Monday, August 29, 2016

AirBNB Nightmare - Athens Edition

I've always had a good experience travelling on AirBNB with friends, family and even by myself, so it was such a shock when we had such a bad experience with our AirBNB host on our visit to Istanbul, where Serdar tried to pass off another apartment that was not what we rented, which you can read about here

It was an even bigger shock when we arrived in Athens, after much coordination with Emily, our host, that there was no one to welcome us, and it seemed as if we managed to find the most run down apartment ever.  
This was the address where the taxi tried to drop us of,
Emily wasn't there to welcome us, and could not be
After checking and double checking, this abandoned
building looked like the correct address.
The buildings in the area, except for this one in the center
of the square looked quite creepy.

We refused to allow the taxi driver to drop us off in that place, so we asked him to take us to a cafe on the nearby main road instead. I also took this time to try and scout for alternative hotels to stay in, since we didn't have any wifi or data sim.

Then we once again tried to contact our host until we managed to do so. It turns out she was out of town, and has asked someone to meet us, who must have arrived really late so we insisted he come to us at the coffee shop instead, then we went back to the flat together.

Having him with us didn't make us feel much better, because 1. the address was correct. 2. the building did not look much better inside. 

In fairness to the listing of our host, it did look exactly like the pictures she posted on AirBNB once you get inside. It felt like a totally different world up there, save for the internet and hot water that was not working, both of which were mentioned as part of the listing.

Emily was travelling so she sent her boyfriend to help sort us out, but he wasn't really successful, but after all the stress we were under, it was finally good to meet someone who was genuinely trying to help. He managed to get us connected to the neighbor's weak wifi, which worked for some of our devices, but not all.
Look at the bright side, they even have some semblance
of a nice view.

Since they didn't manage to get the internet and water heater properly working, we found an envelope slipped under our door on the last day.
Our host gave us 1 night refund back. So while the area, and the stress from
the unknown won't be forgotten, we did appreciate the effort.

This is us in our 'hood...

Sometimes I just can't believe the situations we manage to get ourselves into, I will definitely be more careful next time. I will never stay in an apartment located in a not nice area, no matter how nice the photos of the apartment are. Good thing our Athens trip was still very much enjoyable despite the rough start, I will definitely come back to Athens. I will just not stay here again. just saying. 

Note: Our apartment was in the Psyri area, very well located near the Central Market, the shopping street on Ermou, and the ancient Ruins. I did not find any listing that matches Emily's flat so I was unable to add a link for reference.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Where to Eat in Yangon

I had to fly to Yangon, Myanmar for work this week and while I've heard that the gem shopping was good, I really didn't have high expectations in terms of enjoying the trip outside of our work agenda. I was pleasantly surprised that Yangon has so much to offer, not just for gem shopping but in terms of food as well.

Yangon is developing so quickly that I can't imagine it's the same place that three or four years back had no credit card facilities and no ATMs. The said you needed to bring cash to settle your hotel bill, and anything else, and they only accepted US dollars in pristine condition, with no folds, writing or marks.

Now, it's just like any other city. You can get a data sim easily from the airport and the traffic is quite bad.

We stayed at the Chatrium Hotel which has a lovely view of the lake. They say that you can even see the Shwedagon Pagoda from your room if they give you one with a view, which I didn't get.

The offices are still old mansions, and our meeting rooms, are at the Lake House, which is literally an old house overlooking the lake.
It must be a joy to do your brainstorming here.

There is a growing expat community in Yangon, so they have a lot of nice restaurants serving different cuisines, and all the meals I had were really good.

Our Filipino colleagues in Myanmar took very good care of us,
aka they fed us really well.

We had an early dinner when we arrived at L'Opera because there is an hour and a half time difference, which you feel the most when your stomach thinks it's time to eat.

