First Meal in London

*this is not a sponsored review*

I was clearing some receipts when I saw one from London when I was there for a stopover. I was with a friend who came to pick me up at the airport and we dropped by at wagamama for lunch before it was time for me to check into a hotel. It was a random decision and we had no regrets. No, there was a regret that for my virgin trip to London, my first meal was Asian.

wagamama
101a Wigmore Street, London

 It was the start of lunch time so the place was reasonably filled. We were seated immediately and a pretty lady named Veronika came to serve us. Everything was kind of speedy. In a good way. We looked through the menu, Veronika came to key them into her handy device and wrote down our order numbers on our paper placemats.

A couple of minutes into our conversation, the drinks arrived. Then came the side dish, Chicken Gyoza.

Chicken Gyoza – five steamed grilled chicken and vegetable dumplings. served with a chilli garlic sesame and soy sauce

I do not have a picture of it but I have to say that the dumplings would have been *meh* without the sauce.

And if I’m not mistaken, my dish arrived within the next five minutes.

Chicken Raisukaree from wagamama

I had the Chicken Raisukaree.

Chicken Raisukaree – chicken stir-fried in a coconut and lime curry sauce with mangetout, peppers, red and spring onions. served on sticky white rice and garnished with red chillies, coriander and lime

My first impression? “Wow, I cannot wait to dig in.” But I had to wait because it would be rude to start eating when my friend’s food has not arrived yet. Yes, orders do not arrive at the same time. His only took a couple more minutes.

My Chicken Raisukaree was a good dish but not great. I saw the colours of the ingredients on my plate but that did not translate on my tastebuds. Would I have it again? Yes, because it was satisfying and visually appealing. I would give it a chance.

As for my friend, he chose the Surendra Chicken Curry.

Surendra Chicken Curry from wagamama

Surendra Chicken Curry from wagamama

Surendra Chicken Curry – a rich, spicy green curry made with jalapeño peppers, onion and ginger. topped with sweet potato straws and served with steamed rice

If I am not mistaken, he said his dish was spicy and he liked it. I did try a little gravy but I can’t seem to recall what it tasted like but I definitely knew I preferred my dish over his.

wagamama receipt

The price could have been a little cheaper for a single dish.

Here’s the breakdown:
– Surendra Chicken Curry = £10.95
– Chicken Raisukaree = £10.95
– Chicken Gyoza = £10.95
– Tiger Beer = £3.95
– Coke = £2.40
Total including VAT = £34.05
*Service not included.

An extra 10% was given for the service.

I do not think it would be fair for me to convert the currency to Singapore Dollars but it would have been about S$69. *holy smokes*

wagamama has a cool system in place. There is an app that you could use to pay the bill. The best part is, you can split the bill with your friends in the app! Did we try it? No.

We had to download the app and I was not on mobile data and my friend did not want to waste his. If I am ever back in any of their outlets, I would definitely try that option out.

My overall experience was good. I would return to this place because the service was fast. The staff were friendly, but we did wait a bit to get their attention to pay the bill (that’s why they have the app, duh.)

The food was good. If there was a branch in Singapore and especially near my office, I would pop by almost every day. Okay, I’m exaggerating. I would have it at least once a week and if the price was lower.

*some text extracted from http://www.wagamama.com/*

 

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Mr TravelNoobDude is still alive

Wow what happened here?

Well, a full-time job happened. A job that didn’t give me much time for a social life. I had a lot planned for this site but it all fell through. I blame myself. I had to shift my priorities. Only managed to share some interesting stuff on my twitter account time to time.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t find time to travel. I think since the last post, I’ve visited Vietnam twice. Thailand for a week and most recently, Amsterdam.

I am shifting my priorities again and will be devoting some time here. Stay tuned 🙂

canal amsterdam

Ngwe Saung – Myanmar Travel Experience (Part 2)

 Click here for Part 1.

I made a reservation for 2 nights at Shwe Hin Ta Resort Hotel by calling them from Singapore. I had to find their number on the Internet and I was glad they had my booking when I got there. Click here for the review I did on TripAdvisor

Shwe Hin Tha hotel namecard

Shwe Hin Tha hotel name card

 

The cost of my hut was US$30/night. I have been researching about the price and it was US$25 a month ago. Pricing is inconsistent so watch out for that. The hut is basic. Has a bed with mosquito net, a fan, no hot shower. It felt a little icky but that is because I am pampered.

Electricity only runs from 6pm to 6am. That means I could only charge my phone at night. They have a concrete room with better facilities like air-conditioning, TV and hot shower but that costs more.

 

view of hut

2 rooms under one roof. Mine was the one on the right while the US lady was in the other.

inside hut

Inside the hut and the toilet door. Was in the process of repacking.

