Bagan

my last afternoon in bagan & dinner at the sunset garden

Saturday, February 21:  By the time I return from Mount Popa at 2:00, I’m famished.  The first thing I do is rent an e-bike from the hotel for 4,000 kyat ($4) for a half-day and head straight to New Bagan to find a place to eat.  I happen upon the open-air Black Rose cafe, where I park my e-bike and sit at a table. It’s late for lunch, so I have almost the whole restaurant to myself.

The Black Rose in Bagan

The Black Rose in Bagan

view from The Black Rose

view from The Black Rose

I order Butter Fish Curry and lime juice.  The fish curry turns out to be one of the best meals I have in Myanmar, and the lime juice is sour – no sugar.

Butter Fish Curry and lime juice

Butter Fish Curry and lime juice

After lunch I stop in at a small pagoda across from the restaurant, and then I’m on my way to the South Plain, along West Pwasaw.

small stupa near The Black Rose

small stupa near The Black Rose

me e-bike for today

me e-bike for today

As I pull up to the first set of pagodas, my e-bike suddenly dies.  When an e-bike dies, it’s not like you can suddenly start pedaling it like a bicycle.  It becomes dead weight and very heavy.  It’s hard to push, especially on a bumpy dirt terrain!  Huffing and sweating, I push it into the parking lot of the pagoda.

Buddhas found in random temples

Buddhas found in random temples

My Chinese phone doesn’t work here in Myanmar, so I’m not sure what to do.  I see a temple keeper walking across a small neighborhood adjacent to the pagoda.  I wave that I need help and when he comes over speaking a few words of broken English, I tell him my phone doesn’t work here and make a waving motion over my phone.  I point to his phone and ask if I can use it.  He miraculously gets all my hand gestures and my English and allows me to use his phone to call the phone number listed on the e-bike.  I explain to the folks on the other end that my battery power on the e-bike is dead and then I hand the phone to the temple keeper to describe my location.  It’s all very complicated!!  But the man tells me that someone will be here soon.

Meanwhile, I walk around to explore these nameless pagodas.

Buddha

Buddha

frescos in a random temple

frescos in a random temple

random temples and pagodas

random temples and pagodas

random pagoda and my e-bike

random pagoda and my e-bike

Buddha

Buddha

the gate to the temple complex

the gate to the temple complex

Finally, someone from the hotel shows up with a new battery.  After trying to start the bike with the old battery, he finds that the battery has simply been unplugged somehow.  After he plugs it back it, voila!  The e-bike roars to a start.  I feel pretty embarrassed that it was something as simple as that, something I could have fixed myself if I were at all technically inclined. 🙂

me with my dead-battery e-bike

me with my dead-battery e-bike

Buddha up close

Buddha up close

By 4:00, I hop back on the e-bike and head down the road to a temple I had passed along the way.  I don’t want to get too far away from New Bagan as it will be dark before long.

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

It’s so dry and dusty in Bagan.  I don’t know how people eke out a living on this land.  It was a lot greener in the area around Mount Popa, where I was earlier today.  My cough is getting increasingly worse riding in the open air, dust flying into my mouth and nose!!

I climb up to the terrace of the pagoda shown below, where I have some great views of the South Plain.

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

pagodas along the way to Minnanthu

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

Buddha

Buddha

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

View over Bagan's South Plain

View over Bagan’s South Plain

I figure I don’t have enough time to stay for sunset, so I take off again, this time making a 4:30 stop at Dhammayazika Paya, which is under renovation and covered in gold mesh panels.

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

This temple sits in lush garden grounds and dates to 1196. It’s supposedly haunted by a general who supervised the construction and died before its completion.

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Dhammayazika Paya

Finally, I head back to the Sunset Garden Restaurant in New Bagan for an early dinner. It’s now 5:00 and I’m ready to have a large Mandalay beer and settle in to watch the sunset, due to occur around 6:00.

The Sunset Garden

The Sunset Garden

me at the Sunset Garden

me at the Sunset Garden

I enjoy my beer and sunset views over the Ayeyarwady River, and then I order dinner: chicken in garlic and butter with rice for around 11,000 kyat.  The chicken has bones and is very dry, so it isn’t a very satisfying dinner.  The beer is the highlight!

Finally, the sun begins its slow descent and I watch, mesmerized, as it paints the sky in golden and coral hues.  I love watching the fishermen plying the river with the sun setting behind them.

The Ayeyarwady River from the Sunset Garden

The Ayeyarwady River from the Sunset Garden

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

The Ayeyarwady River at sunset

By the time I am driving my e-bike back to the hotel, it’s dark.  I pass a couple who see me riding along with no lights.  They show me how to turn on my lights so I don’t get run over on my way back!  I can be such a dunce with technology!!

When I get back to the hotel, I treat myself to a full body oil massage at the spa for 25,000 kyat.  It’s a wonderful treat for my sore body!

I still have a bad cough and now I seem to have lost my voice!  Tomorrow at the crack of dawn, I’m heading to Inle Lake. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Dhammayazika Paya, Myanmar, New Bagan, South Plain, The Black Rose, The Sunset Garden Restaurant, Travel | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

the drive back from mount popa to bagan

Saturday, February 21:  After I meet up with my driver, we begin the long drive back to Bagan.  Along the way, we pass this shrine, a kind of deserted amusement park, that offers some nice views of Mount Popa.

Looking back at Mt. Popa from a shrine along the way

Looking back at Mt. Popa from a shrine along the way

entrance to a roadside shrine

entrance to a roadside shrine

My driver waits by the car as I wander around taking pictures.  Not another soul is here, so it feels as if I have this whole exotic world to myself.

elephant at the shrine

elephant at the shrine

nats

nats

I’m glad to get some views of Mount Popa as I’m leaving it behind, although I’m sadly facing into the sun for pictures.

Mount Popa from a distance

Mount Popa from a distance

Buddha and Mount Popa

Buddha and Mount Popa

elephant

elephant

elephant and nat

elephant and nat

offering prayers

offering prayers

I don’t stay here long as my driver is waiting.   We drive some distance and stop briefly in this town where I end up buying some strawberries and an orange soda.  I am thirsty and my throat is dry from all the dust, so the orange soda is a welcome relief. It’s about 1:20 in the afternoon and it will likely be another hour before we get to Bagan.  I’m hungry for lunch really, but I don’t see any restaurants and I’d really like to eat someplace in New Bagan before going out to explore on this, my last day in Bagan.

market in a town between Mount Popa and Bagan

market in a town between Mount Popa and Bagan

market

market

market

market

market

market

market in a small town

market in a small town

market along the way

market along the way

strawberries

strawberries

Burmese ladies selling strawberries

Burmese ladies selling strawberries

As we’re driving back, we see these ladies carrying bundles of sticks along the road.  I stop to take pictures, giving them some money for allowing me to take their photos.

ladies carrying bundles of sticks

ladies carrying bundles of sticks

Burmese ladies at work

Burmese ladies at work

Burmese ladies

Burmese ladies

By the time we arrive back in New Bagan, it’s about 2:15.  As soon as I arrive at my hotel, I rent an e-bike from the front desk and take off to explore the last bits of this ancient place that I’ve come to love.

