ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Buddhism

TEMPLE OF THE SACRED TOOTH RELIC, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.09

Day 5 (3 of 3).

It was about 2.5 hour drive from Dambulla to Kandy.  After settling in at our guesthouse, we hopped on a tuk tuk for Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.  The temple is the most important attraction in Kandy and probably the most sacred Buddhist site in the country.  We wanted to visit during the evening puja, the prayer session when the altar door of the gold casket that carries the Buddha’s sacred tooth would be opened for blessing.  The tuk tuk dropped us right at the entrance of the temple compound, at a busy section of Kandy Road where it bends upon reaching the waterfront of Kandy Lake.  After security check and a pleasant stroll through the forecourt dotted with historical memorials, we stored our shoes at the shoe booth for foreigners.  At the temple entrance, we purchased some lotus flowers as offering.

Apart from its religious importance as a relic of the Buddha, the tooth relic has long been considered as the symbol of political power since the ancient times.  After a war was fought in India over the possession of the tooth relic 800 years after the Buddha’s death, the tooth relic was eventually brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali.  It was first housed in the Abhayagiri Vihara in Anuradhapura, then to Polonnaruwa and other cities in the nation as the capital city shifted from place to place.  In late 16th century, the tooth relic arrived in Kandy.  In the 17th century, it was periodically fallen in the hands of the Portuguese invaders.  With the aid from the Dutch,  King Rajasimha II  eventually drove the Portuguese away and recovered the tooth relic.  King Vira Narendra Sinha (reigned 1707 – 1739) was responsible for building the current temple that houses the sacred tooth.

01We approached the temple after walking through the forecourt.  Before entering, we left our shoes at the shoe storing facility.

02Paththirippuwa, the octagonal pavilion built in 1802 by Sri Vickrama Rajasingha, was intended for the king to showcase the tooth relic and address the public.  Since the British era, Paththirippuwa has been used as a library of the temple.

03We entered the temple complex through an arch passageway full of wall paintings.

04Time was still early for the puja, so we decided to visit the Royal Palace complex next to the temple first.   We ventured out into Maha Maluwa, the Great Terrace dotted with statues and pavilions, as well as Magul Maduwa, the Royal Audience Hall.  Looking back to the temple from Maha Maluwa, we could see the golden canopy of the main shrine.

05Magul Maduwa or the Royal Audience Hall was where the king met his ministers and facilitated public audience.  Built in 1783 by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, Magul Maduwa is supported by two rows of elegantly carved wooden pillars.

06Maybe the time was late, most buildings in the Royal Palace area were closed.  Before heading back to the temple, we stopped by a prayer pavilion.

07Behind the main shrine we arrived at a prayer hall with a golden statue of the Buddha.  The room also houses a series of paintings depicting the legend of the Sacred Tooth.

08In front of the Palle Malaya or the lower level of the main shrine lies the Hewisi Mandapaya or the drummer’s platform.  Beats from the Hewisi drummers marked the moment of puja, the evening prayer.

09 Hewisi drummers dressed in traditional costumes perform their rituals twice daily.

10Visitors can walk around the richly decorated Palle Malaya (lower floor of the main shrine).

11Above the main shrine is the golden canopy built in 1987, while the upper floor of the main shrine, known as Weda Hitana Maligawa, is the venue where the main worship takes place in front of the shrine of the Sacred Tooth.

12The upper floor of the main shrine is known as Weda Hitana Maligawa, a beautiful timber pavilion where tourist and local worshipers wait for the opening of Handun Kunama, the main shrine that houses the Sacred Tooth.

13On the upper floor, we put down our lotus flower offering on the long table and sat down at a corner to wait for the actual ceremony.

14During puja, visitors are allowed to get close to Handun Kunama where the Sacred Tooth is housed.

15The Handun Kunama where the Sacred Tooth is housed is covered with golden decorations.

16The metal work of Handun Kunama is exquisite.

17During the actual ceremony, the window of Handun Kunama was opened, allowing us who queued for quite some time to get a quick peek at the golden casket of the Sacred Tooth.  After a quick peek, we left the Weda Hitana Maligawa altogether as it was getting really crowded and a little chaotic.

18On the lower level, tourists and worshipers lined up for entering different shrines and display areas.

19We left the temple through the same passageway we came in.

DSC_7624It was completely dark when we returned to the forecourt of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

 


DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE, Dambulla, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.09

Day 5 (2 of 3).

We arranged a taxi from Sigiriya to Kandy, and made a stop at Dambulla to visit Sri Lanka’s largest cave temple complex. The UNESCO World Heritage site is usually visited along with Sigiriya or Kandy nearby.  About 80 caves are found in Dambulla, with most of the highlights found in five caves.  The 153 statues and 2,100 sq.m of murals of the Dambulla Cave Temple represent the finest example of Buddhist cave art on the island.

