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Posts tagged “Christmas

DAY 2 (5/5): SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Tourists and guidebooks often compare the ancient ruins of Myanmar’s Bagan with Cambodia’s Angkor, and so as their base towns: Nyaung-U of Bagan and Siem Reap of Angkor.  Tourists arriving in Bagan may discover that Nyaung-U is nothing like Siem Reap.  There is no designated Pub Street, massage parlours or fish spa for the tired feet.  Several years ago we spent the night of New Year’s Eve in the Pub Street of Siem Reap, where bars and restaurants were packed with half drunk tourists.  This time, we had an opportunity to spend Christmas Eve in Bagan.  Unlike Siem Reap, Nyaung-U was much more peaceful.  To celebrate Christmas Eve, we chose Sanon Restaurant, a social enterprise offering great food and non-profit training for the disadvantaged youth.  After a satisfying meal, we walked around Nyaung-U to take in the peaceful atmosphere of the silent night.

DSC_3911On our way to Sanon Restaurant, we passed by a number of convenient stores catered for tourists.  Most shops also offered e-bike rentals to tourists.  Renting E-bikes is one of the most popular ways for tourists to do their pagoda hopping.

DSC_3916We were lucky to find a table after a bit of waiting at Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_3940The dining area was a pleasant open terrace.

DSC_3927We started our Christmas Eve dinner with a delicious cocktail.

DSC_3938We had a local dish: deep fried morning glory for appetizer.

DSC_3936One of our main dishes was also a local dish: Giant Irrawaddy Prawn and Catfish Curry.  Flowing north to south, Irrawaddy River is the largest river in Myanmar.

DSC_3944After dinner, we walked past a book vendor in front of a restaurant.  All books were non-fiction and half of them were in English.

DSC_3945It was a 15-minute walk from Sanon Restaurant back to Oasis Hotel.  The street was peaceful and quiet.  All actions seemed to be limited inside the restaurants and hotels.

DSC_3949Some of the local eateries were particularly busy, with customers gathered to watch football games on large televisions.

DSC_3953Located at a road junction, Sapada Paya stood quietly over Nyaung-U.

DSC_3963We stopped by a small playground at the base of Sapada Paya.

DSC_3970Despite there was no one around, up at the terrace of Sapada Paya we found a small altar with fresh floral offerings.

DSC_3978Finally we were back at Oasis Hotel, our comfortable base for our stay in Bagan.

DSC_3988No one was around in the garden of Oasis Hotel, though Christmas music was on.

DSC_3915We enjoyed a peaceful Christmas Eve and retired to our room early.  The next morning we would get up before dawn.  Our driver would pick us up to watch the magical sunrise over Old Bagan, probably the most well known and gorgeous scenery in Myanmar.

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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

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DAY 1 (9/9): A FESTIVE NIGHT, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After Shwedagon Pagoda, we took a taxi back to Downtown Yangon.  Despite the taxi driver got lost on the way, we did eventually find our way on foot to LinkAge, a social development restaurant and art gallery that offers delicious food to customers and cooking training to local street kids.

DSC_3354Established by NGO Forever Humanitarian and Development Projects, LinkAge is situated on the upper level of an old apartment block on Mahabandoola Garden Street.

DSC_3349The time was a bit late but there were still several tables of customers in the restaurant.

DSC_3346The ambience was causal and relaxing, a perfect venue to have a local beer and chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Yangon.

DSC_3352We ordered lentil soup and curry shrimps.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

DSC_3356After the meal, we wandered around Downtown Yangon where streets and shops were still quite busy.

DSC_3358We walked past some of the street vendors who had spent the entire day on the streets.

DSC_3360We also passed by some of the city’s spectacular colonial architecture.  Standing beside the High Court since 1917, the Myanma Post and Telecommunications (Central Telegraph Office) is another piece of fine architectural gem.  Today, the former communication hub still offers counters for sending telegrams and emails.

DSC_3362Soon, we arrived at the Ayeyarwady Bank building (former Rowe & Co. Department Store) again.  The former Rowe & Co. Department Store was covered with splendid Christmas lights.

DSC_3364Across the street from Ayeyarwady Bank, the street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park was still running.

DSC_3374The north side of Maha Bandula Park across the street from Sule Pagada and City Hall was much more crowded than the morning.

DSC_3380A large crowd gathered for the live music performances on the stage where we passed by in the morning.

DSC_3390When we arrived, the performer was playing the guitar and singing in Burmese.  For some reason, the Burmese songs did sound a little like Japanese to us.

DSC_3402Where there were people gathering in Yangon we would always find street food vendors.

DSC_3403Many cars just stopped by the roadside to absorb the atmosphere of the performances, even public buses.

DSC_3412A little further from the main stage, other vendors were selling festive stuff like illuminated wands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there were also helium balloons for the festival crowds.

DSC_3418Just a stone throw away from the crowds at Maha Bandula Park, Sule Pagoda continued to bathe in its peaceful spirituality.

