Category: Asian Holidays

A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 

In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!

Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 

Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 

Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘

In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 

In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 

For more photos and details, just click on the links/highlighted headings. 

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Only last June, I was in Tokyo ( A Quick Break)  with my elves for a week. That was a fun holiday filled with many activities. 

This October, I’m back with my Sydney-based niece. Visiting more areas in Japan over 15 days to do justice to our JR Rail Pass. This is the summary of many blogs I’ve written on Japan. More blogs for posting, so drop in from time to time for blog updates. 




Lake Toya



Nakatsugawa (Nakasendo)


Hiroshima & Miyajima


And don’t miss this post on Japan’s gastronomic delights! 



Only in Japan 

Happy Travels, everyone. 

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Half the family. Six whole days. Five nights. A flight deal. An AirBnb find. A Disneysea dream. A shopping spree. A few discoveries. All within budget! 

Just tap on the topics below for blog photos and details. Enjoy! 

A Happy Place: Disneysea Park Tokyo

Twinnings In Tokyo

Tsukiji Market

Dining In Tokyo

Family Travel Made Easy
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Hi everyone! If you guys haven’t FOLLOWED or signed up to subscribe to retirementsuitsme , now’s the time to do it to get updates on my latest blogs. Here’s the link. Just tap and tick off “FOLLOW”, then plug in your email address. 

For those who haven’t signed up, this lifeisacelebration site will continue to post blog summaries and provide links. On our latest Bangkok adventure, it is still a work in progress but here’s an initial summary. Watch this page for additional blog postings. Better still, follow lifeisacelebration on Facebook and/or subscribe to retirementsuitsme blogsite.

Our Bangkok Cribs

Floating Market

Elephant Ride

Bang Pa-In Palace

Ayutthaya UNESCO Heritage Site

A Thai Engagement Procession

A Thai-Buddhist Wedding Ceremony

Art In Paradise Trick-Eye Museum

Chocolate Ville

Terminal 21
Keep reading!

Six plane rides. Long drives. A choice of horse or ox carts. Countless boat rides. Yes, it was tiring but the Bagan temples, gold-domed pagodas, innumerable Buddhas, skirted men, tribal women, placid lake of Inle and insights into a monk’s life kept us going.







In Myanmar, it is a natural consequence to be awed and stupa-fied. Listed below are my blog entries on these adventures.




Bagan: A Plethora of Stupas

More Temples, Pagodas and Monasteries

Yangon’s Shwedagon : All That Gold!

Bagan Thande Hotel



Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain

Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain




Sun-Baked In Inle Lake

Happy Birds of Lake Inle

Indein Village

The Long-Necked Women From The Padaung Tribe

Shwe Inn Tha Floating Hotel Resort



Padaung Women

Padaung Women




U Bein Bridge & Temples of Mandalay

The Monks of Myanmar




A Whiff Of Mirth In Myanmar

Eating Around Myanmar

I would have wanted to end the series with the country’s cuisine but realized I don’t have enough photos to interest you. There’s the Monhinga which I had most breakfasts — a soupy noodle dish steeped in catfish broth. Yum. And of course, there’s the Myanmar and Mandalay beer, along with the full-bodied Shiraz and Cab Sauvignon wines from Red Mountain Estate, in the area of Lake Inle. I also tried some fried stuff, too oily for my liking, but I tried it anyway and “paid for it” with a bum stomach. So, cuidate!












That is not to say you should avoid street food altogether. We liked some cracklings or “kropeck” and some local fruits while we were there. But if you go to the local market, you’d find lotsa stuff, mostly fried, and OILY. Some looked liked fried pancakes, others were simply fried/floured vegetable strips. If you grow tired of Myanmar cuisine, you’d also find many Thai restos around. We were also happy with our pizza and pasta lunch in Golden Kite Restaurant in Lake Inle area. Take your pick!



This was served to the monks. I was waiting for an invite but didn't get lucky😄

This was served to the monks. I was waiting for an invite but didn’t get lucky😄



Not food but they chew on it! Betel nuts and leaves, anyone? Photo Credit: Chikie

Not food but they chew on it! Betel nuts and leaves, anyone? Photo Credit: Chikie



Because they share borders with Thailand, Laos, India and Bangladesh, Myanmar cuisine was influenced by these neighboring countries’ dishes. Except for the Monhinga noodle soup, I can’t think of a distinctly Burmese dish now. The curry dishes remind me of either India or Thailand. But maybe, I wasn’t my usual adventurous self while I was here because of my bum stomach.😔



Went nuts over this local fruit. Photo Credit: Chikie

Went nuts over this local fruit. Photo Credit: Chikie



This is monhinga soup, made of rice noodles, fish broth and lotsa herbs and spices.

This is mohinga soup, made of rice noodles, fish broth and lotsa herbs and spices.



