Mandalay

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

a slow cruise down the ayeyarwady river from mandalay to bagan

Wednesday, February 18:  I get up at the crack of dawn to go to the jetty in Mandalay, where I’m to take the N Maikha Shwe Keinnery ferry down the Ayeyarwady River to Bagan.  It’s supposed to be a 10-hour trip.  I should have remembered that from when I booked it ahead of time online for $40, but for some reason I’m confused this morning and am expecting a 5-hour trip!

The Korean guy, Peel, who I met yesterday at breakfast, shares a taxi with me; he gets dropped off first at one jetty and then I get dropped 5 minutes later at another.  The approach to the boat is a steep dusty embankment and I wonder how on earth I’ll get my suitcase onto the boat.  A porter appears to save the day and asks for 1,000 kyat, or $1, to carry the suitcase onto the boat. He hoists it over his head and walks across a rickety gangplank to the boat, with me following.

It’s dark when I board at 6:30 a.m., and my seat is at the very front.  I’m one of the first to board, so I get to watch all the European tourists, mainly German and French, get settled.  I hear some American women complaining about the sum they had to pay their porter to carry their suitcases on board.  The porter is apparently asking for more money than they think they should pay.  I paid mine 1,000, which I assume is the asking price, so I’m surprised they’re complaining.

Here’s my view as we get underway at 7:00 a.m.

N Maikha Shwe Keinnery Boat

N Maikha Shwe Keinnery Boat

As the ferry pulls away from the jetty, we can see the sun rising over the river.

Sunrise on the Ayeyarwady

Sunrise on the Ayeyarwady

Taking off down the river

Taking off down the river

Once we’re underway one of the boat crew announces that we can go up to the dining area for breakfast.  I already ate some of the boxed breakfast provided by my hotel,  but of course I have to take advantage of the breakfast provided on the boat trip.  It turns out to be a hard-boiled egg, a piece of toast, and a cup of coffee.  After I eat, I go outside to the upper deck to watch the scenery go by.

boats on the Ayeyarwady

boats on the Ayeyarwady

It isn’t long before we’re passing by Sagaing Hill, where I went on Monday.  It’s 7:35, but here we slow down as the boatmen use poles to push the boat along the river.  The river is obviously very shallow here.  I hope we don’t run aground!

passing by Mingun

passing by Sagaing Hill

passing Mingun

passing Sagaing

Mingun

Sagaing

colorful boat

colorful boat

Another ferry approaches us from behind; it seems to be moving faster than we are.  They soon pass us by.  I wonder if Peel is on that boat.

another ferry comes up behind us

another ferry comes up behind us

pagodas and Buddhas

pagodas and Buddhas

Boat on the Ayeyarwady

Boat on the Ayeyarwady

We cruise under the Sagaing Bridge, and then the Ava Bridge in short order.  By this time, I’ve moved from the seat in the enclosed lower level of the boat to the top deck, where I can watch life in Myanmar go by.

Bridge over the river

Sagaing Bridge

I love this kind of slow leisurely travel.  I always love to travel by boat — not in a big cruise ship, which doesn’t appeal to me at all, but in small locally owned ferries or boats of any kind.

passing under the bridge

passing under Sagaing Bridge

all hands on deck!

all hands on deck!

passing under another bridge

passing under Ava Bridge

ferry in our wake

ferry in our wake

The landscape bordering the river is flat and the air is hazy.  There really isn’t much to see but sandy shores or miles of uninhabited land.  I do love looking at the colorful fishing boats, houseboats and commercial barges and tugboats.

colorful boats on the river

colorful boats on the river

boats all lined up

boats all lined up

green boats

green boats

tugboat & barge

tugboat & barge

I love watching the fishermen or the people cruising down the river in boats, or boat crewmen doing their jobs.

boatman

boatman

sandy beaches

sandy beaches

the flat land along the river

the flat land along the river

sandy beach along the Ayeyarwady

sandy beach along the Ayeyarwady

a boat brimming with people

a boat brimming with people

Apparently, Burmese fishermen erect temporary houses when the water levels are low, which they are in February.  When the water levels rise, they’ll move their houses to higher land along the river.

riverfront homes

riverfront homes

more riverfront huts

more riverfront huts

flat shoreline

flat shoreline

We even see some livestock grazing along the riverbank.

livestock

livestock

It’s a long, lazy day on the boat, but I’m enjoying every minute.  I’m able to talk to a number of fellow travelers.  We sit in bamboo lounge chairs and watch the river go by and chat about our travels. I meet James and Molly, a couple who are teaching in Yunnan province.  James is from Nashville, Tennessee, and Molly is from New York.   They have only been dating a short while as they met when they came to China and they don’t even teach in the same town.  This is their first trip together.  We share a lot of stories of our travels and our lives.

Molly also recommends the Agga Youth Hotel in Yangon.  The Germans and Shaun and Sarah had all recommended it when we went to Mingun together, and I booked it when I was in Mandalay.  This place must be really great because everyone is recommending it.

barge in the Ayeyarwady

barge in the Ayeyarwady

barge

barge

I also meet another guy, John, who has been in Beijing for 8 years.  He’s trying to start an entertainment company.  It’s when I’m talking to him, nearly 5 hours into our trip, that I say “We should be arriving in Bagan soon.”  He says, “But the boat ride is 10 hours.  We still have a long way to go.”  I’m surprised, but then it dawns on me that I do remember something about this.  Later I consult my Lonely Planet Myanmar and find the ferry ride is in fact 10 hours!

riverfront village

riverfront village

tugboat and barge

tugboat and barge

As it gets hot in the afternoon, I go downstairs where it’s cool to read a while.  I’ve brought along The Crazed by Ha Jin, which is good, but not nearly as engaging as his book Waiting, which I adored.  I also read in Lonely Planet Myanmar about what I’ll be seeing in Bagan.

under another bridge

under another bridge

boats and bridge

boats and bridge

The sun starts to sink in the sky.  I’ve been on this boat from sunrise to sunset and I’ve loved every minute of it. It reminds me of ancient journeys I’ve read about or seen in movies.  I feel like I’ve stepped back in time by 50 or even 100 years.  The journey is nostalgic, unhurried, relaxing.  Sometimes I think we rush through things too quickly and don’t really savor moments like these.

sunset on the Ayeyarwady

sunset on the Ayeyarwady

fellow travelers

fellow travelers

sunset on the Ayeyarwady

sunset on the Ayeyarwady

the sun sets on the river

the sun sets on the river

sunset and boaters

sunset and boaters

sunset on the river near Bagan

sunset on the river near Bagan

sunset as we approach Bagan

sunset as we approach Bagan

We can finally see the shoreline at Bagan, with some of its pagodas and temples.

first glimpse of the shore of Bagan

first glimpse of the shore of Bagan

Finally, after what it turns out is closer to a 12-hour journey, we dock at the jetty in Bagan.

coming in to the Bagan jetty

coming in to the Bagan jetty

At the jetty are a lot of taxis waiting for the tourists to disembark.  I find a driver to take me to the Floral Breeze Hotel for 15,000 kyat.  I settle in and head outside to the courtyard, where I have a dinner of potato and pumpkin curry for 9,000 kyat. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Ava Bridge, Ayeyarwady River, Bagan, Burma, Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Myanmar, N Maikha Shwe Keinnery Boat, Sagaing, Sagaing Bridge, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

a gold-leaf afternoon & a distant sighting of the mahamuni buddha

Tuesday, February 17:  After leaving the Mandalay Royal Palace, Mimo drives me to the Gold Pounder’s District, where we stop in at the King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop.  Here, workers laboriously pound gold into 1″-square gold-leaf sheets for male worshippers to buy and place on sacred Buddha images.