King Valagamba of Anuradhapura concerted earlier caves into a Buddhist temple in the 1st century BC.  Later kings continued to expand the cave complex.  By the 11th century, the caves had become an established religious centre on the island.  This significant religious hub remains to the present.  The white verandas and colonnades outside of the caves were added in 1938 as an embellishment to the two thousand year old cave temple network.

01The 10 minute climb up to the rock temple prepared us spiritually for the visit.

02Near the cave temple, a family of monkeys greeted all visitors with funny looks.

03At the temple entrance stairway, a cat was busy chewing onto grass.

04The 1938 verandas gave the ancient cave temple an elegant facade to greet visitors.

05The Cave of the Divine King is dominated by the 14m long reclining Buddha.

06Above the reclining Buddha, the walls and ceiling of the cave are covered with Buddhist murals.

07The statue of Ananda, favourite pupil of the Buddha, stand next to the feet of the reclining Buddha.

08A rather Western appearance of the 1938 veranda give the cave temple an elegant look, contributing to the fact that the cave temple is continuing to evolve as time goes by.

09Reinforcement were added to the cave entrances.

10Antique wooden booth inside the Cave of the Great Kings.

11In Cave of the Great Kings, the largest cave of the temple, a small stupa and a “healing” spring dripping from a ceiling crack are two of the distinct features apart from the collection of statues and murals.

12Every inch of the cave is covered by murals.

13In this cave, King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa was responsible for gilding of 50 statues in the 12th century.

14Artificial lighting have been installed to replace candles from the past.

15Statue of what could have been King Vattagamani Abhaya or Valagamba, the first patron of the temple.

16Throughout history, these caves have been repainted over and over again.

17Lighting at some of the other caves are dimmer than the Cave of the Great Kings.

18We loved the tranquil atmosphere of the lotus pond, white veranda and rock caves.  After checking out the caves of Dambulla, we moved on to Kandy, the last historical capital of Sri Lanka before the colonial era.


RANKOT VIHARA, LANKATILAKA & GAL VIHARA, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.08

Day 4 (2 of 3).

Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153–1186) is often considered as the greatest ruler of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom.  Under his rule, Sri Lanka had entered a prosperous time.  The ambitious king unified the island into one kingdom, expanded and beautified the capital city, constructed extensive irrigation systems, reformed the army and religious customs, and conducted in military campaigns in Burma and South India.  Today, many surviving structures of Polonnaruwa, such as the Royal Palace, the circular Vatadage at the Quadrangle, the Lankatilaka Viharaya and the Buddhist statues of Gal Vihara, all could be traced back to the majestic ruler.  King Nissanka Malla (reigned 1187 – 1196AD) continued the building spree of his predecessor Parakramabahu I, and spent much of the nation’s resources on construction.  One of his most prominent projects was Rankoth Vehera Stupa, the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa and fourth largest in Sri Lanka.  With a base diameter of 550 feet and an original height of about 200 feet, Rankoth Vehera was the skyscraper of ancient Polonnaruwa.

01Our third stop in Polonnaruwa was Rankoth Vehera Stupa, the tallest structure in the ancient city.

02Similar to the stupas in Anuradhapura, small shrines known as vahalkada were constructed at the four cardinal axes of Rankoth Vehera Stupa for offerings of worshipers.

03Completed in 1190AD, the Rankoth Vehera Stupa was constructed in a similar style as Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura, which was built over 1000 years prior.

04An beautiful tree at the base of Rankoth Vehera Stupa provides a great spot for worshiper group to gather and perform Buddhist chanting.

05Around Kiri Vehera, smaller stupas were also constructed as burial place for royalties and high priests.

06On our way to Lankatilaka Monastery, the fourth highlight of Polonnaruwa, we passed by Kiri Vehera, the second tallest stupa in the ancient city.  Kiri Vehera is believed to be built by King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 A.D.) in memory of his Queen Subhadra.

07Then we arrived at Lankatilaka Image House or Lankatilaka Vihara, the largest image house in Polonnaruwa.  Unlike traditional stupas, the building focused on presenting the religious image, a large standing statue of the Buddha.  Two tall pillars frame the entrance of the building.  The original pillars were thought to be two times the existing height.  The building was part of the Alahana Pirivena Monastery complex erected by King Parakramabahu 1 (1153-1186).

08Two beautiful guard stones mark the entrance of Lankatilaka.

09According to some accounts, the building was originally five storey high, while the statue was 41 feet tall.  The entire structure, including the main Buddha statue, was made from clay bricks.

10Near Lankatilaka, we passed by an impressive pool in the Alahana Pirivena complex.  This pool was part of a larger bathing and water storing network.

11Gal Vihara, the impressive rock temple featuring four Buddha relief statues carved from a single piece of granite rock, was our last stop at Polonnaruwa.  15 feet of rock was carved away to create the surface where the statues were carved.

12The statues at Gal Vihara are considered some of the best ancient Sinhalese sculpting art.

13Some believe that the 22’-9” standing statue was not depicting the Buddha, but instead monk Ananda with a sorrowful look standing adjacent to the reclining Buddha at his deathbed.

