Been to Yangon, yet?


Blogging needs to be regular, if anything. Experts harp on this, often. But last month I took off on a break, to write my WIP. I haven’t visited many blogs, not commented much, and not posted at all. I got the draft finished though (finally!!), and went on a short break to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). I’m officially out of hibernation, too.

Ever since the country opened up its gates to tourists in the past 4 years, friends on social media have been posting pictures of their Myanmar ‘adventure.’ Mine was far from one, let me tell you in advance, and if you can’t stand descriptions of lazy tourism, I suggest you stop reading right now. Having slept three hours a night or so for the last two months, I needed to catch up on some sleep– and since we had booked this holiday long in advance, I did my catching up right there in Myanmar.

Lyungi, Yangon, Myanmar

Lungyis in Yangon

At first sight (and second, and third), Yangon seemed to me the land of the Lungyis, these sarongs worn with a knot on the front by the men, and gracefully, with side-ties and invisible zips, by the women. I love it when the people of a country don their traditional clothing in their daily lives, instead of the drab Western gear most of us in Asia seem to have adopted. Students and office goers all wear Lungyis in Yangon– a garment that makes such elegant sense in the heat and dust. That’s not to say that jeans hasn’t made inroads here: loved the men wearing Lungyis holding hands with women in tight-fitted jeans.

A lot of women also apply Thanaka paste on their faces when they go out (notice the face of the woman in yellow at the far right of the above set of pics). Quite puzzled by these daubs  of sandalwood-looking paste on women’s cheek, I asked a waitress, and she said these have cooling, sunscreen, as well as cosmetic properties, and that Thanaka is a tree, just like Sandalwood.

Pavement snaps from Colorful Yangon

Yangon snapshots

The Burmese reminded me of the Thai, with their soft smiles and friendly faces. Weaving your way while across its gridlocked traffic can be a challenging, chaotic affair, but right beside you in the mornings you would find Lungyi-clad students, colorful hawker women balancing on their heads their entire ware of fried snacks in a basket, the maroon-clad monks with their shiny begging bowls, young women in wet hair and colorful clothes heading to the pagodas, bunches of roses in hand, and mega-phone-weilding-military-uniform-clad traffic police, walking casually as they yell instructions to shiny new Toyotas, the tiny Tata Nanos, old trucks and jeeps.

We did take quite a few walks on the pavements of Yangon dotted with hawkers and tea-stalls, and snack-stalls selling everything from grilled/ steamed pig parts, chicken legs, eggs, peanuts, coconuts, guavas, corn, sea-food. In the evenings, the pavements flowered with small colorful tables, and kid-sized plastic stools– young and old Burmese sat at these tiny feasts, lit by dim lamps and chatted and laughed. We had fun shopping really old second hand books from the pavements– think thrillers and romance published in 1960s, and pirated copies of  English books published in the early 1980s in Burma.

Yangon Myanmar Lyungyi and walking streets

Street food in Yangon, Myanmar

Of course, we had to sample the Myanmarese cuisine, a curious mix of the Chinese, Indian and Thai influences. Each meal was served with a green leafy consomme, and an array of steamed vegetables with a fish paste. The Burmese eat noodles and dumplings like the Chinese, with some Thai influence; their salads include noodles and meat, like the Thai, and most of their curries (chicken, mutton, pork) and snacks looked and tasted Indian. Curries are invariably greasy– because according to certain local beliefs, the greasier the food you can afford, the better off you are! The Burmese milk tea is the same as you would find on Indian footpaths, the chai so favored and distorted by cafes into latte and whatnot, but the Burmese love their green tea, too, like most Chinese I know.

Pagodas in Yangon, Myanmar

In and around the Sule and Shwedagon Pagodas, Yangon

If all you see are descriptions and photos of food and walks on Yangon pavements, that’s because that’s what we did most of the time. We did also visit Pagodas and museums (very briefly). The Pagodas seemed similar to what I’ve seen in Bangkok, all the gold-plated glorification of the Buddha, who mostly (as far as I know), spoke of the inner spirit, and started the Bhikkhu, or ‘begging alms’ way of life for monks. What impressed me most at the museum was the Burmese fascination with the humble betel-leaf– enormous gold-plated spittoons and containers displayed on an entire floor: remnants of which we see on the betel or paan stall (seen on the upper right corner of pics below) on Yangon streets.

Yangon tourism pavements paan

Tourism on the pavements of Yangon

We should have explored more, taken a day-trip out or something, but I was too busy catching up on sleep, and eating myself silly. So the snapshots of food and clothing are all I carried back with me.

Not really, though. The people, the Burmese people with their smiles and their day-to-day lives, remain with me, and the changing face of a country so recently ravaged by violence, beginning to breathe free.

What was your latest trip out of town like? Have you been to Yangon? Been on a trip where you ‘ought’ to have explored but lazed instead?

How Self(ie) Obsessed are You?


