Trip Report: Myanmar (Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay) & Chiang Mai/Chaing Dao
Long-time lurker, first-time poster – just got back from a couple of weeks in Myanmar and Chiang Mai, so wanted to report back!
Overall: Had some wonderful meals, but generally found the food in Mandalay and Chiang Mai to be vastly better than anything in Bagan and Inle Lake. Probably not shocking, but nevertheless worth noting.
Only had 2 meals here, both defined by time/proximity needs, rather than anything learned.
1) My garden: A perfectly fine intro to Burmese food, across the street from our hotel. Definitely not worth a journey.
2) Royal Thezi: Our last meal in the country, mainly due to its (sort of) proximity to the airport. Lovely setting and clean, and good, if rather unremarkable food.
1) Queen: I'd seen it recommended, and it was very good for Bagan. Definitely should order from the “Myanmar food” menu. The river prawn curry was delish.
2) Star Beam: Very nice Burmese food. Highlights were the eggplant salad and smoked fish, but everything was very good.
3) Yangon Restaurant: This was on our way back from Mt. Popa. Pretty good, if you’re headed in that direction. Notable dishes included the chicken salad and the curd bean paste.
4) Moon (be kind to animals): Ate here twice. Really excellent. Some highlights included tamarind leaf curry and chapatis.
5) Sunset Garden: This one was recommended in a bunch of guides, but we found it pretty disappointing. Very oily compared to a lot of other places, and one of the most expensive meals we had in Myanmar.
1) Inle Resort: One of the tricky things about Inle Lake, which we only realized on arrival, is that where you stay matters a lot – there aren’t lights on the boats, so you’ll be eating dinner at the same hotel every night, most likely (there’s some non-tourist stuff overland, but it’s not really presented as an option). We stayed at Inle Resort, which was very overpriced and not very good compared to most every other meal we had on the trip. It was a beautiful setting and a lovely resort, just not too great on the food.
2) Le Monde: Our guide took us here on first day for lunch. It was mostly good, if a bit oily – the pork & eggplant was particularly delish. The papaya salad was really over-fish-sauced, though.
3) Inthar Heritage House: Our nicest meal of the trip to that point. Lovely spring onion appetizers and Shan specialties. Lots of cats, too – parts of the dining room smelled a bit like cat pee emanating from the lower level.
4) Golden Moon: Another very good lunch option. Nothing stands out in my memory, but it was a good, reasonably-priced meal.
Here’s where things started getting good ;)
1) Tom Yam Koong: One of the best thai meals of my life. Very spicy, but everything we had was great, including laap gai, pad thai, stewed pork, seafood salad, and fried watercress. Seemed like the clientele was mostly Chinese businessmen.
2) I-Bar: Near a bunch of other tourist-friendly spots, the customers here seemed to be mostly well-off locals, and the food was excellent Chinese (Szechuan, I think, but not expert enough on regional Chinese styles to say for sure). The cocktails were horribly over-sweet, but everything else was great, including hot & crispy shredded pork, which was like fried pork crack, basically. I went back the next night for a pre-dinner snack of pork kidney salad, which was also great.
3) Sagaing Hill: We went here as part of a day outside of town; very nice tourist-friendly restaurant, with tasty salads. Not worth a journey, but good if you’re on Sagaing Hill.
4) Green Elephant: This is a chain, with outposts in Mandalay, Yangon, and Bagan. It’s Thai & Burmese, and very tourist friendly. Food was pretty mediocre and overpriced, I thought. Lovely setting, though.
5) Pakkoku Daw Lay May: Traditional Burmese local spot that washes veggies in purified water; we were the only non-locals there, and it was packed. Had a wonderful meal for 5 less than $20. You pick a curry, and then a bunch of sides come. Pretty great.
6) Yunan III: One of the best meals of the whole trip, a Mandalay/Yunan style barbecue joint where you select what you want and then they grill and sauce (have a great assortment of meats & veggies). Someone should do this at home in SF!
==Chiang Mai and environs==
1) Chiang Dao Nest: We stayed at this resort, north of Chiang Mai, for 2 nights, but arrived too late on the first night to eat there. We had 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner. The breakfasts were great, with western (eggs and crepes) and thai (porridge) options. There are two restaurants – Nest 2 has a thai kitchen (we had lunch there) and Nest 1 has a western menu (we had dinner there). Lunch was great – morning glory fritter salad, beef lemongrass soup, & tom yum mushroom soup were the highlights. Dinner was solid, but a bit expensive. If you’re missing western food, I’d give it a shot, but having just arrived in Thailand it seemed kind of a waste of an opportunity for a great Thai meal (could have better food of that style any of several dozen places near home).
2) Khai Soi Samerjai: Based on other hound threads, went here for some khao soi and naam ngiew (plus some satay & sausage). I wasn’t a fan of the sausage that was ubiquitous around CM – found it a bit grainy – but everything else was fantastic, and super-cheap.
3) Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School: Did a "masters" class here, which was a lot of fun, and made some interesting things. I’d recommend it if you want something a bit more intense than average.
4) Huen Muan Jai: I really enjoyed this one, but the flavors were probably the most ... challenging ... for some palates. We got the appetizer sampler, crispy eggplant & pickled cabbage, pork laab, and hen-lot mushroom with pork. I loved all.
5) Kagee Cafe: Felt like a bit of Copenhagen (or Williamsburg) right in the middle of Chiang Mai, right own to the twee decorations behind the cash register, and the strawberry juice served in Bonne Maman strawberry preserves jars. But, everything was delicious! Highly recommended.
6) SP Chicken: Amazing rotisserie chicken stuffed w/ lemongrass & ginger. Also got the tom yum soup, which was great for variety with the meal.
Aside from a few other random street snacks, that’s it! Hope this can be of use to some folks.
Pictures are the noodles from Khao Soi Samerjai.