King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop

King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop

I watch the process and find it fascinating, but I’m not interested in buying.  For one, I’m not a Buddhist.  In addition, I’ve been told only the men can place gold leaf on the Buddha images.  Mimo tells me I can buy some squares and have a man at the pagoda place the leaves on the Buddha, but I think it seems pointless if I can’t do it myself.

Making gold leaf

Making gold leaf

gold leaf

gold leaf

gold leaf

gold leaf

gold party

gold party

At King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop

At King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop

We then go to the Mahamuni Paya, where the thirteen-foot-tall seated Mahamuni Buddha (literally “Great Sage”) bronze image is worshipped.  Ancient tradition tells of only five Buddha images made in the Buddha’s lifetime: two in India, two in paradise, and one in Myanmar: the Mahamuni Buddha.  According to legend, the Buddha visited Arakan city in 554 BC and King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image be cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni (Wikipedia: Mahamuni Buddha Temple).

The Mahamuni Buddha image sits in a divine posture on a throne within a small chamber.  Male devotees regularly apply gold leaves to the Buddha.  Centuries of gold leaf application have left the Buddha with a gnarly 6-inch layer of gold on his body.  Only his face is gleaming because it is polished daily at a 4 a.m. ceremony with a series of fresh towels offered by devotees; at that time, monks also brush the Buddha’s teeth.  The monks then apply sandalwood paste, wipe the face down with more towels, and then sprinkle it with scented water.  The devotees later place the towels on sacred shrines in their homes.

I sadly can’t get close to this famous Buddha because, first, the spots closest to the front are reserved for men, and second, the temple is packed with worshipers.

Seated Buddha at Mahamuni Paya

Seated Buddha at Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Rather than trying to find a decent view of the Buddha, I decide to take a stroll on the grounds.

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

The central shrine has a multi-tiered gold roof.  In every direction from this shrine are long hallways filled with kiosks selling religious paraphernalia and souvenirs.  I came in through one of these hallways, but I make my way out of another exit into a courtyard now.

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Gong at Mahamuni Paya

Gong at Mahamuni Paya

I come full circle and find the worshippers are still thick around the Buddha.  I can barely see him inside his secluded chamber.

Worshippers at Mahamuni Paya

Worshippers at Mahamuni Paya

I finally walk out one of the long hallways leading from the central shrine and go out another exit to explore.

Souvenir hall leading to Mahamuni Paya

Souvenir hall leading to Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

Mahamuni Paya

I find an ornamental clock tower near this exit.

At Mahamuni Paya

At Mahamuni Paya

I also find a little man-made pond with vendors selling fruits; looking around, I realize I’ve left the complex, so I head back in.  I have to meet up with Mimo after all.

Burmese fruit vendor

Burmese fruit vendor

I see all kinds of cool souvenirs I’d buy if I had a giant container ship to take them back to America.

Sovenir stall at Mahamuni Paya

souvenir stall at Mahamuni Paya

tree at Mahamuni Paya

tree at Mahamuni Paya

At this point, after two full days in Mandalay, I am ready to go back to my hotel to relax.  I ask Mimo to drive me back to the Mandalay View Inn, where I rest a bit before heading out to dinner.

Tonight I decide to try the Green Elephant, with its pretty outdoor garden seating area.  Bloodthirsty mosquitoes are hovering and biting, so the waiter brings me some mosquito spray and some lit candles. I have brought my iPad with me because my hotel internet is pathetic, and I need to reserve a room in Yangon, which I haven’t yet done.  While here enjoying my dinner of vegetable curry and a Myanmar beer, I check my emails to find that Chen, the person in charge of personnel issues at Sino-Canadian International College, has written an email to inform all teachers that we won’t get our February paycheck until sometime between March 10-20.  I am infuriated by this as we are supposed to get paid on the 25th of February and I’m counting on my paycheck to finish up my holiday.  I send a couple of heated emails to Chen and a flurry of emails go back and forth between us over the next several days.  What kind of employer would tell you one week before you’re due to be paid that you won’t in fact get your salary until 3-4 weeks later than it’s due?  I’m outraged, so this bit of news ruins my evening and puts me in a less than stellar mood for the next couple of days! In the end, Chen admits he made a mistake by not informing us of this earlier, but he doesn’t back down on the fact that we won’t get paid until mid-March.

After dinner, I return to my room to pack up my stuff for my early departure tomorrow morning. I’m to leave at 5:45 a.m. for my 6:30 check in at the jetty.  I’ll be taking a 10-hour boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan on the N Maikha Shwe Keinnery Boat. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Green Elephant, Guangxi University, King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop, Mahamuni Paya, Mandalay, Myanmar, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

the mandalay royal palace

Tuesday, February 17: After my morning oxcart trip around Mingun and a relaxing riverside lunch, Mimo drives me to The Mandalay Royal Palace.  This is the last palace built by the Burmese Royals.  It follows the traditional Burmese palace design, inside a walled fort surrounded by a moat.

The Mandalay Royal Palace: mya nan san kyaw

The Mandalay Royal Palace: mya nan san kyaw

When King Mindon founded Mandalay in 1857, he ordered a Royal Palace to be built.  Old palace buildings from Amarapura, the old capital, and Ava were dismantled, carried and reassembled in Mandalay. Because of the high cost of labor and materials, Burmese kings often moved old palaces to a new capital. The process of dismantling and reassembling took five years to complete.

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

Promenade Hall

Promenade Hall

Promenade Hall

Promenade Hall

Baungdaw Saung

Baungdaw Saung

According to Today in Myanmar: Mandalay Royal Palace: The Royal Palace was modeled in line with the Brahman cosmology to represent the center of the world, the fabled Mount Meru. The royal palace complex was built on the square brick foundation at the center of the Royal Palace Fortress.  All the buildings were made of teak and gilded with gold and vermilion. All buildings were single story buildings, but the number of spires atop a building indicated its importance. The most important structure in the Royal Palace is the Lion Throne Hall, in the exact center of the whole palace complex. The building has a 78-meter-high towering spire which was gilded with gold. This is King Mindon’s version of the center of the world.

Mandalay Royal Palace

The Lion Throne Hall

Central Palace

Central Palace

All I do here is stroll around the grounds, poking my head into the buildings from time to time to see what’s inside.  There isn’t much.  I’m reminded that I lose interest easily at sprawling abandoned palaces where kings once lived.  I’ve felt this way about nearly every royal palace I’ve ever visited.