Writers have an excuse for people -watching. Research, they say.

Today, at the beach with the family, I spotted a thin young man, with his techie camera, floppy hat, long-sleeved, stylish clothing.

I paid him no mind when he took the first selfie. After all, people all across the beach were either jumping in front of someone with a camera, letting out squeals, arms raised in fake ecstasy; or fishing for selfies, waist deep in the lapping waves, selfie-rod held in firm grip, grimacing away. (Notice the women modeling on the rock in some of the pictures.)

But this man’s persistence amazed (amused) me.

He kept trying to take Selfies, with a focus to rival a fishing stork–only he didn’t remain still except to pose.

He kept skipping and scampering across the sand and splashing into the water, busier than a seagull, and possibly livelier. He had no use for the blue vistas and white sand spread out before him, other than as a background for himself, and his nascent muscles.

I’m cruel. I guess so is my family.

That man adjusted his camera and jumped in the sun for the best part of three-and-a-half hours. For all that time, in between snoozing and chatting, we snickered at him, and I took pictures. I know I should have walked up, offered to take his picture, put him out of his misery. But it was far too much fun to just lie back and watch.

Here, I bring you the man on his quest for the Perfect Selfie. I hope he got it.

Selfie-Obsessed Man on a Beach Sunday morning Thoughts

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Selfie-Obsession at the Beach!

Selfie Obsession

Jumping about in Search of a Selfie

Do you take selfies? Possess a selfie rod? How many selfies do you take in an hour/day/week/month? Have any selfie-obsessed friends or relatives? Do you think we sometimes lose the moment while trying to show off on social media?

What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?


Last week, I went to Paris.

I would have posted excited pictures, breathless descriptions. I would have told you I saw the Eiffel tower, arriving there after two missed trains, just when the lights began to blink, that I stared up at it against the clouds, that it seemed to rise and hover in the air, like a golden tower made not of steel, but strings of light.

Paris evening

An evening in Paris

I would have told you that the bridges gleam day and night, that the coffee is lighter than in Rome, that the croissants and crepes disappointed me somewhat–not that they were bad, that sitting outside watching the world go by seemed overrated when tourists sat by the Seine in traffic smoke, that the Notre Dame looked like calligraphy in air, like a papier-mâché thing I dared not visit for fear that the illusion of its lightness would disappear.

That the Mona Lisa underwhelmed, the ladies taking selfies with her made more of an impact, but that the Louvre made me feel like I wanted to lie down and die, because surely then I would be reborn inside of it, as a guide, a cleaner, a waitress. And wouldn’t have to leave. That d’Orsay does not do justice to the Impressionists, shutting away all their shimmering outdoorsy light in a smallish hall, where you have to peer over heads and shoulders to see them from a distance. That Van Gogh looks sadder in his swirly blue self-portrait than I remembered from prints, that his starry night over Paris looks far better than the sky today. That Rodin’s Thinking Man makes just as massive an impression as I imagined from the pictures.

But it is the people who remain with me.

The waiters who looked down their noses as they took orders, unsmiling, the pretty girls in snug scarves, that tall man crossing an alley shouting in French on his phone trying to look manly, the Chinese model being photographed at the Tuilieres Garden, who joined us minutes later in the metro wearing frayed shorts and golden eyeshadow, the artist at Montmarte drawing a smiling little girl’s portrait who would be oh-so-disappointed in a few minutes, a group of old women dressed in black lace, hobbling uphill on walking sticks, laughing, lugging loaded Desigual shopping bags, the Arab women covered top to toe, being led along by their husbands in shorts, the tall black men at shops and restaurants, regal despite their valet coats, the young couples, kissing in parks, eating long sandwiches, sipping wine, smoking, always smoking. I’ll remember being stuck in a jam in a back alley, looking up at the sky, only to find a bald old man and his Persian blue cat staring straight down at me from their red-flowered window.

I will, of course, go back, given half a chance. And this time I would spend more time watching people in the less tourist-infested areas. I’ll sit down and get lost, merge, disappear. A writer’s job is to paint what she sees, not interfere with the picture.

But on our way back now, on this long haul flight back to Singapore this is all I can think of: each of us, the protagonist of our lives, is just a part of the picture in someone else’s eyes. Note to self: no matter where you go and what you do, you’re just a tiny, insignificant part of the picture, remember that. The world is bigger than you, it would go on. Be here, now, and let that be enough.

Been to Paris? What is the one thing you remember the most? Would you go back again? What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?

Overwhelmed By Beauty?

Overwhelmed By Beauty?


Travel has always been one of my passions.

But now, at the end of my first (of many, hopefully) Italian trips, I feel a little overwhelmed.

Too much beauty: in art, in nature, in people.

This here is my third attempt at blogging from my phone, this time on the train from Rome to Milan. Love that my phone lets me not only click pictures and edit them, but also make collages– all from a train doing 240 km an hour.