Yummy Caprese Salad!
I had to order Eggplant Parmigiana since Sbarro removed it from their menu.
The waiter recommended the Minestrone.
If you order the Onion Soup don't expect it to come
topped with Cheese. This isn't a French Restaurant.
I loved the bacon and cream sauce Pizza which cheesily
came in the shape of a heart. Pun intended.
They served it with balsamic vinegar which gave it
a nice contrast to cut through the other rich ingredients.
The pork chop with rosemary gravy was also good, but I think we just had
too much food so I couldn't eat too much.
Mushroom Risotto with crusted cheese
Save space for dessert because they were also good.
Tiramisu with a side of flame for ambiance. Hahaha.

There is a nice French Restaurant in front of our office, where we had lunch on the first day. Le Planteur is also an old house by the lake which was so well restored. 
They have a gift shop which ignored on purpose
because I am trying to stop buying stuff.
Seriously! But gems don't count.
They have a lot of antiques around the place that add
to the ambiance. You can actually buy one of these old
record players from the street vendors near the market.
The house even comes complete with an old car.

You have a choice of a 45-minute lunch (2 courses) or a 60-minute lunch (3 courses). You can choose from two different starters and two different main courses.
The starter comes with freshly baked bread and pesto sauce.
I opted to go for the Tuna Nicoise with the beautifully seared Tuna.

For the Main Course, they had Catch of the Day, or the meat option - which I obviously chose.
Catch of the Day
Pot of Lamb which was surprisingly served with a side salad.
The meal was quite heavy, so I skipped the potatoes and I just had the lamb,
which was tasty and tender and the salad.
We ordered the three course lunch so we had the dessert sampler too.
You can ask them to change the espresso to the local tea.

For dinner, they brought us to Rangoon Tea House for a taste of the local food, which the locals will say is already westernized. Hahaha. The ambiance is nice and hip, and you get to try the local dishes in a non-intimidating way.
Yes, Myanmar is known for tea, and here the tea menu
is quite complicated. Just choose the level of tea, milk
and sugar you would like to try.
The easy way to do this is to buy the Royal Milk Tea
instant drink for the supermarket. Hahaha.

The local dishes we were small starter plates, the Burmese version of Tapas. I enjoyed all of them, except for the Soft Shell salad which I skipped.
Eggplant Salad with Sesame
Interestingly, one of their famous dishes is this Picked Tea leaves with nuts
and chickpeas salad. It's so famous, you can buy it from the supermarket and
put it together when you get home. (Note to self, maybe I'll buy this next time).
Tofu Salad
They also have this yummy pork dish cooked with Mango that you eat
with all the provided fixins.
One of the main courses we were served was the Grilled Pork rubbed in
Tea Leaves (center) and that was also really good.

The place has also some of the usual starters like calamari, but there is also an Indian influence in their cuisine. Their Samosas with Curry Sauce, and Biryani (sorry not in photo) is really yummy.

On our last night, we went to Onyx Winetree for Western Fusion, which ironically was owned by a Japanese.
Pork Knuckles, Dry Patatin Style, served with potato wedges
Tenderloin Steak with Pepper Sauce served with Spinach and Potato Wedges
Surprisingly, I loved their Carbonara with Cream and Bacon.
Yangon does cream and bacon so well. Hahaha.
The fresh from the oven brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream was to die for.
It was so good, we ordered the muffin version, but the brownie is better.
Thank you so much Rec, Angge and Jo for feeding us so well.

Despite the tight schedule schedule we had over the two days we were there, they only thing I can say is it doesn't feel like work when you're having fun (and eating well). just saying.

L'Opera Italian Restaurant and Bar
62 D, U Htun Nyein Street, 
Mayangone Tsp., 
Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Le Planteur
80 University Avenue, 
Bahan Township, 
Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Rangoon Tea House
2nd Floor, 77-79 
Pansodan Rd (Lower Middle Block) 
Myanmar (Burma)

Onyx Winetree
12B Bogyoke Pya Tike Street, 
Bahan Township, 
Yangon, Myanmar