Singapore: “The view’s a whole lot better second time around.”

“The view’s a whole lot better second time around.”The lyrics from Elton John’s song popped up in my head as I was about to board my flight back to Bangkok after my 3 nights trip to Singapore. 

For a long time, for various reasons, it just didn’t catch my attention to visit Singapore. It has been named the world’s most expensive city to live for the third year in a row. 

In my mind, day-to-day life in Singapore is strictly governed by a series of rules with limited freedom of speech. 

 In 2013, I went to Singapore for the first time for a conference for 2 days and what I saw was those law abiding citizens acting like robots. I felt like the clean and well-ordered city was a little too much for me. (I like to believe I’m a creative kind of messy person.) And I don’t like following nonsense rules. For example, no chewing gum rule is just ridiculous. For a person who lives in Bangkok, I couldn’t help but compared of how much I would pay in Bangkok and everything was way too expensive for me. I am the big fan of the hot, sour, sweet, and salty Thai food and Singaporean food tasted so bland for my taste buds. However, I enjoyed the conference and a reunion with my best friends from high school whom I haven’t seen for 10 years.
Recently, I talked to my best friend who casually asked when would be my next visit. Without thinking I replied, “soon”. Being an impulsive person, I bought the air ticket right away. Then I asked myself, “What will I do in Singapore?” I tried to convince myself that the main reason was to see my best friend and if nothing else to do, just read a book and rest.
Then I relied on Google for things to do in Singapore. Not Universal Studios, not Sentosa Island, not Marina Bay Sands…. I want to do something different from what most people do.

I arrived to Singapore on a Friday evening and took a train from the airport to meet up with my friend. My first impression was that it was very convenient and easy to take MRT. The first place I visited on Saturday morning was to Singapore Botanic Garden. The 156-year-old tropical garden, the only tropical garden to be honored as UNESCO World Heritage Site totally caught my attention as I wandered around the Healing garden and Ginger garden for over two hours.


Another sweet surprise was that my friend told me there’s Naughty Nuri’s in Singapore. If you have been to Bali, you might be familiar with Naughty Nuri’s. It is famous for its killer ribs and they are to die for. The ribs I had in Naughty Nuri’s Singapore was not as good as the one in Seminyak beach in Bali but still great. To be continued 

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 Butter and Lentil rice 

Today I made butter and lentil rice for the first time and it turned out great. It is also very easy to make it. 

In Burma, it is considered Burmese food but I will be more comfortable saying it is a Burmese food with Indian influence since we use ghee, cinnamon, and bay leaves.On special occasions like birthday or anniversaries, people make butter and lentil rice to eat with chicken or mutton curries. 

Ingredients

2 cups of rice (I used Jasamin rice)

1/4 cups of spilt lentil (soaked in hot water for a few hours)

2 tablespoons of ghee

2-3 bay leaves

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cinnamon stick 
In a rice cooker, put 2 cups of rice and 3.5 cups of water. 

In a sauce pan, melt the ghee and put bay leaves, cinnamon, and lentil and stir them for 3-4 minutes.


Then pour everything over the rice cooker and add salt and sugar.


It’ll be done in about 20 minutes. Super easy!

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Mt. Victoria (Chin State, Myanmar) Day 2

As a middle school student, I learned that Mt. Victoria or Khaw-na-soum is the highest mountain in Chin State. But I had little interest of Chin State for a long time. It was not until I started traveling around SE Asian countries during my holiday, I realized that there are many places that I need to go see in my own country. My goal for 2015 was to go to Mt. Victoria and I finally made it on December 23, 2015.

The view of Mt. Victoria from Saw

  

The area is designated as Natma Taung National Park and it is closest to Kanpetlet (4,560 feet above sea level). We left from our hotel, Mountain Oasis, around 9 in the morning. The hotel had prepared lunch boxes for us.
    

On the way to the base camp, which is 10 miles up from the hotel, we enjoyed the breathtaking scene of forests and mountains. But we also witnessed the ugly truth of the future of Mt. Victoria. Road expansion were happening along the way and I couldn’t help but found myself with a heavy heart to see so much of deforestation.
  

From the base camp (8000 ft), my friends and I proceeded to the peak on foot. Many local tourists are going to the peak by motorbikes or cars, but what’s the point of reaching to the peak without embracing the nature and its beauty. 

   

Photo Credit: Maw Htun Aung

    
 People from the hotel informed us that it would be nearly 4 miles (2,000 feet away) from the base camp to the peak and would take about 2 hours. I underestimated that 4 miles up to the peak. Pine trees are everywhere and the view was breathtaking that my friends and I wanted to stop and take pictures every 15 minutes. 

When we realized that we were no where near the peak, my friend and I proceeded with a steady pace leaving two friends behind who were taking slower pace.  

 

Mt. Victoria

  
   
Supposedly 2 hours trek took a little bit over 3 hours because we couldn’t help ourselves but take pictures a long the way to the peak.   

 
  
    

At the peak

 
Taking pictures was great but taking mental snapshots are better. I can still vividly see the gorgeous blue sky and feel the crisp clean air of Mt. Victoria. Surrounded by God’s amazing creations and the company of my three amazing friends gave me a glimpse of heaven on earth moment. 
   

  

  

 Two nights in Chin State is just a teaser; I’ll definitely go back to Chin State to explore more. 

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Mt. Victoria (Chin State, Myanmar) 

After exploring Bagan for one day, we were ready to head towards Kanpetlet. We left from the hotel around 8:30 in the morning. I highly recommend the hotel we stayed in Bagan. It is called Northern Breeze Guest House in new town Bagan and it’s about $30 a night including breakfast.The staff there are friendly and helpful.

