Tag Archives: Food

Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Dessert2

Review: Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet

Wahhh… Just got back from the not only the best Christmas buffet ever, but the best buffet I’ve had anywhere in the world and I just had to share my thoughts about it.

This year I decided to have Christmas in Bangkok. After being in Chiang Mai for 6 weeks, it was time to change things up a bit and head to a big city to enjoy a GOOD Christmas buffet. And the Christmas buffet at the Millennium Hilton Hotel in Bangkok was the perfect choice.

We arrived at 11:30am and were directed to the 31st floor for a complimentary welcome drink and canapes. I knew the welcome drink was on offer for guests arriving before midday so that’s why we arrived early. But what I didn’t know was that you got to have that drink with an awesome view PLUS you also got a selection of delicious canapes.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Canape with a view

After about 30 minutes, we were invited to enter the restaurant and we chose to sit on the terrace. It was hot, but it was nice to have the fresh air and to enjoy the scenery of the nearby river.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Terrace

We were offered a drinks menu, but we weren’t keen on spending more money on drinks after having already paid 2800 baht for buffet. Also, they include juices in the price of the buffet anyway which can be gotten from the bar. I was a bit surprised there was no water included in the buffet. I thought that was a bit crappy.

I started off with tuna tataki and moved immediately onto prawns and huge legs of alaskan king crab. ALASKAN KING CRAB! As much as you wanted to eat! There were also mussels, oysters and heaps of varieties of fish.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Tuna Tataki

The next station was the cold meat station. I went straight to the big leg of jamon they had set up, just like they might have in a bar in Spain. They also had some fantastic bresaola which is something of a rarity anywhere really.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Cold Meats

Next was the Japanese area. I grabbed a bunch of really fresh and tasty raw fish and downed that in about 30 seconds.

And now was the time for the part I had been a little worried about. The turkey. It’s so easy to mess up turkey that I had low expectations. But I should never have worried. The turkey was succulent and tasty. Not a hint of dryness at all.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Turkey and Beef

I was keen for some sweet stuff by now, so I skipped the Indian section as well as the Thai section and went hunting for the dessert station, but I couldn’t find it! Then I spotted someone carrying chocolate and followed where they had come from and I arrived at a totally separate building which seems to function as a sort of boutique chocolate shop.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Dessert1

Well… Today it was open to guests and you could eat whatever you wanted. All sorts of amazing cakes, handmade chocolates, ice cream and puddings.

I went back numerous times including one time when I got them to give me a slice of a lemon tart with macarons on it that no one had dared to try yet. It was awesome to see them slice that cake for the first time just more. Needless to say, the tart was great and the macaron was seriously impressive — soft and chewy on the inside and only a slight bit of resistance on the outside.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Dessert2

By this stage I was stuffed and I hadn’t tried everything. People were starting to leave and lots of space opened up inside. We decided to see what it was like dining inside. And that’s when I saw it. The cheese room. THE CHEESE ROOM! Yeah so what? Like they’re going to let guests raid the cheese room… BUT THEY DID!Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Cheese Room

But I get the feeling hardly anyone knew about it because there was still a massive plate of blackberries left, so I scooped up some of those and started slicing up lots of the imported cheeses which usually cost like $100/kg… like the roquefort, manchego and… a huge array of soft, smelly cheeses.Millennium Hilton Bangkok Christmas Buffet Cheese Plate

After eating my weight in festive food, I was done. So I ordered a black coffee and even left the little biscuit that came on the side. I just couldn’t do it. But who cares? This was the best Christmas buffet ever and all it cost was a paltry 2800 baht (US$75). In you’re in Bangkok for Christmas, go here. I might even go and try their breakfast buffet some other time.

If you want to know how much it costs to stay at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, you can check rates on Agoda.

Giving Singapore a Second Chance

I first visited Singapore a couple of years when doing a visa run from Bali which was part of a larger 4 month journey around southeast Asia. I guess the purpose of the visit had something to do with how I felt during my short stay in Singapore — that of a destination that I was simply there to transit through and not to explore with any great effort.