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Burma, Mount Popa, Myanmar, nats, New Bagan, Taung Kalat, Taung Kalat Monastery, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

a day at mount popa & the popa taung kalat monastery {& the last of the flip-flop debacle}

Saturday, February 21:  After having breakfast and a strong cup of coffee at the Floral Breeze, a driver takes me to Mt. Popa, 50 km southeast of Bagan.  As the distance is short, I expect we will get there quickly, but the roads are rough and the going is slow.  The trip takes a long hour and 40 minutes.  Slow travel seems to be a given here in Myanmar.  I sit back and enjoy the ride, drinking as much water as possible to contain my coughing, caused by the pervasive dust that arises like fine powder from the dry plains. I started getting a tickle in my throat yesterday while riding my e-bike around on Bagan’s dirt roads, and it’s even worse today.

Mt. Popa is best known for the sheer-sided volcanic plug known as Taung Kalat, meaning “pedestal hill,” which rises 737 meters (2,417 ft) above sea level. A Buddhist Monastery, which is home to 37 nats (spirits) represented by mannequin-like figures, sits atop the summit of Taung Kalat.  Taung Kalat is sometimes itself called Mount Popa and given that Mount Popa is the name of the actual volcano that caused the creation of the volcanic plug, to avoid confusion, the volcano (with its crater blown open on one side) is generally called Taung Ma-gyi (mother hill) (Wikipedia: Mount Popa).

approaching Popa Taung Kalat

approaching Popa Taung Kalat

I enter into the shrine between two guardian elephants.

Entrance to Popa Taung Kalat

Entrance to Popa Taung Kalat

Immediately, I’m bombarded by strange-looking “spirit” nats, exuberant colors, frilly umbrellas, clocks, bowls of green bananas and other fruits, piles or baskets of flowers, and the local currency, kyat, stuck at all angles into every nook and crevice.

Nats

Nats

Bananas for the Nats

Bananas for the Nats

nats

nats

Nats

Nats

There are 777 steps to climb to the summit, and along the way, I pass various vendors and small shrines with wild-looking figures in them.

small shrine with offerings

small shrine with offerings

nats

nats

patterned door

patterned door

diminishing returns

diminishing returns

At one point along the 777 steps to the summit, there is a place where visitors are required to leave their shoes.  This is typical in all temples throughout Myanmar, and I have left my flip-flops all over the country with no problem, except for yesterday, when I accidentally absconded with someone else’s flip-flops.  After I realized my error, I returned to the temple and was finally reunited with my own Havaianas.  I found them sitting there all alone in the dust, awaiting my return, but I don’t know if the ones I had taken were ever reunited successfully with their owner.

I know it’s not something I should be bothered about, especially in a country as poor as Myanmar, but I do take issue with being forced to leave my shoes, and, in addition, being required to pay a shoe minder.  Here at Taung Kalat, about midway up the stairs, there is a monopolizing shoe minder with quite a big operation.  Along with some other tourists, I find a spot away from the shoe minder to stash my flip-flops.  The shoe minder, who reminds me of the Soup Nazi in that famous Seinfeld episode, sees that I am tossing my flip-flops in a quiet corner, and comes over and kicks them, along with random others, out of sight.  He seems angry that I am avoiding paying him to mind my shoes, and his anger makes me feel justified in not paying him.  Admittedly, a vicious circle.

When I continue up the stairs to the top, I have a bad feeling, from the way the shoe minder reacted, that my flip-flops will truly be lost when I return.  I shake off the bad feeling and continue to the top.

The steps are crawling with Macaque monkeys and their droppings, along with a small army of locals trying, to little avail, to keep the steps clean.  The locals are positioned at every 50 steps or so, and all are hoping for tips.  I don’t see how I can give money to every local cleaning those steps, so I give tips to them sporadically.

As I walk up the steps, I find it annoying that I have to walk barefooted through all the monkey poop that is all over the steps.  Why am I required to leave my flip-flops behind when it is still so far to the summit?  I was supposed to pay the shoe minder, and now I’m supposed to pay the locals that sit every 50 steps or so to keep the steps clean; this is an impossible task with the hordes of monkeys scampering about.  It seems they’ve set up a whole business enterprise revolved around monkey poop.  The tourists could have been allowed to wear their flip-flops to the top, where at least we could have kept our feet relatively clean, and left them outside of the shrines at the top.

guardian chinthes

guardian chinthes

As I continue up the stairs, I dip into various shrines, checking out the all the kitschy decor.

Nat Nan

Nat Nan

It’s possible that the nat in the picture below, not counted among the 37 “official” nat, is the Flower-Eating Ogress (aka Mae Wunna or “Queen Mother of Popa”) and her two sons Min Gyi and Min Lay (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

The Flower Eating Ogress and her two sons

The Flower Eating Ogress and her two sons

attendants to the Flower Eating Ogress

attendants to the Flower Eating Ogress

Nats galore

Nats galore

More nats

More nats

At the top, I find a 360-degree panorama of the arid surrounding areas; surprisingly, I’ve heard that the Mt Popa area has over 200 springs and streams.  It is therefore like an oasis in the desert-like dry central zone of Burma. This means the surrounding landscape is characterized by prickly bushes and stunted trees as opposed to the lush forests and rivers Burma is famous for.  Prominent among the wildlife are Macaque monkeys that have become a tourist attraction on Taung Kalat (Wikipedia: Mount Popa).

In addition, at the summit, I find a labyrinth of shrines to explore (Go-Myanmar.com: Mount Popa and Popa Taungkalat Monastery).

views to the plains

views to the plains

at the summit

at the summit

at the summit of Thaung Kalat

at the summit of Taung Kalat

I also encounter some monks and nuns.

monks at the summit of Thaung Kalat

monks at the summit of Taung Kalat

a nun at the summit

a nun at the summit

view of the plains

view of the plains

shrines at the summit

shrines at the summit

at the summit of Thaung Kalat

at the summit of Taung Kalat

at the summit of Thaung Kalat

at the summit of Taung Kalat

dragons atop the peak

dragons atop the peak

views over the plains

views over the plains

me at the summit of Thaung Kalat

me at the summit of Taung Kalat

more kitschy shrines

more kitschy shrines

shrines on the summit of Thaung Kalat

shrines on the summit of Taung Kalat

After wandering around on the summit for a while, I begin to make my way back down the steps, stepping gingerly in my bare feet around the monkey droppings and sporadically giving some kyat to the locals who are trying to keep the stairs clean.

view from the top

view from the top

views from Mt. Popa

views from Mt. Popa

views from Mt. Popa

views from Mt. Popa

When I return to the platform where the shoe minder has his monopoly, I go to the spot where I left my Havaianas, and just as I feared, they are nowhere to be found.  I poke around in every possible place and I can’t find them anywhere.  I even see some flip-flops that have fallen to a lower platform, and I go down there to see if mine are there.  Sure enough, my Havaianas are gone.  I still have about halfway down the 777 steps to walk, and I will now have to go barefoot for the remainder of the way.

