Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Great Myanmar Watermelon Caper

One precaution that we were very careful to follow throughout our entire Southeast Asia tour was to avoid eating any fruit that had not been peeled by one of us. This was difficult, as the usual dessert offered in most of the restaurants was cut fruit - especially, luscious-looking papaya and watermelon. Inevitably, this resulted in a craving for watermelon, which was in season and on display in every Myanmar food market.

While we were walking through the Mandalay food market with our guide, Michael spied a display of watermelons stacked neatly at a booth. He decided that – by hook or by crook – we were going to enjoy some watermelon. With the help of our Mandalay guide, he purchased a watermelon (for the equivalent of US$1.00). Next, we needed to figure out how to enjoy this dirt-encrusted treasure.

We returned to our hotel, the Mandalay Hill Resort, and asked the receptionist whether their restaurant would be able to wash the watermelon for us (using bottled water, of course), and slice it at our table so that we could be certain how it had been handled. The receptionist agreed readily, and offered to hold the watermelon at the desk until we came down to dinner (more about that dinner in another post). We thanked her and our guide for their assistance in our quest and headed up to our room to relax before dinner.

Within five minutes of arriving in our hotel room, we received a call from the reception desk. The clerk informed us that the restaurant manager had refused to serve our watermelon to us because it was "food from outside".

The following morning, we reclaimed our watermelon from the reception desk, and left for Maymyo with our guide. Maymyo is a small mountain resort town about 40 miles from Mandalay and was quite popular with the British during the height of their Empire. Our guide offered to babysit the watermelon (it spent the drive nestled at his feet), and said that he would arrange for our hotel in Maymyo – the Kandawgyi Hill Resort – to help us.

The management of the inn was very accommodating, and agreed to assist in Operation Watermelon.

This is the inn where the watermelon caper attained its grand climax.

That night, after we had finished our main course at dinner, the maitre d' arrived with our freshly-bathed watermelon.

The first order of business was to complete the clean-up by drying the melon.

With the patient properly "prepped" for surgery, it was time for the first incision.

The surgery was successful...

... and the patient was delicious.

There were two other tables filled with diners in the Inn's restaurant that evening. Everyone received a share of our "certified clean and safe" watermelon.

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