Bagan, Myanmar
2014

I forget which temple it is, but it was the first one on the trip. There’s a lot of rich history and myths surrounding this particular pagoda, including 

1) That currently, or just recently, a dragon lived wrapped around the pagoda 

2) The site where one of the famed Burmese kings banished his beloved adoptive son based on false accusations made by the King’s jealous son and his cousins. The adoptive son later became another famous hero king. 

Temple children in Bagan can be as young as four or five years old, though the average age is about fourteen or fifteen. They are taught to recite the history of a particular temple in either Burmese or English without a missing a single beat.They seek out tourists and visitors to practice their trade and earn money for their family. Usually, they expected about 500-1000 kyat, or more if they are hired to follow you around the whole day. Note, the monetary conversion come out to $0.50 to $1.00. Our guide asked for 10,000 kyats ($10). My aunt and uncle thought it was too much, but I was almost livid at the complaint. Ten dollars? I can spare more than that. The lunches I eat can cost more than that. 

I was uncomfortable with having a child workers and I wanted to avoid it when I could (there are times restaurants have 10 year old working as waiters and I can’t avoid it). My mom, however, told me that they usually depend on the money from the work they do.

We gave out a lot of money to the kids. They swarmed us fighting for a chance to recite the history on their own. We handed out $4-5 a child (which is about 2-3 week wage for a majority of them), and for our own a guide, an androgynous teenager with orange hair, we paid $20 dollars plus snacks and meals. She was hesitant to accept any more from us, so we let her be, not wanting to offend her.

I look very Burmese, with my dark skin and what my mom calls “country-girl” features. Slap on a longyi and I could have just come up from a village. I also speak exclusively Burmese when I’m in Burma, never letting on I was American unless my relatives very (proudly) and loudly declare I was. The difference in treatment is astounding.

Anyways, some Burmese people can tell by the way I speak and walk and do things I’m not exactly native, but other foreigners can’t. Sometimes they speak English or French near me, thinking that I wouldn’t understand. While I mostly hear a lot of really amusing things or complaints about the heat (something I sympathize with. I’m a spoiled Californian), there were a handful of times white tourists have been plain nasty and racist.

They complained about the kids asking them if they wanted a tour, or the people on the streets trying to sell them stuff. They turn their nose up at local customs and cuisines and spend their time in their wonderfully air conditioned luxury hotels. While I don’t begrudge them for the last bit (because I am guilty of being obsessed with the AC while in Burma), the rest of it pissed me off to no end. 

Damn white people. A lot of British people there too—I mean, did you guys forget you colonized the country and plundered its good and had a hand in its political instability.  Did you conveniently forget that the country you’re vacationing is so poor and destitute that your throwaway 1000 kyat note can feed them two meals? How dare these people act like they’re above the poverty they’ve benefited from? 

Anyways, mini-rant done

I currently have $170 dollars saved for my next trip, which I think will be to New York in the fall. 

Hopefully I have much more by then! 

Everything else I earn these days goes towards student loans because how dare I want to go to college without money so I will be punished for it.

shtun:

I found it! 

I missed the ‘N’ spelling it. It’s call dogfruit

LOL at eating it with fork and spoon. So white. 

Apparently it is also mildly toxic, especially to your kidneys, and has no known medicinal value. 

Whoops.

Day 6: Street FoodDanyinthee with coconut filling sauce, Jackfruit and some rice gelatinous dessert with coconut

The first two pictures is danyinthee with toasted coconut filling/sauce, I don’t know what they are called in English. I’ve looked all over the net and I still can’t find even a picture of it. It’s not beautiful will not win any culinary aesthetic contest, but I have dreamed about eating this dessert since I was a kid. I have hazy childhood memories of being pissed off because I didn’t get to eat as much as I want. And I have to say, eating it after a decade did not disappoint my expectations. At all.

Where do I start?

The flat pancake like thing is made from a round, brown-tanned seed with a potent smell and a bitter taste. The texture and soft and slightly rubbery, depending on how fresh it is and how it is prepared. 

So that rubbery, bitter, smelly seed is meticulously pounded flat into a soft, slightly bitter pancake thing—and slathered with coconut oil to soften it up even more . 

To offset that bitterness, it is paired with toasted coconut sauce/filling. Yes, that unimpressive tan and brown sluff you see on top of the shiny brown flatness. It’s extraordinary. Coco-nutty, sweet, slightly bitter and creamy—all in one bite. I am definitely not doing justice describing it at all. 

The only downside is how oily it is, but it’s coconut oil so it’s not that bad. 

Day 6: Durian Day 1

This here is why I went to Burma! THIS FRUIT HERE. Inside that spiky, dangerous and intimidating exterior is a yellow, soft,  creamy, meaty, delicious fruit with a sweet complexity compared even to wine. I would eat this over wine, cheese and chocolate any day. And that’s saying a lot because chocolate.

The Smell - Durian is infamous for being really smelly. But I never really notice it?? Maybe because I grew up with it? Because the taste is so divine it doesn’t matter? I get really defensive when someone diss durian because of its smell and don’t want to try it, like, you are missing out on a  unique culinary experience created by nature herself. 

Calories - This is very calorie heavy fruit. I think jackfruits are the highest calorie though??

READ MORE HERE.

We either caught the beginning of Durian season or the tail end of it, I don’t know. But all the fruits we get there is fresh and never refrigerated, which is really important to get the full range of the taste on your tongue. 

Just. We would pick a fruit, have the vendors open it and eat it right there on the side walk. 

You can go to your local Chinese/Vietnamese/Asian stores and get full fruit (if you are willing to try opening them yourself) or just get the frozen fruits inside. They are still really good. GO, adventure with food at your local Asian super market. 

Day 4 - Street Food: Dot-Toe (Eat with Stick, literally stick-poke)Broiled and deep fried pork offal (sausage, heart, liver, pork belly, pancreas, kidneys, intestines (big and small), ovaries, etc). Served on wooden sticks - eat as much as you like. 

My uncles picked me up and took me to eat their favorite  food ever. This particular uncle works for the IOM and works with increasing AIDS surveillance in forgotten areas in rural Burma. The other one drove me around and was obsessed with facebook and uploading things to facebook.