Burma

yangon city walk: colonial ruins & remnants, an open-air library, street vendors, a street celebration, a foot massage and a haircut

Thursday, February 26:  After having my light lunch at The Strand, I walk up Pansodan St., a street with monumental buildings that was, a century ago, a prime business address in Yangon.

Yangon's colonial buildings

Yangon’s colonial buildings

Myawaddy Bank

Myawaddy Bank

Lokanat Gallery Building

Lokanat Gallery Building

I turn down 37th St., brimming with street side bookstalls; it’s known as Yangon’s open-air library.  I love seeing all the colorful books stacked neatly on the shelves.

It seems every inch of sidewalk space is filled with vendors of every type.

Asparagus for sale

Asparagus for sale

I love the wrought iron balconies, their once bright colors fading and peeling.

faded glory

faded glory

the busy streets of Yangon

the busy streets of Yangon

YangonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

YangonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

food stalls

food stalls

I always love to look at newspapers in other countries and wonder what their headlines say.

newspapers

newspapers

treats on sticks

treats on sticks

fly swatting

fly swatting

colorful bicycle

colorful bicycle

food stall on the street

food stall on the street

another food stall

another food stall

cooking up the goods

cooking up the goods

street snacks

street snacks

another busy street

another busy street

colorful Yangon

colorful Yangon

napping in the heat

napping in the heat

faded glory

faded glory

sidewalk color

sidewalk color

unusual architecture

unusual architecture

colorful Yangon

colorful Yangon

a new building

a new building

I am now determined to visit the famous Bogyoke Aung San Market, also known as Scott Market, but it’s hot and a long walk; my feet are killing me.  I sit down on a plastic stool at this man’s lemonade cart and enjoy an ice-cold lemonade.

lemonade stand

lemonade stand

Scott Market serves both locals and tourists and sells cloth, gems, souvenirs, cosmetics, sewing supplies and cheap clothing.  At the market, I buy three more pairs of the cotton pants I’ve become so fond of.

I keep marching on, although by this time, I have blisters on my feet.

steeple

steeple

Yangon traffic

Yangon traffic

vendor's cart

vendor’s cart

Huwei

Huawei

more faded colonial architecture

more faded colonial architecture

I happen to come across a foot massage place, Sapel Foot Spa.  I get an hour-long foot massage, with back and shoulders included, for around $15.  I like my masseuse’s haircut so I take a picture of it and ask her to recommend a hair salon.  I head immediately to the recommended spot for a haircut because after 6 weeks of traveling, my hair has become quite shaggy.   I get a long shampoo and head massage which I think – and hope – will never end!  All of this plus the haircut for around $7.   Sadly, the haircut doesn’t look the same on me as it does on her. 😦

While I’m walking back to my hotel, I stumble across a street celebration of some kind.

I go back to my room to relax awhile then go out later to a place called Mr. Chef.  I get irritated because they don’t have anything I order: I ask for shrimp wontons, shrimp & cauliflower, a banana yogurt shake – all listed on the menu.  They are out of all of those!  I finally settle on an order of prawn spring rolls.

Mr. Chef

Mr. Chef

I’m exhausted after my day-long city walk in Yangon.  Tomorrow will be my last day in Yangon; I fly back to Mandalay on Saturday, where I’ll spend the night.  I’ll fly back to Kunming on Sunday, March 1, and then to Nanning on Monday, March 2. The end of my six-week holiday is fast approaching….

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Categories: Asia, Burma, Myanmar, open-air library, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

yangon city walk: city hall to the strand hotel

Thursday, February 26: After leaving Sule Paya, I head east where the sprawling bright white colonial City Hall, with its lavender and purple trim, covers an entire city block. It’s adorned with traditional Myanmar motifs such as peacocks, nagas (serpents), and three-tiered turrets.

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

It’s quite an impressive building and is maintained perfectly, at least on the outside.