I left Singapore at that time thinking that it was the only non-Asian country in southeast Asia and far too expensive for a cheap-arse like me. I really didn’t like it.

Singaporean Kids
Singaporean Kids

When looking for flights to Indonesia for my current jaunt, I checked all the usual points of entry such as Bali, Jakarta, via Malaysia…and also Singapore. It just so happened that I got a really good deal on a ticket to Singapore from Melbourne — $200 for an 8 hour flight. So rather than skip straight through Singapore as my first instinct told me to do, I decided to hang around a little bit longer to do some walking, some eating and some animal watching. It turned out to be a fantastic experience helped by an Indophile friend I met on my first night, Judith.

Walking

I love walking. I especially like walking when I’m in a new place so that I can get my bearings and feel at ease. It’s also the best way, in my view, to get a feel for a place and to discover hidden treats. It’s often too easy to whip out a copy of the Lonely Planet and make a beeline to a restaurant or activity thereby passing all the cool stuff in between — like creepy alleys, culinary delights and my favourite — banal local life.

The Esplanade (Durian) Singapore
The Esplanade (Durian) Singapore

Around the harbour area there are some really cool things to see on the architectural front. My favourite is probably what is referred to as the ‘durian’. It’s real name is the Esplanade and it regularly hosts world class performing artists in its concert hall and theatre. Other buildings I loved were the Marina Bay Sands which charges $20 to get to the top op unless you are sneaky like me in which case you can as if you are staying there and use the internal elevators.

Eating

Singapore has always been known as a great food destination, but I never saw it on my first journey. This time I was determined to crack the nut that is the hawker centres where I’d read it was possible to get a good feed for under $3 which is good value in anyone’s language. Judith and I hit up the Old Airport Rd food hall for starters and it delievered the goods. I got myself a laksa with a massive dollop of sambal balancing precariously on the side. Needless to say I needed hardly any of it as it was spicy enough for me.

Laksa with Sambal
Laksa with Sambal

I also got around to a few hawker centres near Little India and they all dished up lovely food. The mainstays of most of these joints was chicken rice, prawn mee and miscellaneous crazy Chinese stuff that didn’t take my fancy. It truly is possible to eat great food on the cheap in Singapore.

Singapore Zoo

Apart from walking around aimlessly, was there anything else I did? Why yes there was, as the sub-heading might suggest. Judith and I headed off to the Singapore Zoo. Being a fan of giving local transport a go, I indicated to Judith that I had the directions to the zoo all sorted out. After the first bus told us to get off in the middle of nowhere, we looked for a cab. Apparently there is some weird ‘no pickup’ rule in Singapore (one of about a billion rules that you can’t be expected to get a handle on) and we walked around a little like zombies (sans drool) until we managed to get to a bus stop (perhaps the same one that we were dumped off at). We jumped on another bus, jumped off it again just up the road and changed to the zoo bus. All in all, a silly decision by me to do public transport. For a few dollars more, it would have been better to get a direct tourist bus or even a cab.

Hamadryas Baboon at Singapore Zoo
Hamadryas Baboon at Singapore Zoo

The zoo itself is incredible. It’s easily the best zoo I have ever been to although that’s not really saying a whole lot since I’ve not been to that many. Top on my list of wishes was to see a mandrill. I did indeed see a couple of mandrills and that made my day. I think the mandrills, 80 hamadryas baboons and the jaguars were my faves. I think it’d be pretty easy to spend a full day there, but we breezed through quite quickly as Judith had a plane to Indonesia to catch. The next time I visit Singapore I wouldn’t mind doing a night safari which apparently goes from next door.

So all in all my visit to Singapore was a successful one. I stayed at the Inncrowd in Little India which truth be told was a little disappointing for the $15 price tag. 10 bed dorms, no decent spot to put your bag and a breakfast not worth bothering with. Free WiFi was nice, but who needs that nowadays anyway?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Singapore. Ever been? Want to go?