14The 46’-4” reclining statue depicting the parinirvana of the Buddha is the largest statue in Gal Vihara.

15The Gal Vihara marked the end of our brief visit of Polonnaruwa by car.  Ideally if we had more time, we would spend more time walking or cycling around the archaeological park to fully appreciate the scale, planning characteristics and other highlights of the ancient capital.


ROYAL PALACE & SACRED QUADRANGLE, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.08

Day 4 (1of 3).

100km southeast of Anuradhapura stands the ruins of Sri Lanka’s second ancient capital, Polonnaruwa. For two hundred years, Polonnaruwa served as the centre of the nation after Anuradhapura was sacked by the invading Chola Kingdom from Southern India in the 10th century.  The Chola Tamils destroyed Buddhist monuments and monasteries, and established a new capital in Polonnaruwa.  In 1070AD, Vijayabahu I of Ruhuna Kingdom (southeast of the island) drove the Chola out, unified the country, and established the second major Sinhalese kingdom and restored Buddhism as the national religion.  Polonnaruwa flourished as the most important medieval city in Sri Lanka until the 13th century when the island was again invaded by the Tamil Pandya Dynasty from India.

Today, the archaeological ground of Polonnaruwa is a popular tourist destination in the Cultural Triangle (marked by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy), the region on the island dotted with ancient capitals and World Heritage sites.  To save time, we hired a private car from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, with a detour to Polonnaruwa.  At Polonnaruwa, our driver took us first to the visitor centre for the admission tickets and a brief visit to the museum, before driving us to the five highlights in the archaeological park: Royal Palace, Quadrangle, Rankot Vihara Stupa, Lankatilaka Monastery and the Buddha statues of Gal Vihara.

01Built by Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153-1186 ) in the 12th century,  the Royal Palace was once seven storey tall in its heyday.

02The Royal Palace of King Parakumba was said to contain 1000 rooms.  Now only a few dozens remain.

03Much of the crumbling ruins is covered with lush green moss.

04The Royal Bathing pool (Kumara Pokuna) near the Royal Palace was a delightful treat for visitors.

05Built by Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153-1186 ), water would enter the pool through the two dragon mouths, and could be drained out after use.

06The Audience Hall of the Royal Palace is another feature at the Royal Palace.

07The Audience Hall is famous for the frieze of elephants, each has a unique pose.

08Two stone lions guard the entrance of the Audience Hall.

09The stone pillars of the Audience Hall have some amazing details.

10The second highlight we visited at Polonnaruwa was the Quadrangle.  On a raised platform, Quadrangle encompasses a cluster of religious structures erected by different rulers of Polonnaruwa.  Atadage is the oldest building among them all.  Built by King Vijayabahu the Great (1055 – 1110), Atadage is believed to house the Relic of the Tooth of Buddha.  Adjacent to Atadage, Hatadage built by King Nissanka Malla (1187 – 1196) was also a shrine for the Relic of the Tooth of Buddha.

11Built by King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196), Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is an interesting structure with unique columns and a small stone stupa.  The building was used for the king to listen to Buddhist chanting.

12Built by Parakramabahu I to house the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha, or by King Nissanka Malla to hold Buddha’s alms bowl, Vatadage was an essential structure at the Quadrangle.

13Because of its circular form and well preserved carving details, Vatadage is also the most famous building in Polonnaruwa.

16Vatadage has two stone platforms and a small stone stupa atop.  Steps and statues were constructed at the four cardinal directions.  Stone pillars suggest that a wooden roof might have once covered the circular structure.

14Monkeys are everywhere in Sri Lanka.

15At all temples or ruins, including Vatadage, tourists would be reminded that taking selfies with their backs toward the statue of the Buddha is prohibited.

17Completely built with bricks, Thuparama is about 84 ft long and 56 ft wide.  Its brick walls are about 7 ft thick.

18Inside Thuparama, the central seating Buddha statue was long gone.  Yet the adjacent limestone statues survive till the present day.


MIRISAWETIYA STUPA, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.07

Day 3 (4 of 4).

Mirisawetiya Stupa was just five minute walk away from our hotel Sanctuary at Tissawewa.  As we left the ruins of Abhayagiri Monastery, it was still a little early for supper, so we decided to check out Mirisawetiya Stupa before sunset.  The road leading to the stupa was decorated with colourful Buddhist banners and flags.  Large group of people, some dressed in traditional costumes, gathered at the entrance parking lot.  Red carpet was laid on the ground leading into the forecourt of the stupa.  We were excited to see the scene, despite we couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on.  We figured that there must be a certain kind of religious ceremony taking place.  And so we followed the red carpet, took off our shoes at the forecourt, and entered the stupa complex.

01It was still too early to call it a day, so we asked the tuk tuk driver to drop us off at Mirisawetiya Stupa.

02A long red carpet led us into the stupa forecourt.  A large TV screen was broadcasting the speech of a monk.