Palace interior

Palace interior

Mandalay Royal Palace

Mandalay Royal Palace and Lion Throne Hall

Watchtower and other buildings in the Royal Palace complex

Watchtower and other buildings in the Royal Palace complex

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

The Mandalay Royal Palace

Mandalay Royal Palace

Mandalay Royal Palace

A watchtower on the grounds beckons.  I feel the urge to climb to the highest vantage point at every place I visit, and this is no different.   I climb the spiral staircase wrapped around the outside of the watchtower and admire the bird’s-eye views of the palace complex.

the watchtower

the watchtower

Building on the grounds of the complex

Building on the grounds of the complex

In November of 1885, during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, troops of the Burma Field Force entered the palace and captured the royal family.  The British turned the palace compound into Fort Dufferin,  named after the then viceroy of India. Much of the palace compound was destroyed during the second World War by allied bombing; only the royal mint and the watch tower survived. A replica of the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s with some modern materials (Wikipedia: Mandalay Palace).

View of Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

View of Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

view from the watchtower

view from the watchtower

The Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

The Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

The Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

The Mandalay Royal Palace from the watchtower

at The Mandalay Royal Palace

at The Mandalay Royal Palace

glittering rooftops at The Mandalay Royal Palace

glittering rooftops at The Mandalay Royal Palace

After exploring the Palace, I hop back in Mimo’s car, stopping for a quick photo of the 230-foot wide moat surrounding the 4-mile-long 26-foot-high palace walls.

moat around The Mandalay Royal Palace

moat around The Mandalay Royal Palace

Then we head to a gold leaf workshop and the gold-leaf Buddha.

Categories: Asia, Mandalay, Myanmar, The Mandalay Royal Palace | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

a boat ride down the ayeyarwady & an oxcart tour of mingun

Tuesday, February 17:  Today, my second day in Myanmar, is where my true journey begins.  My first day was a whirlwind of activity, from visiting temples to taking a horse-cart ride through a former kingdom to walking atop a long teak footbridge at sunset. It was fascinating and fun, but I felt like a tourist rather than a traveler.  I wasn’t changed or transformed.  It was just me, Cathy, the same mundane person I’ve always been, making the rounds in an exotic culture: I was the person who crosses things off a list, who was wary of being ripped off and was easily annoyed by people who beat their horses or held me captive or snapped at me for honing in on the “model they paid for.” I didn’t think these were right behaviors and I was vocal about my intolerance of them. I don’t think my behavior in response to these annoyances was horribly wrong, but I wasn’t my best.

Today, I am transformed.  I become someone else entirely. I become someone exotic, someone daring and laid-back at the same time.  This is when I start to feel like my heroine, Freya Stark.  She was a British explorer and travel writer who lived from 1893 to 1993. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as several autobiographical works and essays. She was one of the first non-Arabians to travel through the southern Arabian Deserts.  Her book, Passionate Nomad, inspired me to become a traveler.

Today, I really begin to feel like one.

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

The day begins in the breakfast room at the Mandalay Inn, where I meet a young Korean man named Peel.  He asks if he can join me at my table, and we share stories of our travels.  He travels for cultural experiences, immersion into the daily life in a place; the epitome of his travels was attending an African-American church service in south Chicago, where he clapped and swayed and sang hymns with vigor and passion.  I know many Koreans, and an African-American church is not where I’d envision them feeling at home. This is the kind of experience Peel lives for.

At breakfast, Peel and I discover that both of us are going by ferry down the Ayeyarwady River early tomorrow morning.  The boat ride will take around 10 hours. It’s the slow route to Bagan.  He’s booked on a different boat than mine, so we check with the front desk and find the jetties where the boats take off are not far from each other.  Thus we both arrange to share a taxi tomorrow morning; he will get dropped off first, then the driver will take me to my jetty.  I’ll be on the N Maikha Shwe Keinnery Boat, while he’ll be on another.  We find we need to be ready to leave our hotel by 5:45 a.m. for check-in at the jetty at 6:30.

However, that’s tomorrow, and there’s still the day ahead to explore.  Peel and I part ways and at 8:20, my driver Mimo picks me up at the hotel and takes me to a jetty in Mandalay.  Here, I get on a boat down the Ayeyarwady River to Mingun and I begin to relax into a pace of life that I don’t think I’ve experienced since I was a child.  I feel like I’ve gone back in time by at least 50 years, possibly more.  This is where I fall in love with Myanmar, or what I still like to think of as Burma, and from this morning until I arrive in Yangon, my love affair with this country deepens and expands and fills my soul. I become a traveler from the early 20th century, someone exploring before modernization, before places were ruined by tourism.  I’m a time traveler, an adventurer, an open book waiting to have my experiences written upon the pages of my life.

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Tomorrow’s boat ride will be 10 hours, and we’ll arrive at a different destination: Bagan.  But today, we cruise for 1 hour south to Mingun, after which we’ll return to Mandalay.  It’s a microcosm of the experience I will have tomorrow, a way to get my feet wet, so to speak.

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

Boats on the Ayeyarwady

The boat has bamboo chairs that are a bit like shortened lounge chairs. It’s a warm day and we settle into the chairs for the duration.   On the boat, I meet Shaun from Britain and Sarah from Scotland; like me, they teach English in China, she in Hong Kong and he in Wuhan.  They came to China with the British Council and met through that organization. They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend, just very good friends who enjoy traveling together.  It turns out when we hit shore in Mingun, we all three share an ox-cart for our tour of Mingun.

Our boat to Mingun

Our boat to Mingun

The Ayeyarwady River and its surrounds are very flat.  There’s not much civilization along its shores, so there isn’t a lot to see or take photos of, though I love to take pictures so do so anyway.  There are some interesting barges, fishing boats, small skiffs carrying families, and channel-marking boats.

barge on the Ayeyarwady

barge on the Ayeyarwady

According to Encyclopedia Britannica: Irrawaddy River, the Irrawaddy River, Burmese Ayeyarwady, runs through the center of Myanmar (formerly Burma).  Myanmar’s most important commercial waterway, it is about 1,350 miles (2,170 km) long. Its name is believed to derive from the Sanskrit term airāvatī, meaning “elephant river.” The river flows wholly within the territory of Myanmar. Its valley forms the historical, cultural, and economic heartland of Myanmar.

captain of our boat

captain of our boat

We believe some of the people in boats along the way are measuring the depth of the river to mark the channels for the ferry boats.  Apparently the river varies greatly in its levels due to the monsoon season from May-October and rapid snow and glacier melt-off in the summer. The lowest water level occurs in February, and the highest in August.  We are here during the lowest of the low water levels, at the end of February.

