S: Southeast Asia: Myanmar
FC: Southeast Asia: Myanmar | February 2014
1: Myanmar | Burma and the Irrawaddy River | Rangoon | Mandalay | Bagan | Balloons over Bagan
2: Long Trip!!! | McCormick to Atlanta - 3 hours Atlanta to Seoul - 15 hours Seoul to Bangkok - 6 hours Sleep - 3.5 hours Bangkok to Rangoon - 2 hours | Rangoon | McCormick
3: Bogyoke Aung San Market | After arriving in Rangoon, we visited this market where everything was sold - from tacky souvenirs to gold jewelry to paintings to vegetables to fish, and even live birds. We had time to wander, so decided to find our first geocache in Asia. Success! | We had lunch at a very attractive outdoor restaurant, The 'Green Elephant'. What a feast - lentil soup, chicken, beef, vegetable curry, and steamed bananas | Rangoon
4: After lunch, we visited the country's largest reclining Buddha. | Our Trip Leader, June | No shoes or socks in pagodas or temples. | Chauk Htat Gyee Pagoda | 225 feet long 108 images on the soles of the feet
5: Many families were eating their lunch in the pagoda. | Temple dogs
6: We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon for some much needed rest. Our room was quite large and overlooked the pool. As we walked through the lobby, we saw a Burmese wedding party. The bride and groom had very elaborate wedding attire. | Maha Bandoola Gardens | We stopped to visit this garden on the way to dinner. Very peaceful with lots of families enjoying themselves. Dinner was another elaborate meal - butter fish, beef, several vegetables, rice, and watermelon.
7: Shwedagon Pagoda
8: Shwedagon Pagoda | We left early the next morning to visit the Schwedagone Pagoda, which is the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar. The pagoda is over 2600 years old and contains relics of the last four Buddhas. The Golden Pagoda is 325 feet high and can be seen everywhere in Rangoon.
10: Golden Pagoda
13: We drove to this monastery where Buddhist Scripture is still studied and taught. We listened to a short percussion concert, saw alms giving, and watched the students line up for lunch. | Kalaywa Tawya Monastery | After our visit, it was time for lunch which was on our own today. June recommended a local restaurant where the locals eat. We picked out our main entree: venison for Steve and fish balls for me. Everything else was included - soup, rice, beans, vegetables, dessert, and tea - all for a total of $6.00. What a bargain!
14: Rangoon: Past and Present | Later in the afternoon, we walked to several areas of the city; we saw street markets and cafés, Chinatown, the waterfront, and an overnight ferry. We talked to several of the street vendors and stopped at the colonial Grand Strand Hotel for coffee and dessert and to see the art gallery. | Betel leaf seller | Sidewalk café
15: The ferry was a bee hive of activity; passengers were boarding, cargo was being loaded, and tourists (us) were gawking. Most families spread blankets on the deck for the overnight passage. There were only a few cabins and some bunks were in the hallway. | Overnight Ferry
16: Boats: large and small
17: Grand Strand Hotel | Market Place
18: Market Place | At least the seafood was on ice unlike the chickens. | Durians | Ice, anyone?
19: Bagan | Rangoon | Bagan | Our flight to Bagan left at 6:00AM; we were up at 3:15!! After a flight of 45 minutes, we arrived in Bagan, the 'City of Four Million Pagodas'. A slight exaggeration - there are only a few thousand. Some are very elaborate while others are barely large enough for one person to stand in. | A mother and child wearing thanaka paste, which is used to protect the skin from the sun. It is made of ground sandalwood bark.
20: Shwe Sandaw Pagoda | We arrived at the temple just after sunrise, and climbed to the top, in bare feet, for a wonderful but hazy view. The steps were very steep and uneven. Thank goodness there was a railing.
23: Nyang-U Market | We visited this marketplace which had a huge selection of pottery.