03The vivid Buddhist colours and traditional costumes stand out extremely well from the white wash stupa.

04The costume looks like to be some kind of ceremonial costumes.

05Shrines at the Mirisawetiya Stupa was full of offerings.

06Monks also gathered at the stupa with their offerings.

07Crowds sat down at various locations around the stupa.

08A parade of ceremonial procession walked right by us.

09Followed by a number of people dressed in white.

10Because of the crowds and security control, we could not move freely around the stupa.

11We stayed with a group of worshipers for a while.

12And admired the stunning Mirisawetiya Stupa below the setting sun.

13Unfortunately we didn’t understand the language so we didn’t stay for long at the scene.

14Later at night, we found out that the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka came to Mirisawetiya Stupa for a visit.  What we saw was part of the ceremony associated with his visit.

15Due to the close distance, we could still hear the speakers of Mirisawetiya‘s ceremony from our hotel until late at night.  The event perhaps gave us an insight on how a Buddhist event might have look like in Anuradhapura over a millennia ago.  The next day we would move on to Polonnaruwa and then Sigiriya, two other popular attractions in the Cultural Triangle.


ABHAYAGIRI MONASTERY, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.07

Day 3 (3 of 4).

From 399 to 414AD, Chinese monk Faxian traveled to India and Sri Lanka in search for Buddhist scriptures.  In his travelogue A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms, he documented the places he visited in his journey, including Anuradhapura where he stayed briefly in 412AD.  Faxian gave the following account on Abhayagiri, the largest Buddhist monastery in Anuradhapura: “A monastery, called the Abhayagiri, where there are five thousand monks.  There is in it a hall of Buddha, adorned with carved and inlaid works of gold and silver, and rich in the seven precious substances, in which there is an image (of Buddha) in green jade, more than twenty cubits in height, glittering all over with those substances, and having an appearance of solemn dignity which words cannot express. In the palm of the right hand there is a priceless pearl…”

Founded in the 2nd century BC, Abhayagiri Vihara was once a world renowned Buddhist monastery and learning institution attracting monks from all over Sri Lanka and surrounding countries including Java, Burma and India.  In the 4th century, the Buddha’s tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka from India.  Abhayagiri was selected as the shrine and designated venue to showcase this precious relic in public veneration.  Supported by different rulers, Abhayagiri continued to serve as the main hub of Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism until the 12th century, when Anuradhapura was sacked and abandoned, and the national capital was moved to Polonnaruwa.  The magnificent monastery fell into ruins for 800 years until late 19th century and early 20th century when excavation and restoration work began.  Today, Abhayagiri has become one of the largest clusters of ancient ruins in Sri Lanka, where gigantic stupa, stone pools, brick walls, foundations of multi storey buildings, and exquisite stone carvings in the midst of lush green jungle reveal the bygone glory of Anuradhapura two millennia ago.

01After lunch at Sanctuary at Tissawewa, we hopped on a tuk tuk for Abhayagiri Dagoba, the largest monument in the monastery vicinity.

04Although not as crowded as Ruwanwelisaya and Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Abhayagiri Dagoba is popular among local worshipers.

05Believed to reach a height of 115m, Abhayagiri Dagoba was once the fourth tallest monument in the classical period, behind the Egyptian Pyramids in Giza and the Jethawanaramaya Dagoba.

06The shrine in front of the stupa houses a reclining Buddha.

07Abhayagiri Dagoba just went through a 15-year restoration at 2015 as a UNESCO project.

08Devoted worshiper praying at the stupa.

09The majestic stupa was the main focus of the entire Abhayagiri Vihara Monastery.

10A group of Western Buddhists sat down and listen to the teaching of their mentor.

11Another highlight at Abhayagiri Vihara is the ruins of Pancavasa palace hidden in the woods.

12The Pancavasa was famous for its exquisite carvings.

13Interesting carvings of Buddhist guardians at Pancavasa.

14All these exquisite carvings are not the reason why tourists flock into the woods in search for the ruins of Pancavasa.

15All tourists come here for one thing, the moonstone carving on the ground.

16Moonstone is a unique architectural feature in Sri Lanka. It usually appears as a base landing at a set of steps. Moonstones symbolize samsara, the endless cycle of reincarnation and the path to nirvana.  Each ring of animals represents a successive phase of one’s passage through samsara.

17The last thing we checked out in the monastery area was the Samadhi Buddha Statue.  The statues is believed to be part of a sacred Bodhi tree shrine.

18The 7′-3″ Samadhi Buddha Statue was carved out from a dolomite marble.  Sculpted in around the 5th century, the statue is considered one of the nation’s finest.


JETHAWANARAMAYA DAGOBA, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.07

Day 3 (2 of 4).

