January 21, 2015

quiz night at the pub

food in Myanmar is not really special.  after being in Thailand where the food is filled with spices and everything is healthy this is a bit of a  change.  they cook with a lot of oil here.  everything is drenched in oil and not the olive oil that is used in the west but peanut and palm oil which as byproducts of crops here so are super cheap.  

unlike Thailand where you can safely eat at street food stalls for very little money, it's just not possible here.  all the street food is deep fried in oil but it's more than fried somehow instead of a crisp coating the food is saturated with oil.  the water here would be toxic to westerners so eating at a lot of local restaurants is also not a good idea.  

there are not a of restaurants with healthy options available that are safe to eat.  one places expats hang out in Yangon is the 50th Street Cafe.  it is popular for thier very western like burgers and good pizza.  on Monday nights they have a quiz night which moves a bit slowly but is a good chance to see westerners.  unlike Thailand i can go days without seeing another westerner with the exception of my boss.

i'm talking to one of the girls who has been in country for about a year.  we are playing that game called 'crazy stuff about Yangon' and surprisingly she doesn't mention internet access.  when i ask her about it she says, 'i'm happy when i have both electricity and water, you get used to not having the internet'.

when you can get to a western style restaurant for a meal it's quite expensive by Asian standards.  a sandwich or pizza and a cocktail is usually around $20US.  few expats have the budget to eat at these places every day.

there are a few traditional Myanmar foods that are really good.  one of those is tea leaf salad. it is an eclectic mix of flavors and textures that includes pickled tea leaves, roasted peanuts and other crunchy beans, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic and chopped tomato. It’s meant to be served with all the ingredients in separate piles so that you can pick out a combination with every forkful.  

if i'm in the office for lunch usually i order this or a tomato salad which is always good along with some steamed.  when i say order i mean the staff orders for me... the restuarants we order from are used to my orders now as i insist they be made with no oil.  cost $1.30 for rice/tomato salad and $1.40 for the teal leaf salad and rice.

moghina is a popular breakfast food.  it's Shan rice noodles in a fish broth.  as a vegetarian i can sometimes get someone to make this with a vegatable broth and it's very good.  the Shan rice noodles are one of the most popular foods here and are used in a lot of different combinations.  

so, people don't come here for the food.  you'd think i would be losing weight but there is little chance to excercise but more about that later.

January 19, 2015

there are a couple of things that are striking when you first arrive in Myanmar. 

the first is what the men wear.  about half of the men wear the traditional dress.  it's called the longi.  patterns and styling reflect different ethnic groups and are worn for both formal and casual occasions.  after a while it seems normal because you see this everyday. 

the second thing that pops out at you is the paste the women wear on their faces. thanaka is a yellowish white paste made from grinding the bark of a tree.  the women of Myanmar are as vain as the western women and value a clear complexion.  the thanaka is a natural sunscreen.  it's common to see the young girls wearing it as well as the older women.  i see it everywhere on the streets, markets and shops but not in the office or other professional settings.

the third thing is the betel chewing.  areca nuts are chewed inside a betel leaf and are a mild stimulant like drinking a cup of coffee.  like chewing tobacco the saliva is not ingested.  instead they spit out the red juice from the nuts and the streets are covered with disgusting patches of red spit.
besides being carciongenic the effects on the teeth are also quite brutal.   a lot of places post notices prohibitting it.

January 17, 2015

i'm back

i have taken a contract in Myanmar which has kept me busy for the last month.  now that i have settled into my apartment and the position i'm ready to share what's it is like to live in Myanmar as an expat.  i am living in the Yangon - it was the capital for many years but the ruling military regime moved the capital to Naw Pye Taw in 2005.