Thanakha: A Sun Cream with Deep History

When traveling in Myanmar, especially during the summer months, there is nothing more noticeable than the women and kids wearing tinted paste on their skin. This paste is called Thanakha and every Burmese people seemed to swear by it.

Thanakha paste is made out of ground roots, barks, or branches of Limonia acidissima or Hesperethusa crenulata commonly known as sandalwood or wood-apple in English. This tree has many names but in Burma it’s known as the thanakha tree. The process involves grinding the tree parts, with a small amount of water, on a round stone slabs called kyauk pyin. The result is a thick yellowish paste called thanakha.

The tree must be old enough, at least 35 years old, and about 2 cm in thickness for it to produce a high quality product. Thanakha paste is known to prevent wrinkles and sun damage. People also use it as a cleanser and as an everyday face moisturizer. It’s also a great insect repellent. According to a study by Wangthong and colleagues of Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, extracts from Thanaka bark showed anti-inflammatory properties, significant antioxidation, and low toxic properties. Hence, the use of thanakha in the form of paste is not only safe but also beneficial to skin.

The used of thanakha dates back in the mid 11th century. It has been used as a beauty product for over 2000 years. Paintings of women wearing thanakha was discovered inside a pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar. It’s been said that thanakha was made popular by a queen from Beikthano. Her skin was so nice and everyone wanted to know her secret. Well, the secret is out and the use of thanakha in Myanmar is still very much alive to this day.

Ice House Canyon to Ice House Saddle Hike

Trailhead Coordinates: 34.25024, -117.63671

This 7.7 mi hike near Mt. Baldy California is the gateway to Los Angeles County’s highest peaks. The trail parking lot sits at about 5,000 ft and the main saddle is at 7,600 ft giving you an elevation gain of 2,719 ft. Not a walk in the park but a great introduction to aspiring mountain climbers. Note that the trail conditions during the spring and summer are very different from winter season. Though Ice House Saddle is not a technical hike, snowy and icy conditions comes with a lot of risk. Do not hike around the Mt. Baldy area during the winter time unless you the experience and proper gear. Always check the weather and trail conditions prior to venturing out.

Watch the video below for more information.

Mystery Solved!

I have a love and hate relationship with social media. But tonight, it’s 100% love.  Two years ago I wrote an article about my trip to Mandalay, Myanmar. On the article I talked about getting lost in a jade market and ending up in a beautiful wooden house. Link to article; Getting Lost in Mandalay, Myanmar I never really figured out the name or the use of the house. It has been a mystery for years! After countless searches, I took a break. Until a blogger from Thailand contacted me asking about the specifics of the wooden house. I thought I’d give it another search and voila! A familiar photo on google images popped out, linked on a youtube video. 

Now the mystery is solved! The wooden house turned out to be a monastery called Kin Wun Min Gyi. Watch the attached youtube video and you’ll see the same monk I photographed in the article. Now I can revisit this place with a specific location on a map. 🙂

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

Once in awhile we come across things that fuels our mind with imagination and inspiration. Here’s one of my favorite poems that inspired me and my adventures in life. Enjoy 🙂

The Road Not Taken 

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Indian Visa Application with CKGS

***UPDATE: As of October 16, 2020 CKGS has terminated all Indian visa application services including OCI. VFS Global will be the new visa service provider in the USA. Visit for more information. Note that India does not offer visa on arrival to US citizens.

     After years of imagining and preparing myself, I declared 2016 as the perfect time to finally set foot in the land of Incredible India. And to make the trip more amazing I’ve decided to also visit Nepal, a country known for hosting the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.

But before anything else. . . I need a visa! US citizens can obtain a visa on arrival in Nepal but India is a different story.

     Nowadays, you can easily apply for an Indian e-tourist visa online via The application must be submitted 4 days prior to your trip and is only valid for single entry. Very convenient, though it won’t be practical for anyone planning a side trip to India’s neighboring countries. Yes, you can reapply for a visa but it wouldn’t be too practical unless you have plenty of time for paper work and processing. To avoid any problems, it’s better to have a multiple entry visa on hand upon arrival to India.

     This is a post summarizing my experience in obtaining my Indian visa. Please note that I applied as a United States citizen living in Southern California. Indian visas may be obtained in the US through Cox & Kings Global Services. My experience below might be different from yours. The application process is based on residency status, location, and other varying factors. Before filling out the application form you must first read the application guideline by visiting CKGS. You need to know which forms to fill and which documents to attach with your application. You also need to know where to send your application form. It’s necessary to follow every step otherwise you’re risking delaying your application process. A minor mistake can cause a huge delay! Trust me, I heard tons of horror stories.

09/20/2016: Filled out the online application form. I received a temporary ID on the same day. Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 12.24.13 AM.png

09/21/2016: Mailed my application form using Fedex overnight shipping.

Here’s a list of documents I sent along with my application form.