City Hall - Yangon

City Hall – Yangon

peacock adornment at Yangon's City Hall

peacock adornment at Yangon’s City Hall

a bus goes by Yangon's City Hall

a bus goes by Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

On the next corner further east is what is now Aya Bank, but was once Rowe & Co department store, known as “Harrods of the East,” according to Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Ava Bank

Aya Bank

Ava Bank

Aya Bank

I can see Sule Paya in the middle of the city’s main traffic circle, with cars and buses whizzing around it.

Sule Paya in the middle of the traffic circle

Sule Paya in the middle of the traffic circle

local bus

local bus

Across the street from Aya Bank is Immanuel Baptist Church, originally build in 1830, and updated in 1885.

Immanuel Baptist Church

Immanuel Baptist Church

inside Immanuel Baptist Church

inside Immanuel Baptist Church

I walk into the Mahabandoola Garden to check out the Independence Monument and enjoy the view of City Hall across the green grass.  The Independence Monument is a 165 ft white obelisk that looks vaguely like the Washington Monument.  It’s guarded by two circles of chinthe (a half-lion, half dragon deity).

Mahabandoola Garden has gone by several names since it was laid out by the British in 1868. First called Fytche Square after the chief commissioner at the time, it was later named Victoria Park, to commemorate the queen.  Her statue has now been replaced by Independence Monument.  After Independence, the park was renamed to honor a Burmese hero who died in action in the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824.

Independence Monument at Mahabandoola Garden

Independence Monument at Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

a chinthe’s view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

At the southern end of the garden is the Queen Anne-style High Court with its bell clock tower.

the High Court

the High Court

me in Mahabandoola Garden with City Hall behind

me in Mahabandoola Garden with City Hall behind

a monk in Mahabandoola Garden

a monk in Mahabandoola Garden

Sule Paya from Mahabandoola Garden

Sule Paya from Mahabandoola Garden

I continue my walk toward the Strand that runs along Yangon River.

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Yangon architecture

Yangon architecture

Myawaddy Bank

colonial architecture of Yangon

colonial architecture of Yangon

I can see the majestic but faded Yangon Region Court on the corner of Strand Rd. and Pansodan Street.  One of Yangon’s oldest masonry buildings, it dates from around 1900. Apparently bomb damage from WWII is still visible on the Bank St side of the building, but I don’t see that today.

Myawaddy Bank

Region Court

Crossing over a pedestrian bridge leading to the waterfront, I can see Yangon’s traffic swirling and buzzing beneath me.

view of Strand Road from a footbridge

view of Strand Road from a footbridge

traffic on Strand Road

traffic on Strand Road

Myawaddy Bank

Yangon’s Region Court

Myawaddy Bank

the Region Court

The Strand Hotel

The Strand Hotel

As it’s around noon and I’m hot, tired and hungry, I decide to stop for a light lunch at the Victorian-style Strand Hotel, listed on the Yangon City Heritage List.  This 1901 hotel hosted luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell and W. Somerset Maugham in its early years.  It was run by the famous Sarkies brothers, who owned Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental in Penang.  The Australian Embassy is now housed in an annex.  During WWII, the Japanese took over the running of the Strand, renaming it the Yamato Hotel, and using it briefly to house Japanese troops. During a dark stretch of Burmese history, from 1962-1989, the Strand was owned and managed by the Burmese government.  After three years of renovations, the Strand reopened in luxurious glory in 1993. (Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma))

As it’s very hot today in Yangon, I’m happy to sit inside for a while in air-conditioning.  It’s worth every penny of the $26 it costs me for a Camembert, walnut and toast salad, accompanied by a Perrier and fresh papaya juice.

Camambert, walnut and toast salad for lunch

Camambert, walnut and toast salad for lunch

inside the Strand Hotel

inside the Strand Hotel

Inside the Strand Hotel

Inside the Strand Hotel

Leaving the fabulous Strand, and feeling refreshed, I continue my walk up Pansodan Street towards 37th Street’s open air library.