Opera Cake from Sweet Infinity

When I started my blog I thought I was going to write a lot more about cakes and pastries because I’m always trying new ones out and reviewing them in my mind. The problem has been that I quite often wolf the cake or pastry down before taking a photo! And a review of a cake is no review at all if it doesn’t have a photo.

So my first cake review in a year is the magnificent Opera Cake that I purchased from Sweet Infinity in the Strand Arcade, Sydney. It’s a cute little shop that fits in with the look and feel of the surrounding old-fashioned shops of the Strand Arcade. I stood outside for a while to see who was going in, who was just looking in the window and who just didn’t care. My completely non-scientific assessment is this: Lots of women passing by look in the window while almost no men do and men only enter the shop when accompanied by a woman (except me). What does this mean? I don’t really know, but I reckon it’d probably have something do with most men viewing food as fuel whereas many women view it differently. Good on me for the massive generalisations!

Opera Cake from Sweet Infinity
Opera Cake from Sweet Infinity

OK, the cake. An Opera Cake is essentially a layered cake containing almond sponge, ganache and cream topped with a chocolate glaze. The Sweet Infinity opera cake has all of these elements: a couple of sponge, a couple of ganache and a couple of cream layers with a spinkling of cocoa on top.

Firstly, the cake was NOT overly sweet. I really hate sweet desserts as they take away the subtlety of any flavours. And this cake tasted chocolatey, very slight nutty and a maybe even a hint of…something else. On top of these fantastic flavours was a fantastic texture which was delivered through the fudgy ganache, quite stiff cream and soft sponge. Eaten all together, the mind is just racing with flavours and textures and it’s just about enough to send you over the edge.

Anyway, without getting too scientific and too foodie-like, I can summarise by saying it gets a big thumbs up. I will be returning to try other tasty treats in the future!

Bali Photo Essay – Food

This is the third in a series of shameless posts with a lot of Bali photos. Click here for Bali BeachesPeople and Animals and Culture.

I love food. It really makes travelling much more interesting for me. Of course, not all foods I encounter on the road suit my palate, but when it does, I usually like to take photos. So here is a bit Bali food porn to get you salivating.

Nasi Campur
Nasi Campur

A favourite meal of many Indonesia is Nasi Campur. It literally means mixed rice – a plate of rice with an assortment of vegetarian dishes and if you’re lucky, one or two pieces of meat. A meal such as the one above can be had for about a dollar. Maybe a little more when you start to pile on meat.

Gorengan
Gorengan

This is gorengan. The word “goreng” means “fried”. And gorengan is simply an extension of that with a very general meaning of “fried stuff”. Most of these bite-sized morsels contain potato-like substances and are served cold. I can almost feel the fat stick to the roof of my mouth.

Gado Gado
Gado Gado

Gado gado is popular in tourist restaurants around Bali, but it is also a genuine Indonesian dish. It’s simply a bunch of vegetables mixed in a peanut sauce with a bit of soy. Something like this costs around the 50c mark at a local food stall, but isn’t enough food to satisfy fat Western appetites — so buy two.

Babi Guling
Babi Guling

Babi guling is a favourite meal at ceremonies in Bali. A whole pig such as this one will set back a village about $150, but will be shared between as many as 20 families. The pig is roasted with a bumbu (mixed spice paste) and then served in a variety different ways. Sometimes foreigners refer to babi guling as roast suckling pig, but Balinese more often than not use bigger pigs than those that are still suckling — there’s more meat on a big pig.

Breakfast at Grocer & Grind, Seminyak
Breakfast at Grocer & Grind, Seminyak

The local food in Bali is fantastic, but there is also a wonderful Western food scene. Grocer & Grind in Seminyak does the full range of Western food and good coffee as well. I like to go here for brunch…

Food defines many of my experiences in a country. Does it for you?

Australia Roadtrip – Western Australia

This is the fourth in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Checkout Tasmania, South Australia and campervan purchase!

