ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Myanmar 2017

DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR, 2017.12.26

On the last day of our Burmese trip, we got up early in the morning to take a stroll in the  Nyaung-U neighbourhood before heading to the airport.  With less than an hour to spare, we decided to find our own way to revisit the Shwezigon Paya, the largest temple in Nyaung-U.  Assisted by Google Map, we headed into the peaceful residential neighborhood of Nyaung-U.  It was 7 in the morning, the light was soft and the air peaceful in the residential streets.  Without much trouble we reached Shwezigon Paya.  Vendors were busily preparing their stalls at the temple entrances while local worshipers were already arriving in clusters.  Foreign tourists had yet arrived but the temple was already quite lively.  Without a guide this time, we had the freedom to wander around the temple to absorb the spiritual atmosphere and take photographs.  Keeping our departure time in mind, we headed back to Oasis Hotel via the same route.  We had a quick sip of coffee at Oasis before the taxi arrived.  At the airport, we soon found out that there was an issue with the incoming aircraft and our 9am flight was delayed until 11:30am.  We chose to stay at the airport to write postcards and waited for further news.  Fortunately the aircraft did arrive and we had no trouble to catch our connecting flight at Yangon back to Hong Kong.

That concludes the posts on our 3-day trip to Myanmar in December 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 7am, we walked into a quiet residential neighborhood of Nyaung-U heading towards Shwezigon Paya, the largest temple in Nyaung-U.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinding our way with Google Map on our phone, we passed by small shops and streets out of the tourist areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the early hours, the town was extremely peaceful and there were hardly any people on the street.

DSC_4979As we approached the town largest temple, we could see much more activities on the street.

DSC_4980We arrived at Shwezigon Paya from a different entrance than where Win Thu , a guide, brought us to two days ago.

DSC_5021Devoid of foreign tourists, Shwezigon Paya appeared to be much more spiritual under the soft light of the morning sun.

DSC_5044At the temple entrance hallway, vendors were starting their busy day.

DSC_5053Stalls selling local snacks in bamboo skewers and bowls of colourful sauces were set up at prominent spots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithout the tour groups we had a better chance to photograph the locals and entrance hallway at Shwezigon Paya.

DSC_5056Floral offerings were particular popular with worshipers at the temple entrance.

DSC_5069On our way back, we passed by an unused entrance hallway of Shwezigon Paya.

DSC_5071A cute little girl caught our attention on our way back to the hotel.

DSC_5072The short walk also led us to pass by less known stupa in the quiet neighborhood.

DSC_5075Some locals were burning trash at a street intersection.

DSC_5078Beautiful morning sun led our way back towards Oasis Hotel.

DSC_5082We passed through the sleepy Aye Nyein Thaya Park on our way back.

DSC_5086This short morning walk gave us a more domestic look at Nyaung-U, the commercial hub of the Bagan area.

DSC_5090At Nyaung-U Airport, we were told that our flight was delayed for two hours.

DSC_5110Before noontime, we were finally up in the air over the arid plains of Bagan towards Yangon.  Two days of temple and pagoda hopping provided us a memorable introduction to the spectacular wonders of Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt wasn’t long before we arrived at Yangon International Airport and transited to our return flight back to Hong Kong.  Although short, the trip to Yangon and Bagan gave us a remarkable getaway from the often commercialized and overwhelmingly busy Christmas scenes of the city.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 3 (8/8): FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

In the evening, we returned to Sanon Restaurant in Nyaung-U for dinner.  After dinner, we walked to the commercial street of Nyaung-U.  Souvenir vendors, hotels, pubs and restaurants lined up along Thi Ri Pysitsaya 4 Street, which, as our guidebook described, provided simple nightlife to the foreign tourists.  Foreign tourists concentrated on a few of the restaurants that served fusion cuisine (Chinese, Thai and Myanmar).  The decor were mainly causal and colourful.  For us, the most eye-catching scene was a traditional umbrella showroom with a variety of colourful and translucent umbrellas lighted up from behind.

DSC_4926We passed by the Sapada Paya once again at the road intersection on our way to Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_4928Simple Christmas decorations lighted up building facades along the main road of the town.

DSC_4935Another satisfying meal at Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_4941Most shops along the main street in Nyaung-U offered e-bikes hire for tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was about 9pm and most tourists had already returned to their hotels.

DSC_4948Some shops offered contemporary bags and accessories with a Burmese touch in design.

DSC_4953Some were still checking out the souvenir vendors.

DSC_4958The most attractive shop was an traditional umbrella store.

DSC_4957Several local children circling around a fire reminded us that Bagan was still a less privileged rural area in Myanmar despite recent development of tourism.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 3 (7/8): SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

Our car sped through the dusty country road towards one of the designated viewing platform in Old Bagan.  It was our last chance to enjoy the sunset scenery over the pagodas of Bagan.  We thought we were late, but instead we were among the first few to arrive at the viewing platform.  We picked out spot to view the sunset in front of the golden fields, romantic pagodas and distant mountains.  We were occasionally distracted by the passing cattle and humble shepherds.  As the sun set behind the surreal skyline of Medieval pagodas and spires, we knew that our brief tour of magical Bagan was coming to an end.  It might have been too much history and Buddhist philosophy to take in in less than two days, but the experience did prove more than worthwhile for a spiritual journey to the religious and historical heartland of Myanmar.  After the sunset, Win Thu and our driver dropped us back at Oasis Hotel.  At the parking lot, we went through the formality of payment and tipping, and earnestly thanked them for introducing us the wonder of Bagan.

DSC_4768We passed by a number of fascinating pagodas on our way to the viewing platform.

DSC_4776The late afternoon sun was gorgeous, casting a beautiful orange glow on the bricks of the pagodas.

DSC_4778The platform was just a earth berm in the midst of grass fields and pagodas.

DSC_4779The sun was still high above the pagodas when we arrived.

DSC_4785A number of pagodas stood out in front of us.

DSC_4786Another marvelous temple was partially covered by scaffolding.

DSC_4803The shrubs right in front us began to glow under the golden sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe silhouette of pagodas and spires formed a romantic skyline in front of us.

DSC_4810Our focus shifted to the cattle passing behind us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe white cattle and the red pagodas together formed a surreal picture.

DSC_4815The view of the shepherds and cattle was a great bonus for us.

DSC_4820The cattle gradually disappeared beyond the woods behind us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a perfect day to watch the sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stood silently to watch the sun lowered behind the distant mountains.

DSC_4921Once the sun was gone, most tourists soon left the platform.  We stayed for a little longer to absorb the tranquil atmosphere of Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 3 (6/8): NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

After Sulamani, Dhammayangyi and Thatbyinnyu, Win Thu suggested we could shift to see some smaller and unique temples in the nearby area.  We headed south from Old Bagan to the village of Myinkaba.  We first stopped by Napaya Temple to check out the Brahma sculptures.  Instead of Buddhist images, Napaya is famous for its Hindu wall relief.  The temple was smaller than what we imagined, but the relief was quite remarkable and unique.  We stayed in Napaya for a short while, then moved on to Manuha Temple, one of the oldest temples in Bagan.  Manuha was quite interesting for us because firstly it still remained as an active worshiping place and secondly it housed several prominent Buddhist statues.  Lastly we dropped by the Gubyaukgyi, another small temple famous for its Jataka murals.  Luckily temple keeper was around and we were allowed to get into the temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the small openings on the brickwork, Napaya Temple was small and dark inside and we were the only visitors.

DSC_4677At the centre of Napaya, there was the main altar surrounded by the Brahma relief sculptures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough not pleasant to the eye, the metal sub-frame inside Napaya Temple helps to prevent further deterioration of the original structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Napaya, the Manuha Temple offered a completely different picture: a busy place of worship full of local visitors.

DSC_4694There are several buildings and four different images of Buddha at Manuha Temple.

DSC_4697The largest seated Buddha image is located in a building at the centre of the temple complex.

DSC_4700A large crowd of worshipers gathered at the base of the Buddha statue. They placed their hands and faces onto the golden statue, and murmured prayers with their eyes closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were overwhelmed by the scale of the Buddha when standing right in front of the statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stood behind the worshipers.  Through the entrance archway, we could only see the base of the Buddha and his crossed legs.