I realize that I’m now facing bad karma in response to my cheap skate nature. I know now I should have just gone ahead and paid the shoe minder, who obviously was so angry he disposed of my flip-flops!  I honestly don’t believe anyone else would have taken them as flip-flops can be stolen from any one of thousands of temples throughout Bagan.  Throughout my entire two-week holiday in Myanmar, I leave my shoes at temples with no problem at all.  I honestly believe that shoe minder was trying to teach me a lesson.  I guess he did teach me I shouldn’t be a cheap skate, but the whole situation also annoyed me to no end, being forced to leave my shoes behind when I would have preferred not to and then forcing me to pay for someone to mind them when I didn’t want to leave them to begin with!

After looking around for an inordinately long time, feeling sure I will find where the shoe minder hid them, I finally give up and walk down.  Along the way, I find various vendors selling uncomfortable bamboo soled flip-flops with velour straps, and I buy a pair, as I know I will still need some flip-flops while I’m here in Myanmar.  All the way back down, I look at the locals’ and other tourists’ feet trying to spot the flip-flop thief, but I don’t see anyone with my Havaianas.

back at the bottom

back at the bottom

back at the bottom

back at the bottom

At the base of Taung Kalat, when I finally get in my driver’s car for the ride back to Bagan, I know that I will never see my flip-flops again.  I guess bad karma will always catch up with a person in the end. 😦  We head back to Bagan, making a couple of stops along the way.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Bowlees and Low Force.  I invite you to hop over and check it out!

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Mount Popa, Myanmar, nats, Taung Kalat, Taung Kalat Monastery, Taung Ma-gyi | 9 Comments

exploring bagan by e-bike: more temples along the dusty trail

Friday, February 20:  After I leave the “many elephants temple” with my Havaianas and my e-bike, I drop in again at Htilominlo Pahto to pick up a few more of the lightweight cotton pants I bought yesterday for $3 each.  I can wear them as I continue my travels around the country.  I put them on the handlebars of the e-bike and stop next at Ywa Haung Gyi Temple.  Many tourists apparently come here to watch the sun rise.

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Girls inside Ywa Htaung Gyi Temple work on handicrafts, which they also sell.

a workshop

a workshop

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

Ywa Haung Gyi Temple

It’s only about 4:30 in the afternoon, not time for sunset yet, so I head next to Gawdawpalin Phaya, which looms over Old Bagan at 197 feet (60m).  It’s one of Bagan’s largest and most imposing temples.  It’s name means “Platform to which Homage is Paid,” says Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

It was built through the reigns of Narapatisithu and Nantaungmya, and is considered the crowning achievement of the late Bagan period, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

This temple sustained great damage during the 1975 earthquake, as it sits near the quake’s epicenter.  It had to go through a major reconstruction after the earthquake.

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Offerings to the Buddha

Offerings to the Buddha

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha's hand

Buddha’s hand

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

at Gawdawpalin Phaya

at Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

on the grounds of Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Buddha at Gawdawpalin Phaya

Next, I stop briefly at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya, believed to have been built by King Kyanzittha.  Apparently, during his reign, King Thet Min Katon of Rakhine turned on the sitting king, who sent his warriors to capture the rebellious king alive.  As King Kyanzittha prepared to execute the rebel king for high treason, Shin Arahan pleaded for royal clemency, saying that in previous lives the two kings had taken an oath of faithfulness and promised to help each other when in trouble.  King Kyanzittha spared the traitor’s life and built Myet Taw Pyay Paya on the site to commemorate the event.

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Buddha at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Buddha at Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Myet Taw Pyay Phaya

Finally, at around 5:00, I head to Shwe-Gu-Gyi, or “Great Golden Cave,” built by Alaungsithu in 1131, during Bagan’s middle period of temple building.  This period transitioned to a light and airy architectural style from the previous period of a dark and cloistered style.  Inside are beautiful stucco carvings and stone slabs that tell some of the history of the temple.  Part of the history not told here is that in 1163, Alaungsithu’s son brought his sick father here and smothered him to death (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Buddha at Shwe-Gu-Gyi

Buddha at Shwe-Gu-Gyi

My biggest interest here is to watch the sun go down.  However, I still have to ride the e-bike back to my hotel, which I don’t particularly want to do in the dark, so I have to leave a bit before sunset.

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

views from Shwe-Gu-Gyi

silhouette

silhouette

temple silhouettes

temple silhouettes

After leaving my sunset views, I ride the e-bike back to the hotel.  There, I try on the new cotton pants I’ve just bought at Htilominlo Pahto.  As I bought them from the same vendor, I assumed they would all have the same fit, but I’m wrong.  Several are too small.  I discard them by hiding them at the top of one of the cupboards in the room.  I do this often when I travel and want to lighten my load.  I’ve found if I leave things out where housekeeping can see them, then they come running after me at check-out, telling me I’ve forgotten something.  For the little amount of money I spent on them, I may as well leave them for someone else to discover.

At this point, from all the dust I’ve been kicking up all day, I am coughing and my throat is rough and dry as sandpaper.  I decide I need a glass of wine and a good dinner at the Green Elephant.  I take quite a long walk to the open-air restaurant.

The Green Elephant

The Green Elephant

I enjoy the views of the grounds as I eat a dinner of mini-spring rolls, tomato and peanut curry, rice, and a glass of red wine.  All the while, I am coughing and clearing my throat.  I’ve planned to visit Mt. Popa tomorrow, which should give me a break from being exposed to the dust on the plains of Bagan.

the grounds of The Green Elephant

the grounds of The Green Elephant

At the end of this day, I’m happy to be reunited with my beloved Havaianas after having “lost” them earlier.  However, at Mt. Popa, much to my chagrin, my flip-flop debacle continues. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Gawdawpalin Phaya, Green Elephant, Myanmar, Myet Taw Pyay Phaya, New Bagan, Old Bagan, Shwe-Gu-Gyi, Ywa Htaung Gyi Temple | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

exploring bagan by e-bike: sulamani pahto, goat & cow encounters, more temples {& the flip-flop debacle – part 2}

Friday, February 20:  After leaving Shwe San Daw Pagoda, I zip on my e-bike to the fabulous Sulamani Pahto, built in 1181 by Narapatisithu (1174-1211), and known as the “Crowning Jewel.”  It was built after filling the concave ground where the king found a small ruby; one translation of Sulamani is “small ruby.”.  With its five doorways and lush grounds, it is one of my favorite temples in Bagan.

It is here, when I take off my flip-flops to leave at the door, that I notice something doesn’t seem right about them.  They’re blue, alright, but they have flimsier and shinier straps than mine.  Upon closer inspection, I realize they are not nearly as nice as my Havaianas; in fact they’re not my flip-flops at all!   I immediately jump to the conclusion that someone must have accidentally taken my Havaianas and left theirs behind at one of the earlier temples I visited.  I’m so disappointed because these are not as good as mine, and besides, my Havaianas have taken me all over the world.  I’m strangely attached to them, although, after all, they are simply cheap rubber flip-flops.  They can be easily replaced.  But.  Probably not here in Bagan!

Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto

After my initial shock and disappointment, I leave the flip-flops, along with all the others left by visitors, and go into Sulamani Pahto to explore the wonders within.

Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto

The inside is like an ancient art gallery, with sprawling frescos from the Konbaung period, as well as traces of earlier frescos.

