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Overseas Assignment 2012: Myanmar Adventure Part 2 – Great Burmese Meal

Napyitaw Naypyidaw Myanmar Expressway 20 lanes

Probably taking a leaf from our own Putrajaya, Napyitaw or Naypyidaw is Myanmar’s administration city which is located about 370 kilometres from Yangon. It has the very famous, 20 lane roads in Myanmar which do not make sense considering there are hardly any vehicles in the city. Based on the estimates in the Google Map, driving from Yangon to Naypyidaw, Myanmar using the expressway will take a gruelling 4 hours and 40 minutes. Image source: South China Morning Post

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This was one of the segments of Top Gear’s foreign adventures where the 3 guys head off to Myanmar and drive around on 3 local trucks. Yes, they were right – there were hardly any vehicles on the road but then again, one can see that a lot of money has been poured into the development of the infrastructure and the buildings all around Naypyidaw. These crazy guys played football in the middle of the road and even had a drag race.

Myanmar Expressway Napyitaw Naypyidaw

We only managed to catch little rest at the hotel as we had to also prepare for our presentations and the system for the demo in Yangon and Naypyidaw, Myanmar. We catch up with some potential partners over lunch, many included one ex-general who is now part of the board and management team. However, our main meeting is to be held at Napyitaw where many of the organisation’s head offices are located.

The original plan was to fly from Yangon but the flight was cancelled at the last minute as the only fight to Naypyidaw was diverted to another mission. So the partner has booked an old, 1st generation Toyota Alphard which can accommodate a few of us comfortably for the long distance with a local driver who was familiar with the route.

The so-called expressway was long and straight and hardly had any vehicles which is not a big surprise on most roads in Myanmar. Occasionally one can see houses by the side of the expressway but there were no major towns. Despite the age, the Toyota Alphard was comfortable and I who was sitting at the back could hardly feel the bumps as the vehicle goes over uneven and bad road surfaces.

We had one pit stop at what looks like an R&R in the middle of the highway for breakfast & to stretch our legs before continuing to Naypyidaw.

Myanmar Napyitaw Naypyidaw

We reached our destination after almost 5 hours on the road and thanks to us sleeping most of the way and a great suspension of the old Toyota Alphard, we did not feel too tired when we walked into the meeting room to do our demo. Very nice people attended the meeting and they were curious and eager to get the system upgrades done.

However midway through the system demo, the whole place had a blackout and from what we understood, this is very common in the district. One of the guys in the meeting whispered that blackouts are very common in the Myanmar administration city and they won’t know when the electricity supply will be restored.

Despite the big, beautiful buildings, without proper constant electricity supply and not knowing when the electricity supply will be back, we decided to wrap up the meeting, shook hands and came out from the building not sure what to do next since we finished earlier than planned.

Myanmar Burmese Food

Since we had time, we did a quick tour of Napyitaw especially at the famous 20 lanes road at the centre where we notice a number of hotels & resorts dotted on the sides. The partner remarked that if the meeting had finished late, we could have always come back and booked these hotel rooms for the night.

Frankly, there was not much to see here, in the same way, when one tour Putrajaya. We had time and there was no other place to have our meals, the partner had arranged with his contacts to prepare home-cooked food at a youth hostel that also provides cheap accommodation if required. The hostel staff – mostly are ladies who got busied themselves with cooking and also preparing the tables for us to have our meals. Seriously fast and efficient.

Myanmar Burmese Food

In the meantime, one of the hostel workers who I think is a manager for the hostel took us around the hostel to show the facilities that are already in place and the plans for the future. The hostel is next to a large building which has classrooms for youth and external training. However, like most buildings in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, it was new but empty.  Probably it was the school holidays in Myanmar.

Frankly speaking, we were quite hungry as we only took a light breakfast (I will explain why in the next post) so as the ladies started to bring over the dishes, we were quite excited and could not wait to dig into the meal.

Myanmar Burmese Food

Most of the food served was authentic Burmese dishes and I understood that despite the holidays, the official hostel chefs were involved in preparing the dishes for us. So the meals were well done and well balanced. I guess these chefs must have worked in some 5-star hotels before because we all agreed that the meals that were presented were indeed 5 stars taste.

For me, steamed rice, hot soup and fried egg with shrimps/anchovies were more than enough for me to have a good. I always try not to have something local on long journeys away from the hotel. So when they offered some fresh vegetables and cooked vegetables, I only agreed to take the cooked ones.

Their cooked chicken dish however was a big surprise and really delicious to the extent, it finished faster and was not enough to go around. It tasted almost like our ayam rendang which was great. We finished most of the food on the table except perhaps the raw vegetables which we were not used to it. Lunch is done and we started to head back to our trusted Alphard for the 5 hours back to Yangon, Myanmar.

To be concluded in Part 3

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