24: Shwe Zi Gon Pagoda
25: Ananda PahtoTemple
26: Ananda PahtoTemple | Ananda is the largest and most significant temple in Bagan. Inside are four large statues of Buddha, each with a different facial expression. The graceful spires are very ornate and covered with gold leaf.
27: The temple was severely damaged in the 1975 earthquake but has been almost completely restored. Work is still being down on the exterior.
28: We had lunch at this restaurant right by the river. A beautiful setting, a nice sunny day, a cool breeze, and delicious food - what more could we ask for? | River View Restaurant
29: After lunch, we checked into our hotel for a short rest; all the rooms overlooked a central courtyard. Our room was huge, complete with a sitting room. | Areindmar Hotel
30: Ever Stand Lacquerware Workshop | In the late afternoon, we visited a local lacquerware workshop. There are many, many steps involved in making lacquerware which is all done by hand. For the amount of work involved, the prices were very inexpensive.
31: Sunset Cruise on the Irrawaddy River
32: Sunset Cruise on the Irrawaddy River | Later in the afternoon, we drove to the Irrawaddy River for a sunset cruise. As we cruised up-stream, we saw fishing boats, barges, tourist boats, and even a small cruise ship.
33: Cruise Ship
34: The sunset was spectacular - nice reflections. Later, we had another great dinner - barbecued pork, chicken, and beef, lots of vegetables, rice, and fruit. We also had two musicians playing during dinner.
35: Balloons Over Bagan
36: Balloons Over Bagan
37: We left the hotel at 4:30 the next morning for our hot-air balloon ride; it was quite chilly. We lifted off just after sunrise for spectacular views of the ancient temples. | Ian, our pilot
41: We could see hundreds of temples - some in the middle of a field, and others, surrounded by modern homes. The haze was due to all the cooking fires.
44: Irrawaddy River
45: After seeing some of the temples, we flew over the Irrawaddy River where we had some nice reflections and shadows. | Later in the morning, the smoke from the cooking fires got thicker making it harder to see anything.
46: After an hour-long flight, we had a nice soft landing - no bouncing along the ground. Since it was Valentine's Day, in addition to the traditional Champagne, we also had small heart-shaped cakes.
48: We arrived back at the hotel at 9:00, had just enough time for breakfast, then started the day's activities. Our first stop was the Mingalazedi Temple. We decided not to make the climb but just walked around the grounds | Mingalazedi Temple
49: Horse-drawn Carriage Ride
51: Horse-drawn Carriage Ride | After seeing Ancient Bagan from the air, we had a chance to actually ride through the archaeological zone. We boarded our small carriage for a bumpy, dusty ride through the temple area.
54: Khayminga Temple
55: Palm Sugar 'Factory'
56: After our tour of the palm sugar village, we returned to the hotel. We skipped lunch and went right to bed. Had a good rest before our 3:00 tour of Ancient Bagan. Our first stop was the Bagan Archaeological Museum - very interesting with artifacts from hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside the museum. | Bagan Archaeological Museum
57: Bagan Viewing Tower | Our next stop was the Bagan Viewing Tower. We took the elevator to the eighth floor, walked up a spiral staircase to the 11th floor where we had wonderful views of the surrounding temples. On the way out, we stopped at the restaurant for a nice, cold drink - perfect for a hot day.
59: Village Life | On the way to our dinner show, we stopped at this small village. Water was collected from a central well, fabric was being woven, coffee and rice were drying, and women were cooking over an open fire. We also saw several satellite dishes, so some people had TV. Everyone was very friendly.
61: Dinner Show | We had a delicious dinner of fish, chicken, pork, vegetables, rice, and fried bananas for dessert. Later, we saw a puppet show and several Burmese dances and songs. A very enjoyable way to end a long and exhausting day.
