3. Food

Chorizo, Kale, and Sundried Tomato Pasta

Ingredients:
– 12 oz dry pasta (I used rigatoni)
– 1 lb chorizo (or hot Italian sausage)
– 1 bunch kale; thick ribs removed
– 6 oz sundried tomatoes (I actually used an entire 8 oz jar, because I love sundried tomatoes!)
– 1/2 cup water or chicken broth (optional)
– olive oil
– minced garlic
– salt (to taste)
– pepper (to taste)
– parmesan cheese (to taste)
– red pepper flakes (to taste)

Directions:
1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil.
3. Add chorizo and cook until cooked through – approximately 5 minutes.
4. Add sundried tomatoes and garlic and cook for approximately 1 minute. If needed, add water and scrape the bottom of the skillet.
5. Add kale and cook until wilted and tender – approximately 5 minutes.
6. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cheese to taste.

3. Food

Whole30 – Banana Pancakes (and Paleo Maple Cranberry Syrup)

Ingredients:
– 4 eggs
– 2 ripe bananas
– 1/4 cup coconut flour
– a pinch of salt
– coconut oil (for cooking)

Directions:
1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add coconut oil.
2. While the skillet and oil are heating up, mix all of the ingredients, minus the coconut oil, thoroughly. In retrospect, it probably would have been easier to blend all of the ingredients together, but I hate washing my blender.
3. Pour a large spoonful of the batter into the skillet. You can adjust for size as desired – I made mine about 6 inches in diameter. Cook the first side for ~3 minutes, or until the bottom of the pancake is golden brown, and there are bubbles on the top of the pancake.
4. Flip the pancake and cook the second side for ~3 minutes until golden brown.
5. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Voila! I ended up with 6 pancakes in total.

Optional! and non-Whole 30, but totally awesome. I made my pancakes with a maple-cranberry syrup, and that definitely enhanced the flavor. You don’t actually need to add syrup to the pancakes, since the banana makes them naturally sweet, but if you want to add any additional sugar, here’s how you can make some maple-cranberry syrup:

Ingredients:
– 3/4 cup frozen cranberries (or any frozen fruit, really. I just happened to have cranberries)
– 1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions:
1. Add the cranberries and maple syrup to a small pot on medium-low heat.
2. Stir occasionally until the mixture boils. This only took a couple of minutes, since there was so little of the mixture.
3. Crush the cranberries if desired.
4. Pour the syrup over the pancakes and enjoy warm.

1. Travel

Burma (Day 12)

Last full day in Burma! I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. It’s crazy how much we’ve seen in the last two weeks here.

We spent the morning visiting my dad’s childhood house in Yangon. It was similar to my mom’s childhood house in the sense that it’s a small house for a lot of people.

One note about people in Burma: people are generally really open and trusting. When my dad and Auntie Linda wanted to go visit and look inside their old home, even though they don’t know the people who live there anymore, the rest of us kind of laughed it off. If someone knocked on my door today, and said “hey I used to live here 40 years ago, can I come in and look around” I’d close the door on them and probably call 911. Not in Burma!!! We were let in by an elderly woman and her daughter, and we got to look inside. (I felt bad about taking pictures inside because I felt uncomfortable pulling out my camera/phone in the middle of a rando’s house.)

The street that my dad's childhood house is on
The street that my dad’s childhood house is on
People eating breakfast and drinking their morning tea/coffee on the sidewalk
People eating breakfast and drinking their morning tea/coffee on the sidewalk

We don’t have much planned for the rest of the day. We’re going to get massages (WOOO) and pack. Our relatives gave us an entire luggage full of dried food to take back to America. Plus all our souvenirs. It looks like we’re going to need to buy another luggage today…

One more definite stop though. The cafe where we had snacks yesterday was so good, we had to come back again. I’ve reached nirvana.

Avocado smoothie, Domino, durian ice cream, and falooda
Avocado smoothie, Domino, durian ice cream, and falooda
Look how happy we are about our dessert!
Look how happy we are about our dessert!