DSC_4704Right across from the seated Buddha, there was huge golden alms bowl on display.  Visitors lined up to climb a ladder and look inside the bowl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn another building, we came face to face with a 90 foot reclining Buddha, a fine example of the iconic posture of the Buddha lying on his right about to enter the parinirvana.

DSC_4721The reclining Buddha is housed in a simple shelter just large enough to cover the lying statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA group of young monks walked past the building that houses the reclining Buddha.

DSC_4729Young monks is a common scene throughout Myanmar.

DSC_4739After Manuha Temple, we followed Win Thu back to the sleepy village of Myinkaba.

DSC_4742The village of Myinkaba is famous for traditional lacquerware.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last temple we visited in Myinkaba was Gubyaukgyi Temple.  We came to see the well preserved frescoes made by the Mon people.

DSC_4745Built in 1113 AD by Prince Yazakumar, Gubyaukgyi Temple is another small gem with fine examples of Indian and Mon architectural ornaments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were lucky that the temple keeper was around to let us in to check out the frescoes.  Outside the temple, souvenir and puppet vendors gathered under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_4758The sun was already quite low after our visit of Gubyaukgyi, urging us to find a good spot to watch Bagan’s sunset one last time.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 3 (5/8): THATBYINNYU TEMPLE, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

Another prominent structures that we visited in Bagan was Thatbyinnyu Temple.  Before entering the temple, our guide Win Thu led us to climb onto a long earth mount.  We soon found out that the mount was part of the old city wall.  We walked on it for a little bit.  From the old wall, we enjoyed the fantastic views of nearby pagodas and the Thatbyinnyu.  Built in mid-12th century, the 60m+ pagoda of Thatbyinnyu Temple is one of the tallest monuments in the area.  We followed Win Thu into the temple, circled the interior passage once and stopped a few times to listen to our guide’s Buddhist stories.

DSC_4613From the entrance road, we were impressed by the splendid architecture of Thatbyinnyu Temple.

DSC_4616The ruined brick wall in front of the temple was the southeastern corner of the old city wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked the former city wall for a little bit.

DSC_4630From the wall, we could see various pagodas nearby.

DSC_4633The Thatbyinnyu stood beautiful just a stone throw north of the ruined city wall.

DSC_4637We followed Win Thu to find the main entrance of Thatbyinnyu.

DSC_4646Inside the temple, the first thing we saw  was a prayer hall.  For some reason, everything in Thatbyinnyu seemed to be light in tones, especially compared to the dimly lit interiors of other temples such as Dhammayangyi and Sulamani.

DSC_4648Much of the interior of Thatbyinnyu was repainted in a light beige colour.

DSC_4651Only small portions of the original fresco survives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many worshipping niches along the wall of the passages.

DSC_4656We stopped at the statue of the Buddha with his hands resting on his chest.  Win Thu told us the story of Buddha returning home to his wife and son after years of traveling and teaching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside a temple archway, a local sand painting artist demonstrated the local sand painting techique to us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited Thatbyinnyu from another crowded prayer hall.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 3 (4/8): DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

Not far from Sulamani stands the biggest temple in Bagan, the Dhammayangyi Temple.  Standing majestically like an ancient pyramid, Dhammayangyi was perhaps a statement of remorse from King Narathu, who killed his father and elder brother and executed one of his wives for Hindu rituals.  He also ordered the mortar-less brickwork to be so precise that not even a pin could fit between two bricks.  Failing to do so the brick workers would be cruelly punished with amputation.  However, before the temple was completed, Narathu himself was also assassinated in 1170.  Since then, Dhammayangyi remained unfinished.

Compared with Sulamani, the interior of Dhammayangyi seemed much less polished.  Our guide told us that after the death of Narathu, the locals hastily bricked up the inner passages and didn’t put too much efforts to maintain the temple because of their revulsion toward cruel Narathu.  As we passed through the bricked up passages while touring the structure, a sense of mystery still captivated our imagination on what really lie beyond the bricked passages.  Another interesting feature at Dhammayangyi was the original side-by-side Buddha statues with Gautama and Maitreya (present and future Buddhas).  On the outside, we could admire the fine carvings on the external walls and at arched openings, where visitors gathered to pose for photos.

DSC_4368Looking from a distance, Dhammayangyi looked similar to an ancient pyramid in the Yucatan jungle.

DSC_4534After we took off our shoes, we followed a green mat to enter the temple complex.

DSC_4538On our way, we passed by a few trees where vendors displayed dozens of local puppets.

DSC_4545We entered Dhammayangyi through a worship hall packed with local worshippers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Buddha image at the altar was once again gilded with gold.

DSC_4557Behind the altar, we entered the main passage of the temple.

DSC_4560The ceiling of the passage was high and dark.  Supporting arches appeared from time to time to provide braces for the walls.

DSC_4562We passed by a number of bricked up passages that led to the unknown.

DSC_4567Buddhist statues were placed at some of the opened niches.

DSC_4570Statues varied in styles and facial features might have come from different periods in history.

DSC_4579With the constant flow of visitors, walking in the dark passages of Dhammayangyi was hardly a spooky experience.

DSC_4584Finally we reached the west shrine, featuring the original image of the double Buddhas on one side, and a reclining Buddha on the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dual statues of Gautama and Maitreya Buddha at Dhammayangyi was a rarity in Bagan.

DSC_4593At the exterior, local visitors enjoyed themselves at the arched openings.

DSC_4599Some of external ornaments and arched openings had become desirable backdrops for photo shooting.

DSC_4604We exited the complex from where we arrived.

DSC_4606Vending trucks selling fresh juices could be found all over the entrance parking lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of vendors gathered under a tree shade as Bagan braced for a scorching afternoon.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 3 (3/8): SULAMANI TEMPLE, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

Often considered as the crown jewel of Bagan, Sulamani Temple is probably on every visitor’s itinerary in Bagan.  The huge popularity of Sulamani probably comes from its magnificently preserved wall paintings along the long and dark corridors inside the temple, and the detailed ornaments of the pediments and pilasters.  Built in the 12th century by Narapatisithu, Sulamani has withstood a series of earthquakes throughout history.  The latest earthquake hit Bagan in 2016.  Sulamani’s gilded spire and top umbrella collapsed, along with damages here and there that kept the temple behind scaffolding for much of 2017.  Fortunately when we were there the temple had already reopen its doors to the public.

DSC_4374We left our shoes at the arched entrance gateway.  From the entrance, we could notice the absence of the gilded spire.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first worship hall where we entered the temple was packed with worshippers.

DSC_4385Many worshippers were busy applying gold leaves to the Buddhist statue.

DSC_4396Between different worshipping halls were the famous corridors with extensive murals.

DSC_4389Magnificent wall paintings include the reclining Buddha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the ceiling was full of frescoes.

DSC_4403Our guide Win Thu told us a few Buddhist stories as we admired the frescoes.

DSC_4405Details of a Buddhist statue in another worship hall.

DSC_4431Atop another Buddhist statue we could find a chatra umbrella, a common auspicious symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

DSC_4441Another interesting fresco depicts groupd of worshippers.

DSC_4469More frescoes.

DSC_4480We exited the temple from the worship hall where we first arrived.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the exterior, we could admire the beautiful ornaments of the temple.

DSC_4496Local visitor at an ornate window opening.

DSC_4505A large part of the temple was under repair from the 2016 earthquake.

DSC_4523We took our time to walk around Sulamani to check out its exterior ornaments.

DSC_4377Its pilasters are some of the finest in Bagan.

DSC_4531Sulamani was undoubtedly one of the most important temples in Bagan for tourists.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 3 (2/8): NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

After watching the sunrise over Old Bagan, we returned to Oasis Hotel for breakfast.  Soon, our guide Win Thu came to join us and we headed off once again to explore the Bagan area.  Before another series of pagoda hopping, our day’s first destination was the local market of Nyaung-U.  As the main transportation and commercial hub of Bagan, the market of the river town Nyaung-U is a gathering point for the locals.  Many locals from the surrounding villages would come for grocery and daily needs.  Nyaung-U market offers travelers a great spot to learn about the daily lives of the locals.

DSC_4263We started our market stroll at the open wet market section.

DSC_4265It was great to see all the fresh produces from the area, as well as the smiles and laughter of the vendors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from produces, colourful flowers were also available.

DSC_4271Our eyes were overwhelmed by all shades of green.

