Travels with my coffee mug

If you are a coffee-holic & a bit of a coffee snob to boot, then this review is tailor made for you.  Especially if you travel/hike/climb/trek.  And even more so if you can’t stand instant coffee.

Wearied by frankly revolting coffee in so many (otherwise amazing) places, uncaffeineated at the start of days in (otherwise amazing) remote parts of the globe, this gift, below, from a fellow coffee-holic & trekking friend was beyond perfect.

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It’s a thermal portable coffee plunger mug from Kathmandu – the company, not the city.

So all you need to do is pack a bag of ground coffee, get boiling water from your hotel/camp cook/boil it yourself (hey, you can figure this bit out, right?) and Bob’s your uncle.

The only teensy flaw in this jug is that when your pour out the coffee, it leaks a little from the top, but that is such a small price to pay for having one’s morning caffeine fix that it hardly counts.  I checked the website just now, when sharing the link with you and, guess what I found?

  • Lid is not completely spill proof

There you are, then.

In the 3 years I have had this mug, it has travelled all over the place with me, since it weighs virtually nothing and saves my life every morning.  It’s tough, and in 3 years in backpacks it has precisely one scratch, and I’m still trying to puzzle out where it came from.

Together, we have been up to the Himalayas (I live in India), we have been climbing in Ladakh, to Africa (where we used to live) to Myanmar, Sri Lanka.

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Have Kathmandu coffee mug, will travel is now my new mantra.

Need a brilliant guide/driver in Mandalay, Myanmar?

As we got off the bus in from Mandalay airport, on our first ever visit to Myanmar, there was a crowd of taxi drivers waiting to greet the arriving bus.

We selected a driver purely on instinct, and boy oh boy did we make an excellent choice.

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Introducing William Thein Soe, a very safe and competent driver, and his absolutely adorable wife Colleen who, for the duration of our stay, travelled with us in the car driven by her husband, dispensing information and conversation and humour and anecdotes, along with wet wipes and snacks and tissues and bottles of water.

We hadn’t requested any of this, but Colleen had an apparently endless supply of treats, and so every time we collapsed back in the car, hot and a bit dusty, there would be water and a wet wipe and food if she felt we looked hungry.

Too fabulous.

They both speak good English – Colleen especially – and they both worked for many years in Singapore.  They make a great team, explaining and informing, but never overloading you with information, and never ever over-stepping any boundaries.

Never once did they suggest we shop, or visit a particular restaurant.  They were both uber-polite, dignified and totally trustworthy.  They added to our enjoyment, honestly and truly.

It was an absolute pleasure being with them, and I would recommend them without hesitation.

Their details are below:

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They don’t have a fixed tariff (well, they didn’t then), so decide each day what you want to do, where you want to go, and fix a rate with them.  We averaged $30-35 a day (one day was even more because we did so much more), and we never begrudged them a penny.  Such charming, helpful, un-pushy, friendly people deserve to be remunerated and encouraged.

I wish them both well, and would definitely call them on a subsequent trip to Mandalay.

Personally recommended.

Rangoon Tea House, Yangon, Myanmar

On an all-too rushed inaugural visit to Myanmar, we managed to squeeze in a visit to this recently opened tea house in Yangon, for a refreshing cold drink and a welcome break from pounding the city streets in the hot February sun.

Hubby stuck to Coke, so nothing new to report there.

I had a truly excellent papaya smoothie, but it was Anjali who won the award for being the most adventurous (& authentic) with her iced tea, Myanmar style – ie with lashings of condensed milk AND evaporated milk.  There was a whole menu of various local iced teas to choose from, with cute drawings illustrating the ratio of condensed milk and evaporated milk to tea.

Anjali declared hers to be delicious.  I had a sip and it was good – strong tea flavour and nice and sweet.

The decor is charming, with a few curios (but not too many) and lots of space between tables, making the tea house feel spacious.

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I realise that the photo (above) might make it look as though the Rangoon Tea house is patronised only by foreigners, but this is far from the truth.  We arrived a little before noon, but within half an hour the place was full, with a mix of local Yangon youngsters and foreigners, both expats and visitors like us.

They have got their classy, elegant merchandising organised right from the start.

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Good service.  Good standard of spoken English from the youngsters working there (not at all a given, we discovered, as we travelled through this gorgeous country).  Clean loo.

Cute place.

Next time (& there will be a next time, and soon, I hope) we will eat there, too.

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At roughly 1000 Kyat to the US$ this cost us $7.

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The address and phone number of the tea house are on the bill, above.

Personally recommended –  for drinks and charm.

And no, I didn’t tell them I write reviews and blog, and yes, of course, we paid our own bill.

Where to stay in Bagan, Myanmar? Thazin garden Hotel, that’s where

I chose the Thazin Garden Hotel in Bagan, Myanmar for one reason and one reason only.

They have their very own 13th century pagoda in the hotel garden (with a pink Buddha) and that, to me, is a pretty fine reason, trumping just about everything else you may require in a hotel.

Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3960My decision was the right one.

The hotel is delightful, with a view to die for, it is well located, sensationally quiet and peaceful, the staff could not have been sweeter, and once they get the F & B up to scratch, Thazin Garden Hotel will be unbeatable.

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And, by the way, there is not one but at least 4 pagodas scattered around the property and the main one has a pink Buddha, and how perfect is that?

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The mood was instantly set on arrival by the sparkly sign in reception wishing us a Merry Christmas. In February.

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Courteous check in staff, wreathed in smiles.

Lovely welcome – “Sweet welcome to fairy land of wonders”:

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But for the record let it be said that the hotel is most definitely not a gastronomic hotspot.

The buffet breakfast was OK, nothing more, nothing less, with charming if erratic service.

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We had one lunch and one dinner there, and neither was memorable in any way.  Nothing wrong with the food –  just ordinary.

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(Don’t miss the nooodles, which are 500 kyat cheaper than the conventionally spelled noodles.)

We had rooms overlooking the pagoda – and it was a view I never tired of.

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Our room was large and well appointed, and the bathroom was fine.  Loads of storage space. A kettle.  A hair-dryer.

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Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3923 Loved the room bell (below) a wooden bell outside which tinkled inside the room.

Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3933Nice balcony (below):

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Lovely pool, though still pretty cold in February.  Spotlessly clean, loads of pool towels.

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I booked through Agoda.com so you should check similar booking sites online for rates and prices.

Personally recommended for brilliant location, lovely staff and That View –  with the caveat that the food is only so-so.

We paid our own bills and I did not tell anyone in the hotel that I blog or review.

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The room, above, gives on to a garden, and is not even a 2 minute stroll from the main lawn and the pagoda.

I so wanted to buy some of these delightful statues outside the spa, but they were way too heavy.

Next time.

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Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3943And once again, that view…

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