Since it’s our last full day here, I thought I’d do a bit of reflection on this trip. This has definitely been the most cultural thing I’ve experienced in a while. It’s also the most humbling experience I’ve had, probably in my entire life. Burma is so different from anywhere I’ve ever been before, in so many ways. Going from suburban Los Angeles to the middle of a third world country has made me realize how much I take for granted, and has taught me to appreciate the little things a little bit more – having a loving and supportive family, never having to think about what my next meal will be, and never having to worry about where my next dollar will come from.

All in all, I had an awesome time on this trip. I’d love to come back again someday, though not for at least 3-5 years.

My favorite parts: Shwedagon Pagoda (at night), Bagan, and Inle. And of course, the food!!!

Shwedagon
Shwedagon
Main pagoda of Shwedagon - under construction
Main pagoda of Shwedagon – under construction
No filter on this sunrise pic from Bagan. How can you beat watching the sunrise over a sea of pagodas from the top of a pagoda?
No filter on this sunrise pic from Bagan. How can you beat watching the sunrise over a sea of pagodas from the top of a pagoda?
How is this real.
How is this real.
Boating through Inle
Boating through Inle
Best sunset of this trip
Best sunset of this trip
FALOOOOODA
FALOOOOODA

My least favorite parts: having to put on mosquito repellent every few hours (worth it though because I got 0 mosquito bites! HAH!), going to the bathroom in not-toilets (though my thighs are probably a lot stronger now from all the squatting), and the walk up to Kyaiktiyo on the wet, dirty floors.

I’ve gotten to brush up on my Burmese speaking and Burmese singing (lol, hours and hours and hours of karaoke in the van), and I’ve gotten to put my Burmese reading to good use! I’ve learned a lot of things about Burma, including but not limited to: 1) having a little bit of money will get you very far; 2) people love foreigners, and are shameless about taking pictures of them; 3) people in Burma look younger than I do, which is really saying something; 4) people really really really appreciate and make the most of what they have; 5) no one really cares about material possessions; 6) a lot of people put their money into pagodas via donations… the pagodas are all beautiful.

There are so many beautiful parts to Burma, in addition to the rundown buildings and the bustling cities. Ending my series of blog posts with a couple of pictures that I think represent Burma and everything we saw on this trip.

Typical street in downtown Yangon
Typical street in downtown Yangon
There's a reason Shwedagon is the most famous pagoda out there. This one little shrine is revered by 1/8 of Burma's population!
There’s a reason Shwedagon is the most famous pagoda out there. This one little shrine is revered by 1/8 of Burma’s population!
#blessed
#blessed
Kyaiktiyo!
Kyaiktiyo!
There IS green in Burma!
There IS green in Burma!
Most memorable family vacation to date. Happy happy happy 2015 from the Chin family!!!
Most memorable family vacation to date. Happy happy happy 2015 from the Chin family!!!
1. Travel

Burma (Day 11)

Today is another full day in Yangon. More time to hang out with some relatives. But first, and most important, breakfast.

This is the ultimate Burmese breakfast. မုန့်ဟင်းခါး (fish soup) and Burmese tea.
This is the ultimate Burmese breakfast. မုန့်ဟင်းခါး (fish soup) and Burmese tea.

After lots of comfort food for breakfast, we headed out of our hotel. Today we’re trying to get souvenirs. I don’t think the Burmese souvenirs are typical touristy souvenirs (like magnets and keychains and things) but instead more like little gold pagodas and jade jewelry. How much more will my boss love me when I get him a little jade trinket hah

We first started at Yangon’s Chinatown since there’s a lot to see there: tons of street vendors and corner stores.
Side note: Chinatown is also prime real estate – buying an apartment here starts at over $1 million US dollars. And that’s for a couple of rooms, no garage, and neighbors all up in your space. What on earth. Even renting a place in Yangon’s Chinatown is more than twice what I pay in rent at home…

A building on this street costs $2 million. Holy cow.
A building on this street costs $2 million. Holy cow.
Meat vendor in Chinatown. I don't think I'd ever eat meat off the streets like this...
Meat vendor in Chinatown. I don’t think I’d ever eat meat off the streets like this…
Vegetable vendor in Chinatown
Vegetable vendor in Chinatown
gurl, u mad?
gurl, u mad?
Broom vendor in Chinatown
Broom vendor in Chinatown

Anyway, we stopped by Chinatown to pick up one of our relatives, who’s a gold merchant. He’ll be able to help us pick out good quality jewelry!