In general, from December to March the river varies between the lowest level and 5 feet (1.5 metres) above it, while from mid-June to mid-October the river is 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 metres) above the lowest level. The river ports therefore find it necessary to have separate high- and low-water landing points. (Encyclopedia Britannica: Irrawaddy River)

fishing boats on the Ayeyarwady

channel-marking boats on the Ayeyarwady

boats on the Ayeyarwady

boats on the Ayeyarwady

the flat Ayeyarwady

the flat Ayeyarwady

the front of the boat

the front of the boat

After about 45 minutes, we start to see the shore of Mingun, with its backdrop of pagoda studded hills.

fishing boats on the Ayeyarwady

fishing boats on the Ayeyarwady

heading into Mingun

heading into Mingun

chairs on the boat

chairs on the boat

Mingun from the Ayeyarwady

Mingun from the Ayeyarwady

We see our first spotting of the huge Mingun Paya.

the Mingun jetty

the Mingun jetty

When we arrive at the jetty, we disembark.  We can either take a walk around town or take an ox-cart ride.  The ox-cart drivers are waiting for the tourists with offers too enticing to turn down.

boats at the Mingun jetty

boats at the Mingun jetty

boats at the jetty

boats at the jetty

Sarah, Shaun and I find a gentle toothless old man with a hat who offers us a two-hour oxcart tour for 6,000 kyat, or about $2 each!

Sarah and our oxcart driver

Sarah and our oxcart driver

We get settled into the ox-cart and begin our tour of Mingun.  I love how our oxcart has “Taxi” written on its roof.  This is indicative of so many charming things we see in Myanmar.

our oxcart

our oxcart

Our first stop are the Chinthe ruins.  They’re the 29-meter-high brick and stucco ruins of the haunches of what would have been gigantic chinthe, Mingun Pagoda’s half-lion, half-dragon guardian deities (Lonely Planet Myanmar).  During the 1838 earthquake the heads of the giant Chinthe figures broke off and rolled into the Irrawaddy river, according to Renown Travel: Mingun Pagoda.

Chinthe ruins

Chinthe ruins

Cute souvenir shops line the way to the Chinthe ruins.  In one of the shops, I buy a piece of fabric to wear as a longyi, the Burmese skirt worn by Burmese women, for $5.  While I visit Mingun Paya, next door to the Chinthe ruins, the woman who sells me the fabric sews a tie on to the rectangle of fabric. I pick up the skirt after we climb the pagoda.

umbrellas & hats

umbrellas & hats

Chinthe ruins

Chinthe ruins

Across the way from the Chinthe ruins is the highlight of Mingun, Mingun Paya, also known as Mingun Pahtodawgyi, or Mingun Pagoda. As is common when visiting any pagoda in Myanmar, we must take off our shoes.

A common sign seen throughout Myanmar

A common sign seen throughout Myanmar

The Mingun Pagoda is a massive unfinished pagoda begun in 1790; it was meant to be the largest pagoda in the country.  In 1797, when the bottom third of the pagoda was complete, work slowed considerably for several reasons.  There were probably technical difficulties in building the largest pagoda of its kind at that time.  Apparently, some of the slave labor also escaped.  In addition, there was a prophecy going around that the kingdom would end when the pagoda was finished, deliberately slowing construction.  Funding may have also been a problem. Work on the pagoda completely stopped when King Bodawpaya died in 1819 (Renown Travel: Mingun Pagoda).

The structure is still huge, a 240 ft cube sitting atop a 460 foot lower terrace.  The massive paya makes for an impressive site on the banks of the Irrawaddy river.

At the center of the 50 meter high pagoda facing the river is a huge richly decorated entrance. Inside the pagoda is a small shrine with a Buddha image.

Mingun Paya, or Mingun Pahtodawqyi

Mingun Paya, or Mingun Pahtodawqyi

Mingun Paya

Mingun Paya

Two large earthquakes did considerable damage to the Mingun Pagoda. During the 1838 earthquake, large cracks appeared in the Paya’s structure.

It is possible to climb to the top of the pagoda using a stairway to the right of the structure.  It’s quite a scary climb, with many broken and narrow stairways and people trying to climb up and down in tight spaces.  When we finally get to the top of what is often called “the world’s largest pile of bricks,” we have sweeping views of Mingun and the Ayeyarwady River (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

There are no railings at the top of the paya, so it’s a little scary for people (like me) who might be afraid of heights.

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

I take some pictures of Shaun and Sarah atop the pagoda.

Shaun and Sarah at the top of Mingun Paya

Shaun and Sarah at the top of Mingun Paya

The views from here really are magnificent.

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

View of the Ayeyarwady from the top of Mingun Paya

View of the Ayeyarwady from the top of Mingun Paya

View of the Ayeyarwady from the top of Mingun Paya

View of the Ayeyarwady from the top of Mingun Paya

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

View of Mingun from the top of Mingun Paya

We return to our ox-cart where we take some pictures of each other with our kindly ox.

our oxcart

our oxcart

half an ox

half an ox

Me with the oxcart

Me with the oxcart

Next, we visit the bronze Mingun Bell, commissoned by King Bodawpaya in 1808 to be placed at the top of Mingun Paya.  It’s 13 feet high and over 16 feet across at the bottom and weighs 55,555 viss , a Burmese unit of measurement equal to about 90 tons (Lonely Planet Myanmar).  The weight, 55555 is inscribed on the outside of the bell, which is rung by striking it with a wooden log.  People can climb inside of it; you can see people’s feet under it in this photo.

According to a placard at the site: “This bell is the second largest bell in the world, being one-third of that at Moscow and fourteen times of that at St. Paul’s.  It’s supports were destroyed by the earthquake of 1839, and it rested on the ground until 1896, when it was raised, slung on an iron beam, and placed in the present building.”

The Mingun Bell

The Mingun Bell

tree on the grounds of the Mingun Bell

tree on the grounds of the Mingun Bell

The bell is housed in a Burmese-style, multi-tiered pavilion.

The Mingun Bell

The Mingun Bell

We get back into our ox-cart, where I snap a photo of Sarah poking her head out of the front of the cart.

We’re all having such fun on this journey, wearing flip-flops, our feet covered in dust, and hopping in and out of our own personal ox-cart. 🙂

Sarah pokes her head out of the oxcart

Sarah pokes her head out of the oxcart

Next, we visit Hsinbyume Paya, built in 1816 possibly using materials taken from Mingun Paya.  It rises in seven wavy whitewashed terraces representing the seven mountain ranges around Mt. Meru, the mountain at the center of the Buddhist universe (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Entering Hsinbyume Paya

Entering Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

inside Hsinbyume Paya

inside Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

Hsinbyume Paya

flowers for the Buddha

flowers for the Buddha

We stop at some souvenir stands to buy something to drink, as it’s quite hot today.

umbrellas for sale

umbrellas for sale

Our oxcart driver, much more laid-back than my horse-cart driver in Ava, is waiting patiently for us.

our oxcart driver

our oxcart driver

Finally, we stop at Pondaw Paya on the banks of the Ayeyarwady.  This is a small-scale version of what Mingun Paya would have looked like if it had ever been completed.  We do some fun posing with the figures at the pagoda.