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

frescoes in Sulamani Pahto

frescoes in Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto frescoes

Sulamani Pahto frescoes

reclining Buddha fresco in Sulamani Pahto

reclining Buddha fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco & Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

fresco & Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

Buddha in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

fresco in Sulamani Pahto

I spend quite a long time exploring the inside of this temple and then decide it’s time to move on.

Sulamani Pahto

Sulamani Pahto

When I go back to pick up my second-hand flip-flops, I do so with a pang of sadness and nostalgia for my lost Havaianas, now on someone else’s feet.  I can’t help but look around through all the flip-flops lying about to see if I can find mine.  I’m unrealistically hoping that whoever has my flip-flops will be on the same circuit as I am, and we will be reunited.  Foolishly, I think fate will bring us back together.  I also can’t help myself from glancing surreptitiously at the other tourists’ feet to see if they are wearing my Havaianas.  But what is the point?  Even if I do see some that look like mine, am I really going to accuse that tourist of making off with my flip-flops?

Sulamani Pahto from afar

Sulamani Pahto from afar

Off on my e-bike again, I find myself in the midst of a herd of goats on the move.  I stop the bike and take pictures of them as they kick up dust around me.

mingling with the goats

mingling with the goats

the goatherd

the goat-herd

Next, I make a brief stop at the Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple.

Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

Buddha in Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

Buddha in Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

the temple minder at Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

the temple minder at Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

I stop briefly to explore Temple #820, about which I know nothing.

Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

#820 temple

Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple

#820

On the road again, I’m nearly overrun by a herd of cows kicking up dust.

mingling with cows

mingling with cows

cows on the move

cows on the move

cows in a dust storm

cows in a dust storm

cows on the plains

cows on the plains

cow friends

cow friends

cows going the wrong direction

cows going the wrong direction

cows and Suliman Pahto

cows and Sulamani Pahto

Last views of Suliman Pahto

Last views of Sulamani Pahto

Farewell to Suliman Pahto

Farewell to Sulamani Pahto

It’s so hot, dry and dusty here on the plains of Bagan that I’m feeling quite congested, especially being on the e-bike where I’m creating a mini-dust maelstrom wherever I go.  It’s no wonder I see people all over wearing bandanas around their faces.  I am coughing and hacking away and my eyes are filled with dust.  A thin layer of dirt has settled all over my clothes and body.  By now, it’s 1:30 in the afternoon, and I’m hungry and thirsty.  Though I thought I would pass a lot of restaurants along the way, I’ve hardly seen a one.  Thus, when I find this little hole in the wall, I’m thrilled to take a seat and order a lunch of tomato salad, vegetable soup and a bottle of lime juice.

Lunch time

Lunch time

a hole in the wall for lunch

a hole in the wall for lunch

The tomato salad isn’t like anything I would have imagined, and the soup is rather tasteless, but that lime juice really hits the spot.

tomato salad and vegetable soup

tomato salad and vegetable soup

After lunch, as I have to head back down the long road to Old Bagan, I decide maybe I’ll stop back by the “many elephants temple” in the small hope that I will find my flip-flops there.  When I get to the temple, not a soul is in sight, but there, sitting in the dust near the entrance, are a pair of blue flip-flops.  My heart skitters with hope as I approach.  When I get to them, I see that, voila, they are my Havaianas!!  The universe has worked to reunite us, and I feel like we are meant to be together.  Nothing can separate us now. 🙂

But.  It hits me.   The fact that my Havaianas are there means that it wasn’t someone else who took off with my flip-flops, it was ME who took off with someone else’s flip-flops!  Ouch.  Since my Havaianas are here, all alone in the dust, that means the person whose flip-flops I took must have had to leave in bare feet!  I feel so bad!!  What can I do?  I leave the other person’s flip-flops there, take my Havaianas, and off I go, hoping that poor barefooted person will come back and be happily reunited with her flip-flops.

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of the flip-flops.  The story doesn’t end here. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Central Plain, Myanmar, Singapore Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple, Sulamani Pahto | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

exploring bagan by e-bike: kicking up dust among pagodas & herds of goats {& the flip-flop debacle – part 1}

Friday, February 20:  This morning after having a buffet lunch on the lawn of the Floral Breeze Hotel, I rent an e-bike for 7,000 kyat, or around $7, for the whole day.  I’ve never driven an e-bike before, so this will be a challenge.  The rental guy shows me briefly how to drive it, and I’m off.   The brake and the accelerator are both on the handlebar of the e-bike.  It turns out this will present me with some challenges and funny scenes throughout the day.

I drive down the main road in New Bagan, which luckily isn’t heavily traveled, and cruise smoothly along until I come to the first temple, #1056, name unknown.  I pull up to the entrance on the dusty road and hop off the e-bike. With a start, the bike takes off with me hanging for dear life to the handlebars.  It ends up going up some of the rough ground with me running frantically after it, still attached, and then the bike hits a bump and falls down on top of me.  Ouch!  It’s a lot heavier than it looks.  I get out from under the bike, pick it up, and it spurts to life again, running away with me again.  This time it doesn’t get far as I realize I need to stop turning the accelerator on the handle.  I do so and park the bike, shaking and dusting myself off after the whole ordeal.

Temple #1056

Temple #1056

There is another couple with a child at the temple and they have a laugh at my shenanigans and offer to help.  There isn’t much they can do at this point, but I do take them up on their offer to take a picture of me.

Besides the fun of riding the e-bike today, I’m also wearing some of the ubiquitous baggy cotton pants that so many tourists throughout Bagan are wearing. It feels like I have pajamas on.  What could be better than riding an e-bike in PJs through thousands of gorgeous temples on the plains of Bagan?

me & my e-bike

me & my e-bike

Next, I venture to another nearby pair of temples, on foot, leaving my e-bike on the sidelines to give myself a break. I’m now a little worried about taking it back on the road, afraid that I won’t be able to stop the bike in an emergency.

The temples are a side-by-side stupa and shrine, Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto.  They’re traditionally ascribed to Queen Seinnyet in the 11th century, although, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar, they clearly point to a period two centuries later.  The zedi rests on three terraces and is topped by a beautiful stylized umbrella.

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Buddha at Seinnyet Nyima Paya

Buddha at Seinnyet Nyima Paya

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

Seinnyet Nyima Paya & Seinnyet Ama Pahto

When I finally get up the nerve to get back on the bike, I ride for a bit until I come across a herd of goats.

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

goats on the plains in Bagan

As I carefully drive up and park my bike at Somingyi Kyaung, I see a Japanese young woman across the road who is having the same problems with her e-bike as I did. She’s running frantically after the bike, which is taking off with her holding on dearly to the handlebars!  I can’t help but laugh and I tell her I was just having the same problems.  We both have a good laugh over the whole affair, and then we take pictures of each other on our e-bikes.

me & my e-bike

me & my e-bike

We walk up together to Somingyi Kyaung, and she tells me she is traveling alone.  Her name is Sunoko and she works in interior design in Shanghai.

Somingyi Kyaung is a typical late-Bagan brick monastery, believed to have been built in 1204.  A zedi to the north and a gu to the south are also ascribed to Somingyi.  This monastery is unique as it has monastic cells clustered around a courtyard, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar.