In ancient times, two Buddhist monasteries dominated the religious scenes in Anuradhapura, the Mahavihara and Abhayagiri.  Both monasteries were home to thousands of monks and represents the two competing sects of Theravāda Buddhism in Sri Lanka.  Their sectarian conflicts led to destruction of the Mahavihara, the main monastery of Theravada Buddhism built by the King Devanampiya Tissa.  Upon destroying the Mahavihara, King Mahasena (reigned 273-301AD) constructed the Jetavanaramaya Dagoba to house the relic of the Buddha’s belt.  Some also believed that the dagoba was built upon the place where Mahinda, the eldest son of Emperor Ashoka who first introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka, lectured Buddhism.  Reaching a height of 400 feet, the original Jetavanaramaya Dagoba was the third tallest structure in the ancient world, behind the two Egyptian pyramids in Giza.  After Anuradhapura was abandoned in the 11th century, the stupa fell into ruins and subsequently renovated to its current height at 233 feet in the 12th century.  The stupa was gradually covered by shrubs until 1909, when conservation and clearing works began.

Towering above the horizon east of Ruwanwelisaya, the Jetavanaramaya Dagoba was the second great stupa that we visited in Anuradhapura.  On Google Map, Jetavanaramaya Dagoba appeared to be less than 1km east of Ruwanwelisaya.  We were too lazy to walk under the scorching sun, so we hopped on a tuk tuk for Jetavanaramaya.  Upon arriving at the famous stupa, we were surprised by the lack of visitors.  Unlike Ruwanwelisaya where the white stupa was surrounded by worshipers, Jetavanaramaya Dagoba appeared quite empty with only a handful of locals and foreign tourists.

01Once again we had to take off our shoes before entering the stupa platform.

02It was hard to imagine the imposing prominence of the original 400 feet tall stupa.

03A handful of local worshipers put down their offerings on the stone pedestals in front of the stupa.

04Beautiful statues of Buddha made of pink stone stood out prominently against the stupa wall.

05Dressed mainly in white, local worshipers circled the stupa in clockwise direction.

06Another Buddha statue is made with translucent white stone.

07Pieces of fine statues and relief carvings were placed in front of the brick stupa walls.

08At one side of the stupa stands a small worship hall.

09The Jetavanaramaya was constructed with special bricks made with 60% fine sand and 35% clay.

10In early 20th century, Jetavanaramaya was covered with dense shrubs.

11We left Jetavanaramaya after walking a full circle around the monument.

14No tuk tuk could be found at the entrance of Jetavanaramaya.  We decided to walk back to Ruwanwelisaya where we might be able to flag down a tuk tuk.

12On our way, we walk by Silachetiya (Kujjatissa) Stupa, another 2000-year-old historical structure built in the era of King Saddhatissa (137 – 119 BC).

13Near Ruwanwelisaya, we bumped into a group of tufted gray langur hanging around in the archaeological park.

15From Ruwanwelisaya, we decided to walk back to The Sanctuary at Tissawewa via Basawakkulama Tank, where locals enjoyed picnic lunch by the water .


RUVANVELISAYA STUPA, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.07

Day 3 (1 of 4).

At 400BC, the great thinker and religious teacher Gautama Buddha passed away.  His body was cremated and the ash was divided into eight portions given to eight different kingdoms as sacred relics.  During the reign of Ashoka the Great (268-232BC), relics of the Buddha was dug up and further subdivided into 84,000 portions.  Stupas were erected across the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia to house the relics.  As time went by, only a small number of relics remain in the original two-thousand-year-old stupas, while most have been transferred to different temples around the world along with the spreading of Buddhism.  Today, Buddhist relics can be found in many Asian countries, and even as far as in Russia and the United States.  As one of the earliest countries where Buddhism was introduced, Sri Lanka has some of the oldest stupas in the world.  Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka where Buddhism first arrived at Ashoka’s time, was home to the oldest and grandest stupas, also called dagobas, in the nation.  While Buddhism in India has long declined, the religion continues to flourish in Sri Lanka until the present.  Today, a number of ancient stupas in Anurādhapura remain as popular pilgrimage sites for worshipers, just as they were 2000 years ago.

Built by King Dutugamunu in 137BC, Ruvanvelisaya is the stupa believed to house the largest amount of the Buddha’s relics anywhere in the world.  With a diameter of 300 feet and a height of about 350 feet, it was once one of the largest monuments in the ancient world.  As the nation’s political and cultural centre shifted away from Anurādhapura, the stupa fell into ruins during the Medieval time.  Restoration work of the great stupa began in early 20th century.  Since then, the stupa has once again become a religious and historical icon for the ancient capital.

01A short walk from our hotel brought us to the archaeological museum, a well established museum housed in the former district secretariat building.  We stayed briefly at the museum to learn a bit more about the history of the city and its famous stupas.  A museum staff was kind enough to show us around at a number of exhibition rooms.  Then we walked over to the ticket office adjacent to the museum to purchase our one-day cultural heritage tickets.

02After obtaining the cultural heritage tickets, we continued to head north to Ruvanvelisaya Stupa.