When in doubt though, go for the Monhinga soup. And then some fruits. Our guide said they grow very good rice in Myanmar. Records show that for a time, the country was a top rice exporter. Can’t complain. Especially over their fried rice with all sorts of veggie strips thrown in.



Not sure what they're selling. Venue: 5 day "moving market" in Lake Inle

Not sure what they’re selling. Venue: 5 day “moving market” in Lake Inle






Street food is a-plenty. And very, very cheap. That’s good news for the budget travelers. If you want to be picky and play safe, just try the international (and “milder” versions of the local dishes) buffet in many of Myanmar’s hotels and big restaurants.

While shopping in Lake Inle, the vendors were having this for snacks. Ogled it for a long time and merited an invite. Got lucky this time 😄

While shopping in Lake Inle, the vendors were having this for snacks. Ogled it for a long time and merited an invite. Got lucky this time 😄





It's like the equivalent of vegetable tempura or kakiage, but tons oilier!

It’s like the equivalent of vegetable tempura or kakiage, but tons oilier!



Overall, my best gastronomic memory of Myanmar is really their……. WINES. Best surprise! At US$20-$27 a bottle of shiraz or cab, give it a go. It would have been interesting to see the vineyards of Red Mountain Estate. But the wines…. I’m really pleasantly surprised.



Taro leaf-wrapped and floating in oil!

Taro leaf-wrapped and floating in oil!



It's custard apple from Myanmar. Not as good as their Thai counterpart.

It’s custard apple from Myanmar. Not as good as their Thai counterpart.




Intha fisherman of Inle Lake

Intha fisherman of Inle Lake



In my book, men in skirts reveal a certain machismo. I’ve seen them in Bhutan and now in Myanmar. The longyis worn in Myanmar are longer, yet the Bhutanese gho seems more formal. Just the same, the culture of skirted men is a curiosity. More unsettling for the tourists or visitors than the locals wearing them in comfort. When asked what these men wear underneath, our guide disclosed that it’s a question every tourist invariably asks. We’re such a curious lot, aren’t we?




Macho Men In Skirts

Macho Men In Skirts



We found some of them working in really physically-demanding jobs. It’s a miracle those skirts don’t drop as these men load bags and heavy sacks on their backs, or when they leg-paddle their boats in Lake Inle. As for their women, they do have lovely longyis in vibrant colors but fashion sense seems centered on their head gear or on their neck and leg adornments.




Photo Credit: Joyce Valino

Photo Credit: Joyce Valino


I love the ladies’ headgears. Those worn by the women from the Indein village were particularly beautiful and elaborate. There’s something regal about their headdress and how comfortably they wear them. Then there’s the ladies famous for their neck rings. They’re from the Padaung tribe in the Shan region which includes the area covered by Inle Lake. Women here wear brass coils around their necks as early as age 5, making them look like their necks have been “stretched”. In reality, the neck coils push down the collar bone. There is an equivalent group of tribe women in some parts of Thailand near the Burmese border who refer to themselves as from the Kayan tribe and object to being called Padaung. It is believed they’re the same Kayans or Padaungs who fled to the Thai border in the late 80’s and early 90’s during the country’s military regime. Interestingly, these long-necked women originally hailed from Mongolia who were assimilated into the local upland tribes.





Brass neck coils and brass/silver leg bracelets. For what?

Brass neck coils and brass/silver leg bracelets. For what?



There were also leg bracelets on these women. As for the neck coils, we wonder how long this tradition would last as younger, less traditional if not a tad modern, Padaungs refuse to fit brass rings around the necks of their children. Will this tradition grow extinct, only to be replaced by enterprising women interested in tourist dollars? Quite frankly, I’m not sure what to wish for. I do find it disconcerting to find women — and children — using these rings to push down their collar bones. It just isn’t right, no matter their reasons.

This riverside hotel in Old Bagan was opened in 1922 to welcome a royal guest, King Edward VIII in 1922. A 2-storey colonial structure now proudly bears a sign citing this royal welcome, but this main hotel building does not have the same riverfront view as the deluxe room we stayed in. I like low-rise hotels. A rarity these days. Here in Bagan Thande Hotel, they have bungalows with decks facing either the pool or the great Ayeyawaddy river. I found it such a luxury to have all this open space!
















Dinners under the huge and lovely acacia tree were delightful, especially after a hot shower to cleanse all the dusts so prevalent in the plains of Bagan. There is an international buffet and breakfast is available as early as 6am. A short stroll from the hotel is a waiting area where one can rent horse carriages for old Bagan and nearby village tours.
















We waited for sunset from our riverfront room’s deck and loved the fiery spectacle! The manicured lawn, the potted plants, the aromatic flowers, and though I’ve never seen it, the resident owl in this hotel complex bring on such an air of royalty and privilege that is so welcoming, almost personal. Really puts you on a jolly holiday mood.
