My plan was to just laze and that I did well. On the first afternoon, I spent time reading my book on my porch and enjoying the view. My hut faces the beach. PERFECT. The breeze was in my opinion, chilly and strong. It kind of styled my hair for me if I stayed out long. (I think I just rhymed)

view_from_hut

View from porch

 

You might have surprise visitors.

geese

Visitors

 

They had a couple of blue deck chairs on the beach. I dumped my book and T-shirt there and off I went to dip in the water. By dipping in the water, I meant sitting there like a baby and waiting for the waves to crash into me because yours truly does not know how to swim (I’m not ashamed to admit it!)

Others were going for it because they could walk further into the water and swim.  I only let the water reach below my chest and I headed back to my chair to snooze, wrapped in my towel because the breeze was cold.

Nightfall, I had dinner at the restaurant at the hotel premise. I would not say it was great, it was satisfying for me. I had a chicken dish and rice. Chicken was not fully cooked.  The waiters/waitresses were all teenagers so service was attentive and enthusiastic.

The walk back to room was dark. There were no lights by the sidewalk so had to be careful. Having a torchlight might be useful. Off to bed by 9pm with the lights on.

In the middle of the night, I was woken up by a sound of something rustling near the ceiling. As if making its way through the hut. I got a glimpse of its body and I knew it was a rat. Not bothered and I was back to sleep in no time. If it was a cockroach, I would be awake the whole night unless it was dead.

DAY 2

I woke up at about 6am and had a cold shower. By that I mean, wash head first, face, one hand, the next hand, and brace myself for the torso and beyond because I hate cold shower so I know I took a long time in there.

taking-cold-shower

 

There was a free breakfast buffet. I had noodles and coffee. After stuffing myself, I was off for a long walk down the beach. I did not plan how far I wanted to go but I went for it.
beach walk

According to Google Maps, I would have walked about 9.8 Kilometers in total.

walk distance trace on google map

 

It was nice to be by myself, not worrying about anything and just soaking in the peaceful environment.

Saw a local man squatted by the beach from a distance. When I got nearer, he waved at me and I just smiled. He  then did the hand gesture of snapping a picture. He wrote “COLUMBUS” on the sand and posed for it. He came to look at the picture and mumbled something in Burmese and walked off. I was just standing there thinking, “wtf just happened?”

Myanmarese smiling

 

Saw this weird dead creature. Looks like a fish with a body of a squid. Creepy.

 

weird fish 1

Anyone has any clue of what it is?

Weird species found on beach

 

A couple of spots where you could get refreshments and plop yourself down to rest on the sun decks

beach refreshments

 

Fancy a horse ride?

horseride on beach

 

I was thirsty so got myself a big coconut for 1000 Kyat. It was tiring to carry it around.

coconut
I was exhausted when I got back to the hotel so I had a rest on the their blue deck chairs, drinking from my coconut, reading a book and secretly taking selfies. (No, I ain’t posting the selfies here)

leg and coconut short on chair

Relaxing at the beach with my coconut and a book

 

Hotel reception was able to book a bus ticket back to Yangon for me. They gave me two time slots. I think the first was 6am but I chose 8am. Cost was 9000 kyat

NgweSaung to Yangon bus ticket

Bus ticket from Ngwe Saung to Yangon

Time went by quick. During dinner, I had a fish dish which was better than the day before. Retired to bed early. The rat story was true because there was a nice lady from USA beside my hut and she said the food she threw away was out of the basket. Someone else on TripAdviosr took a video of it. Oh! The US lady also saw a long dead snake on the beach :S

DAY 3

It was the last day so I did the same routine at 6am. US lady joined me for breakfast. She introduced me to Angelica from Germany. We three were heading back to Yangon on the 8am bus. The journey back was the same, 5 hours of puke-fest.

At Yangon, we agreed to share a cab to the airport. We bargained to have the ride at 9000 Kyat so that we could easily split it between three of us. We had to wait for a driver so Angelica decided to try balancing something on her head like the locals.

angelica balancing

 

Our driver looked Indian so the two ladies asked me to try speaking to him in Tamil. I tried and he understood me! If I am not mistaken he grew up in Myanmar so he could speak Burmese and Tamil. What are the odds!

THE END OF TRIP

The check-in and other experiences at the airport was clear & smooth. It was a new airport so it was clean. Could not finish my fried rice dinner because it was too spice. Next thing I knew, I was back in Singapore 😦

Ngwe Saung – Myanmar Travel Experience (Part 1)

When researching for a places to visit in Myanmar, the obvious options were Bagan, Mandalay & Yangon. I was about to do the same but the thought of traveling with many other tourist around did not appeal to me. A quick search on beach options gave me Ngapali, Ngwe Saung & Chaung Tha. A random analogy to describe the three would be: too hot, just nice, too cold. (not in literal sense)

I would not say Ngwe Saung is as beautiful as some of the beaches in Thailand. This place has its own charm, laid-back, not crowded and faces the Bay of Bengal.  It was just nice.

GETTING THERE FROM YANGON
Taking a flight would be the fastest option but taking the bus would be the cheapest.
Cost: 9000 Kyat (S$12 / USD$7)
Duration: About 5hrs
Location: Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal or ask your taxi driver. They will drive you there and point to counter. There will be vague signs around so keep your eyes open. If you want to get to Ngwe Saung early, get to the terminal at about 5.30am to secure a seat. My bus left on time at 6.30AM. They have different buses leaving at different time so do enquire.

