ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “restaurant

DAY 6 (3/6): SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

After a leisure stroll in the picturesque Ogimachi (荻町), at around 11am we crossed the suspension Deai Bridge (であい橋)over to the main parking lot / Open-air Museum Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園).  The rain was quite heavy and instead of visiting the open air museum, we opted for a lunch break at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本), a lovely soba restaurant housed in a traditional gassho-zukuri building.  The lunch was a delicious soba noodle soup and a mini bowl of Hida beef rice.  After lunch we crossed the bridge back to Ogimachi, and paid a visit to the Myozen-ji temple complex.  The visit included seeing two gassho-zukuri buildings, the Kuri (former residence of the monks) and the worship hall.  Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we headed up to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台) for the spectacular birdeye’s view of the village and the surrounding mountains.  At around 1:40pm, we headed back to the bus station, picked up our backpacks, and boarded a “world heritage bus” heading to Ainokura (相倉) of Gokayama (五箇山), where we would stay the night in a 300-year-old gassho-zukuri house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the other side of Deai Bridge (であい橋), the tour bus parking lot and the Open-air Museum Shirakawa-go or Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園) didn’t look busy at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor tourists who arrive by tour buses, Ponte Deai (であい橋) would be their point of arrival into Ogimachi.

DSC_7606Just a stone throw away from the tour bus parking lot, we arrived at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本).  We decided to go for a bowl of soba and a cup of hot tea.

DSC_7612Two “raccoons” welcomed us at the front lawn of the soba restaurant.

DSC_7609It was 11am, and we were the first to sit down in the dining hall of Soba Wakimoto.

DSC_7610We ordered two soba sets.  Both came with a seafood soba, and a bowl of Hida beef rice.  The meal was fantastic and gave us an opportunity to dry up our jackets.

DSC_7605After lunch, we headed back to Ogimachi.  Outside of a tourist restaurant, a sarubobo (さるぼぼ) doll offered visitors a photo opportunity with this amulet of Takayama.  The faceless doll was a traditional gift made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as lucky charm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in Ogimachi, we passed by Myozen-ji Temple again and decided to paid a visit.  Built mainly in the early 1800s, Myozen-ji Temple presents a rare surviving example of gassho-zukuri temple architecture.

DSC_7570In the Myozen-ji Temple, we could visit the Bell or Shoro Gate, the Kuri, and the main worship hall.  All three structures were constructed with the unique thatched roof of the gassho-zukuri style.  These temple structures were built in the early 1800s.

DSC_7503The Kuri of Myozen-ji Temple is one of the largest building in the village.  Our tour of the temple complex began from here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe spacious attic of the Kuri building had been converted into a two storey museum.  Back in the old days, attics of many gassho-zukuri houses were used to make washi paper and raise silkworm.

DSC_7659Outside the Kuri, the gassho-zukuri houses and reflective rice paddies offered us a glimpse into the fading rural lifestyle of Japan.

DSC_7645The upper levels of the Kuri building allowed us a closer look at the straw eaves of the thatched roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Kuri, a zigzag corridor led us to the main worship hall of Myozen-ji Temple, where the interior was decorated with a series of paintings depicting the Mount Fuji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the ground level of the Kuri, we arrived at a beautiful fire hearth where visitors gathered around to smell the burning natural wood.

DSC_7700Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we walked up the hill near the bus station to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台).

DSC_7704The Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台)  offers the iconic postcard view of Shirakawa-go’s Ogimachi.

DSC_7711Despite the rain, the village of gassho-zukuri houses looked spectacular with the lush green surroundings.

DSC_7743Although most tourists prefer to visit Shirakawa-go in the snowy winter when the gassho-zukuri houses were lit up by flood lights at specific weekends, we didn’t mind to visit in late spring to see the village with its reflective rice paddies and lush green surroundings.

DSC_7720It was touristy, yet the scenery of Shirakawa-go and its traditional gassho-zukuri houses made the visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site more than worthwhile for us.