Western Australia was almost the place that never was. I think after it is all said and done, my favourite state of the not too recent Oz Roadtrip was Western Australia. Many people rave about Western Australia – particularly the backpackers we met along our journey and I always just put it down to crazy Europeans being in awe of the sun and sand that they never get at home. But I was naive. Western Australia impressed me in a way that was totally unexpected and in a way that could only have been experienced on a roadtrip.

Western Australia is a massive state that defies all comprehension. When entering the state on the Nullarbor Plain, you continue to drive for a full day before you reach a town with more than 50 people. It’s then another day’s driving to reach the western coast. The coastline extends for over 12000km (8000 miles) and most of the interior is completely empty save for a few camels, dingos and emus.

Our first stop was the remote but modern town of Esperance on the south coast, 700km east of the capital of Western Australia, Perth. It is an area with some of the best beaches you will ever see and offers some great camping opportunities in the Cape le Grand National Park.

Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park
Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park

The next area I really loved was Albany. Why? Well… The town itself is beautiful with some gorgeous suburbs. But around the whole area there is beach after beach and vantage point after vantage point that takes your breath away. Really! Plus, you can go on a free tour of a forest at the Valley of the Giants near Denmark which starts at 10am. The best beach I have ever been to is Greens Pool just outside of Denmark. How can a place really look like this?

Greens Pool, Denmark, Western Australia
Greens Pool - My Favourite Beach

Finally, I thought Perth was magic. I’d been to Perth a couple of times before, but not with the same spirit as I did this time. This time it was more about food and Perth duly delivered. What struck me about Perth was how new and shiny everything was. It is clearly evident that the mining boom which has been going on for about 10 years now is paying dividends for Western Australia’s capital. Thousands of people work on remote mine sites around the state and fly to and from work on what they call a “fly in fly out” basis. The mines are desperate for workers and consequently people are lured there with big pay packets. The lifestyle sounds somewhat brutal, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a go one day.

Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
City Beach, Perth
City Beach, Perth

We didn’t get further north than Perth. If you look at a map, you’ll realise that Perth isn’t far north at all! So we had a fab time in Western Australia and didn’t even scratch the surface. Had we headed north to the famed areas of Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and the Kimberley, we would have had to drive about 5000km further and taken weeks to do it – we just didn’t have the time. But these places have reputations larger than the areas we visited and I am supremely confident that they will stack up.

I’d like to say that I cannot recommend Western Australia highly enough, but that would sound stupid. So I’ll just say that if you plan to go anywhere in Australia, try to take a roadtrip in Western Australia. It is magnificent.

Kanga Bangas – My Favourite Source of Protein

Now, I don’t usually have the urge to write about the foods I eat day-to-day, but I’m becoming just a little obsessed with the kangaroo sausages I’ve been eating a bit lately. I think the obsession isn’t with the taste despite them being delicious, I think it’s with the amazing nutritional benefits. Most meat eaters stick with a few staples – chicken, beef, lamb, pork. But no one ever gives kangaroo a second thought, even here in Australia. But what’s not to love about kangaroo? It’s tasty, very healthy and very cheap.

Health

According to the Kangaroo Industry, kangaroo meat has less fat than lamb and beef and a similar level to lean pork and chicken and the fat is primarily unsaturated. That means having to chop off all the excess fat in your pork and chicken whereas kangaroo is generally lean from the start. The protein levels of kangaroo are higher than all the stock standard meats meaning it will fill you up a bit more and help build muscle! The cholesterol level is less than beef and lamb but slightly higher than pork and chicken. And the iron level is less than beef, but higher than all the others.

Also, kangaroo contains Omega-3 which comes as a bit of a surprise as well as a bunch of other things that are too complex for laymen to understand.

Oh yes, kangaroo meat is a great choice for health-conscious animal eaters!

Taste

Taste is a very personal thing and a new taste can often be confronting and even off-putting especially when it’s strong. Many exotic meats tend to be strong…  which makes me think that beef is perhaps just bland.  Anyway, kangaroo is only slightly gamy and I can now genuinely eat kangaroo sausages without even noticing the gaminess I once did. It really is not offensive in any way when you first taste it and as with most foods, you learn to love it.