03Ruvanvelisaya Stupa was the most crowded stupa we visited in Anuradhapura.

04Before reaching the stupa, we arrived at glass building designated for candle and incense offerings.

05It was interesting to see so many worshipers dresses in white and dogs resting on the floor inside the candle offering building.

06Ruvanvelisaya’s famous elephant wall was originally built by King Dutugamunu’s brother Saddhatissa two thousand years ago.  It was said that the original 344 elephants were coated with gold dust.

07The actual stupa is washed in white paint, and wrapped at the base with a multi coloured band resembling the Buddhist flag of Sri Lanka.

08Around the stupa stand offering tables and stone counters.  Beautiful lotus flowers once again are the most popular offerings.

09Some worshipers prefer to leave their offerings at the base of the stupa.

10At each cardinal directions, a splendid shrine with Buddha’s figure known as vahalkada attract worshipers to leave offerings and chant prayers.

11Once again lotus flowers are the most popular offerings.

12Other than the white paint on the stupa and white clothing of worshipers, almost everything else is vivid in colours.

13Other than lotus flowers, rice and sweet good are also used as offerings.

14Somehow each worshipers would know where to place their flowers in order to create the fantastic flower patterns.

15It was hard to imagine how abundant lotus flowers are in the nation to allow so many worshipers to leave their offerings.

16At one end, we reached a small and crowded shrine.

17Inside the shrine there is a mini stupa protected by transparent partitions.

18Ruvanvelisaya was undergoing an extensive restoration.

19Before leaving, we passed by an area full of incense smoke and devoted worshipers.

20We left Ruvanvelisaya from the same path we came, where worshipers dressed in white continued to enter and pay their respect to the magnificent stupa.


ISURUMUNIYA RAJAMAHA VIHARAYA, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.06

Day 2 (5 of 5).

Since most attractions in Anurādhapura are covered by the one-day Cultural Heritage Ticket, we decided to visit the two obvious exceptions on our first day: Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, and the rock temple of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya, and leave the rest covered by the day ticket for the following day.  On the east coast of Tissa Wewa, the reservoir built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, stands a group of giant granite boulders, where for the past two thousand years had been served as a small Buddhist temple, the Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.  Constructed under the reign of Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, the vihara was used as a Buddhist monastery to the house 500 ordained children.  Renovations and additions in later centuries continued to transform the temple into its current form, which is consisted of the old rock shrine, the new shrine, the lily pond, and the rock cliff on which visitors can climb atop to check out the stupa and a rock engraved footprints of the Buddha.  The temple is famous for its stone carvings, but unfortunately much of the complex, including the small museum, was under renovation during our visit.

01From Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, we followed Google Map and walked towards Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.  On our way, we passed Dakkhina Stupa, a brick stupa constructed in the 2nd century BC.

02Unlike the ancient stupas in town, Sandahiru Seya near Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is in fact a modern construction commissioned by President Rajapaksa in 2010.  Once completed, the modern stupa will reach a height of 85m.  Slow funding and construction means Sandahiru Seya won’t be completed anytime soon.

03Near the entrance of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya, we passed by the Buddhist monastery Sri Sarananda Maha Pirivena.

04Beyond a bridge over a beautiful lotus pond, we arrived at the entrance of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

05Lotus ponds are common all over Sri Lanka.

06It was almost sunset when we reached the magnificent rock temple.  Just like the shrine of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, we had to take off our shoes before entering the compound of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

07Set in front the backdrop of granite boulders, the Isurumuniya Temple and the adjacent pond are the most prominent features in the complex.

08Splendid stone carving of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is one of the main reason why foreign visitors come.

09The shrine of Isurumuniya Temple contains a Buddhist image behind glass.

10Unfortunately the small museum on site was closed for renovation.  We left the temple and walked over to the stair at the back side.

11Behind the Isurumuniya Temple, a series of steps led us to the top of the granite boulders.

12Top top of the boulders is dominated by a stupa and rocks with carvings.

13The white stupa is actually a relatively recent addition to the complex.

14Late afternoon sun cast a peaceful aura onto the stupa.

15At the top, ancient carvings, including a pair of Buddha’s footprints.

16What seems to be a designated area of money offerings at the top.

17Looking down, we could see the pond and more incoming visitors.

18Behind us to the west, the sun sett over the peaceful reservior Tissa Wewa.  It was time for us to head back to the hotel for a Sri Lanka supper to conclude the day.

 


2,308-YEAR-OLD SACRED BODHI, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.06

Day 2 (4 of 5).

In 288BC, a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi, the sacred fig tree in Buddha Gaya of India under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Theri, the eldest daughter of Indian Emperor Ashoka the Great.  The sapling was brought to the island in a golden vase on the ship, and planted by King Devanampiya Tissa on a 6.5m high terrace in the Mahamevnawa Gardens of Anuradhapura.  Sangamitta stayed in Anurādhapura and established the nun-lineage of Bhikkhunī with several other Indian nuns.   Along with his elder brother Mahinda, Sangamitta was a vital figure for spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka.  The ancient capital Anuradhapura continued to flourish and develop into a hub for Buddhist teachings that lasted for many centuries.