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DAY 5 (2/5): HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Unless you are a vegetarian, almost all visitors who come to Takayama would sample the Hida beef (飛騨牛), the renowned wagyu beef (和牛) famous for its fine marbling, soft texture, juicy quality and rich aroma.  Since winning the “Wagyu Olympics” in 2002, the reputation of Hida beef has risen on par with the legendary Kobe beef (神戸牛).  First introduced in the 2nd century AD from China, Japanese cattle were raised mainly as working animals until Meiji Restoration in 1868, when foreign cattle were imported into Japan and cross-bred with the local cattle to produce the four main breeds of wagyu: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn and Japanese Polled.  Out of the three strands of Japanese Black, the Tajima bloodline is probably the most well known.  Only pure Tajima bred, raised and slaughtered in Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県) will be certified as the famous Kobe beef.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Kobe beef was introduced to the world and made a huge impact for its exceptionally high quality.  Yasufuku, a bull from Hyogo Prefecture was considered to be genetically ideal for creating offspring with high quality meat.  It was introduced to the Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県) in the 1980s, and produced 39,000 offspring during its lifetime.  Yasufuku is also known as the father of Hida beef (飛騨牛).  Today, all cattle of the Hida beef are bred and raised in Gifu Prefecture.  In Takayama, there are multiple ways to appreciate the Hida beef, from high-end steakhouse to takeaway beef sashimi.

DSC_7046Opened in 2001, French Restaurant Le Midi is one of the most elegant restaurant in the city to sample Hida beef.

DSC_7048A side store of Le Midi offers takeaway snacks.

DSC_7051Custard pudding topped with local honey is one of the shop’s signature dish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than pudding, Le Midi’s Hida beef burger is also highly popular among tourists.  The Hida beef hamburger and custard pudding were the first two snacks we tried in Takayama, and already we were quite impressed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcross the street from Midi, we also picked up a Hida beef skewer from Kyoushi (梗絲), one of the restaurants in Takayama specialized in Hida beef sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the imitation display of the Hida beef snacks looked mouth-watering.

DSC_7070In the historic Kamisannomachi Street, the Hida beef sushi from Hida Kotte ushi (飛驒牛壽司) is perhaps the most anticipated street snacks in Takayama.  Visitors can choose to enjoy the sushi at the seating area in the souvenir shop behind the sushi counter.

DSC_7075Hida beef sushi combo on rice crackers were truly amazing.  We finally got a taste of beef that would “melt” in the mouth.

DSC_7336Near the railway station, there are butcher shops such as Yamatake Shoten (山武商店) offering a comprehensive Hida beef experience from picking the meat to devouring the grilled meat all under one roof.

DSC_7359For dinner, we chose Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明) to have Hida beef yakiniku (焼肉).

DSC_7358At 7:15pm, we put down our names on the waiting list at Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).  In less than ten minutes a staff came out and removed the waiting list and put a sign at the front door to stop any newcomer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter an half-hour wait, a staff led us into the yakiniku dining hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered a highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) and a A5 Hida beef sirloin.  The yakiniku dinner was basically a DIY barbecue experience.

DSC_7355The highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) was full of marbling.

DSC_7354A5 Hida beef sirloin.

DSC_7357At the restaurant entrance, photos of Hida beef breeders were displayed on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABar codes of the Hida beef for the night were also on display.

DSC_7360Certifications and newspaper articles about Hida beef breeders were displayed at the shopfront of Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).


DAY 4 (3/3): MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

At 2pm, we returned to Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館) to check in.  Although there were hiking trails venturing further out of Shirahone Onsen, we weren’t in a hurry to go out.  Instead, we opted for spending a relaxing time at the ryokan.  Since there weren’t any restaurants available, we made ourselves delicious local cup noodles bought at the souvenir shop on the main street.  Our room was spacious and decorated in traditional Japanese style.  The air was filled with fragrance of the tatami.  Yet the thing that delighted us the most was the large window looking out to the dense vegetation.  We ended up spending the entire afternoon reading novels, devouring local snacks and enjoying the ryokan’s hotspring bath from time to time.

IMG_6323Near the bus stop of Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉) , a sign board indicated the availability of onsen bath at each ryokan for outside users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 2pm, we checked in at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館).  The ryokan is located adjacent to a lush green ravine.

DSC_7017Shirahone Onsen remained quiet during weekdays.   The lobby of Tsuruya Ryokan was airy but felt a little empty.

DSC_7002Our room was a comfortable Japanese style room came with traditional furnishings.

DSC_7005Through the large window, we could just stare at the lush greenery and circling insects all day long and wouldn’t get bored.

DSC_7016It was the perfect time to open a bottle of beer from the Japanese Alps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nissin cup noodles we bought from the souvenir shop came with flavor of local miso, and it was undoubtedly one of the best cup noodles we ever had.