I’d been to various parts of Asia so far, and loved it— but my first European trip has left me breathless and craving for more. Here are a few clicks from the Rome Museum ( which do only moderate justice to the sheer grace and grandeur of everything I saw)

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by any country you’ve been to?

Are Mistakes Such Terrible Things?


I’m taking a break from my blog, and in the time I’m away, Kate McManus has kindly offered to write me a post. This blog talks about questions surrounding life and writing, and I think the questions she asks in this post fit in neatly with my take on writing, life, and everything else in between.

Take it away, Kate!

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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”

George Bernard Shaw

Mistakes in Writing

Mistakes in Writing

We don’t like them and twist ourselves inside out to avoid them. But are mistakes such terrible things ? It goes back to early conditioning in childhood. We are told there is a right and a wrong way to approach a task. It’s a simple framework our society provides to keep us from the stress and chaos of having to make our own decisions before we have developed that capacity. It’s something we need to outgrow and as we mature, come to appreciate that everything is multifaceted and can be both wrong and right at the same time.

“Why did I do that? I knew it wasn’t going to work out” A friend once exclaimed to me after going on a holiday- which produced another destructive romantic fling.To heal deep patterns in our life, it’s sometimes necessary to repeat them in order to gain the clarity and consciousness which will manifest permanent change. Most of our patterns are built unconsciously over time and so require this deep level of commitment to awareness of the triggers which produce the mistakes or errors of judgement. In this case, a repetitive mistake can become a healing tool, a portal to new life

To fully access our creative imagination, we have to let go of the right/wrong, rational /linear paradigm. Writing is one big mistake to which we apply the remedy of editing so that it can make sense to our readers. As Ernest Hemingway perspicaciously once said “The first draft of anything is shit.” Struggling for perfection in the early stages of writing is sadomasochistic and ultimately unproductive. Let the mistakes flow! Can you imagine the first draft of James Joyce “Ulysses” ?

Mistakes when you travel can produce fortunate adventures; It’s the mistake which makes your journey unique. That time when you wandered away from the planned route and discovered a completely different part of a city. Mistakes are a large part of the road less travelled.

Is life itself a mistake? Cosmologists now advise us us about the serendipitous evolution of human life; it’s inherent impossibility and fragility which evolved into the dominant life force on the planet.What a happy accident for all of us on planet earth!

Kate McManus travel blogger

Kate McManus

Kate is a blogger, writer, astrologer and healer, who travels around Australia doing house sitting. As an animal lover, she enjoys the companionship of all kinds of pets as she explores different parts of the country. Kate applies an understanding of the Astrological Archetypes to her life and travels. In between house sits, she likes to visit her family and two grandchildren in Canberra.

You can visit her blog at http://www.lightravellerkate.wordpress.com and Facebook page “The Conscious Cosmic Traveller ”

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So, what’s your reaction when you realize you’ve made a mistake? How do you treat someone who’s made a mistake– a friend, a partner, a spoude, a sibling, a child, a parent? Is there a mistake you’re glad you made?

Ever have fun simply walking the streets?


I’ve been to quite a few countries but have never had as much fun walking the streets as here in Milan.

The people seem to walk in poetry, the street cleaners are dandified, old men and women take pride in their clothes and walk with a spring in their step, kids are a joy, no tantrums, even the dogs seem content, no unseemly dragging– yesterday I saw a Doberman stroll off leash tongue lolling out in the D’uomo piazza.

Been taking pictures in my head, not many on the phone– but here are a few random clicks….and this my first attempt at blogging from my phone.

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What’s your take on Train travel?


Damyanti:

Daniel Antion has been a huge supporter of my blog, and I love the way he writes. Honest, straightforward, not a word wasted.

Today, I’m sharing with you one of his posts– he talks about trains, how they add so much meaning to a journey, and I could not agree more.

I hate air travel (which is another way of saying I’m scared of flying), and I find the wait at airports annoying. I’d much rather be moving towards my destination than sitting on a chair waiting to get inside a tin contraption, which, as the MH370 has proved, is not adequately tracked by anybody on the ground.

Trains, now, you could get off a train, you get to watch the scenery, and many more things besides.What your take on train travel? Do you prefer flights to trains?

To tell you the rest about it, here’s Dan’s post.

Originally posted on No Facilities:

image Would you, could you on a train?

If you have kids, had kids or have been a kid at any point since 1960, you probably recognize the title and the first sentence as being from “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. We read that story so many times to our daughter that we still repeat the title almost every time we see a train. I think it’s an appropriate response because seeing a train remains exciting for me. There’s just something about an oncoming train or a passing train, even hearing a train whistle in the distance makes me happy. So, it’s no surprise that I’m choosing to focus on National Train Day instead of Mother’s Day this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against mothers. I like mothers fine. I love my mother. I love my wife, she’s been a great mom and we’ll do…

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