Categories: Asia, Aya Bank, Burma, City Hall, High Court, Immanuel Baptist Church, Independence Monument, Mahabandoola Garden, Myanmar, Myawaddy Bank, Strand Hotel, Strand Road, Sule Paya, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

pindaya: buddhas in the thousands at shwe oo min natural cave pagoda

Wednesday, February 25:  We arrive at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda at 11:00 a.m. My driver deposits me at the bottom and I follow the long walkway up the limestone ridge. I can see views of Pone Taloke Lake and the town below.

The approach to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

The approach to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

The giant spider at the entrance hints at the outrageous sights I’ll encounter inside the cave.

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

archer

archer

giant spider

giant spider

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

walkway to the pagoda

walkway to the pagoda

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya - Pone Taloke Lake

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya – Pone Taloke Lake

view on walkway to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view on walkway to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

After climbing the steps, I take a lift to avoid the last 130 steps.

Inside the cave, I encounter Buddha figures in staggering numbers.   At last count, the caves showcased 8,094 Buddha statues.  Some were left centuries ago by Myanmar pilgrims and others were installed more recently by international Buddhist organizations in lands as far away as the Netherlands, the USA, and Singapore.  (Lonely Planet Myanmar, July 2014 edition)

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Of course, the many Buddhas need a plethora of offerings from the faithful pilgrims who visit today in steady streams.  New pilgrims deposit new images and mediate in the cave’s grottoes and chambers carved naturally into the walls.

offerings for the thousands of Buddhas

offerings for the thousands of Buddhas

The Buddhas come in all flavors: alabaster, teak, cement, marble, brick and lacquer.

Buddha at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddha at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Elephant Mooring Post

Elephant Mooring Post

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a Buddha sit-in

The caves are packed with so many Buddhas that it’s difficult to move around.  Everywhere you look, eyes are staring at you.

Buddhas in the cave

Buddhas in the cave

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

serpent overhang

serpent overhang

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

the Pindaya caves

the Pindaya caves

intricate Buddha

intricate Buddha

Buddha and subjects

Buddha and subjects

more Buddhas

more Buddhas

monsters

monsters

teeth!

teeth!

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

MAZE ??

MAZE ??

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

After visiting the cave, we head to the open-air Golden Moon Restaurant for lunch.

Menu at the Golden Moon Restaurant

Menu at the Golden Moon Restaurant

view from the Golden Moon

view from the Golden Moon

The Golden Moon Restaurant

The Golden Moon Restaurant

diners at the Golden Moon Restaurant

diners at the Golden Moon Restaurant

Here I eat a delicious lunch of potato curry with rice, accompanied by papaya juice.  I top it off with a can of Myanmar beer, which, to no surprise, will cause me to ask the driver to make another stop along the road so I can pee again!

potato curry with rice

potato curry with rice

a truck full of locals

a truck full of locals

I get to Heho airport at 2:30, way too early for my 5:00 flight.  I have to sit around an hour before I can even check my bag.

waiting at Heho Airport

waiting at Heho Airport

When I’m finally able to check my bag, the woman at Immigration asks to see my passport. She writes the number in a ledger!  I’m not at all surprised that there is no computer system; Myanmar seems to exist in a time warp, frozen in the 1950s.

I sit in the waiting room for a long time.  I use the bathroom twice, thinking it is the ladies’ room.  The third time, I scrutinize the picture on the door and realize I’ve been using the men’s room!  I can’t find a trash can anywhere in the airport, so I leave my debris (a water bottle and Snickers wrapper) inside the stall of the men’s room.

I love how at Heho (and Bagan) airports, the planes fly right up to the door.  A young man grabs a whiteboard sign listing the airline and flight.  He runs to the gate (or door) with the sign, shouting out the name of the flight. Passengers line up, walk out to the tarmac, and climb a ladder up to the plane.  The flight attendants quickly close the door and we immediately take off down the runway!

Heho Airport

Heho Airport

Flying to Yangon

Flying to Yangon

My arrival in Yangon is not much more sophisticated.  We get off on the tarmac and the luggage is simply loaded directly into the arrivals hall.  There is no luggage carousel.  I find an air-conditioned taxi service for 9,000 kyat ($9).  It takes about an hour to arrive at Agga Youth Hotel on No. 86, 12th St.

