Thursday May 23, 2019

Karaweik Palace restaurant: Bona fide Myanmarese supper and culture

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Photo: Wikipedia

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)

Next Story

“Visit Strengthens Further Internal Cohesion and Unity”: Pope Francis Meets Leaders of North Macedonia

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to "sow these seeds" of solidarity.

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets the crowds in Skopje on May 7. RFERL

Pope Francis, who is on a historic first trip to North Macedonia, has met with the country’s leadership and held Mass in the main square of the capital, Skopje.

Francis was welcomed by the outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov, and other government officials.

He has sought to encourage the country’s drive toward integration into the EU and NATO after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece last year.

Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian.

But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. North Macedonia is home to an estimated 15,000 Catholics.

In meetings with Ivanov and with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the presidential palace, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multiethnic and multifaith culture, calling it an example of peaceful coexistence and a bridge between East and West.

“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said.

Christian
Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian. VOA

“It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.”

In his speech, President Ivanov complained about delays in accepting Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family.

“You come at a time when [North] Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the [North] Macedonian [nation] is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” he said.

Viktor Dimovski, state secretary of North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, told the media on May 6 that the pope’s historic visit comes at a crucial moment as the country seeks entry into the European Union and NATO.

“The pope’s visit strengthens further internal cohesion and unity, and brings messages of reconciliation and solidarity,” he said.

The pope’s visit also included a prayer at the memorial of North Macedonia’s most famous native daughter, Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in Skopje when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.

Francis was surrounded by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity nuns in praying before the memorial. Mother Teresa was canonized by Francis in 2016.

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to “sow these seeds” of solidarity.

“Living together is not always easy, we know that,” the pope said in a video message. “But it’s worth struggling toward, because the most beautiful mosaics are the ones that are richest in colors.”

muslims
But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. Pixabay

With the name dispute with Greece now resolved, North Macedonia, which has been an EU aspirant since 2005, hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Skopje also expects to become the 30th NATO member at the end of the year.

Also Read: Puppeteers Bring Message of Harmony, Love, Tolerance in Pakistan’s Karachi

Stevo Pendarovski, who was elected president in a runoff election on May 5, said he saw his victory as a “ticket for NATO and EU.”

Six Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia — are in various stages of the accession process to join the EU. (RFERL)