Pondaw Paya

Pondaw Paya

Me with the Pondaw Paya guardians

Me with the Pondaw Paya guardians

Me at Pondaw Paya

Me at Pondaw Paya

Pondaw Paya

Pondaw Paya

Inside Pondaw Paya are some very serene looking Buddha figures.

As we’re walking back to our boat, I see the woman with the huge camera who snapped at me yesterday for honing in on her model.  I tell the story to Sarah and Shaun and they’re baffled why someone would act so proprietary about a model to whom she likely paid a very small fee.

at the jetty in Mandalay

at the jetty in Mandalay

On our way back down the river to Mandalay, we talk to some friendly Germans on the boat who recommend a hotel in Yangon called the Agga Youth Hotel.  I take note because I haven’t yet reserved a room in Yangon and they say the location is superb and the staff is great, as is the breakfast. Shaun also recommends a free English tour in Yangon by someone named Sandie, and he and Sarah both recommend taking the Circle train in the westerly direction.  I ask the Germans if they’ve seen Enlightenment Guaranteed, about two German brothers who go to Tokyo to spend some time at a Buddhist temple.  They haven’t seen it but take note of it.  I tell them it’s one of the most hilarious movies I’ve ever seen.  Finally, we’re all sharing stories about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge and how horrible they were, and the German says Germany did the same thing under Hitler, so as Germans they have to own their part in their horrific history.

This is what I love about slow travel such as long leisurely boat rides, talking to fellow travelers and sharing stories and lessons learned along the way.

the Mandalay jetty

the Mandalay jetty

boats on the Ayeyarwady

boats on the Ayeyarwady

Mimo is waiting for me at the boat dock, and we head directly to a chicken and vegetable lunch at a riverside restaurant in Mandalay at 1:30 p.m.

My lunchtime restaurant

My lunchtime restaurant

After lunch, we’ll head to the Mandalay Royal Palace.

Categories: Asia, Ayeyarwady River, Burma, Chinthe Ruins, Hsinbyume Paya, Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Mingun, Mingun Bell, Mingun Pahtodawqyi, Mingun Paya, Myanmar | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

sunset at u bein bridge

Monday, February 16:  After my horrible experience in Ava, I’m happy to be back with Meemo again.  He takes me back to Amarapura, where we started our day this morning, and he parks the car near U Bein Bridge.  I find this colorful boat pulled up on the shore.

Boat at U Bein Bridge

Boat at U Bein Bridge

Meemo has instructed me to walk across U Bein Bridge, but now that I see the boats, I wonder if I should instead take one to watch the sunset.  I always love to be on a boat, but in the distance I can see the impossibly long bridge and I feel like I should walk on the bridge.

Boatman at U Bein Bridge

Boatman at U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge is a 165-year-old bridge that spans the shallow Taungthaman Lake; it is known as the world’s longest teak footbridge at over 1.2km in length.  I guess if you add enough modifiers to a thing, it can be the longest or the best of whatever it is.  Apparently the bridge is supported by 1086 poles, only some of which have been replaced by concrete supports.

Construction on the bridge began in 1849 when the capital of Ava Kingdom moved to Amarapura, and the bridge is named after the mayor who had it built.  It was built from wood reclaimed from the former royal palace in Inwa.

Beneath the bridge, seasonal vegetable gardens splay out along the shore.  People are sitting under an umbrella beside a little hut in the middle of the fields.

hut in the grasslands along the shore of Taungthaman Lake

hut in the grasslands along the shore of Taungthaman Lake

Tourists are getting situated in their boats for the best sunset views.

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

It’s the dry season now in Myanmar, so the lake is very low and the bridge seems very high.  It has no railings on it, so I feel I should pay attention so I don’t go toppling off.

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

All the boats are lined up parallel with the bridge.  The sun will set on the opposite side of the bridge, so they will see the sun set behind the bridge.

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

There is a lone gnarled tree on the west side of the bridge that makes the landscape look like a post-apocalyptic scene.

Taungthaman Lake at sunset

Taungthaman Lake at sunset

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

Boats in Taungthaman Lake

Boats lined up to view the sunset at U Bein Bridge

Boats lined up to view the sunset at U Bein Bridge

The bridge seems to go on forever.

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

About halfway across, you can climb down off the bridge and walk to the shore amidst the farmland.

On the shore of Taungthaman Lake

On the shore of Taungthaman Lake

There on the shore, we can get a close up view of the boats.

Boats lined up for the sunset

Boats lined up for the sunset

And standing on the shore, we can see the sun start to drop behind the bridge.

U Bein Bridge as the sun sets

U Bein Bridge as the sun sets

Sunset at U Bein Bridge

Sunset at U Bein Bridge

Boats and U Bein Bridge at sunset

Boats and U Bein Bridge at sunset

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

Sunset at U Bein Bridge

Sunset at U Bein Bridge

I love these colorful boats and the reflections in the water.  Now that I’ve walked across, I regret that I didn’t take the boat ride.

Boats at Taungthaman Lake

Boats at Taungthaman Lake

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

U Bein Bridge

As soon as the sun sinks below the horizon, the boats disperse and head back to the western shore.

All the boats head for shore

All the boats head for shore

As is common in many scenic places, a bride and groom are having their photos taken on the western shore, beside the gnarly tree.  Some boaters are busily taking pictures of the couple, while I take pictures of all of them.

People in a boat at Taungthaman Lake take photos of a wedding party on the shore

People in a boat at Taungthaman Lake take photos of a wedding party on the shore

As I retrace my steps back to the western shore, I can look down and see the cafe hut where many people are having drinks to watch the sunset.

A little cafe for sunset-watching

A little cafe for sunset-watching

There’s a pretty white pagoda on the shore in the midst of green fields.

pagoda along the shore of Taungthaman Lake

pagoda along the shore of Taungthaman Lake

By the time I make it back, all the boats are moored for the night and the tourists have all left.

boats at Taungthaman Lake

boats at Taungthaman Lake

boats at Taungthaman Lake

boats at Taungthaman Lake

boats at U Bein Bridge

boats at U Bein Bridge

Meemo drives me back to Mandalay, where I take a bit of a rest before I walk several blocks to Thani Thai Restaurant, recommended by a woman at the hotel.  I have a delicious meal of Pad Thai with prawns and dried shrimp, along with two Myanmar beers.  As my hotel doesn’t have very good wi-fi, I linger awhile over my meal and beers and use the wi-fi to check emails and post some Instagram pictures.

Pad Thai with prawns and dried shrimps

Pad Thai with prawns and dried shrimps

Tomorrow, I’m going on another tour with Meemo and I’m letting him arrange it all.  Who knows what will happen next?

Categories: Amarapura, Burma, Mandalay, Myanmar, Taungthaman Lake, Thani Thai Restaurant, Travel, U Bein Bridge | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

a horse cart ride through the former “kingdom of ava”

Monday, February 16:  My driver Meemo tells me that we’re going to have lunch near the Myitnge River Crossing, after which I’m going to cross over a small river by boat and then take a horse cart through Ava, also known as Inwa.  Since 1364, Ava played its part as a royal capital in Burma four times, and it has often been referred to as the “Kingdom of Ava.”  According to Lonely Planet Myanmar, “the royal court finally abandoned Inwa for Amarapura in 1841.”