At the hotel, a short Russian guy is arguing with the staff because they apparently lost some of his laundry.  He tells me he packs light and only has a few clothes with him and now they’ve lost them!

I check into room 202 which is very small and unimpressive, despite the fact that this hotel was highly recommended by several people along my journey.  I settle grumpily into the room, exhausted from my long day, and as I’m too tired to go out, I eat a bag of Oishi Ribbed Cracklings in Chicken Curry Flavor and drink a bottle of water. I’m eaten alive by mosquitoes all night. 😦

I already miss Bagan and Inle Lake.

Categories: Agga Youth Hotel, Asia, Burma, Golden Moon Restaurant, Heho Airport, Myanmar, Pindaya, Shan State, Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

leaving inle lake: a brief stop in nyaungshwe at shwe yaunghwe kyaung

Wednesday, February 25:  This is a sad morning, as I leave the Inle Lake area at 9 a.m. for Yangon, my final destination in Myanmar. My plane actually doesn’t depart Heho airport until 5:00 p.m., but I’ve arranged a driver to take me to Pindaya for the day and then directly to the airport.

On the way out of Nyaungshwe, the driver stops at what is considered the most photographed monastery in Nyaungshwe: Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung.  With its ancient teak ordination hall, or thein, and its oval windows offering a peek at the novice monks, it’s quite charming.

entrance to Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

entrance to Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

I pay the driver 55,000 kyat (around $55) to take me for the entire day.

Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

a monk at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

a monk at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

little monks at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

little monks at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

monks & cats

monks & cats

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

monks studying

monks studying

monks in sunlight ovals

monks in sunlight ovals

monks in the doorway

monks in the doorway

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

the oval windows of Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

the oval windows of Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

After walking around this ancient monastery, I get in the car with the driver.   The hotel has estimated it will take 2 1/2 hours to get to Pindaya, and then 1 1/2 hours from Pindaya to Heho Airport.  It actually only takes two hours to get to Pindaya, and we pass Heho Airport after the first hour, meaning it will take only 1 hour to get back to Heho.  On our drive, we pass through one of the most densely farmed areas in Myanmar, with a patchwork of dried fields and red clay.  We pass an umbrella-making factory and a cattle market.  There isn’t that much to see on the drive.  For some reason, the driver’s steering wheel is on the right and in Myanmar, cars drive on the right; this makes it hard for the driver to see around cars in front of him to pass. During the long drive, where there seem to be no facilities whatsoever, I have to ask the driver to pull over at one point so I can pee behind a tree.  It’s pretty embarrassing because a few cars drive by, and the tree isn’t big enough that it totally hides me.  Oh well, this is life in the 3rd world.   I’m sure people do this all the time out here in the middle of nowhere.

At 11:00, we arrive at our destination, the famous Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, a massive limestone cave brimming with thousands of gilded Buddha statues.

Categories: Asia, Burma, Heho Airport, Myanmar, Nyaungshwe, Pindaya, Shan State, Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

the ruined stupas and pagodas of inthein: nyaung ohak & shwe inn thein paya

Tuesday, February 24:  At about 2:30, we finally arrive at Inthein, after our 8km-long cruise through the jungle-like Inn Thein Creek, a narrow canal.  My boat driver drops me without giving much direction, so I’m not exactly sure where to go or what I’m supposed to be looking for.  After wandering aimlessly for a bit, I fall into line with some Australian tourists.  We first stumble upon a group of crumbling stupas, much like those found at the Angkor temples in Cambodia.

The lakeside village of Inthein

The lakeside village of Inthein

The Nyaung Ohak stupas are smothered in greenery, but we can still spy some ornate stucco carvings of animals, devas (types of non-human beings who share the godlike characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and, in general, happier than humans), and chinthe (lion-like creatures that are often seen at the entrances of pagodas and temples in southeast Asia).  Nyaung Ohak translates to “group of banyan trees,” according to Renown Travel.