  1. Passport Copies (2)
  2. Driver’s License
  3. Passport Photos (2)
  4. Application checklist
  5. Visa Additional Particular Forms
  6. Payment Receipt
  7. Application Form 
  8. Original Passport

At the end of the online application form you will have an option to pick your mailing service of choice. It’s easier to just pick CKGS’ Fedex shipping option. Once you paid, you will be able to print a shipping label. All you have to do is go to FedEx and find the right envelope. The people at FedEx can help you with this. Before mailing, please make sure you have all your documents printed, use the application checklist as a guide. I paid $155.25 for the entire application process including shipping.

09/22/2016Received an e-mail stating that CKGS received my package. I’m really impressed by their quick e-mail updates.

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 1.10.57 AM.png

09/26/2016Visa application in-Transit to consulate, received a tracking ID for checking the progress of my application. con.jpg

09/28/2016: Application was returned to CKGS. Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 1.24.18 AM.png 

On the same day, I received a Fedex tracking number for my package.

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 1.27.53 AM.png

09/29/2016: I got my precious passport with a shiny 10 year multiple entry Indian visa attached to it. 🙂IMG_4828 copy.jpg


 Over all, an amazing experience with CKGS. Filling up the application form was tedious, but following the guidelines helped me get my Indian visa with ease. For anyone wishing to go to India please check if you really need one and if you do, don’t wait the last minute to obtain your visa. Give yourself at least two months before your trip. By doing so will allow you enough room for possible delays. 

US Passports & International Travel
Cox & Kings Global Services
Indian Government/ ETA


Myanmar 2013: The Land of the Golden Pagodas

Myanmar is a South East Asian country known as the “Land of the Golden Pagodas”, as the name imply Myanmar is indeed surrounded by pagodas/stupas. Majority of the pagodas are located in Mandalay and Bagan. But the grandest and the most famous one is Shwedagon Pagoda located in the city of Yangon. According to a legend, two brothers named Taphussa and Bhallika was given eight strands of hair by the Buddha himself. The brothers then secured the strand of hairs in a golden casket. Protected in a place that houses three other relics from the previous Buddhas. That place is now known as the Shwedagon Pagoda.


Shwedagon is perched up on a hill. Standing at 325 ft tall and is covered in 8,688 sheets of gold.

Shwedagon Pagoda is known to house the relics of the four previous Bhuddhas, including eight strands of hair from Gautama.

You can enter Shwedagon Pagoda for a small fee, no shoes allowed inside!

Dress appropriately when entering the pagoda. Both men and women are required to have clothing that covers the knee. A sarong/longyi is available to borrow if you need one.

No sleeveless, strapless, tube top, or mini skirt allowed!

This stupa used to house the Great Bell of Dhammazedi, the biggest bell known in history, until a Portuguese warlord stole it. His ship sunk due to the massive weight of the bell. Karma 🙂


The definition of the word pagoda and stupa varies depending on where you are. In the Buddhist world, stupa is a dome shaped structure that traditionally houses Buddhist relics and ancient writings. Some stupas have been used as a burial place for people of religious importance.  In Myanmar, the word pagoda and stupas are used interchangeably. Although historically, pagodas can be entered while stupas are structures designed without an entrance and therefore cannot be entered. The stupa’s main purpose is to protect ancient relics. Nowadays, people visit pagodas to pray to Buddha, meditate, or recite sutras.


Bagan (Pagan), old capital of the first Burmese empire located along the banks of the Irrawady River, home of the ancient stupas/pagodas. Walking around Bagan, I can clearly see how the stupas dominate the town. Stupas of different sizes can be seen everywhere. In the ancient times, the record number of pagodas was reported to be 10,000. Years passed by and the number of pagodas gone down to 2000.

Stupas of Bagan, Myanmar

White stupas in Kuthodaw temple, Mandalay


Shwezigon Pagoda is located in Nyaung- U on the eastern bank of the Irrawady river, about 4.2 miles from Bagan. It’s one of the famous pagodas in Bagan, and is considered the architectural prototype of the Burmese stupas. Constructed during the 11th century by King Anawrahta the founder of the Pagan empire. The main purpose of Shwezigon is to enshrine important relics such as emerald image of Buddha and Buddha’s frontal and collar bones.

Shwezigon Pagoda

Myanmar also known as Burma is a country full of uncertainty. From 1962 to 2012, Myanmar was under military dictatorship and tourism was not allowed until 1992. Myanmar seemed like a mystical place untouched by tourism. This is the main reason why I came to visit Myanmar, it’s been my dream destination. The stupas, lush forest, food, and warm people did not disappoint. It’s an experience no pictures and videos can justify. A few years from now, there’s no predicting if the country will be off limits to tourist again. If you ever have the chance to visit this country, please don’t wait too late. The best time to visit Myanmar is now!

Below are more photographs from my 2013 solo trip in Myanmar

**Update** A magnitude 6.8 earthquake rattled central Myanmar on August 24, 2016. The earthquake was so strong that tremors had been reported at neighboring countries of India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. In the ancient times, the record number of pagodas was reported to be 10,000. Years passed by and the number of pagodas gone down to 2000. And now with the recent earthquake, 185 pagodas was damaged.