Soc Mingyi Monstory

Somingyi Kyaung

Buddha in Soc Mingyi Monstory

Buddha in Somingyi Kyaung

Soc Mingyi Monstory

the zedi north of Somingyi Kyaung

Sunoko takes another picture of me and I take one of her, and then we take off in separate directions to do our exploring for the day.

me at Soc Mingyi Monstory

me in front of the zedi at Somingyi Kyaung

I drop by another temple along the road, but as you can see from the sign below, I can’t read the name of it.  One of the locals tells me when I’m leaving that it’s known as the “many elephants” temple, something like Shimsa (?), but I can’t find any reference to it online or elsewhere.  Just another one of Bagan’s thousands of temples.

Here, I leave my favorite blue Havaianas flip-flops at the entrance and go in to explore.

unknown temple in Bagan

unknown temple in Bagan

unknown temple

unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

unknown temple

This temple is wonderful, with some marvelous faded frescoes and Buddhas with a variety of enigmatic expressions.

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

Buddha in unknown temple

When I leave the “many elephants temple,” I see a pair of blue flip flops and, thinking they are mine, absentmindedly put them on.  I hop on my e-bike and take off down the road, heading north and then getting off the main Bagan-Chauk Road.

I stop next at Shwe San Daw Pagoda; the name means “Golden Hair Relics” as it enshrines sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha.  I ditch my flip-flops at the entrance, as you have to do at all the Bagan temples. According to Wikipedia: Shwesandaw Pagoda (Bagan), the pagoda contains a series of five terraces, topped with a cylindrical stupa, which has a bejewelled umbrella, or hti.  King Anawrahta built the pagoda in 1057.  It once contained terra-cotta tiles depicting scenes from the Jataka.

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

All four sides of the pagoda have a stairway leading up to the fifth terrace. At the side of the second terrace on the west, there is a tunnel dug by robbers which enabled them to access the central chamber in which relics and treasures were enshrined. Up till 1957 the whole structure of this pagoda was in its original condition— fine brick-red in color with no plaster covering, according to BaganMyanmar.com: Shwe Sandaw Pagoda.

figure in Shwe San Daw Pagoda

figure in Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Shwe San Daw Pagoda

After looking around the pagoda for a while, I take off on my e-bike, where I stop to take pictures looking back on Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar.

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from afar

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from a distance

Shwe San Daw Pagoda from a distance

I head off now in search of Sulamani Pahto, one of the most beautiful temples in Bagan, which I saw only in passing yesterday.

This is the most fun I’ve had on a holiday in a long time!

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Central Plain, Myanmar, New Bagan, Seinnyet Ama Pahto, Seinnyet Nyima Paya, Shwe San Daw Pagoda | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

exploring bagan by car: nyaung u & back to the central plain for sunset {part 4 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  After leaving the Bagan Viewing Tower, my driver takes me to the Nyaung U area to visit the enormous gold-plated zedi, or stupa, known as Shwezigon Paya. It was built by King Anawrahta, who founded the Bagan Kingdom in 1044.   The King built it to enshrine several Buddha relics, including a “copy of the sacred tooth relic of Kandy in Sri Lanka. According to legend, the spot where the pagoda was to be built was chosen by a white elephant carrying the relic on his back. Construction started around 1059, the pagoda was completed at the end of the 11th century during the reign of King Kyanzittha” (Renown Travel: Shwezigon Pagoda).

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

monks at Shwezigon Paya

monks at Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Before Buddhism was introduced to Bagan, Burmese people were generally either Nat worshippers or alchemists, according to The Temple Trail: Shwezigon.  According to Wikipedia: nat (spirit): nats are spirits worshiped in pre-Buddhist Myanmar. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest (i.e., spirits of trees, water, etc.). Almost all of the 37 Great Nats were human beings who met violent deaths.

King Anawrahta allowed the images of the 37 most highly venerated Nats to be put on the lower terraces of the Shwezigon Pagoda. The Nat images have since been moved and can now be found inside a small hall next to the platform. Nat worship is still very much alive in current day Myanmar (Renown Travel: Shwezigon Pagoda).  Below are some of the nats in the hut at Shwezigon Paya.

horseman at Shwezigon Paya

horseman at Shwezigon Paya

figures at Shwezigon Paya

figures at Shwezigon Paya

figures at Shwezigon Paya

figures at Shwezigon Paya

I walk all around the beautiful Pagoda, glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

Shwezigon Paya

I also get glimpses of some monks strolling around the pagoda.

monks at Shwezigon Paya

monks at Shwezigon Paya

Buddha figure at Shwezigon Paya

Buddha figure at Shwezigon Paya

The driver takes me back to the Central Plain to see sunset at Pyathada Paya, a 13th-century temple that has Bagan’s largest open terrace, perfect for sunset-viewing.  I can see the temples dotting the plain before me.

Central Plain of Bagan from Pyathada Paya

Central Plain of Bagan from Pyathada Paya

standing atop Pyathada Paya

standing atop Pyathada Paya

Central Plain of Bagan

Central Plain of Bagan

Central Plain of Bagan

Central Plain of Bagan

I chat briefly with a man from north of San Francisco who traveled two weeks in Thailand and two weeks in Cambodia before coming to Myanmar. Like me, he’s loving Myanmar so far.

temples on the Central Plain of Bagan

temples on the Central Plain of Bagan

As I’m watching the sun go down, I see a caravan kicking up dust on the plain.  As it gets closer, I can see the chaotic group consists of cattle, tour buses, cars, SUVs, motorbikes, horse-drawn carriages, walkers and bicyclists.  Yet another thing I love about Myanmar: the blend of the modern with the traditional and surprises around every corner. 🙂

Central Plain of Bagan

Central Plain of Bagan

IMG_5080

paintings for sale

IMG_5079

sand paintings for sale

Central Plain of Bagan

Central Plain of Bagan

IMG_5068

controlled chaos on the plains

controlled chaos on the plains

sunset on the Central Plain of Bagan

sunset on the Central Plain of Bagan

cattle drive

cattle drive

cattle & cars kicking up dust on the Central Plain

cattle & cars kicking up dust on the Central Plain

After sunset, the driver takes me back to my hotel.  I’m exhausted from this day of visiting 20 places: one village, one viewing tower, and 18 temples!  After settling in briefly at the hotel, I walk down the street to Mother’s House, where I enjoy a dinner of fried noodles with vegetables and a Myanmar beer.

IMG_5110

Mother’s House

Tomorrow, I plan to rent a motor scooter for the day to explore more of Bagan’s thousands of temples.

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Central Plain, Myanmar, Nyaung U, Pyathada Paya, Shwezigon Paya, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

exploring bagan by car: the central & south plains {part 3 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  In Bagan’s Central Plain, we go to Dhammayangyi Pahto, a sprawling, walled 12th-century temple that is visible from all parts of Bagan.  It apparently has a cruel history.  It’s said that King Narathu built the temple (between 1167 and 1170 AD) to atone for his sins: he smothered his father, poisoned his brother and strangled one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practicing Hindu rituals.  The temple was never completed and many passageways are walled off today.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to MyanmarBurma.com: Dhammayangyi Pahto, the king required that bricks were to be placed so tightly that mortar was unnecessary. If even a pin could be inserted between the bricks, responsible masons were either executed or had their arms cut off.