The texture of kangaroo sausages compared to beef sausages is interesting. I find beef sausages to be very oily compared to their kangaroo brethren an a little squidgy whereas kangaroo sausages seem a little more firm and grainy.

I choose to accompany my kangaroo sausages with a nice pungent chilli jam. The combination is an absolute winner!

Cost

The cheapest and nastiest beef sausages contain all sorts of garbage – bovine offcuts, lots of saturated fat and often gluten. The kangaroo variety counter all of this by being gluten-free, very low fat (<2%) and… well I guess it could be any part of the kangaroo which is just a muscle-machine! Despite this, kangaroo sausages are about the same price as the cheapest beef sausages being about AU$8/kg or US$3.2/lb. A real bargain, in my view.

Ethical Considerations

I know eating a kangaroo to many would seem cruel, offensive, disgusting etc. Yes, eating animals is a pretty nasty business and if I was having to slaughter my own food day in, day out, I’d probably turn vegetarian. But I eat animals from a position of ignorance and at this point in time I’m OK with that.

Despite being cute, I think it’s OK to eat kangaroos just as I think it’s OK to eat cute lambs, pigs and cows. What is OK to eat and what is not is something that I have been debating with myself for some time with no clear conclusion being formed! Maybe the line in the sand really is “do not eat animals”. I just don’t know.

So, if you’re a meat-eater and kangaroo is cheap where you live (probably not outside Australia), I heartily recommend you give some Kanga Bangas a try. The stupid supermarkets often stick them next to the pet food section, but they are definitely for human consumption. I just think they don’t want to freak people out.

I welcome commentary!

Bali Travel: Ubud

This is Part 3 of my Bali Travel Overview which started here and was continued here.

I’ve generally encountered two types of people that enjoy Bali. The beach types and the culture types. The beach types predominantly hang out in the South (Kuta, Legian Seminyak and the Bukit) and the culture junkies in the centre – the centre being Ubud. So what does “culture” exactly mean? Well, it’s a catchall for seeing dancing, galleries, doing yoga, eating great food, staying in plush accommodation and wandering through the ricefields. If you like this stuff, you’ll love Ubud because it has it in spades.

On the cultural front, just about everyone visits a traditional dance in one of the main styles: Legong, Barong, Kecak etc. Although in the centre of Ubud these are put on purely for tourists, they still honour the traditional methods and in some cases offer a better experience than what you find in local villages. The main reason being that it costs a lot of money to have a hire a gamelan and train a bunch of dancers to the level that are on display in the centre of town. The other main cultural activity that people partake in is visiting local artists’ galleries and the woodcarving village of Mas or the stonemasons’ village of Batubulan.

Bali: Dancer
Bali: Dancer

Another favourite of visitors to Ubud is visiting a spa. Now for the blokes, this might seem a little girly, but it’s actually a pleasure to roll up and have a massage for an hour or two. Some places charge western prices and some are as cheap as USD$5 for an hour massage. You generally get what you pay for, but at the cheaper end competition is so fierce that with a little shopping around you can get a top massage in clean surrounds for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home.

Accommodation in Ubud ranges from a bare room with cold shower to hotels that rank among the best in the world. Most of the best accommodation options are located so far out of town that you have to use the hotel shuttle to get anywhere and are really only practical for those wanting seclusion. In the centre of town there are any number of cheaper options with common prices being around the USD$15/night and USD$40/night marks. Cheaper than this and you’re likely to get something not very nice.

Bali: Plush Accommodation
Bali: Plush Accommodation

For foodies, Ubud has all that you could ask for. World-class dining, great coffee, locally run eateries (rumah makan/warung) and even an organic food market. Most of the top-quality dining is found at the many top-end hotels around town such as Uma Ubud and the Viceroy. But there are also restaurants such as Lamak and Mozaic that are independently run and offer world-class food. The cafe scene in Ubud is also quite developed with Tutmak and Kakiang Bakery serving the best coffee and some good food too! On the local front, everyone visits Ibu Oka for a plate of pig ($3). But there are a bunch of other places that do good local food too like Warung Mendez (mainly for the goat) and Warung Mina. For the health nuts, you cannot go past Kafe or Bali Buddha for a vast menu featuring fresh local produce.

