Friday December 14, 2018

Karaweik Palace restaurant: Bona fide Myanmarese supper and culture

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By Vishal Gulati

Yangon: At the Karaweik Palace restaurant, built to look like a royal golden teak barge that seems to be floating on the Kandawgyi Lake in the heart of this former capital of Myanmar, a country once considered a pariah under the rule of successive military juntas but which is now coming into its own.

For, just 35,000 kyats ($28/Rs.1,900) you can have snacks, a typical Myanmarese buffet and get a traditional makeup done while enjoying a three-hour-long extravaganza of dance in many forms. Alcohol is extra.

“It’s really a great place to come once you are in Yangon. We really had a royal experience,” remarked US tourist Emma Megan. Her husband Timothy said they also enjoyed romantic sunset on the horizon over the Kandawgyi Lake, also known as Royal Lake.

He said from a distance it was amazing to see the changing colors of the Karaweik’s Pagoda-like rooftop with spires as the sun slowly set.

At night, the barge is lit up and reflects on the calm waters of the lake.

The 400-cover two-storeyed Karaweik Palace, close to the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines strands of the Buddha’s hair and other holy relics, serves the buffet with a live cultural performance for three hours every evening from 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The entertainment includes puppet show, traditional and acrobatic dances and an elephant (costume) dance mainly depict Myanmarese culture and history. There is also an exhibition of traditional arts, handicrafts and costumes.

The restaurant is also open in the afternoons for lunch and serves Myanmarese and Chinese food sans the cultural program.

The restaurant’s staff is dressed in medieval attire and some like Royal Guards to give you a ‘royal’ feel.

The restaurant also offers local makeup, called ‘thanaka’, at the entrance.

“It’s one of my favourite dining places in Yangon that gives a feel of what the country was centuries ago,” Live to Love India chairperson Arjun Pandey told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Live to Love International is a network of non-profit organizations founded by the Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of Drukpa Buddhists.

“The food is authentic, nice and reasonably priced for the show and buffet dinner. Besides, it offers free treats on the walkway that gives a feeling of relishing street food,” Pandy added.

The history of Karaweik Palace dates to 1972 when its construction began. The tourism ministry initially operated it. In 1998, the Zaykabar Company, a major conglomerate with interests in telecom and construction, took it over.

Its design is based on the Pyi Gyi Mon Royal Barge, a boat once used by the Burmese kings to travel.

After seeing an end to five decades of a military junta rule in Myanmar (earlier known as Burma) in 2011 and years of isolation, this South East Asian nation is now opening up to tourists.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism says there were more than 4.2 million arrivals at the end of November last year.

Myanmar attracted $2.64 billion foreign investment in 47 projects in the hotels and tourism sector in 2015, up $1.5 billion from $1.14 billion in 36 projects in 2011.

According to the ministry’s master plan (2013-2020), tourist arrivals are estimated to hit 7.49 million in 2020.

A majority of foreign tourists come from China, Thailand, France, Germany and the US. (IANS)

(Vishal Gulati’s visit to Yangon was at the invitation of the India chapter of Live to Love International)

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.