Inle Lake

After a literally painful flight experience from Yangon, two severe food poisoned girls finally reached their second destination of Myanmar: Inle Lake! The moment of happiness when we checked into Viewpoint Lodge and got a complimentary upgrade was too real. A comfortable bed in the most stunning and relaxing atmosphere was just what we needed to recover and gain new energies to seize the next couple of days. 

I'm not going to lie, the first day in Inle was spent half-dying in bed. Literally, sick and shivering and taking turns running back and forth to the bathroom (ah, love my honesty). The food poison from Yangon hit us so hard that day, I'll probably remember it for life. I bet Sophie feels the same way.

Fortunately, we were back on track the next day. We eventually managed to book a boat tour through the hotel and lucky us, the dock was located only 100m away which gave us plenty of time to leave in the early morning and have a whole day of river cruising and Inle Lake sightseeing. We paid 25 000 kyats for a seven hours guided tour, which is about 20USD. Apparently that was 10 000 kyats overcharge/ rip-off since we booked it through the hotel, but we still found it to be relatively cheap and so worth it considering how much we got to see and experience! We even tipped our boat guide *good karma*, *pray for no more food poisoning*. 

During our boat trip we cruised around the lake, passing from village to village and making about seven to eight pitstops a long the way. It was such a unique experience, seeing the local side of life in Inle Lake; the vegetable gardens grown on water, the various handicraft workshops, more pagodas, the long neck women and the iconic fishermen with their conical nets. I swear watching them was like watching a live piece of art.

For anyone planning a trip to Inle Lake in the future, I highly recommend ViewPoint Lodge & Fine Cuisines. The service was extraordinary and a definite highlight of our trip. In terms of location it couldn't be more convenient! We stayed in a 'cottage room' and the view and location couldn't be more perfect. The best part is that the interior design really reflects the traditions of Inle Lake and acts as a constant reminder of the beauty of Myanmar.

Lovely views from the balcony of our floating cottage 📍#InleLake @sophiek8888

A video posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

I feel so lucky for the opportunity to experience such a beautiful and authentic country. It's been a true pleasure.

Sunset River Cruise

- Appreciating a beautiful sunset enriches your life beyond the moment -

On our final day in Bagan, Sophie and I along with some friends that we met on our journey, decided to book a private sunset cruise on the Ayeyarwady River. I found the number of a boat driver in the hostel's notice board and thought I'd give him a call. It seemed a bit dodgy at first, as we had to drive to a specific location about half an hour away, meet the guy and 'follow him'. But needless to worry, we ended up at a beautiful little garden by the river where we had a drink before boarding the boat. 

For 20 000 kyats, or $16 we got the whole boat for ourselves for about two and a half hours. Although it would be a lie to say that it was the most stunning sunset I've seen, it was a lovely experience. It was cloudy indeed, but at least it wasn't raining!

What I really loved about this boat trip is that at one point they'll shut off the motors and let the boat drift down the river with the current, and end up back to where we started. It was such a nice calm and I'm so happy we did it. I recommend it to anyone planning to visit Bagan in the future.  

上海 Shanghai

- Three days in Shanghai -

I’m back in Shanghai! This is my go-to place whenever I need a Ningbo city escape. After contemplating about where to spend the Chinese New Year, I’m happy I decided to stay in China. My friend Alexandra from Norway joined up and we explored Shanghai and Beijing together for a week during the CNY festives. As this was my fourth time in Shanghai since last September, I feel more or less familiarised with the city. I enjoyed showing her around some of my favourite spots, introduce the best Shanghainese dishes and be a Chinese translator with my Level -1 Mandarin skills during her virgin trip to the mainland. 

Day one 第一天: It took me the longest time to get from Ningbo to Shanghai. The travel conditions during Chinese New Year were crazy and the weather was freezing, hence why my train broke down and stood still for four hours. A journey that would've otherwise taken me merely two hours ended up as a six hours nightmare. I thought I was cursed or something considering all the delays and the emergency landing I had just encountered the week before. But looking at the bright side I’m safe and sound, and the rest of that evening was spent wandering around Nanjing Road, having good dumplings for dinner and catching up with Alex who had just arrived from Hong Kong (credits to her for most of the upcoming pictures since I barely used my camera in Shanghai.)

Day two 2天: Starting a full day of sight-seeing with ¥1.5 baozi for breakfast, yes please! If there’s anything that gets me rolling out of bed in the morning (literally) it’s this. With baozi in one hand and egg tarts in the other, we made our way to YuYuan Garden where we had more Xiao Long Baos, Shanghai’s famous soup dumplings. After feast we made a quick stop to visit the Jing’an Temple before going to Tianzifang in the French Concession area. 

I then figured that we might as well could check out the Bird and Cricket Market, because I was curious after hearing talks about it. It's a little market hidden inside a street corner that sells everything from birds, dogs, cats, fish, turtles and insects such as crickets, which symbolises good luck in the Chinese culture.  

However the sights of puppies and kittens cramped inside small cages, and crickets locked inside little glass jars was very upsetting and frustrating. Believe me, I could rant for days about animal rights although now is not the time.

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Later that evening we strolled along the Bund before going to my favorite restaurant for dinner, Lost Heavens. I try to avoid going to the same places twice, but I’ve been making exceptions as this was my third time dining here. The food is so good and I love the relaxed ambiance! After dinner we took a cab to Pudong area where we went skyline viewing from the 100 Century Avenue at Park Hyatt.

Day three 3天: We roamed around People’s Square and went café crawling around Anfu Lu. First we went to café Foamka, which does really cute 3D coffee (overpriced), followed by a nice evening at Drawing Room's beautiful rooftop café. For dinner we met up with two lovely girls near Jing’an Temple for some local Chinese food. They introduced us to Speak Low hidden bar, located in another French concession area in Luwan district. This place had some serious good vibes and as a diehard National Treasure-fan I can’t help but love the concept of hidden bars. I must say I've had a very enjoyable time overall.

Next stop, Beijing!