Bali: Lunch at Uma Ubud
Bali: Lunch at Uma Ubud

The one thing that I find most people don’t do when visiting Ubud is walk. Yeah, people might walk around the big loop that is Monkey Forest Road and Jalan Hanoman, but people rarely get beyond that. But beyond that loop are the endless surrounding ricefields. The Lonely Planet guide has a bunch of walks around the local area and they are generally very good and not too difficult to accomplish despite the oppressive heat. Just take a hat and some water and all is OK. The tranquillity just a 10 minute walk in any direction around Ubud is phenomenal and should not be missed!

Bali: Endless Ricefields
Bali: Endless Ricefields

Visted Ubud? How was your experience? Want to visit Ubud? What do you look forward to most?

Myanmar (Burma): Mandalay & Bagan

The Road to Mandalay

Looking at the map, Bagan and Mandalay are fairly close to one another, but the bone-crunching reality is that between these two places the road is like a goat track. One shouldn’t be surprised by this given that most roads in Burma seem to be of the goat-track kind! The journey between the two areas is about 7 hours on a local bus along a largely unpaved, dusty road which travels through endless dry plains and poor villages.

Mandalay

Mandalay is the second city of Burma and sits at the heart of the country. Most tourists will pass through here at least once as it serves as a transport hub for all points in every direction. Many of the people I spoke to before arriving in Mandalay had a generally negative attitude towards the place and I think this mainly evolved from the alleged below-par palace charging unsuspecting tourists US$10 to enter. Again, another Government sting but given that it’s not worth visiting anyway, there’s probably no harm done.

Mandalay is HOT in the dry season and the temperature reaches more than 40C (104F) most days. At night, it is also VERY hot and because the electricity in Burma is very sketchy, there is a better than even chance you will spend some sleepless nights in a lather of sweat. No air-conditioning, no fan. Just heat and humidity.

Myanmar: Wooden Bridge
Myanmar: Wooden Bridge

The food in Manadalay tended to be quite cheap and of a fantastic quality. The best by far was the mutton curry from the Chapati Corner. A small dish of oily mutton curry, a couple of freshly made chapatis and bit of biriyani… One of the best street side meals I have ever had. Another good place was the Nepali Restaurant listed in the Lonely Planet. Good food, good price.

Myanmar: Mandalay Monk
Myanmar: Mandalay Monk

OK, so why travel to Mandalay? Are there any sites? Well, yes. I’d recommend going to see the big wooden bridge at sunset and visiting a bunch of the old royal capitals. None of it was spectacular, but definitely worth a visit and easily enough to occupy a full day of touring. One cool thing to observe were the package tourists at the monastery in Amarapura. OK, it wasn’t cool. It was actually quite shocking. At 11am, the monks from the monastery gather to have a feed and there is a bit of ceremony about it. Well, bus loads of tourists roll up to have a look (us included!). But the manner in which people were interacting with the monks was hideous. Hoards of people sticking their cameras in monks’ faces, yelling and asking them to move or pose in a certain way and generally treating the whole situation like is was some sort of zoo exhibition. If this doesn’t make you cringe, nothing will. But at the same time, it was interesting to observe and gives the opportunity for self-reflection. Are we any better? Probably not.

Bagan

I’ve read many stories comparing Bagan to Angkor. First of all, there is no comparison. Totally different feel. I preferred Angkor much more for the following reasons. Firstly, Bagan is not set in a jungle. When we were there, it was like it was in the middle of the desert complete with searing heat. We got a horse and cart around the sites, although some had suggested a bicycle (like in Angkor!) – needless to say biking was out of the question.