King Narathu was assassinated in 1170, perhaps by his father-in-law in retribution for the princess’ murder, and the workers stopped laying bricks. The inner passages of the temple are stoned in and some people believe that the workers filled them in with rubble on purpose after the king’s death.

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to Lonely Planet Myanmar, “others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it.  It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse.”

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

The western shrine “features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future Buddhas.  This is the only Bagan site with two side-by-side Buddhas” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

In the dark reaches of the temple, some of the stucco reliefs and paintings are still intact.

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Gautama and Maitreya

Gautama and Maitreya

Next we head to Minnanthu Village, an agricultural village which specializes in sesame and peanut oil production.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

a temple on the outskirts of Minnanthu Village

My driver drops me with a local guide, who takes me around the village.

my guide to the village of Minnathu

my guide to the village of Minnanthu

We walk around and she tells me how the village produces sesame oil and peanut oil, and makes jam from sour fruit.

It’s quite hot at this time of day, around 2:30 p.m. and it seems life in the village has slowed to a long extended nap.

walking through Minnathu Village

walking through Minnanthu Village

pretty entryway at Minnathu Village

pretty entryway at Minnanthu Village

my guide at Minnathu Village

my guide at Minnanthu Village

naptime in Minnathu Village

naptime in Minnanthu Village

still life in Minnathu Village

still life in Minnanthu Village

beasts of burden at Minnathu Village

beasts of burden at Minnanthu Village

drying nuts at Minnathu Village

drying nuts at Minnanthu Village

Minnathu Village

Minnanthu Village

colorful house at Minnathu Village

colorful house at Minnanthu Village

workshop at Minnathu Village

workshop at Minnanthu Village

The village is also known for its cotton-weaving.  My guide demonstrates the process.

weaving at Minnathu Village

weaving at Minnanthu Village

strands

strands of cotton

still life at Minnathu Village

still life at Minnanthu Village

As I head back to my driver, a guy with a scarf over his face buzzes into the village on a motorbike, kicking up a tornado of dust.  He is lost and asks my guide for directions.  Then he takes off in another cloud of dust.

Our next stop is Payathonzu, meaning Three Stupas.  It’s a complex of three interconnected shrines.  According to Wikipedia: Payathonzu Temple, the “interior of the temple contains frescoes, believed to be Mahayana and Tantric in style. However, the temple was not completed. The temple was recently renovated, with the completion of the three stupas atop the temple, which are lighter in color.”

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

No photography is allowed inside the shrine, but inside are white-washed walls and “vaguely Chinese- or Tibetan- looking mural paintings that contain Bodhisattva figures” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

Just north of Payathonzu is Thambula Pahto, a square temple decorated with fading Jataka frescoes.  It was built in 1255 by Thambula, the wife of King Uzana.

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

view of an adjacent temple from Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

The Jataka frescoes are intricately detailed and beautifully done.

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto, a small, single-chambered temple, dates from the mid-13th century.  It has fine frescoes and a ruined seated Buddha image; its murals are similar to those at Payathonzu and some art historians believe they may have been painted by the same artist (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).

Nandamannya Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto

The temple’s mural of the ‘Temptation of Mara’ is its claim to fame; in the painting, “nubile young females (vainly) attempt to distract the Buddha from the meditation session that led to his enlightenment” (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).  It was once thought to be shockingly erotic, but not by today’s standards.  Sadly, no photography was allowed inside the temple.

Iza Gawna Pagoda is our next stop, but I can’t find any information about it.

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Finally, we head to the Bagan Viewing Tower, also known as Bagan Nan Myint Tower.  The tower was built to “provide a high-rise vantage point for the public without interfering adversely with the Bagan skyline and secondly to help preserve cultural heritage by providing an alternative viewing point to the tops of the crumbling ancient pagodas” (BaganMyanmar.com: Bagan Nan Myint Tower).

Bagan Viewing Tower

Bagan Viewing Tower

I climb to the top, where I have amazing views of the Bagan South Plain.  As it is after 4:00 in the afternoon and the sun is low in the sky, the views opposite the sun are the best for photos.

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

the South Plain of Bagan

the South Plain of Bagan

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

South Plain of Bagan

South Plain of Bagan

While atop the Viewing Tower, I meet Marsha from Baltimore, Maryland, who is here visiting with wealthy friends.  She is staying at the fancy resort, Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan, shown below. She talks on and on for quite some time about her friends and family, telling me all the details of her holiday.

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

After leaving the Bagan Viewing Tower at about 4:30, we head to the Nyaung U area to see Shwezigon Paya and then on to Pyathada Paya for sunset.

 

 

Categories: Asia, Bagan, Bagan Nan Myint Tower, Bagan Viewing Tower, Burma, Central Plain, Dhammayanngyi Pahto, Iza Gawna Pagoda, Myanmar, Nandamannya Pahto, Payathonzu, South Plain, Thambula Pahto, Travel, Village of Minnathu | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

exploring bagan by car: old bagan & the north plain {part 2 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  After we finish our tour of the Myinkaba area, we head next to Old Bagan.  Our first stop is Bupaya on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River.  This small pagoda has a bulbous shaped dome, and is widely believed to have been built by the third King of Bagan (formerly Pagan), Pyusawhti, who ruled from 168 to 243 AD.  As the bulbous-shaped dome resembles a pumpkin or gourd, it was named “bu” which means pumpkin or gourd, and “paya” which means pagoda (Wikipedia: Bupaya Pagoda).

The main pavilion at the entrance is guarded by white and gold Chinthes, Burmese mythological lions.

Entrance to Bupaya on the banks of the Ayeyarwady

Entrance to Bupaya on the banks of the Ayeyarwady

In 1975, a severe earthquake caused the original Bupaya to fall into the Irrawaddy River.

Bupaya

Bupaya

guardians of Bupaya

a white and gold Chinthe, a Burmese mythological lion, guardian of Bupaya

The Pyu-style monument is modeled on an Indian style.  It was rebuilt after the earthquake as a gilded structure with modern materials.

Bupaya's cylindrical Pyu-style stupa from the 3rd century

Bupaya’s cylindrical Pyu-style stupa from the 3rd century

Buddha at Bupaya

Buddha at Bupaya

Legend has it that Pyusawhti, before he was King, managed to free the Bagan Kingdom of five nuisances, one of which was the infestation of the Irrawaddy river banks by the bu, a kind of gourd plant. As a reward he was given the hand of the King’s daughter. It is said that when he became King, he built the pagoda at the spot where the bu plant was eradicated. Buddhist relics were enshrined in the pagoda (Renown Travel: Bupaya Pagoda).

boats lined up on the banks of the Ayeyarwady - view from Bupaya

boats lined up on the banks of the Ayeyarwady – view from Bupaya

Buddha at Bupaya

Buddha at Bupaya

another guardian at Bupaya

another guardian at Bupaya

My driver takes me next to Mahabodhi Paya, modeled after the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India, which commemorates the seven sacred places where Buddha attained enlightenment.  The temple is built in an architectural style typical during the Gupta period, and contains a large pyramidal tower with many niches containing over 450 images of Buddha (Wikipedia: Mahabodhi Temple, Bagan).

