Those looking for stylish, high-end meals will he mostly disappointed in Mandalay. The nicest' restaurants, outside the hotels, are in the tour-bus restaurant ghetto' (as we call it), a collection of big, open-air restaurants near the Sedona Hotel with big parking lots - the food's fine, but independent travellers often feel either lost in the crowd or empty in a gymnasium at such places.
For fresh goods go to the produce market off the canal between 26th and 28th Sts.
Chit Chit : A big corner teashop, run by the Peacock Lodge family, is a good spot to sit over tea and somt tasty 'Mandalay noodles' or creative pancake desserts.
Too Too Restaurant : Siid St The place for homestyle Burmese fare even visitors from Yangon and around the country come for it. There's a couple of sitting areas (air-con ones in back), but start in the front pointing at fresh pots of mutton curry, sauteed sardines, prawns and mushrooms with watercress. Meals come with rice and a tableful of condiments. There's a newer location in Central Mandalay.
Green Elephant :soups .One of a handful of big, open-air restaurants in the 'tour-bus restaurant ghetto', Green Elephant is the most inviting, occupying a colonial-era building with bamboo-covered areas in the garden and period relics in the air-conditioned rooms inside. Plenty of Burmese dishes, plus Chinese and Thai.
Good for outside dinners (and beer drinking) is the string of hopping barbecue restaurants southeast of the palace. Each has open-air and inside seats with fans. Out the front, pick the skewers of meat (pork, chicken, whole fish) or a couple of veggie options (lady lingers, spiced bean curd) and hand to the cooks. A full meal plus a beer or two runs to around K4000.
Particularly inviting at night, the 'Shan district', around 84th and 23rd Sts has several inviting noodle and barbecue restaurants - some geared to beer drinkers, some to families.
Aye Chan Myae Students and workers file past the 40 or so pots of Shan-style curries in this barebones place; you pick four (a meat and three veggies) and get rice for K600.
Lashio Lay Restaurant : One of a couple ol great Shan restaurants downtown, this two-floor spot is constantly crammed. Two dozen Shan dishes (mostly curries with rice, plus several vegetarian options daily) are on offer served under blazing fans.
Indian & Nepali
Chapatti Stand : Foi people-watching price and tasle, il's hard to beat a sidewalk spot where a diverse group ol folks with turbans, longyi, skullcaps or backpacks mingle for freshly made chapaltis (K150 each) served with veggie and meat curries. Recent popularity lias seen price increases though. Nepali Food This Nepali-run spot serves a mean thali (curry meal), with dollops of veggie curry served on banana leaves or metal plate. No meat, no eggs, no alcohol.
Marie-Min Vegetarian Restaurant :A long-time popular Indian restaurant south of the palace, Marie-Min only sees foreigner diners - and prices its curries and chapatti dishes accordingly. It's certainly good, and il's all vegetarian (the sign out front says, 'be kind to animals by not eating them'), Lassis made with purified water are K1500. Much attention is directed to its sprawling antiques shop Sunflower.
Oriental House : This hig banquet hall is best for its midday dim sum.
Kyauk Mein ; Out towards Mahimimi Paya and the Moustache Brothers, this basic eatery-is all vegetarian. Best are the 'Taiwan-style fake meat' (ask for kong buung kyaw) with lake mutton, chicken and duck dishes with rice. No beer. The restaurant is named for a famous Myanmar actor,
Mann Restaurant :A crusty Mandalay classic, the Mann serves up pretty good Chinese dishes for a mix of red faced local men and a lew guidebook-toting foreigners. Plenty of squashed deer heads and assorted horns overlook the bare concrete floor, and there's usually a Ms Oagon rep ready to pour your beer.
Cherry :Far more wholesome than Mann, Cherry is a simple family run place with no beer or red-faced locals.
