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Published: January 5th 2019
Where I watched Burmese Soap Opera and had a manicure.
Myanmar is the country that was still on my bucket list after being turned away in 2014 because I had failed to get a visa. I made sure I had the proper forms this time and I passed through immigration without a hitch. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations. I knew nothing about the country except that the names had all changed with a new government some years back. The old names were like magic to me…Burma, Rangoon and Mandalay. From the movies I thought of smoke filled drawing rooms, billiard tables, artistic exotically dressed dancers, porters and travel trunks. But there was also a long sea coast so I was excited about diving, too. I read that it was best to take a liveaboard because dive sites were far apart.
Reality number one: I arrived in the middle of monsoon season and quickly learned that there was no diving now…the seas were too rough. I could look forward to the diving season in November. I quickly accepted the cancellation of my diving activities. You cannot fight wind and rain. And boy, did it rain. The skies opened up, the wind blew the trees outside
This was an interesting hour and a half ordering a typical Burmese Longyi.
my hotel so they almost touched the ground and the rain pelted down. Half an hour later the sun was shining and except for the water nearing flood stages in the gutters the weather was balmy and pleasant.
I took a day to relax and rest. I still needed time to recuperate from my previous illness. I was anxious to get my nail polish removed. It was chipped and ragged from diving. I asked the front desk about a local spa and there was one three houses from the hotel. I simply showed my hand to the gathered women and I was ensconced in a high barber style chair facing the television screen. I watched the beauticians in the shop and the Burmese soap opera with delight. I was as enthralled with the action on the screen as they were. I was offered hot tea amid shy smiles.
On my way to look around I passed a fabric shop. I am always interested in fabric, and explained that I wanted a longyi, the traditional Burmese sarong-type skirt, with a blouse to match. It was a great production, being measured, weighing the preferences for blouse fabrics and so on.
HIGH TEA AT THE STRAND HOTEL
You can see the newspapers; part of the ritual
In the end I purchased a custom outfit. This decision determined that I would remain in my hotel for four more days, after which I could pick up my new clothes. It also allowed me four more days to explore Rangoon. Finished with my purchase, I walked up to the road and bought some street food, made a few souvenir purchases and visited a university campus and a nearby temple.
My hotel included breakfast which was delightful, served in a separate cozy dining room with tablecloths, music and a lovely centerpiece. My eggs were cooked to my preference and came with fresh made juice, fresh fruit, toast, tea and a different special Burmese delicacy each day. I often ate my dinner here as well.
With help from the hotel staff I chose several sights to see.
The first thing on my “to do” list was to visit the Strand Hotel and have High Tea. High Tea in some countries is a real bargain; in Rangoon it was only $20. My hotel was half an hour from city center and I asked them to call and make a reservation. Transportation was quite reasonable after I learned about the
Familiar western food.
currency. People were very helpful when I asked them how much I should pay to get from one place to another as most of the cab drivers do not speak English.
At the hotel there was a rose bud in a vase on the table, circulating fans, and black rattan chairs. Newspapers were placed on my table with the teapot. I decided to embrace the by-gone colonial era and read a paper, but chose the hotel newspaper because it was less daunting than the others. It was full of interesting information. It was all very British and I enjoyed talking to my waiter who offered a wealth of information. The tea was served with the typical sweet, salty, and savory offerings on a silver three layered tray. I enjoyed a tiny prosciutto sandwich and asparagus in aspic (a first) and the half éclair with mango filling and a thin chocolate “sail” was a favorite of mine. The High Tea was an absolute delight and a great way to spend a few hours inside, looking out on the rainy streets watching the world go by.
A few days later I decided to return to the Strand for High Tea
MY FAVORITE DESERT
Mango eclair with a chocolate sail
before visiting temples and the park. This time I ordered the Burmese High Tea. It was served in stacked black lacquer bowls; interesting but not as elegant looking as the silver three layered trays. I was surprised to discover that many of the Burmese delicacies were the very ones I was offered with my daily breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, including the pride of the Burmese staff as I ate the Burmese specialties.
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