Mahabodhi Paya

Mahabodhi Paya

Mahabodhi Paya

Mahabodhi Paya

On the ground floor is a Buddha image with the right hand in earth-touching posture (BaganMyanmar.com: Maha Bodhi Temple).

Buddha at Mahabodhi Paya

Buddha at Mahabodhi Paya

I didn’t take pictures of all the weeks of the Buddha’s enlightenment, but here are a couple:

  • “The Second Week, Buddha Gazed Intently Without Winking On Animisa At His Throne Under the Bodhi Tree.”
  • “The Fourth Week, Buddha Spent In The House Of Gems, Ratanag’hara, N.W. Of The Bodhi Tree, Meditating The Abidhamma.”
  • “The Seventh Week, The Two Merchants Tapussa and Bhallika Offered The Rice Cakes and Honey To The Buddha Under The Rajayatana Tree At The End of The Seven Weeks.”

Mahabodhi Paya has hundreds of niches with Buddha statues in different postures – sitting, standing and reclining.

Mahabodhi Paya details

Mahabodhi Paya details

niches at Mahabodhi Paya

niches at Mahabodhi Paya

After we leave Mahabodhi Paya, the driver takes me to the Shwe Wah Thein Myanmar Handicraft Shop, telling me it’s a lacquerware workshop.  It isn’t a workshop at all but just a shop, so I walk quickly through.

Shwe Wah Thein Myanmar Handicraft Shop

Shwe Wah Thein Myanmar Handicraft Shop

Puppets at the Handicraft shop

Puppets at the Handicraft shop

We drive to the North Plain to see Htilominlo Pahto at this time. This temple was built around 1211 by King Htilominlo, also known as King Nadaungmya and several other names. It is made of red brick and stone and stands 150 ft (46 m) high on a low platform.

Htilominlo Pahto

Htilominlo Pahto

Buddha at Htilominlo Pahto

Buddha at Htilominlo Pahto

inside Htilominlo Pahto

inside Htilominlo Pahto

There are four Buddhas images on the ground floor that face the four cardinal directions.

Buddha at Htilominlo Pahto

Buddha at Htilominlo Pahto

niche at Htilominlo Pahto

niche at Htilominlo Pahto

flowers for the Buddha

flowers for the Buddha

offerings for Buddha

offerings for Buddha

Htilominlo Pahto

Htilominlo Pahto

This temple is referred to in Lonely Planet Myanmar as “vendor central” as there are scores of vendors here. I can’t resist buying some things: 3 pairs of cotton printed pants ($3 each!) and a life of Buddha fold-out accordion-like pictogram.

Vendor Central at Htilominlo Pahto

Vendor Central at Htilominlo Pahto

Vendor Central at Htilominlo Pahto

Vendor Central at Htilominlo Pahto

Htilominlo Pahto

Htilominlo Pahto

Behind Htilominlo Pahto is a monastery. I climb up with some other tourists for a great view of Htilominlo Pahto.

view of Htilominlo Pahto from the monastery out back

view of Htilominlo Pahto from the monastery out back

There are also some smaller temples in the North Plain that we can see.

view of some minor temples from the monastery

view of some minor temples from the monastery

view of Htilominlo Pahto from the monastery out back

view of Htilominlo Pahto from the monastery out back

me at the monastery out back with Htilominlo Pahto behind me

me at the monastery out back with Htilominlo Pahto behind me

After leaving Htilominlo Pahto, my driver takes me to have some lunch at a lovely open-air restaurant called Sarabha I, where I have a tasty lunch of cauliflower and snow peas.

After lunch we continue seeing the sights on the North Plain by heading to Ananda Pahto. This is the first of the great temples in Bagan, as well as being one of the largest and most beautiful.  It was built by King Kyanzittha around 1090-1105, after he was inspired by eight visiting Indian monks who told of their lives in the Nanadamula Cave in the Himalayas. After they described the cave in great detail during a meditative state, they subsequently built the temple.  It didn’t end well for the monks, however, as the king executed them so they wouldn’t be able to build another temple like it anywhere.  This insured the temple’s uniqueness (Sacred Destinations: Ananda Pahto Temple, Bagan and Wikipedia: Ananda Temple).

Inside Ananda Pahto

Inside Ananda Pahto

A small nut-like object held in the hand of the east-facing Buddha and in the hand of the figure below is thought to resemble an herbal pill, and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist teachings) as a cure for suffering (Sacred Destinations: Ananda Pahto Temple, Bagan and Lonely Planet Myanmar: Ananda Pahto).

figure holding a nut-like object

figure holding a nut-like object

the nut-like object, possibly representing a herbal pill

the nut-like object, possibly representing a herbal pill

Four impressive 30-foot-tall gilded teak standing Buddhas, facing the four cardinal directions, represent the four Buddhas who have attained enlightenment in the current world cycle.

The main purpose of the temple was to educate the people of the region in the religious beliefs of Theravada Buddhism in accordance with the personal beliefs of King Kyanzittha (Wikipedia: Ananda Temple).

gilded sitting Buddhas

gilded sitting Buddhas

Chinthe at Ananda Pahto

Chinthe at Ananda Pahto

Ananda Pahto is designed on a symmetrical Greek Cross plan (+).  Several terraces lead to a small pagoda at the top covered by an umbrella known as hti, which is the name of the umbrella or top ornament found in almost all pagodas in Myanmar (Wikipedia: Ananda Temple).

Ananda Pahto

Ananda Pahto

Ananda Pahto

Ananda Pahto

Finally, we leave the North Plain and drive back to Old Bagan to see Thatbyinnyu Pahto, Bagan’s highest temple, at 61 meters in height.

Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Thatbyinnyu Pahto

It was built in the mid-12th century during the reign of King Alaungsithu.  It is adjacent to Ananda Pahto. Thatbyinnyu Temple is shaped like a cross, but it isn’t symmetrical. The temple has two primary stories, with the seated Buddha image located on the second story (Wikipedia: Thatbyinnyu Temple).

Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Buddha at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Buddha at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

the white boxy stories of Thatbyinnyu Pahto

the white boxy stories of Thatbyinnyu Pahto

I come upon a group of monks posing for a picture and I sneak a shot from the back.  When they disperse, I capture a couple of them walking into the temple.

monks posing for pictures at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

monks posing for pictures at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

monks at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

monks at Thatbyinnyu Pahto

Finally, we leave Old Bagan and head to the Central and South Plain.

Categories: Ananda Pahto, Asia, Ayeyarwady River, Bagan, Bupaya, Burma, Htilominlo Pahto, Irrawaddy River, Mahabodhi Paya, Myanmar, North Plain, Old Bagan, Sarabha I, Shwe Wah Thein Myanmar Handicraft Shop, Thatbyinnyu Pahto | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

exploring bagan by car: the myinkaba area {part 1 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  This morning, I enjoy a buffet breakfast in the courtyard of my hotel, the Floral Breeze.  It’s a lovely spot with a pool and gardens, and luckily it’s not too hot at this time of year.

in the courtyard of the Floral Breeze Hotel

in the courtyard of the Floral Breeze Hotel

The pool at the Floral Breeze

The pool at the Floral Breeze

At breakfast, I see a couple of groups from yesterday’s 12-hour boat ride down the Ayeyarwady, and we acknowledge each other as having shared a common experience.