I really wanted Bagan to be magnificent, but the polish was removed when travelling into town on the public bus from Mandalay, all foreigners were ordered to leave the bus 5 miles out of town to pay money at a checkpoint. It felt really uncomfortable to be on a bus packed with locals only to be asked to disembark to pay a fee. And the handful of foreigners on the bus felt similarly uncomfortable – especially when one went to pick up a brochure on Bagan and was asked to pay another US$5! Funny in hindsight, but a symbol of the lunacy of the Burmese Government.

There are plenty of reasonable budget accommodation options in Bagan, but food tended to be on the expensive side and was generally of average quality despite the multitude of options. Perhaps this is due to the predominance of package tourists in this small, rural town.

Myanmar: Bagan Temple
Myanmar: Bagan Temple

OK, so the temples – how were the temples!? To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. Sure, there were thousands of them. But many of the biggest and best could not be fully accessed due to structural concerns. Ordinarily, this would be reasonable – but given the amount of money being generated down the road at the checkpoint from tourists, surely there is enough to fix some of these temples. Sadly, it seems very little of that money goes back into temple restoration/improvement. Many of the smaller temples lack atmosphere and your entry into them is often interrupted by locals selling paintings. Not vastly different to Angkor, but at least in Angkor you could find solace once past the invisible line which is the entryway. In Bagan, no such line exists.

Whilst I’m generally negative about Bagan, it is worth a visit. As is everywhere in Burma. Just don’t expect to come back gushing. Rather, expect to come back questioning everything about the place, just as you do when leaving places like Yangon, Mandalay and Kalaw/Inle Lake.

What a very interesting place this is.

Is it Really Worth Saving a Dollar?

When travelling through South East Asia and probably other parts of the world, you meet all sorts of different travellers.  You meet the package tourist, the flashpacker, the stinky backpacker, the know-it-all backpacker and also a bunch of “normal” backpackers.  But there is a subset of these people that I am really interested in.  It’s the stingy traveller.  The type that will do anything to save a dollar. At times, I’m this person and it annoys me no end because in most cases it’s nonsensical.

Myanmar: Local Transport
Myanmar: Local Transport

I’m particularly frail when it comes to transport – taxis, tuk tuks, becaks, etc.  I will tend to argue for extended periods of time, refuse countless offers of transport and even walk miles just to prove the point that I won’t be ripped off by a taxi driver.  Ripped off, as in, not paying an extra 50 cents or a dollar over what I believe a reasonable price to be.  And I base my pricing on the wages which I know the local populace are getting.  Now, in the heat of battle, it all seems fair – why should a local person get an extra dollar for a short ride when the daily wage is $3?  And from an economic perspective, it does make sense.  There are farmers slogging their guts out in the ricefield for $3 in the beating sun, yet a taxi driver lounging under a tree all day waiting for a tourist to sting can make double that for a short ride.  From a moral perspective, however, it’s probably not right to quibble over a dollar and from a convenience perspective, I’m certainly doing myself a disservice!

Myanmar: Budget Accommodation
Myanmar: Budget Accommodation

As far as saving a dollar goes, the same issues apply to accommodation.  Sure, you can screw down prices to almost nothing, but if you spend an extra couple of dollars when travelling in SE Asia, you can really boost the quality of your digs.  Moving from $4 to $6 can mean attached bathroom, better outlook, less noise and a generally more pleasant stay.

What about food?  Many places in Asia are dirt cheap.  $1 for a substantial meal.  But occasionally, it’s nice to have an even nicer meal that might cost double.  Yes, $2!  I’ve met lots of people that will refuse to pay the extra dollar because it’s essentially a doubling of the expenses for the night.  But come on…  it’s an extra dollar.  And for an extra dollar, it might mean an even more awesome meal than the dollar meal.  More food, better produce and perhaps some meat that might otherwise be missing.

Myanmar: Samosa
Myanmar: Samosa

Some will argue on the flipside that the cheaper you travel, the longer you can travel.  Spending $20 vs $22 per day means you get to travel for 10% longer. For some, this might be wise, but for me…  I’m usually getting travel weary in the last 10% of my journey anyway and getting home a little earlier is no big deal – and I get a more pleasant experience while I’m at it.  What’s your view on saving a dollar?