We hopped in a taxi over to Scott Market, which we’ve passed many times in Yangon. It’s the main bazaar here. There are tons of stores that sell just about anything – clothes, food, jewelry, artwork, jade bracelets and figurines, Buddha statues, you name it.

Side note about taking taxis here: there’s no concept of a maximum number of passengers. In the US, if you’ve got more than 4 people, they’ll make you take 2 taxis because of seatbelts and whatnot. This doesn’t happen in Burma.
If you’ve got 5 people, then you either squeeze 4 in the backseat and 1 in the front with the driver, OR! you let 3 people sit in the back and have 2 in the passenger seat in front. Desmond and I did this yesterday… it was not comfortable in that passenger seat.
If you’ve got 6 people, then guess what – 2 people can sit in the trunk! The taxis here are mostly stationwagon types, so 2 people can just hop in the trunk. We’ve done this at least 3 different times in Yangon.

Jade shopping at Scott Market hehe
Jade shopping at Scott Market hehe

Anyway, we spent such a long time at Scott Market trying to pick out souvenirs – so long that we actually missed lunch time. Instead, we walked around and looked at all of the different exotic fruits, street vendors, and corner shops.

Rambutan!!!!! do we have these in America idk
Rambutan!!!!! do we have these in America idk
Apparently "melon king" is not the same as "cantaloupe"
Apparently “melon king” is not the same as “cantaloupe”
Still not even sure what this fruit is. It was called a "super melon"
Still not even sure what this fruit is. It was called a “super melon”

We decided to walk back to our hotel. One last look around Yangon’s bustling Chinatown.

One more look around Chinatown
One more look around Chinatown

Tonight’s dinner is our family’s treat to our relatives. We reserved 4 tables at a restaurant by Yangon Harbor – lots of relatives are coming into town, even from outside Yangon, to see us!

Note: meals are always slightly awkward since this is our (mine, Desmond’s, and my dad’s) first time meeting these relatives. Regardless, it’s comforting to know that we have some family abroad. Everyone’s really nice, and the little kids love us!

1. Travel

Burma (Day 10)

Back in Yangon! Wow. Didn’t realize the climate change between Yangon and Mandalay was so drastic. Right when the bus doors opened in Yangon, we could feel all the hot sticky air rushing at us. mmmmm lovely.

Since we got back here early (6 AM), we went back to our hotel in Yangon, changed and freshened up a bit, and then headed out. We are constantly on the move here… there hasn’t been a bunch of time for cleanliness. meh.

Quickish breakfast at Feel (of course), and then Shwedagon Pagoda again!

All mine. Feel has amazing bean parathas (that's the thing at the bottom) and naan with malai (that's the thing in the top right).
All mine. Feel has amazing bean parathas (that’s the thing at the bottom) and naan with malai (that’s the thing in the top right).
Fried everything aww yisss
Fried everything aww yisss

It turns out my hunch last week was correct: Shwedagon Pagoda looks a lot better at night. But I think that might be a temporary thing – the main stupa is under construction right now, and during the day you can see all the construction on the outside. At night you can’t see all the scaffolding and stuff, you just see the gold shining through.