We drive down a long tree-lined road to the river crossing.

tree-lined approach to the Myitnge River crossing

tree-lined approach to the Myitnge River crossing

After I eat a lunch of chicken with vegetables and rice at a local open-air restaurant, I walk down a steep incline where I get on a small boat for an 80 cent fee.  It only takes a few minutes to get across.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

On the other side of the river is the eastern jetty and horse cart waiting area.  There’s quite a bit of hubbub as all the tourists arrange their private horse carts for the tour of Ava.

the horse cart station

the horse cart station

Getting situated in the horse carts

Getting situated in the horse carts

A Korean woman dressed in a royal blue traditional longyi and matching top, asks if I’m alone and if I’d like to share a cart with her.  She’s on holiday from Yangon where she works as a nurse.  We make arrangements with a young man who has orange-dyed hair; in my opinion he looks a little drug-crazed.  He asks us if we’d like the one-hour tour for $8 or the two-hour tour for $16.  The Korean woman is anxious to save money and split the cost, so we agree we’ll take the one-hour tour, with each of us paying $4.

The young man has a scarf around his neck, a skeletal white horse, and a violent temper that soon becomes evident in the way he beats his horse relentlessly when there is no need to do so.

Taking off

Taking off

We break away from the crowds at the horse cart waiting area, and soon we’re out in the countryside.

heading into Ava

heading into Ava

We make our first stop at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex.  I get out and wander around to take pictures.  I see several people have left their shoes behind, as in common at Myanmar temples, so I do so as well.  However, the dirt path is full of brambles and thorns, and I soon regret leaving my shoes behind.  I still wander, stepping on tiptoes through the brambles.

1st stop: Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

1st stop: Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Niche at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Niche at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

at Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

at Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

By the time I return to the cart, the Korean woman is standing at the cart, taking pictures of the driver and the horse, and asking him to take pictures of her.  She also asks if I’d like a picture of myself with the horse.

the Korean lady, our horse cart and our nasty driver

the Korean lady, our horse cart and our nasty driver

me with our poor abused pony

me with our poor abused pony

another horse cart

another horse cart

We then get back in the cart, and continue on our journey.  I see this cow or ox, I’m not sure what.  Later I find the picture is so strange as his back half seems to have disappeared!

where's his back half?

where’s his back half?

We pass a lot of other carts along the road. While we are driving along, the Korean woman advises me that I should wear the longyi while I’m in Myanmar. She comes across as a bit of a know-it-all and has no sense of humor.

on the road again

on the road again

We pass by numerous pagodas as well, but we don’t stop at all of them.

another pagoda passed along the way

another pagoda passed along the way

We go down another long tree-lined road through rice fields and more pagodas, where our driver parks the cart and motions for us to get out.

rice fields

rice fields

rice fields and pagoda

rice fields and pagoda

We walk past a long line of horse carts parked along the road.

horse with fancy headdress

horse with fancy headdress

another horse cart

another horse cart

Finally, we reach Bagaya Kyaung, a 1934 teak monastery.  Two hundred sixty-seven teak posts support the monastery.  Inside is a prayer hall that with smooth wooden floors and walls; it feels ancient.  This is actually a working monastery, where young monks study.

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

We even find some of the monks’ school notebooks.

monks' notebooks at Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

monks’ notebooks at Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Soon, we’re on our way again.  This time, when I’ve returned to the cart, the Korean woman is already sitting in the cart waiting impatiently and looking bored out of her mind.

through the plantations

through the plantations

bucolic scene

bucolic scene

cows at pasture

cows at pasture

We then make a stop at Nanmyin, also known as The Watchtower.  About 90 feet (30 meters) high, it is a solitary masonry building that remains of Baggidaw’s Palace built in 1822.  Due to the earthquake of 1838, only the lower part was left but it was restored in the style of the original structure.  The Watchtower is an example of the Myanmar architectural style of the early 19th century.  It’s nothing special to see, but apparently when open, which it isn’t, a climb to the top offers excellent views of the countryside.

Nanmyin - The Watchtower

Nanmyin – The Watchtower

Nanmyin - The Watchtower

Nanmyin – The Watchtower

Another pretty horse cart

Another pretty horse cart

Finally, we get back in the cart.  I’m getting extremely irritated with our driver as he keeps angrily beating his horse with a bamboo stick.  The horse is already moving along as well as can be expected on the rutted dirt roads, but the driver seems to want him to move faster as carts are passing us quite often.  Maybe the driver is anxious to get back to the horse cart waiting area so he can pick up another fare.

We stop next at what a sign identifies as Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery (known as Me Nu Oak Kyaung – Brick Monastery).  Lonely Planet Myanmar calls it Maha Aungmye Bonzan (OK Kyaung).  Close enough.  It was built in 1822 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, Chief Queen of King Bagyidaw.  It was also damaged by the earthquake of 1838 but was repaired in 1873 by Sinphyumashin, daughter of Me Nu and a queen of King Mindon.  A sign at the site says this monastery is one of the finest specimens of Myanmar architecture during the Konbaung Period (19th century). Its architecture is a simulation of wooden monasteries with multiple roofs and a prayer hall of seven-tiered superstructure.

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

I overhear someone say that their guide told them that the peacock motifs represent Buddha’s past lives.

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Directly east of the monastery is the fine white Htilaingshin Paya, with its beautiful array of gilded stupas, some dating back to the Bagan period.

Htilaingshin Paya

Htilaingshin Paya

Buddha at Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Buddha at Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery with Htilaingshin Paya in the background

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery with Htilaingshin Paya in the background

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

We finally get back in the cart and continue on our way.  It’s clear this time that the Korean woman has barely gotten out of the cart and seems to have no interest in this tour at all.  I think to myself, why did she even come here at all if she has no interest?

As we’re driving back to the river, our belligerent driver keeps hitting the horse harder and harder.  About 1 km from the river, he stops the cart and tells us in his bad English that the tour has been two hours so we owe him 16,000 kyat (about $16).  I don’t wear a watch and haven’t looked at the time, so I have no idea if he’s right or not, but never mind, the agreement was that we wanted the one hour tour.  He agreed with this, so he should have only taken us to places that would have made up a one-hour tour!  He refuses to move along until we agree that we’ll pay him the 16,000 kyat.  I tell him we only agreed on a one hour tour, so he shouldn’t have stopped at so many places.  I don’t appreciate being threatened and held captive, so I promptly get out of the cart and start walking down the road, but I have no idea how far it is to the river.  He is very angry and keeps pounding the side of the cart with his fist.  What an ass!!!  I can tell the Korean woman is very upset by this argument between me and the driver, but I can also tell she’s upset at the prospect of paying 8,000 kyat each, as she so desperately wanted to split the 8,000 kyat cost.