62: Mandalay | Bagan | Mandalay
63: We were up at 4:30 to catch our 7:30 flight to Mandalay. Once we arrived, our first stop was the Mahamuni Temple, the most sacred shrine in upper Myanmar. The 12-foot high Buddha is covered with so much gold leaf that its body has lost all proportion. Only men can apply the gold leaf - June showed the guys how to apply it, but Steve said it was still difficult. The monks perform a ritual washing of the Buddha's face and brush his teeth every morning. | This is how the Buddha looked originally. | Gold leaf packet | Mahamuni Temple | June
65: There were several entrances to the temple, all of which had vendors selling lots of stuff that we didn't need. It didn't seem very respectful.
66: Aung Nan Wood Carving Shop
67: We visited a wood carving shop where we saw some very elaborate carving. It takes several months to make the larger pieces. I bought a small wooden puppet for the Christmas tree.
68: We visited a gold-leaf workshop where we saw workers pounding sheets of gold into gossamer-thin pieces. What back-breaking work! The pieces were then placed in a small paper holder to be sold later at the temple. | Gold Leaf Workshop | We had a nice lunch of chicken and fish and then rested at our hotel for a few hours before we started our afternoon itinerary.
69: Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery
70: Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery
71: The monastery is carved entirely out of teak wood. There are four levels of tiered roofs and its intricate carvings depict scenes from Buddhist mythology. Inside, there were several bronze Buddhas.
72: This young girl was selling flowers to be used as an offering.
73: Mandalay Hill | We took the elevator to the top of Mandalay Hill for a panoramic view of the the old city.
74: Kuthodaw Pagoda
75: At Kuthodaw Pagoda the teachings of Theravada Buddhism are inscribed in the world's largest book. Each of the 729 gold inscribed tablets is housed in an individual stupa.
76: Boat Ride to Mingun
77: After breakfast, we drove to the Irrawaddy River for our cruise to Mingun. All the tourist's boats were rafted together; we had to cross from one boat to another by walking on narrow planks with no hand rails. Luckily, there were plenty of boatmen to help us across. | The boat was quite comfortable with an awning and chaise lounges.
78: After a 90 minute sail, we arrived at Mingun. Several taxis were waiting but we opted to walk to the village. | Our make-shift gangplank.
79: Mingun Village | The slingshot is said to scare the birds away!
80: In 1790, the king started work on what would be the largest pagoda in the country. However, an astrologer told him that he would die when the pagoda was finished. So here it sits. The pagoda was damaged in the 1839 earthquake and has large cracks on every side. | Pahtodawgyi Pagoda
81: Mingun Bell | Mingun Elephant | The bell was built in 1790 and is one of the largest in the world - it is 12-feet high and weighs 90 tons. People ring the bell after performing a good deed so they can share with others the merit they earned. | The king also erected two huge elephants. Today, only the back half is standing. | This is the only Buddha that is wearing glasses. Very odd looking.
82: Hsinphyumae Pagoda
83: It was quite a climb to the top - the steps were steep, it was hot, and we were barefoot.
84: We sailed back to Mandalay for lunch where we had a Chinese feast of duck, chicken, pork, fish, vegetables, rice, French fries, and fruit. We also sampled Mandalay Rum, which was quite strong and harsh. | We returned to the hotel at 3:00 for a short rest. The pool looked inviting but we had only 45 minutes before we were due to leave so we just relaxed for a few minutes.
85: Our first stop this afternoon was a silk workshop. We watched the young ladies weave very intricate patterns. Naturally there was a gift shop, but they sold mostly lengths of cloth. | Pattern | Silk Workshop
86: U Bein Bridge
87: U Bein Bridge is the longest footbridge in the world; it is over 1 kilometer long and crosses a shallow lake. It was built from teakwood left over when the king moved the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay. | Many people watched the sunset from rented rowboats.
89: We walked about half way across the bridge; there were lots of people, no guard rails, and the bridge vibrated as we were walking. It was a little scary, to say the least. However, the views were certainly impressive.
90: We stayed for the sunset and returned to the hotel at 7:30. We were too tired to eat but we did go to the bar for a last glass of wine in Burma. Tomorrow, we fly to Bangkok to begin our 'Discover Thailand' tour. | Burma | Thailand