DSC_4285Several kids were enjoying themselves behind the vendor stalls.

DSC_4292There were several vendors selling thanaka powder, a yellowish-white paste made from ground tree bark of thanaka trees.  Thanaka powder is a very popular cosmetic paste which the local Burmese women put on their faces.

DSC_4304Moving away from the open area, we walked into the covered aisles.

DSC_4307The aisles were narrow and busy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlso for sale included betel leaves, which the locals used to make paan shots with Areca nut and/or tobacco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABamboo shoots is a common ingredients for local cuisine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA quiet corner of the covered market.

DSC_4316.JPGSome vendors had to attend to their stall and baby at the same time.

DSC_4322Many vendors were also having their meals at the stalls.

DSC_4326This shop had all kinds of dried fish.

DSC_4331In the dry goods area, merchandise such as clothing and slippers were sold along with spices.

DSC_4345In the covered area, there was also a small eatery.

DSC_4348Heading out to the open area where we arrived, we passed by more stalls selling local produces and spices.

DSC_4351Apart from temple and pagoda hopping, the Nyaung-U market certainly added an unique experience to our visit of Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 3 (1/8): MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

The most remarkable and photogenic experience of our trip to Myanmar was undoubtedly watching the sunrise in Old Bagan.  The romantic spectacle of hot air balloons floating over the plains of ancient pagodas has drawn every Bagan visitors to get up before dawn.  We had high hopes for the experience long before we came to Bagan.  Our driver came at 6:45 to pick us up at Oasis Hotel.  He drove us to a pagoda in Old Bagan, and told us to walk up a staircase to the pagoda terrace.  We turned on our head lamps and climbed up the narrow stair to reach the upper terrace.  We were surprised to find that two out of four sides of the terrace were already packed with visitors.  Without guessing which way to look, we stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowd and patiently waited for the sky to light up.

DSC_3993We stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowds and set up our tripod.  Stars were still visible in the sky, and so as the flooded lights at some pagodas.

DSC_4000At a distance, what appeared to be Ananda Pahto looked gorgeous with the golden flood lights and the purple horizon beyond.

DSC_4015Ten minutes later, the foggy plain looked mysterious.

DSC_4020In every directions, silhouette of ancient pagodas and distant mountains formed an one-of-a-kind mystic landscape unique to Bagan.

DSC_4058A few minutes later, a cluster of hot air balloons appeared from the horizon.

DSC_4064At the same time, we had the first peek of the Christmas sunrise.

DSC_4085The hot air balloons went up just in time to catch the first glimpse of sunrise over Old Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sunrise over Old Bagan was absolutely a stunning sight.

DSC_4121Watching sunrise of Old Bagan from the basket of a hot air balloon should be a remarkable experience.  That would require us to book well in advance and cost each of us about US$500.

DSC_4122From the pagoda terrace, the hot air balloons provided the extra magic to the already otherworldly scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome balloons got pretty close to the spires of pagodas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA hot air balloon seemed reaching the rising sun.

DSC_4136For several minutes, the entire Old Bagan appeared in layers of silhouettes.

DSC_4148The balloons gradually floated across the horizon while the sun rose up quickly.

DSC_4164On the other side, the scenery was dominated by ancient pagodas under the orange glow of the rising sun.

DSC_4173At 8:45am, about an hour and fifteen minutes since we first arrived at the pagoda terrace, dramatic low angle sunlight covered much of Bagan with a mystical ambience.

DSC_4179A group of locals walked towards a nearby pagoda under the early morning sun.

DSC_4198Silhouette of the distant Ananda Pahto was astonishingly beautiful.

DSC_4209At 9am, smoke from wood burning began to appear from the fields around us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy 9:10am, most visitors had already left the terrace.

DSC_4245Down at the pagoda entrance, vendors were setting up their souvenir stalls for the day.

DSC_4255We quickly descended the pagoda and returned to the driver.  We couldn’t wait to begin another day of Bagan’s temple hopping with our guide Win Thu.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 2 (5/5): SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Tourists and guidebooks often compare the ancient ruins of Myanmar’s Bagan with Cambodia’s Angkor, and so as their base towns: Nyaung-U of Bagan and Siem Reap of Angkor.  Tourists arriving in Bagan may discover that Nyaung-U is nothing like Siem Reap.  There is no designated Pub Street, massage parlours or fish spa for the tired feet.  Several years ago we spent the night of New Year’s Eve in the Pub Street of Siem Reap, where bars and restaurants were packed with half drunk tourists.  This time, we had an opportunity to spend Christmas Eve in Bagan.  Unlike Siem Reap, Nyaung-U was much more peaceful.  To celebrate Christmas Eve, we chose Sanon Restaurant, a social enterprise offering great food and non-profit training for the disadvantaged youth.  After a satisfying meal, we walked around Nyaung-U to take in the peaceful atmosphere of the silent night.

DSC_3911On our way to Sanon Restaurant, we passed by a number of convenient stores catered for tourists.  Most shops also offered e-bike rentals to tourists.  Renting E-bikes is one of the most popular ways for tourists to do their pagoda hopping.

DSC_3916We were lucky to find a table after a bit of waiting at Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_3940The dining area was a pleasant open terrace.

DSC_3927We started our Christmas Eve dinner with a delicious cocktail.

DSC_3938We had a local dish: deep fried morning glory for appetizer.

DSC_3936One of our main dishes was also a local dish: Giant Irrawaddy Prawn and Catfish Curry.  Flowing north to south, Irrawaddy River is the largest river in Myanmar.

DSC_3944After dinner, we walked past a book vendor in front of a restaurant.  All books were non-fiction and half of them were in English.

DSC_3945It was a 15-minute walk from Sanon Restaurant back to Oasis Hotel.  The street was peaceful and quiet.  All actions seemed to be limited inside the restaurants and hotels.

DSC_3949Some of the local eateries were particularly busy, with customers gathered to watch football games on large televisions.

DSC_3953Located at a road junction, Sapada Paya stood quietly over Nyaung-U.

DSC_3963We stopped by a small playground at the base of Sapada Paya.

DSC_3970Despite there was no one around, up at the terrace of Sapada Paya we found a small altar with fresh floral offerings.

DSC_3978Finally we were back at Oasis Hotel, our comfortable base for our stay in Bagan.

DSC_3988No one was around in the garden of Oasis Hotel, though Christmas music was on.

DSC_3915We enjoyed a peaceful Christmas Eve and retired to our room early.  The next morning we would get up before dawn.  Our driver would pick us up to watch the magical sunrise over Old Bagan, probably the most well known and gorgeous scenery in Myanmar.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (4/5): SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Watching sunset at Bagan Myanmar from the top of a pagoda has been one of the most popular activities for tourists.  However, according to our guide Win Thu due to recent accidental falls of some tourists, the government temporarily banned pagoda climbing during sunset.  Instead, Win Thu took us to one of the designated earth berm where we could still see dipping of the crimson sun over the plain of Buddhist stupas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving Ananda Temple behind, we moved on to a designated lookout in Old Bagan.

DSC_3745Obviously we were the first to arrive at the lookout.  It was nowhere close to as crowded as watching sunset atop the most popular viewing spots in Angkor of Cambodia, but it was not romantic and peaceful as one may wish either.

DSC_3749The view would be much better if we could climb onto one of the pagoda for the sunset.

DSC_3751Yet, it was still enjoyable to watch the colour of the ancient bricks changed from brown to orange as the sun dipped lower.

DSC_3760Behind the lookout there was a wetland, sort of a rare sight in the rather arid plains of Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome tourists arrived in horse-carts.

DSC_3767As sunset approached, the distant pagodas and temples turned into layers of silhouettes.

DSC_3779The horse-carts and ancient pagodas made a perfect picture.

DSC_3797An Ox-cart emerged from nowhere and stole everyone’s attention.

DSC_3809The scenery of pagodas reminded us the spiritual ambience of Bagan during the Bagan period.

DSC_3814Pagodas in partial ruins standing against a rural setting provoked a romantic feel.