Finally, I get back in the cart because I don’t know how far or in which direction to go, but I am fuming.  When we return to the horse cart waiting area, I throw my 8,000 kyat at the driver, as I am so pissed off at him after all his violent anger toward us and to the poor horse!  The money lands on the dusty ground; I want to show him my complete disrespect.  I tell him he is a liar and a violent and evil man, although I’m sure he doesn’t understand a word I say.  And then I walk away.

This is the only bad experience I have with anyone my entire time in Myanmar, and I truly feel the man either had some kind of psychological problem or was on drugs.

horse carts all in a row

horse carts all in a row

After that disagreeable altercation, I was happy to get in the boat and return back to my kind driver Meemo.  At the riverside, where I had promised a boy I’d buy a jade elephant necklace when I returned, I seek him out and buy the necklace for $2.

Meemo and I hop back in his car, where he takes me back to Amarapura to see sunset at U Bein Bridge.

Categories: Asia, Ava, Bagaya Kyaung, Burma, Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex, Htilaingshin Paya, Inwa, Maha Aungmye Bonzan, Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery, Mandalay, Me Nu Oak Kyaung, Myanmar, Myitnge River Crossing, Nanmyin, The Watchtower | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

a silk weaving factory, a buddhist academy & sagaing hill

Monday, February 16:  After watching the monks eat their lunch at Maha Ganayon Monastery, my driver takes me to the Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory.  When I was at the monastery, I saw a couple of elegant girls wearing beautiful scarves, and being the scarf fanatic I am, I wondered if they got them here in Myanmar.  When I arrive at the Silk Weaving Factory, I see the girls are here as well, and I can’t help but ask them where they got their scarves.  They tell me they’re Russian but they got their scarves in Barcelona.  Of course!  Where else?  I love Barcelona and I got myself some amazing things while I was there, but the chance of me finding something similar here in Myanmar, I think, is slim.

I walk around the silk weaving factory, admiring the workers’ concentration and dedication to their craft.

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

I am always attracted to textiles in my travels, and usually when I buy anything, it is some kind of textile, whether a scarf, clothing or a bag.

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Spools of thread at the Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

Spools of thread at the Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory

After watching the weavers for a while, I wander into the shop, where I find the Russian girls trying on some gorgeous scarves.  Of course, these are the kinds of girls who can make anything look good, being tall, thin, young and elegant.  Luckily the scarves aren’t all silk; I often prefer the cotton ones to the silk.  Of course, the girls are very stylish, and though I only have a modicum of style, I do always try to be stylish in my way, in a bohemian casual sort of way.  Ha!  I’m certainly not into name brand styles like Gucci, etc, and I never have been. What I do love are ethnically patterned tops and scarves and even pants, as you’ll soon find out when I confess to my shopping sprees in Myanmar.

The girls tell me they bought their scarves in Barcelona for about 3-4 euros, not as much as the 7-8 dollars they’re asking in this shop.  I think they buy one or two scarves each, beautiful ones at that.  I myself can’t help myself and I buy three for $40.  I already have a huge scarf collection at home, but I can never turn down a new one. Scarves enable me to collect textiles — colors, patterns and textures — for a small sum.  And they spruce up any outfit. 🙂

We leave the silk factory and head to Sagaing Hill, 20 km southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the Ayeyarwady River.  Two parallel bridges link Sagaing and Amarapura, the 1934 Ava Bridge, partially demolished in 1942 to stop advancing Japanese soldiers in WWII.  It was repaired in 1954.  The new Sagaing Bridge was built in 2005 (Lonely Planet Myanmar).  We drive over the new bridge.

Sagaing has an uncountable number of white and gold stupas dotting the green hills.  Though once the capital of an independent Shan kingdom, from 1315, its significance shifted from being political to spiritual.  Today, thousands of monks and nuns call Sagaing home and many Myanmar Buddhists come here to meditate and pray.

We make a stop on the far side of the river to take some pictures of the green hills with the stupas.  Wouldn’t you know it, the Russian girls are here as well.  I run into them throughout the rest of the day, and we laugh every time we see each other as we’re obviously on the same tour circuit.

View of Sagaing

View of Sagaing

Pagoda on the way to Sagaing

Pagoda on the way to Sagaing

another temple on the way to Sagaing

another temple on the way to Sagaing

Meemo first takes me to the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, set up in 1994 to educate the brightest young monks.

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

The centerpiece of the academy is “a Sanchi-style hemispherical stupa, gilded and embossed with dharma-wheel patterns (Lonely Planet Myanmar).”  It’s quite beautiful and well-maintained, as is the sprawling campus where the monks live and study.

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Prayer cushions at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Prayer cushions at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

courtyard at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

courtyard at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

Our next stop is U Min Thone Sae Pagoda, also known as Umin Thounzeh.  It’s quite a long walk up a steep hill, with hundreds of steps flanked by souvenir shops all the way.  Near the top of the hill, as is typically the case all through Myanmar, I must leave my flip-flops and proceed barefooted.  Luckily, there are no monkeys leaving their droppings all over this pagoda.

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Umin Thounzeh is famous for its crescent-shaped building, housing 45 Buddha images seated in a curved column around the perimeter. Thirty entrances are designed to create the impression of caves, therefore the name Umin Thounzeh, which literally means 30 Caves.

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

After climbing all the way to the top, I start making my way back down the multitudes of steps.  I get almost to the bottom when one of the ladies points to my feet.  “Shoes!” she says.  I look down, and sure enough I’m still barefooted!  I left my flip-flops all the way at the top.  This is only the first of many flip-flop incidents I will have in Myanmar.  I turn around and climb all the way back up to the top, find my flip-flops and make my way down.  Back at the bottom I buy a necklace and a bracelet made of the seeds that fall from the surrounding trees.  The set costs me about $4.

Our next stop is Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya, also known as “early offering shrine,” is the most important temple on the southern end of Sagaing Hill.

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

View from U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

View from Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

View of Sagaing Hill from U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

View of Sagaing Hill from Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

View from U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

View from Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

U Min Thone Sae Pagoda

Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

Paintings for sale at Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda

Paintings for sale at Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya

After leaving Sooon U Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, we head for a small riverside restaurant for lunch.  On the way, we pass by another random temple which I find quite pretty.

a random pretty temple on the way to Ava

a random pretty temple on the way to Ava

At the open-air local Myanmar restaurant, I order chicken with vegetables and rice.  It’s good but nothing special.  After lunch, I’m getting on a small boat to take a horse-drawn carriage through Ava, a four-time royal capital in Myanmar.

Categories: Amarapura, Asia, Mandalay, Myanmar, Pon Nya Shin Paya, Sagaing, Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Soon U Pon Nya Shin Paya, Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, Thein Nyo Silk Weaving Factory, Travel, U Min Thone Sae Pagoda, Umin Thounzeh | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

pagodas at amarapura & the monks at maha ganayon kyaung

Monday, February 16: Today, I hire a driver named Meemo for 35,000 kyat, or around $35, for the entire day.  He drives me to Amarapura, meaning “City of Immortality;” it was the royal capital in Myanmar for less than 70 years, beginning from 1783. In February 1857, King Mindon began building Mandalay as his new capital city, as per a prophecy.  With the royal treasury depleted by the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, Mindon dismantled the palace buildings of Amarapura, moving the pieces by elephant to build the new capital in Mandalay.  The city walls were pulled down for use as building material for roads and railways.