Today, the sacred tree Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi continues to thrive and has become one of the most important pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world.  The amazing 2308-year-old tree is also known as the oldest living tree planted by human hands on record.  Given the significance of the tree, the Sri Lankan government banned all construction within 500m from it.  Walls were also erected in the 18th century to protect the tree from wild elephants. Golden fence around the tree was later added in 1969.  Buddha statues were placed at four sides of the sacred tree by different ancient kings.  Ceremonies are held at the site to celebrate new year and several other festivals every year.

01After a light lunch, we ventured out the Sanctuary Tissawewa and head east.  Following the instruction given by the hotel staff, we found our way towards the legendary fig tree.

02From the main road, we followed a pedestrian only path for about 10 minutes towards the sacred tree.  At one point, we passed by a tree full of monkeys.

03Most worshipers arrived at the sacred tree with lotus flower as offerings.

04A green garden mat surrounds the terrace where the sacred Bodhi is located.

07From the semicircular Moon stone (Sandakada pahana, a floor feature unique to Sinhalese architecture), worshipers would go up the steps to the shrine at the second level of the platform.

05At each cardinal direction, a shrine is built for worshipers to leave their offerings and receive blessing from the monk.

11The shrine is relatively simple, with an offering table and small Buddha statues.

06Offerings of lotus flower can be seen at all Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, including Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.

10Some shrines are more popular than the others.

08Dressed in white, worshipers would leave a handful of lotus flower at the shrine, and receive blessing and a white string wrist bracelet from the monk of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.

09At the platform, monks and worshipers interact and chat prayers towards the sacred Bodhi tree.

12Behind the shrine further up the platform, we could see what must be the 2300 year old sacred Bodhi tree.

13The lush green crown of the sacred tree provides a perfect backdrop for the golden features of the shrines and colouful Buddhist flags.  The golden sunlight, peaceful aura,  and sounds of rubbing leaves in the gentle breeze convey a strong sense of spirituality.

14Structures painted in gold are erected to support certain branches of the sacred tree.

15A small temple is located at one side of the platform.

16Inside the temple, a decent sized worship hall houses a Buddhist statue.

17Apart from the sacred Bodhi tree on the highest terrace, younger fig trees are planted at the lower platforms.  These trees are meant to provide protection to the sacred tree against storm and animals.

18We enjoyed the spiritual atmosphere of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.  After checking out the shrines at all four sides of the sacred tree, we left the compound at the south gate.

 


DAY 7 (3/7): POETICS OF ARCHITECTURE, D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

In counter to a globalized world where International Style architecture can be erected anywhere in the world without connections with the regional culture and landscape, architectural historian Kenneth Frampton suggests Critical Regionalism as an alternative approach that integrates Modernist design with regional essence.  From Kenzo Tange to Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture have made a strong presence in modern architectural designs in Japan.  Located just a block southeast of SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the D T Suzuki Museum is an elegant piece of modern architecture that contains deep roots in the beauty of Japanese Zen traditions.  Famous for designing a number of museums in Japan and, the most well known of all, the new wing of New York’s MOMA, architect Yoshio Taniguchi (谷口吉生) completed this small museum in 2011 to commemorate the life and works of Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro (1870-1966), an influential Zen Buddhist philosopher who was largely responsible for introducing Japanese Zen Buddhism to the West.

Famous for the spatial qualities and fine detailing, Yoshio Taniguchi’s D T Suzuki Museum goes much beyond a sleek building that houses a collection of artefacts.  From the humble entrance to a hallway guided by a slit of light, from a cozy exhibition hall that tells the story of the zen master to a small library of Suzuki’s works for visitor’s better understanding on the philosophy of Zen, and from a courtyard of a rugged stone wall and tranquil mirror pool for visitors’ self reflection to a spiritual pavilion surrounded by water for self contemplation, a visit to the D T Suzuki Museum offers an inspiring journey designated for the beauty of spiritual enlightenment, Zen Buddhism and life itself.  Though small in scale, the experience and beauty of D T Suzuki Museum provided us much more food for thought than many catchy and sleek designs that spark a few minutes of wow effect and then nothing more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReference to traditional Japanese houses and Modernist architecture, a band of vertical strips conceal the humble entrance and glazed reception lobby.

DSC_8154A square abstract pattern of lines and strokes define the logo of the D T Suzuki Museum.

DSC_8157After obtaining our tickets, we followed a hallway with skirting light into the exhibition space.

DSC_8164In the middle of the hallway, an angular glazed corner allowed us to have a peek into the modern zen garden outside.

DSC_8180No photography was allowed in the exhibition and library areas.  After the exhibit, the journey took us out to the courtyard of mirror pond and the contemplation pavilion with its paper-thin roof.