DSC_3823Gradually the foreground turned dark just before the sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the pagodas and mountains, the sun dipped rather quickly in front of the crimson sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun set rather quickly and just a moment later, it completely disappeared behind the distant mountains.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (3/5): ANANDA PAHTO, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

After a brief rest at our hotel, Win Thu came to pick us up for another temple visit.  We went further down Anawrahta Road from Nyaung-U towards Old Bagan to visit one of the most prominent icon of Bagan, the Ananda Pahto (Temple).   Built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, the wonderfully preserved temple is often considered to be one of the finest structures in Bagan.  The iconic golden spires of Ananda were not always golden.  In fact, they were gilded in 1990 on its 900th anniversary.  The exterior walls of the temple, on the other hand, were whitewashed from time to time.  Four large standing Buddha were housed in the temple, each facing one of the four cardinal directions.  The north and south facing images were said to be the original which were crafted in Bagan style.  The east and west ones were replacements after the original ones were destroyed by fire.  All four Buddha images were made of teak wood and covered with gold leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took off our shoes before entering the entrance hallway.  Led by our guide Win Thu, we walked into the courtyard of Ananda Pahto and were immediately amazed by the grandeur of the temple.  The golden spires glowed under the late afternoon sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore entering the temple, Win Thu took us to see the famous glazed terra-cotta tiles along the lower terraces of the structure.  Hundreds of these well-preserved tiles depicted the Jataka tales (stories of previous births of Gautama Buddha in human and animal forms).

DSC_3685While we examined the glazed tiles, a large group of school students arrived into the temple courtyard.

DSC_3674Before going inside, we walked to the far corner to see the reflection of Ananda Pahto in a pond.

DSC_3692The first thing captured our attention as we entered the west entrance of the temple was the exquisite fresco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeeking through the pointed archway we could see one of the four magnificent standing Buddha.

DSC_3695Facing west, Gautama Buddha (present Buddha) greets visitors with a hand gesture of fearlessness.  This is one of the later replacements for the original statue, showing carving details in Mandalay style.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe enormous teak wood doors at each of the four main entrances look splendid but should be quite heavy to operate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe core of the temple is a solid cube surrounded by long passageway, connecting the four worship halls where the large Buddha stand.

DSC_3711Natural light lit up the passageway through pointed arch openings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFresco and relief carvings depicting the life of the Buddha are all over the walls of the passageway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuddha statues with different hand gestures, postures, and facial expressions convey a unique meaning and a stage in life of the Buddha.

DSC_3717Facing north, the Kakusandha Buddha is the fourth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity and the first of the five Buddhas of the present aeon.  This statue is one of two original statues from the Bagan period.

DSC_3723On the other hand, the east facing Konagamana Buddha (the fifth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity and the second of the five Buddhas of the present aeon) is a later replacement of the destroyed original.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited the temple after checking out the south facing Kassapa Buddha.  The Kassapa Buddha is the sixth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity, and the third of the five Buddhas of the present aeon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore leaving temple, Win Thu explained various forms of reclining Buddha, differentiating between when the Buddha was taking a nap and when he was attaining parinirvana upon his death.

DSC_3731_01The Ananda Pahto under the late afternoon sun was glorious.  Despite we were barefoot, we still enjoyed walking around the temple compound to photograph the beautiful architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt a far corner by a back exit, we stopped by a gate with a niche and small statue.

DSC_3737_01Looking back over to the temple, the sun was setting fast.  We decided to move on to another spot to watch the sunset over Old Bagan.

DSC_3740It was still pretty busy at the entrance of the Ananda Pahto when we exited the compound.  Behind us, the splendid golden spires of Ananda glowed under the western sun.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (2/5): HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Considered as the first empire in Myanmar, the legacy of the ancient Bagan Kingdom is what drawn all visitors coming to the dry plains at the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River today.  With over 2000 ruined pagodas concentrated around a few villages, Bagan is truly one of the most wonderful place to visit in Southeast Asia.  After seeing Shwezigon, probably the most active temple still popular with pilgrims today, we moved on to check out some of the less intact pagodas nearby.

The first was Htilominlo Temple.  Built on the spot where King Htilominlo was chosen as the next king, Htilominlo was eventually named after the king himself.  Topped with a sikhara, an ornamental tower originated from Hindu architecture in Northern India, the 46m pagoda is a majestic brick structure plastered with stucco carvings.

DSC_3546Built in the 13th century, the Htilominlo is about 46m tall.  The temple was damaged by earthquake in 1975.

DSC_3547Among all the tourist souvenirs on display at Htilominlo, local puppets seemed to be the most eye-catching.

DSC_3553Well known for its detailed plaster work, Htilominlo is a popular temple among the 2000+ pagodas in the area.  The sikhara at the top was under scaffolding during our visit.

DSC_3566There is one gilded Buddha figure at each of the four worship halls facing the four directions.

DSC_3578Each of the four Buddha figures is unique in appearance.  Pilgrims usually visit all of them for the worship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe four main worship halls are connected by vaulted corridors running around the core of the main structure.

DSC_3579The interior of the architecture is full of archways and vaulted corridors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the fading fresco can still be seen inside Htilominlo.

DSC_3584After an interior loop, we walked around the temple to check out its exterior decorations.  Some of the beautiful plaster work and glazed terracotta plaques were still visible.

DSC_3604Across the road from Htilominlo, we reached a smaller building called Upali Thein.  Built in the 13th century, this building houses some fine frescoes from the 17th century.  The interesting roof battlements attempted to mimic a type of historical Burmese wooden architecture that can no longer be found today.

DSC_3594We were fortunate that the usually locked Upali Thein was open while we were there.

DSC_3621We wandered around a cluster of stupas nearby.  These stupas varied in size and form, and were constructed in different eras.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the past, constructing stupas in Bagan was considered a religious good deed of the donor.  Stupa donors in Bagan ranged from businessmen to officials and even kings.  Names and addresses of the donor were often presented at the entrance gate.

DSC_3631Constructing stupas was a competitive business in the old days among the wealthy class.

DSC_3656Today, most of the 2000+ surviving stupas and pagodas stand in partial ruins, except the most prominent ones that are still serving as places of worship for Buddhist pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACenturies of competitive stupa constructions put Bagan at the top of the list of attractions for Myanmar.

DSC_3658Looking back at Htilominlo from afar, we could truly sense that our two-day feast of temple and stupa hopping would be a really special experience.  Unlike Angkor in Cambodia where majestic temples are overtaken by the powerful rainforest, Bagan is a romantic landscape picture consisted of layers of pagodas scattered across the horizon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor lunch, Win Thu took us to a local restaurant nearby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no menu as all customers were given the same dozen or so small plates of local dishes and a large plate of rice.

DSC_3669Housed in a simple shed, the restaurant kitchen was filled with the scent of charcoal.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (1/5): SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

After a full day in Yangon, the second part of our trip would take us north to Bagan.  In the 9th to 13th centuries, Bagan was the ancient capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that united Myanmar.  Near the former royal capital Mandalay, Bagan is over 600km north of Yangon.  We chose flying to save time.  There are several local airlines that offer the service.  We picked Air KBZ, one of the guidebook recommended private airlines, and bought our tickets online two months prior to the trip.  To maximize the time in Bagan, we chose the 7:15 flight and left Yangon’s Loft Hotel before dawn.  We arrived at Yangon Airport in no time.  After checking in, we had a noodle breakfast at a cafe in the boarding area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmong several eateries we ended up sitting down at Gloria Jean’s Coffee in the boarding area for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack coffee and Shan noodles represented a set breakfast with a local twist.

DSC_3459Approaching Bagan, we could occasionally see Buddhist stupas in the landscape down below.  We were pretty excited as we approached the ancient capital of the Bagan Kingdom, where thousands of pagodas and stupas once stood on the dry plains near the Irrawaddy River.

DSC_3471After a little over an hour, our plane touched down at Nyaung U, the main town in the Bagan area.  Nyaung U was also where we would base ourselves in the next two days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nyaung-U Airport is a small airport that served only domestic flights.  Upon arrival, all passengers gathered at a room to wait for their luggage to be carried in by airport staff.  After picking up our luggage, we walked out to the arrival hall and was greeted by our local guide Win Thu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu took us back to our hotel Oasis Hotel to drop off our bags, and immediately began our Bagan tour by visiting Shwezigon Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple in Nyaung-U.  All visitors of the pagoda are greeted by the chinthes, the traditional leogryph guardians of temples in Southeast Asia.

