our next restaurant we stopped at a roadside vendor and tried deep fried winter melon, tofu, potato and coconut. The coconut one was sublime, l am ridiculously fond of a bit of deep fried sweetness.
We are also fond of a food tour so while Trish and Ma were already feeling a bit stuffed I was looking forward to the next course having paced myself pleasantly. Which was a good thing as at our next stop we had a feast of curry. Amongst the many dishes we tried were melt in your mouth fish curry, tea leaf salad with crispy chickpeas and broad beans, aubergine salad, tender pork in black bean sauce, an oily soup of radish, potato and greens, and spicy fish cakes. By the time we stopped eating the plates were mostly empty and we were all pretty full.
Our final taste came in the form of the Myanmar version of a Knickerbocker glory, a slice of pudding, ice cream, coconut milk and jelly balls in a store selling over two hundred different foods. It was pretty yummy, let’s face it I think most things with coconut milk are. And then we were thanking and saying goodbye to James and heading to collect our tickets.
I am already beginning to feel at home in the streets here, the people are friendly and even crossing the traffic clogged roads is not too arduous, drivers giving way eventually to let you pass. On the walk we passed some more breathtaking buildings, one huge seemingly abandoned complex labelled as Ministry offices on the map which were overlooked by the Exotic Myanmar offices and even more impressive from above. Whilst there we asked Khaing Lay, our lovely consultant, how far away the Aung Mingular bus station was away. Half an hour she replied, no no an hour at least rebutted one of her colleagues.
A bit later after a relaxed hour we left our hotel at five pm for the six pm check in for our seven pm flight. And sat in traffic, and more traffic and more traffic. At six pm we asked our driver how much farther it was, it’s far he replied. I must be with the most laid back people as we all just shrugged, ah well if we didn’t make it we already had the tickets for tomorrow and we were all a bit sad to be leaving Yangon so soon anyway. Thirty minutes later our driver kindly called the bus company and told them we were definitely on the way but stuck in another traffic jam. Twenty two minutes later after some fairly hair raising and magician like driving we were pulling up to our bus. If there was ever a case of earning a big tip this was it. My Advice would be to leave two hours for this journey, there are shops and places to eat if you are early.
This is our first bus trip of any kind so far on our adventure and we picked a doozy to start with. We’re due to arrive in Nyaung Shwe for Inle Lake at six thirty am tomorrow morning. But oh what a bus it is, other than the lack of a loo, I believe there will be frequent stops, it’s pretty plush and all for twenty five USD each. Our seats are huge and recline almost horizontally and have TVs with films in five languages. We’ve a big fluffy blanket each, a complimentary bottle of water, rubbish bag and been given a Shwe Mandalar bus company 2016 calendar, an energy drink and a box of pastries. I’ve my long trousers, jumper and cashmere beanie on and despite the frequent horn beeping, phones ringing and fairly impressive juddering as we trundle along, I am loving it. Let’s hope I feel the same way in ten hours Xx