Old Bagan

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 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

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