Outdoor breakfast dining at the Floral Breeze

Outdoor breakfast dining at the Floral Breeze

The Floral Breeze Hotel

The Floral Breeze Hotel

I hire a car from the hotel to take me to the most important temples in Bagan from 9 a.m. until after sunset.  The charge is 35,000 kyat, around $35.  Little do I know we will be on the go all day and I will stop at 20 temples.  I don’t mind because I want to make sure I see the most famous temples.  Tomorrow, I plan to rent an electric bike and ride in a more leisurely fashion through the plains.

Bagan’s kings commissioned over 4,000 Buddhist temples in a 230 year period ending in 1287 with the Mongol invasions. While the 11th- to 13th-century wooden buildings have long disappeared, the brick and stucco temples are all that remain of their grand city.  During this time, the region’s beliefs transitioned from Hindu and Mahayana Buddhist beliefs to the Theravada Buddhist beliefs that have since defined Myanmar. King Anawrahta, newly converted by a monk sent by Manuha, the Mon King of Thaton, took his religious beliefs to a feverish level, going on a building spree until “The First Burmese Empire” was created (Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma)).

Historians disagree about what caused Bagan’s rapid decline in the 13th century.   Some believe it was the Mongol invasions sent by Kublai Khan, and others believe that threats from China sent Bagan’s rulers into a panic.  Frequent earthquakes, general weathering and neglect also contributed to the city’s decline (Lonely Planet Bagan).

Our first stop today is Nagayon Guphaya.  The main Buddha image is double life-size and sits under the head of a huge naga (dragon serpent).

Nagayon Guphaya

Nagayon Guphaya

Nagayon Guphaya

Nagayon Guphaya

Nagayon

Nagayon

Nagayon

Nagayon

Nagayon

Nagayon

My driver takes me to the entrances of the temples and leaves me to explore. He is wearing the male version of the longyi (skirt), called paso, with a button-down shirt and a suit jacket, a little too much for the rapidly warming day.  His teeth are quite horrible and stained as he is constantly chewing betel and spitting it out the window and onto the ground.

My driver today

My driver today

We go next to Nanpaya Temple. According to tradition, it was used as the captive Mon king Manuha’s residence.  Built of brick and mud mortar and surfaced with stone, it is square in plan with a porch projecting on the east face.  Like other earlier temples at Bagan, it has perforated stone windows to admit light into the building (Myanmar Tours US: Nanpaya Temple).

Nanpaya Temple

Nanpaya Temple

Flanking the sanctuary in the main building are four stone pillars. On the sides of each of them are carved triangular floral designs and the figures of the Brahma holding lotus flowers in each hand.

Nanpaya Temple

Nanpaya Temple

Nanpaya Temple

Nanpaya Temple

Manuha Paya sits in Myinkaba village.  Though it looks modern, it dates back to 1059.  It’s named after Manuha, the Mon King from Thaton, who was held captive here by King Anawrahta.

Nanpaya Temple

Manuha Paya

at Nanpaya Temple

at Manuha Paya

vendors at Nanpaya Temple

vendors at Manuha Paya

In the front of the building are three seated Buddhas.  They all seem too large for the small spaces that enclose them, representing the stress and endurance the king had to endure (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Buddha at Manuha Paya

Buddha at Manuha Paya

Buddha at Manuha Paya

Buddha at Manuha Paya

Manuha Paya

a teak building beside Manuha Paya

In the back of Manuha Paya is a huge reclining Buddha with a smile on his face.  He is supposedly in the act of entering parinibbana (final passing away), showing that for King Manuha, death was the only release from his suffering (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

reclining Buddha at Manuha Paya

reclining Buddha at Manuha Paya

reclining Buddha at Manuha Paya

reclining Buddha at Manuha Paya

a reclining Buddha's feet at Manuha Paya

a reclining Buddha’s feet at Manuha Paya

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Manuha Paya

We go next to Gubyauk Gyi, or Great Painted Cave Temple, built in A. D. 1113 by Prince Yaza Kumaya.  It’s a cave pagoda with a gold finial and a gold image of Buddha.  Inside, it’s very dark and gloomy, and there are richly colored murals painted on the walls that are thought to date to the time of the original construction.

When I go inside, a man holding a lamp takes me around the temple and tells me all the stories of Buddha that are painted on the walls. The stories are fascinating, as are the murals.

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Stupa at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Stupa at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Stupas at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Stupas at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Buddha at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

Buddha at Gubyauk Gyi (Myinkaba)

The man who told me the stories of the paintings in Gubyauk Gyi accompanies me next door to Myazedi, or the Emerald Stupa.

me at Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

me at Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

On a four-sided pillar in a cage between Gubyauk Gyi and Myazedi is the Myazedi Inscription.  Inscribed in 1113, it is the oldest surviving stone inscription of the Burmese.  The inscriptions were made in four languages: Burmese, Pyu, Mon, and Pali; they all tell the story of Prince Yazakumar and King Kyansittha. It is linguistically and historically significant because it shows the Pyu cultural influence on Bagan.  The Myazedi inscription serves as a kind of “Rosetta Stone,” allowing for the deciphering of the written Pyu language (Wikipedia: Myazedi Inscription and Lonely Planet Myanmar).

The Myazedi Inscription pillar

The Myazedi Inscription pillar

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

The man who has been explaining the murals’ and the Myazedi inscription’s significance shows me some Buddha images representing the seven days of the week. He tells me I should find the one representing my birthday and pour water over it, saying a prayer or a wish.  I pour water over the Tuesday Buddha.

I pour water on the Tuesday Buddha

I pour water on the Tuesday Buddha

From what I’ve read about the seven Buddha images, the Tuesday image should be a reclining Buddha, but this one isn’t.

the Tuesday Buddha

the Tuesday Buddha

Myazedi (Emerald Stupa)

Gubyauk Gyi

The man, who has been very kind and informative, and who speaks excellent English, asks me if I will come to his shop to have a look at his sand paintings.  Ah, now I know why he’s been so generous with his time.  He shows me the process of sand painting, and then asks me if I’d like to buy one of his paintings.  This is my first encounter with sand paintings, and I like them very much.  In fact, I buy one for 15,000 kyat, and then another for 12,000.  Later, as I see vendors galore selling sand paintings, I realize I jumped the gun and probably could have gotten them for a lot cheaper.  Oh well, the man really was great spending so much time explaining everything to me. 🙂

paint for sand paintings

paint for sand paintings

paint

paint

sand paintings

sand paintings

artist with sand paintings

artist with sand paintings

Now my driver takes me to Old Bagan to explore more of Bagan’s thousands of temples.

Categories: Bagan, Burma, Gubyauk Gyi, Manuha Paya, Myanmar, Myazedi (Emerald Stupa), Myazedi Inscription, Myinkaba, Nagayon, Nanpaya | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

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