Shwedagon Pagoda during the day. Boo construction. You can kiiind of see the gold peaking through at the top.
Shwedagon Pagoda during the day. Boo construction. You can kiiind of see the gold peaking through at the top.
Inside one of the many temples at Shwedagon
Inside one of the many temples at Shwedagon
The smaller temples and stupas in Shwedagon still look as beautiful as ever
The smaller temples and stupas in Shwedagon still look as beautiful as ever
#blessed at my Friday shrine!
#blessed at my Friday shrine!
Had to get a picture of this little guy... I think it's safe to say I love guinea pigs now, thanks to my Burmese zodiac
Had to get a picture of this little guy… I think it’s safe to say I love guinea pigs now, thanks to my Burmese zodiac
My dad's born on Wednesday morning, and the Wednesday morning animal is an elephant. I'm not the only one who loves their zodiac animal :)
My dad’s born on Wednesday morning, and the Wednesday morning animal is an elephant. I’m not the only one who loves their zodiac animal 🙂
View of Shwedagon's biggest stupa from the Wednesday shrine
View of Shwedagon’s biggest stupa from the Wednesday shrine
In case you ever wondered, monks also have cell phones, and they take a lot of pictures
In case you ever wondered, monks also have cell phones, and they take a lot of pictures
Samantha and I were the only ones who were in a good mood after a red eye bus and no shower
Samantha and I were the only ones who were in a good mood after a red eye bus and no shower
Maybe we're too happy for this
Maybe we’re too happy for this
derp construction
derp construction

After a couple of hours here (even though we’d already been here before, Shwedagon is so massive that it still takes that long to see everything), we were finally able to go back to our hotel and shower. The amount of stickiness and sweatiness and general feeling of meh does not need to be made public on my blog.

We parted ways with Samantha’s family for the rest of the day. Now that we’re back in Yangon, we’re meeting up with my grandma and our distant relatives here. Next stop: lunch with all of the relatives.

This was our transportation. Note my grandma's cousins getting into the back of this truck. 8 of us sat back here. No big deal.
This was our transportation. Note my grandma’s cousins getting into the back of this truck. 8 of us sat back here. No big deal.

After lunch, we headed to one of my relatives’ house so that my mom could socialize and catch up with all of the relatives after over 35 years. It was so nice to be sitting around in an air conditioned room, doing nothing for an afternoon – I feel like we’ve spent the last nine days constantly on the move.

Spent the afternoon in a $500 chair in my relative's house. $500 should get me a big squishy chair...
Spent the afternoon in a $500 chair in my relative’s house. $500 should get me a big squishy chair…

A few hours before dinner (with the same relatives), we headed back out into the city again – this time, to do some exploration and walking around on our own. We walked by the giant Karaweik, which is a huge palace on Kandawgyi Lake in the middle of the city. A Karaweik is some sort of mythical bird, almost like a phoenix.

Karaweik from the other side of Kandawgyi Lake
Karaweik from the other side of Kandawgyi Lake
Walking along Kandawgyi Lake. This was the first place we saw people running in Yangon.
Walking along Kandawgyi Lake. This was the first place we saw people running in Yangon.

We also decided to walk to dinner instead of taking a taxi. Not sure if this was the best idea, since the streets of Yangon aren’t the best – there aren’t sidewalks on any of the smaller streets, and we just don’t know the area at all. But somehow we found our way to the restaurant.

One of the main roundabouts in the city. Thankfully we didn't have to cross over to another side because WHERE ARE THE CROSSWALKS
One of the main roundabouts in the city. Thankfully we didn’t have to cross over to another side because WHERE ARE THE CROSSWALKS
A better view of the sunset as we were walking to dinner. Not nearly as pretty as the sunsets from Bagan or Inle, but I'll take it. On the right you can see Sule Pagoda (we were here on the 3rd day) - its main stupa stands out over the Yangon skyline.
A better view of the sunset as we were walking to dinner. Not nearly as pretty as the sunsets from Bagan or Inle, but I’ll take it. On the right you can see Sule Pagoda (we were here on the 3rd day) – its main stupa stands out over the Yangon skyline.
Western Park Royal is a very famous restaurant and hotel in Yangon - our relatives made special reservations way in advance for us!
Western Park Royal is a very famous restaurant and hotel in Yangon – our relatives made special reservations way in advance for us!

We’re all kind of tired tonight, even though we didn’t do much. It must yesterday’s red eye bus. Can’t wait to get my first night of sleep in Burma without setting an alarm for tomorrow morning!