 
We rented a Toyota Hilux Surf for $100 per day from NyaungU to Kanpetlet. Our driver is also a very nice and friendly guy and he knows the area well since he makes NyaungU-Kanpetlet trip 4-5 times a month. He mentioned that it would take about 5-6 hours with several stops in between but we could make it in a little bit over 3 hours without any stop.

A little bit over an hour, we arrived to Chauk, well known for its oil field. From Chauk, there was no phone signal and we lost contact with the rest of the world. Around 11:30, we stopped for lunch somewhere in Magway Region. It was a typical Burmese style buffet and although we weren’t hungry, we couldn’t hold back when we saw mouth-watering dishes. 

 

After a few stops on the way, we finally arrived to our hotel in Kanpetlet around 3:30 in the afternoon. 

    
 We stayed at a lovely hotel called Mountain Oasis Resort (Ecological Lodges). The staff there are very friendly and helpful. The cabins are very basic: no TV, no phone, nor no refrigerator. In fact, in Kanpetlet there’s no electricity the whole day except from 6:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m. 

   
No electricity, no internet, and no entertainment, we had to find a way to entertain ourselves until we were ready to go to bed. We explored around little bity town of Kanpetlet. Technically, we could walk around the town by going downhills but after 6:00 p.m it was hard to see as there were no lights.  Although we could take a bus from NyaungU to Kanpetlet, there were no ways to get around the town and it would be more expensive to rent a car in Kanpetlet, so we were told to arrange our transportations from NyaungU.

    
Our mission was to find playing cards, some snacks to munch on, and some wine. After asking around where we could find playing cards, we found them in a store probably the biggest convenient store in town. We even stopped at a local noodle shop as our “pre-dinner” meals. 

   
Right across from the noodle shop was a guest house and Chin fabrics shop. The guest house is clean but very basic,  and I quickly took a look inside out of curiosity. Only 8,000 kyats a night, its price is reasonable for local students or backpackers. 

 We came back to the hotel to have dinner. Its restaurant is small and cosy and we had a low expectations about food in Kanpetlet in general. But it was a good surprise for us that dinner was lovely. 

   
Dinner was lovely but the local wine we bought was a total disappointment. When we tasted at the shop, we knew that it wasn’t the greatest wine but it was ok. Those people ripped even locals off.

To be continued

 

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Mt. Victoria (Chin State, Myanmar) via Bagan

My travel goal before the end of 2015 was to go to Mt. Victoria (also known as Nat Ma Taung in Burmese or Khaw Nu Thung in Chin) which is the second largest mountain in Myanmar. Starting from May, I asked among my friends who would be interested in going but two weeks before we were about to leave, there were only 4 people left including me who were still determined to go.

No set dates, no hotel bookings, nor no itinerary, I wondered whether our trip would really happen. Literally one week before we left, 4 of us decided our dates and asked around possible routes from Yangon. 

We finally decided to fly to Bagan and go through Chauk to Kanpetlet. Arriving at the Yangon Airport at the domestic terminal, we were told the flight to NyaungU would be delayed. The flight was 2 hours delayed and we finally arrived to Bagan around 10 p.m.

Bagan is truly enchanting as always. Although it was my fourth time to Bagan, I had never been there in December so my friends and I decided to get up at 5:30 in the morning to watch sunrise.   

    
    
  We rented ebikes to get around Bagan and it was very convenient. We explored Bagan from sunrise, sunset, to moonrise. 

    

 

   

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Kale and Swiss Cheese Savory Bread

    
What do you do when you are stressed? For me cooking and baking are therapeutic and help me to relax. 

I got some kale this week and had enough of kale salad. So I was thinking of something different to make with kale. Last night for my therapy, I made kale bread and absolutely loved it.

I found this recipe on Pinterest but I adjusted it according to what I have in my pantry. When I looked at the original recipe, I didn’t have Parmesan, prosciutto, applesauce, dried basil, nor Greek yogurt. But I decided to make it any way without those ingredients. Instead of Parmesan, I used Swiss cheese. I put plain yogurt instead of using Greek yogurt. And I just skipped prosciutto and applesauce.

Ingredients 

3 cups of chopped kale 

2 cups of flour (I used bread flour)

2 tsp of baking powder 

1/2 tsp of baking soda 

1/2 tsp of salt 

1 tsp of dried oregano 

2 eggs

3/4 cup of plain yogurt 

2 tbsp milk

1/2 cup of shredded Swiss Cheese

Instructions 

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a pan, sauté kale with a little bit of oil for 5 minutes or until softened.

2. In a bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and oregano and stir together.

3. In a mixer bowl, add eggs and yogurt and mix well. Add flour mixture.

4. Fold in kale and Swiss cheese. Batter will be very thick. Pour the batter into a grease pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck in the middle.

So easy and yummy!

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The little Switzerland of Ohio 

 Sugarcreek is known as The Little Switzerland of Ohio, and also the home of the world’s largest cuckoo clock. The clock goes off every half hour and it’s worth seeing it. It was neat to see the characters came out and “performed” for the public.  

 Right across from the clock, you will see the brick wall sculptures of significant events in Sugarcreek. 
 Alpine Hills Historical Museum,which is across from the cuckoo clock, is also worth a visit. The admission is free but donations are accepted. It is small yet very informative museum and my favorite part was Swiss cheese making displays. 

   
We also got a chance to see Fabulous 50’s Fling and we looked at cool antique cars, great music, live entertainment, and ate some good local food at the festival. My favorite was tasting different pies. Yum! 

 We stopped at Coblentz Chocolate Factory and bought some chocolate.  

 From the point on, it was so exciting to see buggies on the road. Amish country here I come! 

 

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