Bus Ticket

Bus Ticket

THE EXPERIENCE

I set my alarm for 4am on vibrate mode, worrying that I would wake others up (I was in a hostel and was sharing a room with 3 others.) Turns out that I was waking up to the sounds of people heading to the toilet or dogs debating by the streets. I was at the top of the bunker bed and I managed to give myself a wedgie while climbing down. I hope the hot girl below did not see my exposed balls but realised the room was dark and I was dark…..so do the math.

The taxi ride to the bus terminal was about 30 minutes and cost 5000 Kyat. After purchasing the tickets, I had about 45 minutes to spare so I ploughed myself down in a dingy looking eatery. Actually all the shops there looked the same. Managed to order 2 oily bread rolls and a bottle of water through sign language. English totally did not help.

Dingy Shop

Dingy Shop

While the flies and I were eating to our hearts content, a local man walked in looking at me. He sat at a table behind me and ordered a glass of whiskey. 5 minutes into his drink and I heard him puke on the floor. No one seemed to be bothered. He came over to my table and looked at me. I looked at him. He bent down and took a bin from under my table and went back to puke. I was impressed. He looked sober and was able to navigate around well.

Bus scenery

Bus Scenery

Bus ride was like any other. They provided us with a bottle of water and a strong-scented wet tissue. There was air-condition. Ride was bumpy at some points but I was able to get some sleep. There was a 20 minutes break to have some food and toilet stop.

But there was one problem. The locals seem to get motion sickness easily. Throughout the journey, you would hear a cacophony of people vomiting or forcing their vomit out. Every seat has a small plastic bag for this definite occasion. At some point someone might tap you shoulder asking for that bag. I was very lucky to get a pregnant lady to sit beside me. She puked into her bag an orange concoction. She kept going at it and when she was done she held the bag near me. I tested my mental ability to control myself but I gagged a little before the bus stopped and the driver said it was my stop. *Thank you God*

Step foot out of the bus and I was swamped by a group of guys wanting to take me to my hotel. Just what I needed but there was a problem. I forgot the name of the hotel and I think I didn’t write it down (what was I thinking!?) Those guys were resourceful. They showed me a map and I easily pointed out the Shwe Hin Tha Hotel. I thought it was a car ride but nope, it was a bike ride without a helmet. My left leg was used to support my bag with my left hand. Journey was about 10-15 minutes. Cost was 1000 Kyat.

Click here for Part 2

Bus scenery

Bus scenery

bus3

Traffic

 

Myanmar (Yangon) – Getting In

After days of finding for a place to travel to, I found a cheap flight with Jetstar to Yangon, Myanmar. If you think this is going to be some comprehensive guide, nah. I did not do any major research before heading there. Just spent my time reading information from internet without taking down much notes.

Myanmar Header

VISA
I am a Singaporean and the privilege of traveling to many countries without applying for visa is not applicable here. If you are a Singaporean, be warned, you need to go down to the Myanmar Embassy to apply for a visa. Click here for more information.

So imagine the panic I was in to apply for visa the day before I flew out. I was able to get it within a day.

FLIGHT
Landed in Yangon on 18 March 2014, 11AM-ish. Airport looked new. Head down the escalator to clear the immigration and you would be able to see families/friends waiting for their loved ones through the see-through glass. It was weird because they could follow and watch every step you take. They will be watching as you queue to clear immigration.

MONEY
There are money changers at the baggage claim area and out at the arrival-waiting area. I changed my Singapore Dollars to Burmese Kyat (At about 1SGD = 756MMK).

TAXI
You can book a taxi at the airport if you have not arranged for airport transfer with your hotel. It is hard to miss the big yellow sign which says “TAXI”.

After reading all the information online, the average rate is US$10.  If you want to get a taxi on your own by bargaining with the driver, you may get away with US$8 (It would be better if you could find others to share it with). I was quoted US$8 at the taxi counter. When I got to the destination, the driver asked for US$10. I wish I could just walk out giving him US$8 but I did not have smaller change so made it 9000 Kyat.

ACCOMMODATION
I had my first try of a hostel. A search on Agoda.com brought up this new place, Humble Footprints Hotel / Hostel. Whats good about it? Its new. Anything that is supposed to be white is really white. Click here to read my review on TripAdvisor.

I would not recommend the hostel if you want options on sight-seeing or food within walking distance.

RECOMMEND
One of the must-sees is the Shwedagon Pagoda or also known as the Golden Pagoda. It took me about 15-20 minutes to walk there. I did not need a map because I could see it from afar. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist pagodas and it literally covered in genuine gold plates. It was mid-afternoon when I got there and really wanted to see it at night after having heard about its light displays but time constraint denied me that chance. I am still grateful to have stepped foot there.

Golden Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda


 Next article would be about my experience at Ngwe Saung – Myanmar.