DSC_3539We took off our shoes and entered one of the two remaining entrance halls.  The entrance hall was crowded with pilgrims, tourists and vendors selling all kinds of religious offerings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance hall is a stone-paved covered walkway leading to the central pagoda compound and the gold gilded central pagoda.

DSC_3492Before approaching the golden stupa, we stopped by a pavilion with statues depicting the Buddhist story of the Four Sights: when the 29-year-old Siddhārtha left his royal palace for the first time and first met an elderly man, sick man, dead man and an ascetic.  The four sights led Siddhartha to realize the real sufferings in life, and inspired his decision to embark on an ascetic journey towards enlightenment.

DSC_3499In Shwezigon, there are shrines dedicated to local deities such as the Nat God.  Like many local deities, Nat predated the arrival of Buddhism in Myanmar and still remained popular today.

DSC_3477Completed in 1102 AD, the golden pagoda of Shwezigon Pagoda is believed to house a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha.  The bell-shaped stupa represents the architectural tradition of the Mon people of ancient Myanmar.

DSC_3514Many visitors gathered around a tiny pool of water to check out the reflection of the golden pagoda.  According to our guide Win Thu, the king also used the pool of water to inspect the construction of the stupa.

DSC_3520The pagoda has a central solid core, with steps at the four cardinal directions rising from the base up the terraces for pilgrim’s worship.

DSC_3516Shwezigon Pagoda is the largest and most popular Buddhist temple in the Bagan area today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu led us to the back of the pagoda to check out the famous Chayar Tree.  The tree is famed for its year-round blossom, unlike other trees of its kind which would only flower at a certain period of a year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the back of the pagoda, we also found a small building housing local deities that predated Buddhism in Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore leaving Shwezigon Pagoda, we passed by a number of small prayer halls that surrounded the golden pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found our way back to where we came.  It was time to move on to the next designations in Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (9/9): A FESTIVE NIGHT, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After Shwedagon Pagoda, we took a taxi back to Downtown Yangon.  Despite the taxi driver got lost on the way, we did eventually find our way on foot to LinkAge, a social development restaurant and art gallery that offers delicious food to customers and cooking training to local street kids.

DSC_3354Established by NGO Forever Humanitarian and Development Projects, LinkAge is situated on the upper level of an old apartment block on Mahabandoola Garden Street.

DSC_3349The time was a bit late but there were still several tables of customers in the restaurant.

DSC_3346The ambience was causal and relaxing, a perfect venue to have a local beer and chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Yangon.

DSC_3352We ordered lentil soup and curry shrimps.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

DSC_3356After the meal, we wandered around Downtown Yangon where streets and shops were still quite busy.

DSC_3358We walked past some of the street vendors who had spent the entire day on the streets.

DSC_3360We also passed by some of the city’s spectacular colonial architecture.  Standing beside the High Court since 1917, the Myanma Post and Telecommunications (Central Telegraph Office) is another piece of fine architectural gem.  Today, the former communication hub still offers counters for sending telegrams and emails.

DSC_3362Soon, we arrived at the Ayeyarwady Bank building (former Rowe & Co. Department Store) again.  The former Rowe & Co. Department Store was covered with splendid Christmas lights.

DSC_3364Across the street from Ayeyarwady Bank, the street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park was still running.

DSC_3374The north side of Maha Bandula Park across the street from Sule Pagada and City Hall was much more crowded than the morning.

DSC_3380A large crowd gathered for the live music performances on the stage where we passed by in the morning.

DSC_3390When we arrived, the performer was playing the guitar and singing in Burmese.  For some reason, the Burmese songs did sound a little like Japanese to us.

DSC_3402Where there were people gathering in Yangon we would always find street food vendors.

DSC_3403Many cars just stopped by the roadside to absorb the atmosphere of the performances, even public buses.

DSC_3412A little further from the main stage, other vendors were selling festive stuff like illuminated wands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there were also helium balloons for the festival crowds.

DSC_3418Just a stone throw away from the crowds at Maha Bandula Park, Sule Pagoda continued to bathe in its peaceful spirituality.

DSC_3426On our way back to Loft Hotel, we climbed onto the pedestrian overpass north of Sule Pagoda.  The overpass was originally constructed by the junta government where soldiers could shoot at an out-of-control political demonstration in front of the Sule Pagoda, an iconic and popular venue for massive protests.

DSC_3443The Christmas tree in front of Sakura Tower reminded us that Christmas 2017 was just around the corner.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (8/9): EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After sunset, the Shwedagon Pagoda transformed into a mysterious world of flickering candles and shimmering golden ornaments.  We stayed at the open space in front of the Photo Gallery for a little while after dusk.  We then wandered around the central stupa, where people were lighting up candles around the stupa base.  We saw a constant flow of people arriving at the main terrace from one of its four main stairways.  It seemed there were actually more visitors at compound after dark.  At the compound, some people were worshipping and chanting, while others were chatting and taking photographs of themselves with the glittering background of the pagoda.  At the end of our visit, we decided to walk down one of the grand covered stairways to descend the Singuttara Hill.

DSC_3202The view of the central stupa from the Photo Gallery was gorgeous no matter what time of the day it was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the northwest open space in front of the Photo Gallery, worshippers gathered to offer incenses, candles and other religious items in prayers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the nearby prayer hall, the large Buddha in golden robes looked peaceful under the soft lighting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe golden prayer halls and chapels looked even more surreal in the evening.

DSC_3249The locals enjoyed posing for photographs at some of the golden worship halls.

DSC_3231At the base of the central stupa, the continuous ring of candles appeared like a stream of sparking fire flickering in the wind.

DSC_3241Just as daytime, the planetary posts were still one of the popular worshipping spots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe covered stairway, or zaungdans, are often occupied by merchants selling all kinds of religious items from flowers to different kinds of offerings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter sunset, the main terrace around the central stupa is still adequately lit up.

DSC_3257From the north gate, the central pagoda stood perfectly at the terminus of the perspective axis.

DSC_3260Some visitors preferred to stay away from the busy actions surrounding the central stupa.

DSC_3275At the outer perimeter of the worship terrace, the sacred Bodhi tree was highlighted with flood lights.

DSC_3292Colourful electronic lights are commonly used to create the halo ring for each Buddha statue.

DSC_3297Statues of the Buddha were everywhere in the ompound.

DSC_3305After the candles were lighted up, many people came to the ring of candles to pray and worship.

DSC_3315Some monks were meditating inside the small Buddhist shrines.

DSC_3323Same as worshipping in daytime, pilgrims came up to the planetary post and clean the altar with water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the visit, we took the covered stairway at the east gate to walk down the hill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe east stairway is flanked both sides by shops selling souvenirs and religious items.

DSC_3343Back to the main east gate, we picked up our shoes and looked for a taxi to return to Downtown Yangon.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (7/9): A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

As the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda is also one of the liveliest venue where the Burmese gather not only to worship but also to participate in all kinds of social and community activities.  For the locals, Shwedagon is the place to chill out, to date, to spend family time, to chat with friends, to seek for advice from monks, and to mingle with foreign tourists.  For us, the compound was the perfect place for people watching: devoted families worshipping their associated planetary post, kids amusing themselves with bronze bells and ritual tools, women reciting Buddhist mantras, monks meditating in front of the Buddhist shrines, children dressed in traditional costumes attending novitiation ceremony, large number of volunteers sweeping the marble floor, pilgrims lighting up candles and incenses surrounding the central stupa under the setting sun.

The terrace of Shwedagon has long been the centre stage for the people of Yangon.  Since 1920, students, workers, civilians, and monks had took up the terrace to protest against all kinds of social injustice from colonial rule to the authoritarian regime.  The most recent incident was the 2007 nationwide protest for democracy, when tens of thousands of monks and people marched from Shwedagon to the streets of Yangon demanding for change.  Political figures also chose the Shwedagon as the assembly venue, such as Aung San (Aung San Suu Kyi’s father) addressing the mass in 1946 in pursuit of independence from the British, and Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with 500,000 people in 1988 demanding for democracy from the military regime.  Religiously, this huge Buddhist site holds the sacred hair relics of the Buddha.  Socially, the pagoda terrace is the iconic venue for national independence and democracy.  Historically, the Shwedagon is one of the oldest Buddhist monument in the world.  Culturally, the compound contains some of the Myanmar’s most remarkable architecture and national treasures.  With its layers of meanings, the Shwedagon Pagoda is truly a remarkable venue for the people of Myanmar, and the single most important monument that defines the cultural and social identity of the Burmese.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWearing a Burmese longyi and walking bare-feet on the marble floor of the Shwedagon is an unique Burmese experience for foreigners.