Who would have thought there’s this slice of paradise in this archaelogical zone? Dining under the stars is a highlight, but so is the hour spent at sundown.









We went as far North as Mandalay. Known as the Golden City with its many pagodas and monasteries. It was the capital of Burma (now Myanmar) before it was colonized by the British in the 1880’s. Rudyard Kipling’s poem entitled Road to Mandalay may have romanticized this former capital of Myanmar. Rightly so, as it remains a religious center, the very heart of Buddhist Burma.









Among Mandalay’s religious monuments is Kuthodaw Pagoda where the world’s largest book is enshrined. Inscribed on stone tablets are excerpts from the tipitaka or Buddhist scriptures. Each stone tablet is housed in each of the 729 white stupas surrounding a golden temple inspired by Bagan’s Shwezigon Pagoda. Star flower Trees planted between rows of white stupas provide ample shade and tons of charm for this pagoda complex. Kuthodaw glistens in its goldness both from the ground as well as when viewed high up in Mandalay Hill. Speaking of Mandalay Hill, one may choose to climb it by hiking up, or go easy by taking an elevator to take you up in Sutaungpyei Pagoda from where one gets a panoramic view of Mandalay.












A monk’s life involves a lot of discipline and silence. Here in Mandalay lie many monasteries and monastic schools like Maha Ganayon Kyaung where visitors can witness the monks’ rituals like lining up for their midday meals or doing their late afternoon prayer ceremony. All that chanting, bowing and meditating comprise the prayer ceremony we had the fortune to witness.









For a moment there, I thought I’ve had enough of temples and monasteries so early in my trip. But what fascinated me are Myanmar’s landmarks in teak wood. The country is the world’s top producer of teak wood and the Golden Palace Monastery or Shwenandaw Monastery is one fine example of Burmese architecture. As the last royal capital before the country was colonized by the British, Shenandaw happens to be King Mindon’s last royal palace. It’s just curious that the most sacred area within the monastery is exclusive to men.












Last but not the least is one of Malanday’s iconic landmarks — this 1850-built bridge is touted as the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world to be found in the former capital of Amarapura. The bridge was built from wood reclaimed from the former ancient royal palace in Inwa or Ava. It doesn’t look much during the day, but its mosquito-infested location is perfect for sunset shots. With patience and a not so few mosquito bites, one can have a good snapshot of the teak bridge wrapped in the red orange warmth of a setting sun with monks, cyclists, basket-carrying women crossing the bridge, and likely tourists taking selfie shots. With a better cam, the silhouettes should make for a dramatic shot.









It is only fitting I end this piece with a few lines from the poem penned by Kipling.

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!”
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin’ my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay . . .




My best recollection of Myanmar would have to be the many stupas of Bagan and our stay in this wonderful floating hotel in Lake Inle. It sure pays to have (and spend) this “extra” especially after a tiring, dusty week in the land of gold. My advice? If you have the extra bucks, use it to spend at least a night here!









First off, Lake Inle by itself is truly beautiful. Now, savor all that beauty by staying in this gem of a hotel. Huts on stilts, each with a porch or balcony. Our cottage’s balcony faces the entrance arch to the floating resort so it was fun watching those canoes sailing in and out, each batch of hotel guests seemingly “welcomed” by the resident seagulls who have each chosen a pole as their “sentry”.









There’s a walkway towards the cottages, the spa, the dining area, and the swimming pool. Never had the chance to check the pool in this weather, but I’m hoping it’s heated considering the temp’s hovering around 7-10 Celsius. I can imagine it’s fun on summer nights. Yet I like the winter vibe in this lake area, and would in fact suggest a Myanmar visit during the cooler months of December and January. No worries — there’s a heater in the cottages. More than that, there’s a mosquito net too! The beds are not as comfortable but if you’re all curled up like a shrimp throughout the night, it hardly matters.









Food was good. They served local cuisine along with continental dishes. Don’t miss the local noodle dish called Monhinga. It’s made with thin rice noodles steeped in fish broth, crushed lemon grass and shrimp paste. Very delicious! You can pair them with the local Myanmar or Mandalay beer or if you seriously need to keep warm, try the local wine.







Now, this I’ve got to mention. Myanmar produces good wine! Red Mountain Estate imported grape plants from France and the cool weather and mountain soil on this side of Lake Inle must have conspired to produce this local wine at par with its western counterparts. Who would have thought? I was hesitant at first. The local wine is priced at half what a Bordeaux or Rioja would have cost you. But good enough that one of us mistook it for a rioja. So next time you’re in this area, enjoy a bottle of shiraz or cab sauvignon from Myanmar. Piode!