Tuesday, April 28, 2009

fox in mum's garden

For many years foxes have been seen regularly in mum's garden and the surrounding areas. They seem quite tame and several people feed them. Although foxes are supposed to be nocturnal, I often see them in the garden in day time, especially in the afternoons. I 'shot' these ones taking an afternoon snooze, and one who came for breakfast.

you calling me?

having a scratch


snooze time

don't disturb me


all curled up

so relaxed

you distrubing me?

eyes shutting again

time for a walk

now a scratch

more snoozing


bread from the neighbour

not every tasty

hmm, no meat?
 © Liz Price <br>
No reproduction without permission

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Afternoon tea at The Strand, Myanmar

THE STAR Lifestyle

Saturday April 11, 2009

Tea at The Strand


Once a glorious part of Burma, it fell into disrepair, inviting rats and backpackers alike. Now, it is expensive once more, and if you can’t afford a night, at least try The Strand’s Afternoon Tea.
When in Rangoon, Burma, you must make sure to have Afternoon Tea at The Strand Hotel.
I’ve purposely used the old colonial names of Rangoon and Burma, rather than Yangon and Myanmar, as these names reflect the colonial times, when The Strand Hotel was the place to be.

 The Strand was built by the Armenian Sarkie Brothers.-Liz Price
My first trip to Burma was in 1986, and I was lucky enough to spend one night at The Strand prior to the renovations when it was still affordable. I have fond memories of it as a rundown hotel with antique furniture and a lack of maintenance.
It is the bathroom that sticks most in my mind — a huge and long spartan room, at the end of which stood a free-standing bath tub of the old-fashioned type, with four metal feet. It was the sort of thing you see in old films. I felt like calling for a waiter to bring a gin and tonic as I relaxed in the rusty-coloured water.
The other thing that sticks in my mind was a display cabinet full of memorabilia of days past, not to mention the rats scurrying around. But those days are gone.
The hotel underwent massive renovations and now has a brand new image. Although it still oozes history and charm, I somehow found it to have less of an atmosphere when I revisited recently. Maybe I was expecting too much, still having memories from 20 years ago.
The rooms are still huge but are now air-conditioned. Service is still impeccable; in fact some people say the staff are over-attentive. As you arrive at the hotel, uniformed men greet you and open the door with a welcome.
This welcome has been bestowed on guests since the hotel was opened in 1901. It was built by the Armenian Sarkie Brothers, who also owned Raffles in Singapore, the E&O in Penang and two other hotels in Java. This Rangoon hotel was named after its address — 92, The Strand — and faces the Yangon River.
During the days of the British Empire, The Strand catered to Rangoon’s colonial big-wigs, including many writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham. Unlike the Raffles, though, it hasn’t a garden, which is a shame, considering Rangoon gets quite hot at certain times of the year.

the hotel still has an old Mercedes from its glory days which is in working order.-Liz Price
From occupying a place of prominence, the hotel slowly fell into disrepair. It lost much of its custom during WWII when the hotel was used to accommodate Japanese troops, and the bar was used as stables. Thence, it went into further decline and ended up being relatively affordable for backpackers, which was how I ended up staying there in 1986. And the rats moved in.
Restoration started in the early 1990s, and now the boutique-styled hotel is managed by the same group who have the Datai in Langkawi. The hotel still has an old Mercedes from its glory days which is in working order.
As you walk into the lobby, you see teak, mahogany and rattan furniture. There are high ceiling fans and old-styled shutters on the windows. I headed into the empty dining room for afternoon tea and was welcomed by the waitress.
There is a choice of menus — the classic or local. I opted for the classic. I was handed an elegant menu, listing the delicacies I would be brought, and I had the choice of a selection of teas or coffee.
Whilst waiting for the food, I had a look at the old photos on the walls. Unfortunately, although I was sitting by the window, it was hard to see out as the window sills were on a level with my face, so I could not look out into the streets.
My pot of Earl Grey tea arrived and I was pleased that the waitress allowed me to pour it myself. I sipped it, absorbing the atmosphere of the place, eagerly awaiting the food, as I had purposefully had a small lunch.
Soon, the three-tiered platters arrived. The waitress took time to name each of the eight items, then discreetly left me to enjoy my feast. The four types of sandwiches were all good, each one on a different style of bread. One had poached prawn, another butterfish, a third had chicken and the fourth was a tomato salsa.

There is a choice of two menus: classic or local. — LIZ PRICE
I tried to eat slowly so as to savour every mouthful, but I was eager to move on to the cakes.
There were three types of cake sitting on the middle plate. I couldn’t remember what they were as the waitress had removed the menu, so I decided to eat them by taking the one nearest me first. It was a melt-in-the-mouth honey mousse quenelle.
I had never heard the word “quenelle”, so had to look it up when I got home and found the dictionary described it as: a seasoned ball or roll of pounded fish or meat.
Obviously, The Strand uses this word in a different context, as this was definitely sweet, not savoury. By Googling, I found it can also be used for scooped desserts, so this is a more fitting description.
The next cake was the passion fruit cream cheesecake, another of my favourites. The pastry base looked a bit heavy but was very good, and I didn’t waste a crumb. The third cake was a whisky Jaffa chocolate cake.
By now two plates were empty, and there was one to go. No hurry. I decided to have a rest and enjoy another cup of tea and some lemon-tinged water, even though the scones were calling out to me to eat them. I made them wait as I relaxed and let the cakes and sandwiches go down.
Scones can be heavenly if they are well made, but they can be like chewy bricks if they are bad. Fortunately, these were good. The tops were covered with a crispy coating of sugar, and the texture was just right. Also, there was an adequate supply of jam and whipped cream.
People often ask if you should put the cream or the jam on first. I always spread the jam first, then add a dollop of cream. I don’t know if this is etiquette, but it’s my preference.
A different waitress appeared and removed my empty plates, and asked if I would like ice cream or sorbet, then offered me a list of flavours. It was hard to make a choice but I opted for mocca ice cream and it was good.
Feeling fully replete, I relaxed and drank more tea. By now just two more tables were occupied. This is a reflection of the general lack of tourists in Burma since the last year or so, which is a real shame as the country has so much to offer. And Afternoon Tea at The Strand is one such item not to be missed. At US$15 (RM54), it is well worth the experience.