DSC_2896The Shwedagon is a popular place for Shinbyu parades, the traditional novitiation ceremony in Burmese Theravada Buddhism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThroughout our visit, we saw a few Shinbyu parades at the marble terrace of the Shwedagon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Shinbyu parades offered us some of most remarkable moments of people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Shwedagon and elsewhere in Myanmar, gold is warmest colour.

DSC_3033Many pilgrims would light up candles and incenses at the altar around the central pagoda.

DSC_3008Local fruits are popular for religious offerings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeditation is a typical practice for Buddhists, and a common sight at Shwedagon.

DSC_2972Young children seemed enjoying themselves at the terrace while their parents were busy worshipping.

DSC_2926A kid trying out the bronze bell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA devoted family worshipping at one of the planetary post at the base of the central pagoda.

DSC_2976A group of women reciting Buddhist mantras in front of a reclining Buddha.

DSC_2981Visitors and monks resting among figures of sitting Buddha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVolunteers collectively sweeping the marble floor was a unique scene for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe volunteers formed a line and walked at the same pace to sweep the floor.  During our visit, we saw the sweeping group several times at different locations in the compound.

DSC_3071Away from the main circulation space, some worship hall were less crowded, allowing visitors to meditate quietly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear sunset, many gathered at the open space in front of the Photo Gallery northwest of the central stupa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGathering people included young visitors carrying flower offerings for evening worship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also saw a large group of what looked like to be the Wa people.  The Wa is an ethnic minority group living in Northern Myanmar and Southwestern China.

DSC_3148Myanmar is ethnically diverse, with 135 ethnic groups officially recognized by the government.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 1 (6/9): GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

At 4pm, we left Downtown Yangon and headed for Shwedagon Pagoda, probably the most iconic sight of the city if not the entire Myanmar.  Our taxi stuck in busy traffic and it took us half an hour to arrived at the east gate of Shwedagon Pagoda from Downtown Yangon.  We specifically chose to visit the pagoda in the latter half of the afternoon, as we planned to stay at the pagoda compound till dusk when the golden stupa would glow in the flickering candle lights and flooded lights.  At the east gate, we took off our shoes and left them on a shelf, and squeezed in a lift with the locals to head up the Singuttara Hill where the central pagoda and the main terrace were located.  From the lift tower, we crossed a link bridge over to the main terrace.  The first glance of the golden spires of Buddhist shrines was quite overwhelming.  Beyond the the various ornate shrines, prayer halls, and planetary posts, the majestic 99m central stupa known as the Shwedagon Pagoda stood proudly at the heart of everything.  Fully gilded with gold, this central stupa dwarfed all other stupas, shrines, altars, statues, and prayer halls on Singuttara Hill.

Probably erected by the Mon people between 6th and 10th century AD, the Shwedagon Pagoda has been the centre of Myanmar’s Buddhist universe for centuries.  Legend has it that the original stupa at Singuttara Hill was dated to 2600 years ago, when Taphussa and Bhallika met Gautama Buddha during his lifetime and brought back 8 of his hair as sacred relics.  A stupa at Singuttara Hill was built to house the hair.  The stupa evolved throughout the centuries, as shrines and prayer halls added by different kings and donors, and the height of the stupa increased several times during history until the present 99m.  The pagoda wasn’t always covered in gold in the past.  In the 15th century, Queen Shin Sawbu donated gold plates equaled to her own weight to be riveted onto the stupa surface.  Since then, cladding the stupa in gold had became a tradition for rulers.

We took our time wandering around the 114-acre pagoda site.  After an hour or two meandering through all kinds of Buddhist structures and visiting the interesting photo gallery, we sat down at the open space at the northwest corner near the Friday planetary post to chill out, waiting for the sun to set and candles to lit up.

DSC_2869Our taxi dropped us off at the east gate of Singuttara Hill.  We followed the locals to take an elevator up to the main terrace level.

DSC_2880Once we reached the main terrace, we were immediately overwhelmed by the fine details and golden ornaments of the surrounding shrines and prayer halls.

DSC_2907In the midst of everything stood the majestic 99m Shwedagon Pagoda.

DSC_2946We circled the pagoda and stopped by some of the interesting shrines.  Chinthe, the legendary half-lion, half dragon creatures are commonly found as guardians in Buddhist temples of Southeast Asia.

DSC_3013It was hard to imagine just how many gold plates were being applied onto the surface of the Shwedagon Pagoda over the centuries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 25 ton Singu Min Bell (Maha Gandha Bell) was a donation in 1779 by King Singu.

DSC_2914The big Buddha at the northwest corner of the compound is a fine example of Buddha images found at Shwedagon Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADisplayed behind glass, the jade Buddha reminds all visitors that Myanmar has the biggest gemstones and jade mining in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree out of the four main staircases known as zaungdan stairs at the four cardinal directions are filled with vendors of religious merchandise.

DSC_3018The four monumental covered staircases are all splendidly decorated.

DSC_3024Everything on the main terrace of Shwedagon Pagoda seemed to be golden in colour.

DSC_3066Away from the main circulation space around the central pagoda, we walked by a number of prayer halls and shrines.  These structures were built in different periods in history, but many were rebuilt after the 1931 fire that caused damages to the wooden structures in the compound.

DSC_3069The 150-year-old Bodhi Tree at the southeast corner of the compound is said to be descended from the original Bodhi Tree in Northern India where the Buddha meditated underneath.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViewing the Shwedagon Pagoda from the north gate was one of our favorite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 6:30pm, the sun began to set.  More visitors arrived from the staircases at the four cardinal directions.

DSC_3096Only staff and monks are allowed to climb onto the terraces of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

DSC_3139In the Photo Gallery northwest of the central pagoda, we were able to see photographs of the treasures on the pagoda spire, including about 5000 diamonds, 2300 rubies, sapphires, and other gems.

DSC_3143One of the most famous treasures of Shwedagon Pagoda is undoubted the 72 carat diamond at the top of the spire.

DSC_3108After visiting the Photo Gallery, we sat down at the open space in front of the gallery as the sun began to set.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (5/9): BUSTLING STREET LIFE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

Like many Southeast Asian cities, the streets of Yangon are chaotic and energetic.  While we checked out the colonial architecture in Downtown Yangon, we also encountered the vibrant Burmese street life that included mobile street vendors, roadside eateries, and wandering Buddhist monks dressed in pink robes seeking for donations.  As a city of about 5.5 million, Yangon has the most diverse population in Myanmar, with Bamar the main ethnic group, along with Indians, Chinese, Rakhine, Karen people, etc.  Such diversity is reflected by the distinct cuisines available in restaurants.  With 135 ethnic groups, and bordering nations including India, China, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos, the vigorous cultural fusion of distinct influences is strongly evident in the street food of Yangon.

DSC_2597Buddhist monks, including groups of young monks, could be seen throughout Downtown Yangon.  They came out mainly to seek for food donations.

DSC_2637Fruits and snacks were sold everywhere on the sidewalk, including the pavement in front of the City Hall.

DSC_2751Despite of recent controversy, Ang San Suu Kyi is still to a great extent the symbol of human rights in Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome vendors were selling dry goods but most were actually street food vendors.

DSC_2770Snacks and more food at the east entrance of Maha Bandula Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pink robes of the Buddhist monks stood out against the old building facades of Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlastic chairs, makeshift tents, and temporary tables of street food vendors were set up at side streets.

DSC_2803With the happy customers at the street food vendors, the city was filled with a somewhat laid-back atmosphere.  Even dogs were having a relaxing time in the early afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw an abundance of fruit vendors at street corners in Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALime, oranges, mandarin oranges, pineapples, bananas, dragon fruits, and grapes are the most popular fruit on the street.

