January 9, 2015

More Myanmar: Mandalay

Mandalay is the second biggest city and last Royal capitol of Burma. The locals proudly boast that it is set up on a grid system and has a lot of scooters (banned in Yangon) accompanied by regular rolling blackouts as electricity struggles to keep up with the booming city. The scooters add to the charming chaos.  This was a special place where we met our friend Zarni as a tour guide. He showed us so much...things we could never have experienced on our own and took us to some incredible markets including a night market more vibrant than any US Farmers Market you could imagine.

The markets are so amazing - huge trays full of spices. Ginger and garlic are major flavors in every dish. Hot peppers of every kind and fruits I've never seen before are presented by crouching locals. Cabbage,
leafy greens, potatoes and herbs fill the marketplace. The most exotic thing we saw was giant trays of fried crickets.  Though we didn't try any, children came running up to the vendors, wanting to eat them like candy.

Vendors on the street in the markets sold some interesting items. We saw a lot of boiled quail eggs, gelatin coconut desserts and sticks of bbq; plant and animal alike. Our favorite were these fantastic little fried egg and lentil packets. The cook has a hot plate filled with small divots. He poured dough into each one, cracked a quail egg, added lentils and covered the rest in dough. The result was a crispy bag filled with delicious fried egg balls and sprinkled with hot oil and spices for $0.40. 

Our highlight in Mandalay was definitely the meal we shared with our tour guide and friend, Zarni. We hope to bring him to Chicago to visit this summer and learn more about tourism in the US in hopes of increasing his English skills and cultural competency for work at home. He took us to a street restaurant we never would have tried otherwise and had the most delicious fried tofu with garlic sauce and Shan noodles - our favorite dish in all of Myanmar.

**Currently, we are running a fundraiser to help get Zarni to come visit the US to study tourism in Chicago.  He will be staying with us and we will help him in every way we can but this trip is the trip of a lifetime for him - it would be impossible without our support.  If you are interested in learning more about what we're trying to achieve, you can visit our site here:  https://www.fundme.com/en/projects/13686-A-Burmese-boy-s-dream--A-trip-to-the-U-S 

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