Meemo first takes me to some nameless pagodas in Amarapura.  They surely do have names, names known only to the locals.  As they’re not really on the tourist circuit, Memo doesn’t introduce me to them by name but merely lets me explore as he accompanies me.  I find them quite beautiful and, happily, deserted.  Only some monks are here, sweeping up leaves and cleaning the grounds.

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Buddha in Pagoda in Amarapura

Buddha in Pagoda in Amarapura

monks sweeping leaves at a pagoda in Amarapura

monks sweeping leaves at a pagoda in Amarapura

monks at work

monks at work

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

An outdoor Buddha

An outdoor Buddha

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Afterwards, we go to Taung Min Gyi Pagoda, where the big Buddha there is being repaired amidst columns of glittering mirrors and tiles.

Buddha under repair at Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Buddha under repair at Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

We head to Maha Ganayon Kyaung, a sprawling monastery where over a thousand monks queue up every day around 10:30 a.m. to collect lunch in stoneware rice bowls.  Meemo tells me where to stand for a good view and leaves me with the crowd of tourists lining the street, all snapping away at the young monks collecting their only meal of the day.

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

According to Myanmar Travel: Mandalay: Amarapura:  This magnificient monastery, founded in 1914, is one of the largest monasteries in Mandalay.  At times there are more than 3,000 monks living and studying here. At 10:30 every morning, hundreds of monks wait in long queues for their Swan (meals). At the same time, hordes of tourists stand watching and photographing them.

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

Monk at Mahaganayon Monastery

Monk at Maha Ganayon Monastery

Monks collecting alms

Monks collecting lunch

You can see the tourists lining the sidewalks.  It feels intrusive to me to be here taking pictures of these monks going about their daily business.  However, this is one of the tourist spots and if the monastery didn’t want to allow tourists, I’m sure they wouldn’t.  Maybe they benefit by donations of some sort.

Monks in line for lunch

Monks in line for lunch

1,000 monks

1,000 monks

Monks in line for their daily lunch

Monks in line for their daily lunch

young monks

young monks

novice monks

novice monks

monks collecting their only meal of the day

monks collecting their only meal of the day

monks in line

monks in line

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

the littlest monks

the littlest monks

monks at Mahaganayon Monastery

monks at Maha Ganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

stone tablets at Mahaganayon Monastery

stone tablets at Maha Ganayon Monastery

The monks disappear into a dining hall, where they happily eat their meal.  There is no privacy for the poor young monks, as the tourists are standing all around the building, gawking and trying to capture pictures of them through the open doors and windows.

dining hall for the monks

dining hall for the monks

Inside, around the perimeter of the dining hall, the donors for today’s lunch walk contemplatively around, heads bowed and hands together in prayer.

the monks eat their lunch

the monks eat their lunch

Outside, poor Burmese mothers sit with their children, hoping for donations (for photos) from tourists. I give this woman some kyat, knowing the struggle that many Burmese people have eking out a living.

Burmese mother and her children

Burmese mother and her children

As I’m leaving, I find this stray monk walking quickly to collect his meal, obviously running a little late.

a straggler monk heading to lunch

a straggler monk heading to lunch

After we leave the monastery, we head to a silk-weaving factory and then to Sagaing.  I’m amazed by how many monks I’ve already seen in Mandalay, and I’ve been here less than 24 hours.

Categories: Amarapura, Asia, Burma, Mahaganayon Kyaung, Myanmar, Taung Min Gyi Pagoda | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

sunset on mandalay hill

Sunday, February 15:  After zipping up the switchbacks of Mandalay Hill on the back of the motorbike, my driver deposits me, along with crowds of Western tourists, at the Su Taung Pyai Pagoda.  We’ve all come to see the sunset looking over Mandalay.

Sunset at Mandalay Hill

Sunset at Mandalay Hill

I have to say that the sunset itself is not that great, as the air is hazy and there’s not much to see of Mandalay except a dry dusty plain.  However, I do find the glittery pagoda in the waning light quite wonderful.  I also adore seeing all the monks out and about in force.

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

In the distance, I can see numerous pagodas and the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River as the sun sinks on the horizon.

Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

Su Taung Pyi Pagoda means wish-granting pagoda. It was built by King Anawratha in 414 Myanmar Era.  It was patronized and renovated by successive KonBaung Kings.  Mandalay Hill has been a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists for two centuries.

There’s a breeze on the hill, and I love seeing the monks in conversation and the weary travelers taking a break against the columns of the pagoda.

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

View of Mandalay

View of Mandalay

I love the endless archways with with Burmese script, the shiny floors and the colorful inlaid mirrors on the columns.

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Monk at Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Monk at Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Two girls strike up a conversation with me, asking me where I’m from, what I’m doing here.  I think they just want to practice their English, as apparently many of the monks also want to do at this spot.

One of the girls is wearing the traditional clothing worn by women in Myanmar, the longyi, pronounced “long-ji.”  In Burma, longyis worn by males are called paso, while those worn by females are called htamain.  The styles are different between men and women, as the pattern is usually a small plaid for the men and floral or striped for the women.  The women often wear a matching blouse that covers the shoulders.  The fabric of the htamain is a long rectangle of cloth wrapped around the waist with the end tucked into the waist, not knotted.  Mostly, they are ankle length.

Burmese girls at Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Burmese girls at Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

Pagoda in Mandalay

Pagoda in Mandalay

Once the sun has set, suddenly all the tourists dissipate, and I have almost the entire pagoda to myself.  I stroll around and take photos in the waning light, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

Su Taung Pyai Pagoda

One of the last to leave the pagoda, I find my motor taxi driver waiting patiently.  He takes me back down the hill, back and forth along the switchbacks.  I love riding on motorbikes in Asia!!  It’s so thrilling!  He returns me to my hotel.

I talk with one of the hotel staff women about arranging a tour for tomorrow.  Then, I walk around the corner about two blocks to an open air restaurant called Unique Myanmar.  There are a couple of large tour groups there, and of course I’m a solo traveler; I think restauranteurs don’t like to deal with people who don’t fill a table for two.  They deliver me a basket of curly tofu crackers with a sweet sauce, and I order prawn curry topped with a beer.  All for $12.  The atmosphere is wonderful, although I am quickly forgotten by the waiter and have to go in search of my bill.

I love arriving in a new country and tasting the local cuisine for the first time.  It’s a lovely end to my first day in Myanmar.  So far, I’m loving the laid-back vibe of this country that is so different from China.

Categories: Asia, Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Mandalay Hill, Myanmar, Su Taung Pyai Pagoda, Unique Myanmar | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

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