DSC_2857Traditional longyi (a 2m long cloth sewn in cylindrical shape) is widely worn in Myanmar for both men and women.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALongyi comes in all kinds of patterns and colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAng San Suu Kyi remains as the face of Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACold drink shops are popular in Yangon, offering soda, juices, and snacks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanopies of historical buildings provide desirable weather protection for street vendors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the downtown area is full of a sense of community, with happy vendors and customers seem to know each other well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis traditional bakery shop sells all kinds of cookies, sandwiches and bread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere the sidewalk was not wide enough, vendors spread their merchandise out to the street.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (4/9): COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, the East India Company’s annexation of Pegu province put Yangon into British hands.  In 1885, the Third Anglo-Burmese War resulted in Britain’s complete annexation of Burma, and Rangoon (now Yangon) was named as the capital of Burma (now Yangon).  From 1852 until Burma gaining independence in 1948, Rangoon saw major urban transformation under the British, with splendid colonial structures constructed all over the downtown.  After independence, political and military turmoil among ethnic groups threatened the survival of the new nation, and then in 1962, a coup d’etat brought the nation into a 48-year military dictatorship until the first civilian elected president came to power in 2010.  During the period of political turmoil and authoritarian rule, Yangon, together with much of Myanmar, was largely isolated from the outside world.  Many colonial buildings from the British era were neglected and left for natural decay.  Ironically, Yangon’s decades of lack of development led to the successful preservation of Southeast Asia’s largest concentration of colonial architecture.  Recently, international investment began to pour in as the country gradually opened up.  Some historical buildings had since then became redevelopment targets for foreign developers.   Before heading north to visit Shwedagon Pagoda, we spent a brief time wandering around the lower downtown of Yangon to admire its awesome but fading colonial architecture.

DSC_2652Yangon City Hall, one the most prominent colonial building in the city, stands across the street from Sule Pagoda.  Designed by Burmese architect U Tin and completed in 1940, the City Hall is a fine example of Burmese colonial architecture where local influence (in this case the multi-tiered pyatthat roof) has been incorporated into the otherwise largely Western design.  The City Hall building exemplifies nationalist Burmese architecture at the twilight stage of colonial rule.

DSC_2754Across the street from the City Hall, the Ayeyarwady Bank occupies the former Rowe & Co. Department Store building.  Completed in 1910, the Rowe & Co. Department Store was the most splendid shopping venue in Rangoon.  This century-old building featured a innovative steel structural frame, electric lifts and ceiling fans over a century ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcross the street from the City Hall, the Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) has long been a public park at the heart of Yangon since 1868.  While we were there, audience seating and a stage were set up for an upcoming event.

DSC_2773Also designed by Burmese architect U Tin, the Independent Monument at Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) was erected at the centre of the park in 1948 to commemorate the nation’s independence, replacing the former statue of Queen Victoria at the same location.

DSC_2775Flanking the east side of Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park), the former High Court is one of the most iconic buildings in Yangon.  It was also one of the first in Yangon to have toilet and plumbing facilities as well as electricity.  During the military rule, the Supreme Court was replaced by the socialist Council of People’s Justices controlled by the General.  Today, Myanmar’s Supreme Court has been relocated to the new capital Naypyidaw.

DSC_2776Further south from Mahandoola Garden, at the intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Strand Road stands the baby blue and white Myanmar Economic Bank building (formerly Bank of Bengal and then Imperial Bank of India).  The Imperial Bank of India was the most prominent bank in colonial Burma, serving like the central bank for the nation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department were housed in a magnificent building with three octagonal towers.  These former colonial departments oversaw taxes and trade customs for British Burma, which was belonged to the Government of British India.

DSC_2792Today, the building is in poor condition, especially for the wings along Bank Street and Mahabandoola Garden Street.  Overgrown weeds took over parts of the building facade.

DSC_2796The building hasn’t changed much since the Japanese bombing in 1942.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department building was partially occupied by Yangon Divisional Court and Department of Pensions nowadays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach of the octagonal towers houses a ornate spiral staircase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red-brick Customs House is one of the few historical buildings still serving its original functions today.

DSC_2804Since 1916, the two-faced clock has been the iconic feature of the Custom House.

DSC_2810Further down Strand Road, we arrived at Myanmar Port Authority (former Port Trust Office).  The corner tower is an iconic landmark for the city, both for today and back in 1920s, when the new building was erected to reflect Rangoon as one of the busiest port in the British Empire.

DSC_2815Myanmar National Airlines occupies the 1920s building of the former Bombay-Burmah Trading Corporation, whose diverse business included exporting teak wood.  Right next door stood the splendid Strand Hotel, the 1901 glamorous hotel for affluent visitors in the early 20th century.  In 1993, the hotel was fully renovated with a budget of USD 10 million.

DSC_2819The former National Bank of India building (now Myanma Agricultural Development Bank) was built in 1930.  Designed by Thomas Oliphant Foster and Basil Ward, the same architects who had done the Myanmar Port Authority building, the beautiful entrance canopy and the golden entrance door remain as special features of Pansodan Road.

DSC_2829Written with “A Scott & Co” and “erected 1902” on the triangular pediment of today’s YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) building, this colonial architecture had witnessed the era when Rangoon had a strong trading connections with Scotland.

DSC_2846Wandering in Downtown Yangon offered us a chance to see a number of the city’s finest colonial buildings in just a short walk.  Throughout the walk, we passed by many anonymous buildings from the British era.

DSC_2864We planned to visit Secretariat (Ministers’ Building), the former administrative centre of British Burma and Yangon’s most important colonial building.  On our way, we passed by several more interesting historical buildings.  Unfortunately the Secretariat complex was not open to the public.  We could barely see it from outside the fence, and decided to move on to Shwedagon Pagoda.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (3/9): SULE PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After lunch at 999 Shan Noodle House, we walked over to the City Hall.  Across the street from the City Hall stood Sule Pagoda, the iconic octagonal stupa that marked the heart of Yangon.  We decided to pay a quick visit to this wonderful monument before venturing further south.

Built in the 5th century BC, the 2600 year old was said to even predate the famous Shwedagon.  The stupa was built in the style of Mon pagoda architecture, back in the era when the Mon people was a dominant ethnic group in the region.  The Mon people was also responsible for spreading Theravada Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia.  The Mon name of Sule Pagoda is “kyaik athok ceti”, meaning “stupa with a sacred hair enshrined”.  Legend has it that the Sule Pagoda contains one of Buddha’s hairs given to merchant Tapussa and Bhallika.  The rest of the same strand of Buddha’s hairs were said to be kept at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Before the British set out to develop Yangon and its port area, Sule Pagoda was situated on an island surrounded by a swamp at the banks of Yangon River.  The British drained the area, constructed a prominent roundabout centred at the Pagoda and defined Sule as the heart of Downtown Rangoon (now Yangon).  Today, Sule pagoda remains as an iconic spot of the city, and has served as the centre stage of civilian rallies and demonstrations throughout the years.

DSC_2641We crossed the street from the City Hall to the east entrance of the Sule Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the entrance, we followed the rules and took off our shoes and socks, left them with one of the staff, purchased admission tickets and then climbed up the stairs to the main worshiping area.  This was our first experience of walking barefoot in Myanmar.

DSC_2653The first thing we saw beyond the stair was a cosy and golden altar with many pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the covered altar was a series of small golden shrine surrounding the base of the octagonal pagoda.  It’s important for the Burmese to know which day of the week they were born in order to find the right shrine to worship.   There are eight planetary shrines around the pagoda, each represents a planet as well as a particular day of the week, with Wednesday split into two (am and pm).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater and food can be found at the pagoda complex, usually donated by Buddhist worshipers, who believe good deeds are one of the basis for path of enlightenment.

DSC_2678Soon we reached another entrance of the Sule Pagoda.  Entrances of the pagoda are arranged at the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west.

DSC_2680The corresponded altar of this entrance looked somewhat different than the one we first arrived at.

DSC_2685Like all shrines in Myanmar, gold is the single dominant colour of the octagonal Sule Pagoda.

DSC_2693At the Saturday shrine, another two worshipers were busy performing rituals and cleaning the altar with water.

DSC_2695Under the scorching sun, many worshipers stayed at the shaded area to mediate.  It was interesting to see many young people were among the devoted worshipers.

DSC_2699When looking closely, the fine details and craftsmanship of the golden ornaments were overwhelmingly impressive.

DSC_2700.JPGAt another entrance altar, colourful fresco depicted a number of Buddhist stories high up near the ceiling.

DSC_2706Each of the four altars has a distinct set of ornaments.