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Buddha at Nyaung Ohak

Buddha at Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

detail at Nyaung Ohak

detail at Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

tree growing out of Nyaung Ohak

tree growing out of Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

Nyaung Ohak

I make a restroom stop at this cinderblock building with a corrugated metal roof.  From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually quite civilized and upscale.  Inside it has full (& clean) Western toilets with bidets!  This is a rare thing to find in most of Asia.  Myanmar never ceases to surprise me.

stylish toilets

stylish toilets

I climb up what seems like an endless (700m) covered walkway.  The local vendors are lounging about with their souvenirs.  There isn’t much business today and many of them are napping.

covered stairway to Shwe Inn Thein Paya

covered stairway to Shwe Inn Thein Paya

At the top of the covered stairway, I find Shwe Inn Thein Paya, a complex of 1,054 weather-beaten zedi (stupas).  Most of them were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, according to Lonely Planet Myanmar.

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

I am awestruck by this place with all of its stoic and leaning and ruined zedi.

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

chicken figure (?) Shwe Inn Thein Paya

chicken figure (?) Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Buddha at Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Buddha at Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

the glowing Shwe Inn Thein Paya

the glowing Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

Shwe Inn Thein Paya

On my return down the long walkway, I buy a few things from the souvenir stalls:  an enamel tray, cotton pants, a royal blue striped scarf, an enamel jewelry box and a Buddha head.  When I try to buy the Buddha head for 15,000 kyat, one corner of my bill is ripped and the vendor doesn’t want to take it.  I am willing to walk away from the sale, so, after much hemming and hawing, she goes ahead and takes my money. Little do I know how much trouble this Buddha head will cause me later.

By nearly 4:00, I’m back at the creek and ready to board my boat.

back to the boat

back to the boat

ready to board

ready to board

Back on the creek again, we begin our long journey back to Nyaungshwe.

 

Categories: Asia, Burma, Inthein, Myanmar, Nyaung Ohak, Shan State, Shwe Inn Thein Paya, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

the pa-o tribe’s buddha-washing in a nyaungshwe canal

Tuesday, February 24:  After visiting the Mingala Market, I ride my bicycle down to the canal because I hear a lot of hoopla going on there.  My hotel isn’t far from the canal.  Crowds of Pa-O people are busy washing a Buddha.  I stand on the sidelines and watch.

the canal in Nyaungshwe

the canal in Nyaungshwe

They are just finishing up the washing when I arrive.

the Pa-O tribespeople washing the Buddha

the Pa-O tribespeople washing the Buddha

They slowly and arduously put him upright, and take him back to the temple.

washing the Buddha

washing the Buddha

raising and washing the Buddha

raising and washing the Buddha

washing the Buddha

washing the Buddha

the crowds carry the Buddha

the crowds carry the Buddha

Buddha and Pa-O tribespeople

Buddha and Pa-O tribespeople

the Buddha being raised

the Buddha being raised

Buddha and Pa-O

Buddha and Pa-O

Buddha all spiffed up

Buddha all spiffed up

After they take off with the Buddha, the Pa-O people start to disburse.

the Pa-O people

the Pa-O people

Pa-O people

Pa-O people

Pa-O people

Pa-O people

Pa-O people

Pa-O people

I head to Inle Pancake Kingdom where I order a crepe with cheese, tomato, onion and avocado for lunch.  It’s as delicious as the first time I ate here.

Inle Pancake Kingdom

Inle Pancake Kingdom

crepe with cheese, tomato, onion and avocado

crepe with cheese, tomato, onion and avocado

After lunch, I head back to the canal, where I hire another boat to take me to Inthein.  I love this boat ride.   Another beautiful afternoon on Inle Lake. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Burma, Myanmar, Nyaungshwe, Pa-O tribe, Shan State, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

the mingala market in nyaungshwe

Tuesday, February 24: After leaving the festival, I ride my bicycle several blocks to the Mingala Market.  The market is packed with locals every morning, when farmers and fishermen from the lake bring in fresh fish and produce from the floating gardens.

