When people think of Asian cuisine, Burmese cuisine would rarely be top-of-mind.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been closed off from the rest of the world for decades. And while it has opened its doors in recent years, it’s still not getting as much tourists as its neighboring countries. It’s probably one of the reasons why Burmese cuisine is still not that popular.
When you do decide to visit, you’ll be treated to a variety of dishes influenced by Indian, Chinese, Laotian, and Thai cuisines. Myanmar owes this to its geographical location.
In the first few hours of arriving in the country, my friends and I sat down at a restaurant. We thought the menu was pretty straightforward. You just have to choose a curry set (choice of chicken, pork, beef, fish, mutton, or venison meat), and that’s it.
But when our orders arrived, it came with bowls of soup, a plethora of side dishes, and a huge plate of fresh vegetables with dipping sauce. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.
And did I mention they served unlimited rice and even free dessert? Now, that’s bang for your buck.
Bali was the last stop of my solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, and my biggest dilemma when I arrived was choosing among the plethora of Bali tour packages offered. What made it more difficult was that I can’t find any group tours that a solo traveler can join, which means I need to go on a private tour.
With dwindling travel funds, I couldn’t afford to take multiple Bali tour packages and had to settle with just one. Even with this comprehensive Bali travel guide, I still had a hard time choosing. I figured I’d just get the one where I’d get to visit its famous landmarks.
north west bali tour package
The tour I got focused on Bali’s north west side covering sites like Taman Ayun, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, and Tanah Lot.
The driver picked me up from the hotel at 10:00am, and within an hour, we reached our first destination – Taman Ayun.
A few minutes walk from the parking lot, we entered a manicured garden. I then learned from my driver that Taman Ayun literally means ‘temple in a beautiful garden’.
We walked further and entered an elevated split gate – a distinguishable Balinese doorway – to reach the Pura Luhuring Purnama which is the holiest courtyard in the temple complex.
It was already lunch time when we left Taman Ayun. And since I haven’t had pork for almost a couple of weeks (I came from Malaysia before coming Indonesia), I asked the driver if we can drop by one of the warungs along the way so I can eat babi guling.
I was expecting it to be similar to our (Philippine) version of lechon, but the spiciness caught me off guard. I’m not a fan of spicy food, so I wasn’t able to finish the meal. 🙁
Also, I probably got ripped off because I paid IDR50,000. I later learned that babi guling usually only cost around IDR25,000-IDR30,000. -_-
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
Moving on, about an hour and a half away from Taman Ayun is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
Located 1,231 meters above sea level, it was the perfect respite from Bali’s humidity. It was even a bit foggy when we went.
There’s an expansive and well-maintained park, but I find it quite odd that it looks like a mini zoo (with bats and python you can take a picture with for a fee) within the temple grounds.
On a clear day, the lake is mirror-like; beautifully reflecting the temple and the surrounding hills.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
When our car pulled up at a parking space in front of a restaurant overlooking the paddies, I thought to myself “Wait, this is it?” You see, I’m from The Philippines and rice terraces are not exactly a novelty in my country, so I found it quite underwhelming.
I was also kind of expecting that we’d go in the actual Jatiluwih, and not just admire it from afar. Needless to say, there was nothing much to do here, so I asked if we could go to Tanah Lot.
COFFEE TASTING at sari amerta luwak coffee (one bali agro)
Because it was still early, the driver suggested that we drop by a coffee farm first for coffee tasting. He said there was no pressure to purchase.
We did a short tour of the coffee farm first before the coffee tasting. Then I was presented with a dozen sampler of their products.
I actually liked a couple from this bunch and was planning to bring home some, but got turned off by the price. I decided to just buy one from the supermarket close to my hotel. :p
Not too far from the coffee farm is Tanah Lot.
This Hindu shrine is perched atop an outcrop in the sea, but devotees doesn’t seem to mind the crashing waves and ‘guardian’ sea snakes (according to my driver).
We were supposed to wait for the sun to set, but there were too many people so I asked the driver if he has any suggestions. He said we could go to Seminyak Beach.
Seminyak Beach is lined with posh hotels and high-end restaurants, so it’s less crowded than the rest of the beaches this side of Bali.
While Philippine beaches are far better than Bali’s (yes, I’m biased), there’s no denying that their spirituality, culture, and way of life is unlike any other in the world.
I know I’ve barely scratched the surface, so I am aching to see more of what the Island of the Gods have to offer.
Nothing excites me more than exploring another country for the first time, so I made sure to include Indonesia in my month-long solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia.
My first stop was Yogyakarta (often called Jogjakarta or Jogja), a special administrative region in the island of Java.
I arrived on a late afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia, and took the Trans Jogja bus to EDU Hostel where I stayed for 2 nights. Sure, it wasn’t the best accommodation, but for about $7.00 a night with breakfast, it’s definitely value for money.
The hostel also offers several day tours including, of course, tours to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Borobudur and Prambanan.
Borobudur looking ‘golden’ shortly after sunrise
Together with 3 Brit girls, we booked the ‘Beautiful Morning at Borobudur’ tour thinking it includes sunrise viewing. We only realized the following day that we got a different tour because it was already past 5:00 am when we were picked up from the hostel lobby by the tour operator. It wasn’t a big deal for me anyway.
Even though the sun had already risen by the time we arrived, we could still feel a cool breeze as we walked along the park leading to the massive temple.
I am always in awe whenever I visit an ancient temple. It’s fascinating how people in the early days managed to build such majestic structures without modern technology and equipment.