DSC_3426On our way back to Loft Hotel, we climbed onto the pedestrian overpass north of Sule Pagoda.  The overpass was originally constructed by the junta government where soldiers could shoot at an out-of-control political demonstration in front of the Sule Pagoda, an iconic and popular venue for massive protests.

DSC_3443The Christmas tree in front of Sakura Tower reminded us that Christmas 2017 was just around the corner.

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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (1/9): INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

In Christmas 2017, we made a 4-day short trip to Myanmar for a brief getaway.  For almost half a century, Myanmar was under military rule and few foreigners would visit the US sanctioned country.  Myanmar saw a gradual increase of foreign tourists since the military junta was replaced by a civilian government in 2011.  Despite recent improvements on the political situations, including the 2015 general election that saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning a majority in the parliament, the tourism industry has yet reached its full potentials, given the country’s rich sights and fascinating culture.  Traveling in this Southeast Asian country that has yet been exploited by mass tourism and global commercialism was a charming experience.

Compared to Siem Reap in Cambodia where vibrant pubs and massage parlors mushroom near the sacred sites of Angkor, Myanmar’s Bagan still remains a sleepy village surrounded by 3000+ ancient Buddhist temples and stupas.  Compared to many Asian cities where the urban skyline changes every year, Myanmar’s largest city and former capital Yangon remains an energetic city with the Asia’s largest collection of colonial architecture from its British era.  Due to its years of international isolation, up until recent years Myanmar was a pristine destination devoid of international influences like Mac Donald’s or Starbucks.   Although short, our 3.5 day of travel experience was absolutely inspiring, particularly for the magical moments at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda and the stunning scenery of Old Bagan under the golden glow of the sunrise.

IMG_4410Our mileage rewarded flight took us for a 8-hour layover at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.  We walked over to the Novotel Hotel for a late dinner and a few hours of rest.

IMG_4408The Christmas tree and ginger bread houses at the atrium of Novotel Hotel reminded us Christmas was just three days away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe returned to Bangkok Airport early in the morning.  The first thing we saw after entering the secure zone was the Samudra manthan sculpture.

02The Samudra Manthan sculpture depicted the Thai version of the Hindu mythology of cosmos creation.

03We found our way to the boarding gate at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe boarded a Thai Airways flight designated for Yangon of Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flight took roughly 1.5 hour.  By the time we saw the Gulf of Martaban of Andaman Sea, the plane gradually descended towards Yangon International Airport.

06From the airport, we took an official taxi to Loft Hotel, our accommodation in Central Yangon.

07The lobby of Loft Hotel was causal and smart.  We were greeted with fresh juice and lots of smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the lobby, there were interesting handicraft on display.  They were by Pomelo, a local fairtrade shop selling high-quality crafts made by disadvantaged people in Myanmar.

10Part of the corridor of Loft Hotel served like a gallery space for paintings.

11Through a corridor of paintings, we found our way to our room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was a neat loft unit, with a small living area and bathroom at the lower level.

14With exposed structure, white washed walls, eye-catching pendant lights, charcoal paint, and brick cladding, the room interior design at Loft Hotel was sleek and comfortable.

15The sleeping area was located on the upper mezzanine.

16The Loft Hotel came as a little surprise for us.  We anticipated more pleasant surprises as we ventured out to explore Yangon.

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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 4 (6/6): RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.06

It was already past 7pm when our Kintetsu express train arrived at Kyoto Station from Nara.  We decided to check out the Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street) on the 10th floor of the station for a quick dinner.  We took the escalators up to the famous Daikaidan (Grand Staircase).  The Daikaidan stretched from 4th floor all the way up to the sky garden on the 15th floor.  Architect Hiroshi Hara specifically provided a stage on the 4th floor, while the staircase would become an enormous amphitheater.  There was no performance when we were there.  Instead, the stage was occupied by a large Christmas Tree.  The lights changed colours according to the background music.

07The big Christmas Tree occupied the open space on the 4th floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Christmas Tree we walked up the Daikaidan (Grand Staircase) to the 10th floor for our ramen dinner.

05There was a strip of LED lights at the nosing of each step.  The lights changed colours constantly.

04With the LED lights on each step, the entire staircase became a giant screen of festive animations.

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We entered the building on the 10th floor, and could immediately smell the pork ramen and feel the warmth of the atmosphere.  Here at Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street), there were about ten different ramen restaurants, representing the ramen style from different parts of Japan.  We ended up picking Masutani (ますたに), a Kyoto based ramen restaurant established since 1948.

01We queued in front of the restaurant for about 20 minutes and then ordered our ramen from the machine by the entrance.

02Once inside, we handed the tickets to the staff and sat down by a wooden counter.

03After several minutes, our hot and delicious ramen arrived, a perfect answer for the chilly night!

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After the tasty ramen, we didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet.  In front of Kyoto Station, we hopped on a night bus bounded westwards.  Our destination was the ROHM Illumination Festival 2016.  With 800,000 light bulbs lighting up 82 trees along Kasuga Dori, ROHM Illumination is the biggest annual Christmas lighting event in Kyoto since 1995.  ROHM, a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer based in Kyoto sponsored the event annually to light up the immediate area of its office in town.  The light show was smaller than similar events in other large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, it did however transform a tranquil neighborhood into a romantic, glittering and festive promenade of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of Kasuga Dori was guarded by the two Yamamomo Trees (Chinese bayberry) covered with dazzling lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yamamomo Trees were round in shape, perfect for turning into spheres of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKasuga Dori was lined both sides with 20 metasequoias, all dressed up with tiny light bulbs to create the luminous promenade.

11With the lighting, the yellow crowns of the metasequoias appeared as if on fire.

12Two types of light bulbs were used, small LED and twinkling incandescent lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lights transformed the small Nagura Park into a romantic public venue.

14Families and kids were having fun in Nagura Park.

15Under different music, the LED balls on the ground and the 13.5m (h) by 9m (w) LED screen made use the lawn next to the Nagura Park to put together the “Ensemble of Light”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKids had a good time at the playground and the light show.

17Antique cars somehow blended in well with the ambience of the light festival.

18At 9:30pm, we turned back to the entrance of Kasuga Dori and had a final look at the two for the trip’s last day.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


40 HOURS IN TAIPEI, Christmas 2014

During Christmas, we made a brief visit to Taipei (台北), the capital city of Taiwan. On Christmas Eve, we purchased a last minute flight ticket and hopped onto a last minute red-eye flight to Taipei for a two-day visit.
001 07:15 Christmas Day – We arrived at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport.

002 002a 08:45 – The airport shuttle bus took us to the Taipei Railway Station at the heart of the city. A huge Christmas tree was in display in the main hall.

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10:30 – We arrived at the National Palace Museum at the city’s outskirt. Its tremendous collection of Chinese artifacts and artworks is probably peerless in the world, with a majority of the pieces gathered from Beijing’s Forbidden City in the first half of the 20th century. We particularly enjoyed the Chinese paintings. The rotating display of the permanent painting collection currently on show is the works by Qiu Ying, one of the Four Masters of the Ming Dynasty.

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14:45 – We returned by bus to Shilin, the closest metro station from the National Palace Museum. Adjacent to the station stood many small eateries. We picked one and had our first delicious meal of Taiwanese beef noodles and fish ball soup.

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18:00 – We passed by an enormous Christmas Tree in a hotel lobby at Downtown Taipei. Despite Taiwan is not a Christian country, many hotel and restaurant owners decorate their stores to enhance the festive atmosphere of the city.

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20:30 – We began our foodie stroll at Raohe Street, one of the most popular night markets in Taipei. We hopped from one stall to another, and sampled a number of delicious street food including charcoal oven baked black pepper buns, grilled squid, grilled scallops, seafood soup, salted black-skinned peanuts and tofu dessert.

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22:15 – After our visit to Raohe Street Night Market, we walked along the Keelung River. We stopped at the Rainbow Bridge for a while before calling it a day.

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8:50 Boxing Day – We were on our way to Fuhang Soy Drink for breakfast and passed by Taipei’s largest Buddhist temple, Shandao Temple. It was built during the period under Japanese rule.

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9:45 – After 45 minutes of queuing on the street, we finally made it to the counter of Fuhang Soy Drink. This busy eatery is located in a foodcourt, on the second level of a local market. Apparently it is very popular among the locals and tourists. We had two kinds of pancakes with egg and Chinese fried dough, a sticky rice bun, and two bowls of hot soy drinks, one sweet and one salty.

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12:00 Taipei 101 (completed in 2004) is the tallest building in Taiwan. This skyscraper was awarded the LEED Platinum certification and designed to withstand earthquake and fierce wind. An observatory deck on the 89th floor is open for tourists but we chose to give it a pass because of poor weather.

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13:00 We tried our first slush ice, one of the most popular dessert in Taipei.

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13:45 A good friend of ours recommended us to try the beef noodle from Yong-Kang Beef Noodle. The queue was long but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to taste one of the best beef noodle in Taipei.

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15:00 We decided to visit one of Taipei’s temples and we chose Longshan Temple in Wanhua District.  Longshan is the oldest temple in Taipei. The temple is dedicated to a number of deities including Buddhist, Taoist and some historical Chinese figures.  This lively temple is exquisitely decorated in a Fujian style. The dragon columns and eaves are particularly wonderful.

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18:00 Before heading out to the airport, we spent the remaining day in Songshan District. This quiet area has many little local cafes and eateries. We stopped by a hotpot restaurant for a quick supper.

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Read more posts on Taipei 2014
1. 40 hours in Taipei
2.Raohe Street Night Market
3. Longshan Temple