Lan Ma Taw St.

Lan Ma Taw St.

Today, Nyaungshwe happens to be hosting the five-day rotating market, so the Mingala market is swollen to double its normal size.

Mingala Market in Nyaungshwe

Mingala Market in Nyaungshwe

I love taking pictures at Asian markets, and this one is as colorful as they get.  I enjoy walking around watching the people and thinking it would be fun to live here and come here daily to buy fresh produce and fish. I could be so healthy!

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

motorbikes and bicycles

motorbikes and bicycles

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

Mingala Market

After leaving the market, I bicycle around the town, where eventually I end up along the canal.  A big crowd is here washing a giant Buddha.  It is something to behold!

Categories: Asia, Burma, Five-day rotating market, Inle Lake, Mingala Market, Myanmar, Nyaungshwe, Shan State, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

the five-day rotating market at inle lake: khaung daing village

Monday, February 23:  My boat guide drops me off at the lake shore and directs me inland to the five-day rotating market, which today is at Khuang Daing Village.  I walk along a dirt path, toward a small pagoda, but I don’t really see signs of a market.

walking from the shore to Khaung Daing Village

walking from the shore to Khaung Daing Village

Small pagoda near Khaung Daing Village

Small pagoda near Khaung Daing Village

I see a local boy balancing some goods in two baskets slung over his shoulder, so I figure I should follow him.

Balancing act

Balancing act

Buddha

Buddha

I follow him through an overgrown path until I emerge at what is clearly a boisterous market, very well attended by locals and tourists alike.

preparing for market day

preparing for market day

market day

market day

bagging the prodcue

bagging produce

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-size slide show.

It’s so much fun walking around the market and observing the locals engaged in making their livelihoods.

mats for sale

mats for sale

boat parking lot

boat parking lot

heavy loads

heavy loads

the bustling market

the bustling market

coconuts

coconuts

the lady of the coconuts

the lady of the coconuts

The market is the perfect place to capture local people; they are so involved with what they’re doing, they don’t often pay attention to tourists like me who are intent on snapping pictures.

balancing act

balancing act

grains

grains

I love this tough lady with a slim cigar dangling from her mouth.

cigar-smoking vendor

cigar-smoking vendor

Click on any of the images below for a full-size slide show.

There are so many things I want to buy, and of course I fall for a piece of fabric which I can wear as a long skirt, like the locals.  Later in my travels, I end up buying a Buddha head that is not too dissimilar from the ones shown below.

Buddha heads

Buddha heads

One of my friends from Korea, Myrna, asked me to take a picture of the red betel juice spittle that is found all over Myanmar. It is also very commonly seen in India.  Myrna inspired me to come to Myanmar, saying it was her favorite southeast Asian country.  After having traveled here, I would have to say I agree with her wholeheartedly!

the red spittle from betel leaves

the red spittle from betel leaves

baskets for shopping

baskets for shopping

coconut vendor

coconut vendor

After spending quite some time just wandering around the market watching all the hustle and bustle, I make my way back to my boat and guide, passing by this pretty stupa.

stupa

stupa

The morning light is so gorgeous. I love the glow painted over the scenery like a warm butterscotch sauce.

the shores of Inle Lake

the shores of Inle Lake

walking back to the boat

walking back to the boat

pagoda

pagoda

long-tail motorboats

long-tail motorboats

boats at bay

boats at bay

boats

boats

boatman

boatman

propeller

propeller

leaving Khaung Daing Village

leaving Khaung Daing Village

floating gardens

floating gardens

floating gardens

floating gardens

As we leave to head back out to the lake, it’s only 8:15 a.m.  How I love getting an early start while I’m traveling!  I can anticipate a full day of exploring, laid out before me like a fine feast. 🙂

Categories: Burma, Five-day rotating market, Inle Lake, Khaung Daing, Myanmar, Photography, Shan State, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 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

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

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