DSC_8247We sat on a wooden bench in front of a stone wall for quite some time to feel the breeze and take in the atmosphere and let the beauty of the courtyard to sink into our hearts.

DSC_8182Water ripples was generated automatically from time to time in the pool, serving as a visual massage to further calm down our mind.

DSC_8192Every elements in the complex are minimal, light and elegant, as if the world has been striped of every excessive and undesirable element with only the essence left behind.

DSC_8183Refined detailing of the pool railing showed us the architect’s careful attention to minimize excessive lines and connection hardware throughout the complex.

DSC_8225At four corners of the pavilion, rainwater chains were provided along with beautiful water feature of small water droplets forming tiny ripples in the pool.

DSC_8237The pavilion for contemplation can be reached from all four sides.  With indirect lighting from the overhead oculus and the four openings each framing a garden view, one can stay, meditate and make peace with him/herself in the pavilion for a long time.

DSC_8257The courtyard wasn’t very big, but it was full of interesting design details and magnificent spots to appreciate order of zen architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe edge of the pool is carefully treated with a perimeter band of pebble stones.

DSC_8265From the garden lookout, the pavilion and its reflection appear perfect in geometry under the shade of the willow tree.

DSC_8269The essence of minimalist architecture is evident from the limited number of lines and elements in the design.

DSC_8276.JPGLess doesn’t mean lacking: unique features in the museum garden offer touches of design sophistication to enhance user experience at different spots throughout the journey.

IMG_8572For many tourists, D T Suzuki Museum has provided one of the most pleasant surprises and inspiring moments in their Kanazawa experience.  We couldn’t agree more.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (4/6): RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山), Nanto (南砺市), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

45 minutes of bus ride took us deeper into the valley of Gokayama (五箇山) in Toyama Prefecture.  Our destination was Ainokura (相倉), one of the three villages with Gassho-zukuri houses inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Rain continued to pour down when we get off at Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  We had no choice but to brave the elements and walk uphill into the village from the country highway.  It took about 5 minutes to reach the village parking lot, and another 5 minutes to reach our guesthouse.  After checking in, we rested a bit until the rain subsided a little.

Sandwiched between dense forests on a hill and the Sho River (庄川) that runs in a deep valley, Ainokura is a situated on a narrow plain surrounded by forests and mountains.  With about about 30 preserved gassho-zukuri houses, the 450-year old village remains a quiet rural community with about 90 inhabitants as of 1994.  The region around Ainokura was nearly impenetrable until 1925, when a road was built through the surrounding forests.  Once a stronghold of silkworm production before the 1950s, the village has since become a self-sufficient rural community filled with rice paddies and flower fields.  Today, a few houses are open to visitors as museums or guesthouses, but most of the village remain private, unlike Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go where most houses have been converted into tourism-related uses.  The view of Ainokura from the adjacent hill may be less dramatic than the one from the Shiroyama Observatory Deck at Ogimachi, yet wandering in the remote village of Gokayama offers a much more tranquil and delightful experience as if going back in time.DSC_7861The rain was at times heavy as we entered Ainokura in mid afternoon.

DSC_7791Mist and clouds lingered around the surrounding mountains of Ainokura as we entered the village.

DSC_7923After a five minute walk from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop, we reached the main parking lot of the village and a small visitor centre.

DSC_7826Rice paddies of different sizes and shapes filled up all the spaces between village homes.

DSC_7932Most gassho-zukuri houses remain as private homes of villagers.

DSC_7777One of the gassho-zukuri houses at the village centre is turned into a souvenir shop.

DSC_7782On a high ground at the village centre stands the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine in the shade of tall trees.

DSC_7783Adjacent to the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a stepped path leads to a stone monument to commemorate the visit of a royal prince.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASonen-ji Temple (相念寺) is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple at the heart of Ainokura.

DSC_7953Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It is the most popular branch of Buddhism in Japan.

DSC_7960The Sonen-ji Temple (相念寺) building was completed in 1859.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Ainokura, there are several designated viewpoints, mostly on the slope or farming terraces right by the village.

DSC_7804We walked up to a few farming terraces to look for a desirable viewpoint for the village’s overview.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome viewpoints required us to walk further uphill into the dense forest adjacent to Ainokura.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed a series of signs to reach the highest viewpoint uphill.  The walk took about 15 minutes on a narrow paved road.

DSC_7867From the openings between trees, we could enjoy beautiful birdeye’s views of Ainokura.

DSC_7842From above, we could truly appreciated the thatched roofs of Ainokura, which are steeper than the ones in Shirakawa-go due to the heavier snowfall in Gokayama.

DSC_7857We truly sensed the remoteness of Ainokura with its surrounding mountains.

DSC_7769We wandered around Ainokura between periods of rain, but we didn’t entered any museums.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the village near our guesthouse, a downhill road led us to a large piece of mirror-like rice paddy.  Sunlight was fading, reminding us that dinner was about to start at our guesthouse.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 

 


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 (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 (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