Ko's Kitchen : The most reliable place to eat with litil,. may/mess and not feel like you're in cooks a diverse selection of Thai dishes, including northern Thai specialities, the usual curries and noodles, plus a particularly tasty crispy catfish salad with mango and cashews (K.3200).
BBB : Geared up for all things West, the BBB (Barman Beer Bar) has a ski lodge atmosphere with Native American chiefs on the walls and BBC or ESPN on the telly. Food's tine - it you go for a burger (K1800), be sure to specify beef or sardine (!?). Also pastas, barbecue and pizza.
Shwe Pyi Moe Cafe : Downtown's busiest teashop, Shwe Pyi Moe makes top quality leas, boils up tresh ti-kya-kwe (long, deep tried pastries, known as you tin in Chinese) in the giant wok up the front, and Iries pancakes with banana (K500).
Classic Cafe : Popular with a younger crowd, the (lassie puts on local rock music and serves good tea or Shan noodles (and a host ol other snacks) at its palapa-style shaded tables.
Nylon Ice Cream Bar : The de-fat to meeting place tor locals and downtown-based travellers, the Nylon has outside tables (the shade starts in the afternoon). It's worth lingering in the evening for an OK ice cream, shake, lassi or a beer.
A couple of buzzing eating places good to sit over a beer at are the barbecue restaurants (opposite) on 30th St, and the Nylon Ice Cream Bar (above) downtown. Hotel-wise, the Gem Club and Kipling's Lounge at the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel (opposite) are nice, if a little stuffy. The latter has live music nightly and you can order drinks by the pool too.
Small shops around Mandalay sell cold beer for about K1700 per bottle of Myanmar Beer, the local Mandalay Beer (a bit watery) or Tiger Beer, which you can take to your hotel (best it is has a roof terrace). Shops often sell locally made rum too.
The neighbourhood surrounding the house of the Moustache Brothers - Mandalay's 'West End', as Moustache Brother Lu Maw jokes -is home to many/mr troupes (not hauned by the government), which practise their craft during June and July from lOain to 4pm daily. Visitors are welcome to wander and watch for tree (donations are appreciated). You'll see traditional PHY in side streets and paya.
Moustache Brothers Troupe :I'mi formed in the home of the banned Moustache Brothers, this famous, colourful troupe has celebrated traditional Myanmar folk opera for over three decades. The show is quite in-your-tace, and pretty coinlull, as it's relayed from atop a mini wood-crate stage, with a dozen or so plastic chairs a yard away. Not all visitors come away howled over, hut it's stunning to see such open dissent, and presented by such traditional comedy as this. The one time famous troupe is now banished trom public performances, and its original schtick in Burmese has shifted to English. The only English speaker, l.u Maw, kneels over an antique microphone stand and jokes through a minispeaker, as the night meanders through slapstick, political satire, Myanmar history, traditional dance and music, and how to tie up your longyi, l.u Maw's English is pretty good, though if you speak English as a second language you might struggle a bit. He retells the story of their woes, (even showing a clip from the Hugh Grant film About a Boy, which mentions his brother,idea to bone up on some Myanmar tactoids. See also the boxed text, opposite.
Mintha Theater :Around the corner trom the Sedona, this relatively new theatre performs a similar show to the more-famous puppet show (below), but it's actually more rewarding seeing some of the same themes performed by uniformed dancers to the tunes ot the live traditional orchestra. Plus it's cheaper.
Mandalay Marionettes & Culture Show : A bit touristy now, this troupe's hour long show mixes big lime pup petry and live traditional music - with musicians playing drums set in circles and the distinctive hneh (an oboe-like instrument) from the floor. The musicians introduce traditional dancers and puppeteers, who recreate tales of zat pwe (Buddhist Jataka tales) and Yamaxat (tales from the Indian epic Ramayana) traditions. The catch is the price -it's nearly tripled recently, possibly due to the troupe's international stints (a scorecard of shows conies with the brochure). This troupe (though based on tourism, and puppet sales) is the most serious among several around the country about preserving the tolk art.
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