DSC_2711Other than the devoted worshippers, some locals were just hanging around in the pagoda area as if the space was a public park.  In fact, Buddhist shrines in Myanmar do serve as community spaces that welcome everyone.

DSC_2712It was relaxing to walk on bare feet around the Sule Pagoda.  Surprising we didn’t feel uncomfortable without our shoes and socks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the entrance where we arrived, there was a group of people gathered at a pulley wire, waiting for the staff to send their prayer cards up to the pagoda by the golden prayer boat.

DSC_2714Via a wire pulley system, the golden prayer boat sends prayer cards of worshippers up to the pagoda.

DSC_2717A staff at the base worked the pulley to send up the prayer boat while a group of worshipers gathered to witness the process.

DSC_2739After one loop, we repeated the clockwise stroll around the Sule Pagoda for a second time.

DSC_2743After two loops around the pagoda, we walked down the stair where we first arrived, put on our shoes, and moved on to further explore Downtown Yangon.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 1 (2/9): WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, was the capital city of Myanmar (Burma) until 2006.  With 7 million inhabitants, Yangon remains as the largest city in Myanmar.  Because of our tight schedule, we only had a day to explore the downtown where decaying colonial buildings from the British era mingled with bustling daily activities of the locals, and the Shwedagon Pagoda, the religious heart and biggest tourist draw of the city.  Before that, we decided to first get a taste of the Burmese culture through sampling the local cuisine.  We weren’t particularly hungry, but would want to try out a well known noodle shop: 999 Shan Noodle House.  It was a half-hour walk to the noodle shop.  What’s better to get a quick Yangon impression than wandering its lively streets?

DSC_2547Venturing out of the Loft Hotel, we headed east towards the north-south thoroughfare Alan Pya Pagoda Street.  Local shops lined along one side of the street, while the opposite side was dominated by the large Park Royal Hotel.

DSC_2552One of the first building we encountered on Alan Pya Pagoda Street was Thamada (President) Cinema and Hotel.  Opened its door in 1958, Thamada was Rangoon’s most prominent cinema with a fully air-conditioned hall and a great example of the cuty’s Modernist architecture.

DSC_2555A number of snack vending carts were stationed in front of Thamada Cinema.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than skewers or salad, fruit is also common snacks in Yangon.

DSC_2559Renovated a few years ago, Thamada Cinema remains as a popular cinema in the present, drawing sell out shows from time to time.

DSC_2564Further down the road we reached the intersection of Sakura Tower.  Built in 1999, Sakura is a 20 storey building built by Japanese investors and architects.  It offers office spaces up to international standards, with a restaurant at the top floor.  While the top floors struggled to find tenants in the first several years, Sakura is now totally full as Myanmar opens up in recent years.

DSC_2569Next to Sakura Tower, the 1910 Bible Society of Myanmar (British and Foreign Bible Society) was the heart of Christian evangelical society in the early 20th century.  In the 1960s, the foreign missionaries were expelled from the country, and was restructured in 1964 under national organization.

DSC_2572The strip of Bogyoke Road at Sakura Tower was known as Rangoon’s “Cinema Row” in the past, a designated entertainment district.  The Nay Pyi Taw Theatre with its iconic patterned facade was built in 1961.  Movie was and still remains big in Yangon (formerly Rangoon).  The modernist patterned facade was popular back in late 1950s and early 1960s in Southeast Asia.

DSC_2577Further down we reached a busy intersection of Sule Road and Anawratha Road where a network of pedestrian overpass allowed us to gain a raised overview of this part of Downtown Yangon.

DSC_2578The overpass was occupied with vendors.  Pedestrians loved to stop by the railing for a look at the changing surrounding skyline.  Looking north, the top of Sakura Tower perched over the tree crown in the middle, and the Sule Shangri-La (Trader Hotel) dominates the the left side with its 500 rooms.  Built by Japanese and Singaporean architects, the hotel never really fulfilled its tourist potentials due to the West’s boycott on the junta government.  Rooms were sold at discounted prices. interestingly, it did attract a number of NGOs and UN agencies to set ups their offices here, and so as foreign journalists and some tourists.

DSC_2583At the southwest corner of the pedestrian overpass, a new 20 storey office building was under construction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFurther south we could see one of the city’s most important monument, the Sule Pagoda.  It is known to be one of the oldest monument site in Yangon, some said around 2600 years old.  Sule Pagoda has been and still is considered to be the heart of Downtown Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a moment above the streets, it was time for us to return to the busy street scenes.

DSC_2599.JPGAs we approached 999 Shan Noodle House, we began to explore the network of small side streets behind Yangon City Hall.

DSC_2605.JPGAll side streets were flanked by buildings dated back to British Rangoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt took us several minutes to reach the right side street of the noodle house.  It was fortunate that we had portable wifi device and mobile phone which we could get on Google Map.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood vendors could be seen on many of these side streets.  Groups of children monks were also a common sight.

DSC_2612After a little over half an hour of walk, we finally reached our destination – 999 Shan Noodle House.  999 is a famous restaurant in Yangon specialized in dishes from the Shan and Kachin States at Northern Myanmar.  These states border with Yunnan Province of China, which is also popular with rice noodle dishes.

DSC_2618The pig knuckle noodle soup was tasty, and the pork texture was just right.

DSC_2619Stir fry rice noodle with local spices was also a popular dish at 999 Shan Noodle House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter lunch, we continued to walk down the side street towards Yangon City Hall.

DSC_2626At the end of the street we again passed by a food vendor.  They seemed to be everywhere in Downtown Yangon, especially at the end of side streets.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (1/9): INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

In Christmas 2017, we made a 4-day short trip to Myanmar for a brief getaway.  For almost half a century, Myanmar was under military rule and few foreigners would visit the US sanctioned country.  Myanmar saw a gradual increase of foreign tourists since the military junta was replaced by a civilian government in 2011.  Despite recent improvements on the political situations, including the 2015 general election that saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning a majority in the parliament, the tourism industry has yet reached its full potentials, given the country’s rich sights and fascinating culture.  Traveling in this Southeast Asian country that has yet been exploited by mass tourism and global commercialism was a charming experience.

Compared to Siem Reap in Cambodia where vibrant pubs and massage parlors mushroom near the sacred sites of Angkor, Myanmar’s Bagan still remains a sleepy village surrounded by 3000+ ancient Buddhist temples and stupas.  Compared to many Asian cities where the urban skyline changes every year, Myanmar’s largest city and former capital Yangon remains an energetic city with the Asia’s largest collection of colonial architecture from its British era.  Due to its years of international isolation, up until recent years Myanmar was a pristine destination devoid of international influences like Mac Donald’s or Starbucks.   Although short, our 3.5 day of travel experience was absolutely inspiring, particularly for the magical moments at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda and the stunning scenery of Old Bagan under the golden glow of the sunrise.

IMG_4410Our mileage rewarded flight took us for a 8-hour layover at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.  We walked over to the Novotel Hotel for a late dinner and a few hours of rest.

IMG_4408The Christmas tree and ginger bread houses at the atrium of Novotel Hotel reminded us Christmas was just three days away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe returned to Bangkok Airport early in the morning.  The first thing we saw after entering the secure zone was the Samudra manthan sculpture.

02The Samudra Manthan sculpture depicted the Thai version of the Hindu mythology of cosmos creation.

03We found our way to the boarding gate at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe boarded a Thai Airways flight designated for Yangon of Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flight took roughly 1.5 hour.  By the time we saw the Gulf of Martaban of Andaman Sea, the plane gradually descended towards Yangon International Airport.

06From the airport, we took an official taxi to Loft Hotel, our accommodation in Central Yangon.

07The lobby of Loft Hotel was causal and smart.  We were greeted with fresh juice and lots of smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the lobby, there were interesting handicraft on display.  They were by Pomelo, a local fairtrade shop selling high-quality crafts made by disadvantaged people in Myanmar.

10Part of the corridor of Loft Hotel served like a gallery space for paintings.

11Through a corridor of paintings, we found our way to our room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was a neat loft unit, with a small living area and bathroom at the lower level.

14With exposed structure, white washed walls, eye-catching pendant lights, charcoal paint, and brick cladding, the room interior design at Loft Hotel was sleek and comfortable.

15The sleeping area was located on the upper mezzanine.

16The Loft Hotel came as a little surprise for us.  We anticipated more pleasant surprises as we ventured out to explore Yangon.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR