Dining (off) style

Health foods are the main fare of my meals with my body high in sugar. I follow the dictum, ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.’ My meals are heavy in carbo in the morning and mid-morning. For dinner it is always the unusually healthy foods bought at the community market in 38th Street.

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The sample menu tonight: steamed purple sweet potato, red bananas and boiled duck egg.  The soft texture of the sweet potato remind me of my childhood days when the lowly camote (as sweet potato is called) is our usual snacks. Now it is a prized commodity as we have to scour the markets of Yangon to find it. Nice combination with the hard-boiled duck egg. For the finale, the 2014 Beau-Rivage Bourdeaux flushed them down the gut!

Dressing properly

There is a saying in French, l’habit ne fait pas le moine, which roughly means a habit does not make you a monk.  When Malacanang released a picture of President Duterte shabbily wearing a camouflage uniform, netizens were aghast and some closet military with Twitter accounts lambasted the president for disrespecting the military uniform and unbecoming of a commander-in-chief.

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The president may be comfortable in the camouflage worn like a street thug – in ‘plunging neckline’, rolled-up sleeves and rubber shoes with polka dot socks – but it demeans the military who put premium in their uniforms.  He deserves demerits or even 50 push-ups if he were a cadet.  Comparing with the other ASEAN leaders, they look ‘matikas’ in their camouflage attire.

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Yes, if you are a monk, you should wear the habit (with poise)!

 

Guardians of the temples

Travelling allows you to see the world from a different perspective. For me, it brings joy to be in a different place, immersing in a different culture and all the diversities it has to offer. It also reveals unusual things hidden behind the most common things you see every day.  One such experience happened while driving along the foot of the Kulen Mountain in Cambodia.

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As we navigate the dusty road going to a remote village, lo and behold, I saw a Buddhist temple gate guarded by rabbits! Yes smiling rabbits with up straight ears! And why would it seem unusual?  Because most of the temple guards are ferocious and mean-looking animals.

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In Myanmar, temples are guarded by chinthe, the mythical lion. The four entrances to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon are guarded by pairs of giant chinthes.

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I have also seen a temple guarded by a dragon. It is different from the wide-neck-cobra-like snakes behind Buddha statues common in Myanmar.

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In Thailand, the chinthes or singha as it is locally called are even reinforced by monsters with swords.

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In Cambodia, besides the chinthes, the seven-headed (sometimes five-headed) Naga are favourite guardians particularly in some temples in the Angkor Wat complex.

Back to the guardian rabbits, maybe the monks in the pagoda are not afraid of the spirits that they posted cuddly and smiling rabbits instead of huge and fearsome animals.

 

Beer galore in Cambodia

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I love good beers, and top of the list are German beers. In Cambodia, German beers are not uncommon all you have to do is do a little sleuthing  around and find the right place, maybe behind the  monotonous gigantic red  ads of Angkor and Cambodia beers.

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I happened to come across Tell Restaurant in Siem Reap, a quaint and charming restaurant near the Pub Street.  I relished a bottle of Erdinger and crispy-fried pork knuckles. Back in Phnom Penh, the restaurant has its main ‘branch’ near the Hotel Le Royal. After a meeting one afternoon, we went there to let the heavy traffic pass (I can’t imagine traffic in Phnom Penh 3 years ago!). This time we got Munchen Weisse and couple it with a platter of german sausage. Nice, except that it took us one hour from the place back to our hotel.

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On another night, I just walked around Boeung Keng Kang to look for a dinner, I saw the Yakitori, a small Japanese grill house at Street 278.  I called it a night after drinking Sapporo beer with grilled chicken innards.

In the same street, several shops down south, is a Khmer restaurant where they cook the best cockles in Phnom Penh.  I used to have cockles every time I am  in Bangkok, but I first tasted and enjoyed it in Phnom Penh. Angkor beer paired with cockles usually makes my night.  But a ‘serpent’ on the menu almost tempted me! I thought maybe it was just a mistranslation of eel which also look like a serpent.  In the end I stuck to my cockles.

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I know of the two microbreweries in Phnom Penh, one is in Himawari Hotel and the other is Munich in front of the Wat Botum. Last on my list of to-do is to visit the place and check on another favourite dish. What a way to cap the visit to Cambodia – several mugs of Munich beers and a plate of fried duck tongue!

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Gone!

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It was gone. New maps showed it was now  a solid ground. The Boeng Kak Lake was no more, and in its place  real estate development is slowly taking shape.  Nostalgia struck me  when after years of being away from Cambodia, I saw the old map in the hotel  and  it showed a blue inverted ‘diamond’ lake.

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It reminds me of Gina Lopez, the first appointed environment secretary of President Duterte who was never confirmed because of his fight against irresponsible mining companies in the Philippines. She told Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, “Tell your brother he killed a mountain.”

Here I saw a dead lake.

Product Differentiation by Color

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Competition best generate creativity and innovations on how to attract consumers.  When I am travelling within the region, most of the time I transit is Bangkok where I usually end up at Don Mueang airport, the terminal for low cost carriers (LCC) a nice term for cheap flights.

But I like the entrepreneurial spirit of Air Asia, supposedly the number one LCC in the world as conveyed in their motto – Now Everyone Can Fly. Indeed it has made air travel affordable and enabled people to experience flying.

Back at Don Mueang, I am amused by two coffee shops standing side-by-side in the pre-departure area of the airport.  Of course it is easy to associate coffee with the black color (or is it?), but making it white generates more interest to the clients and push them to check it out.

 

The Heart of Chin State

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There are places that leave an indelible mark in the heart of a traveller. Mine is the serene Rih Lake in Chin State, Myanmar, a heart-shaped lake in the mountain range near the border with India.  I grew up in a coastal town where the sea is just a short walk away, and that created in me a love for bodies of water, be it a wide ocean, a raging river or a small brook.

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I think the Maker was in His jolly mood when Rih Lake was created. A simple shape, like when a child draws a heart on the ground, placed some water and planted a special tree on the banks around it. Just like that.

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The place was declared a reservation and no development – residence or commercial establishment – was allowed in the area except for several duplexes to accommodate tourists.

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We arrived in the place midnight and I was inspired when I woke in the morning to behold the lake.  Another morning I enjoyed seeing the fog gradually lifted like a curtain to reveal the beauty of the lake.

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