IMG_8413Adjacent from the onsen bath, the drinking room offered two water sources: local spring and the famous milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen.  The mineral rich onsen of Shirahone Onsen is drinkable and said to offer a number of health benefits.

IMG_8405The bath facility at Tsuruya Ryokan was neat and clean.  Outside of weekends, it is quite possible to enjoy the bath all by yourself.

IMG_8378Similar to many traditional ryokan, the indoor bath at Tsuruya Ryokan is a large wooden pool filled with the milky hotspring.

IMG_8398The outdoor pool was definitely my favorite.  It felt divine to breathe in the cool fresh air from the Mount Norikura (乗鞍岳) and enjoy the lush green scenery while submerging into the milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many ryokan, dinner and breakfast were included in the booking.  For dinner, we had Hida beef sushi as one of the appetizers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYaki-zakana or grilled local fish was another tasty dish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASashimi of various types, including carp fish, was a delightful alternative to the grilled fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the next morning, we had some delicious steamed local vegetables and hotspring congee for breakfast.

IMG_8422Soap made with the milky hotspring water of Shirahone Onsen was a decent souvenir.

DSC_7038After a day of pure relaxation at Shirahone Onsen, it was time for us to get moving again.  There were only a few buses leaving the onsen village each day.  We took the 10:15am bus to leave Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe get off at Sawando Iwamidaira (さわんど岩見平) and crossed the road to wait for a bus heading to Takayama (高山), our next destination.


DAY 1 (2/3): TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場), Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

Due to the fact that this world-largest fish market is running out of space for future development, and that the site of the existing Inner Wholesale Market is sitting on prime real estate land, the Tsukiji Inner Market or Jonai Shijo (築地中央卸売市場) is scheduled to be relocated to Toyosu (豊洲) in this October.  Handling over 2000 tons of seafood per day and employed over 60,000 staff, relocating the Tsukiji Inner Market is no small feat.  Not catered for public visitors and tourists, the wholesale area is not an ideal place to wander around.  No tourists are allowed before 11am according to the rules, and there is a limited number of quota for watching the famous tuna auction before dawn.  Outside of the wholesale area, a few small lanes of restaurants are extremely popular with tourists.  There are about two dozens of small sushi restaurants serving fresh fish just a stone throw away from the wholesale area.  No wonder the most popular restaurants such as Sushi Dai (寿司大) and Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司) are infamously known for the long queues, with some bloggers mentioning in the range of one to three hours of wait.

DSC_5813This time, we didn’t enter the wholesale area of the Inner Market.  We didn’t want to stand in the way of the busy staff.

DSC_5815We walked to the lanes of eateries and sushi bars to hunt for a place for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJapanese grilled omelette or tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) could also be found in the Inner Market area.

DSC_5826In 2014, we came to the Inner Market in early morning and had a bowl of chirashi for breakfast.

DSC_5827Other than chirashi and sushi, there were also other options such as curry and tempura.

DSC_5822The line for Sushi Dai went all the way to the other side of the building out onto the adjacent lane.  It seemed like a two hour wait at least.

DSC_5847This time, we picked Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司).  Daiwa Sushi occupies two stores so we thought the queue wouldn’t be too long.  We wouldn’t mind queuing for a while to have a chance to taste the fresh nigirizushi or hand pressed sushi (握り寿司) from Tsukiji Market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the door of Daiwa Sushi, a staff was responsible to monitor the queue and direct the entering customers when seats became available in the restaurant.

DSC_5845Through the window, we could see a senior itamae (chef) and his apprentices busy preparing nigirizushi for customers.

DSC_5860We ended up queuing for a little over an hour before finding ourselves sitting at the bar seats of Daiwa Sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior was down to earth.  We sat by the corner right by a photo depicting the catch of a huge tuna.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was only one nigirizushi (握り寿司) set option to order.  Nothing fancy about the sushi, but the freshness of the fish and the vibrant market atmosphere made all the wait worthwhile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the sushi breakfast, we hopped to Aiyo Cafe next door for a cup of coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior of Aiyo revealed a strong vintage atmosphere.

DSC_5864The entire shop seemed frozen in time since mid 20th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe staff were very friendly and spoke some English.

IMG_5898We had a good time exchange a few words with them while taking a short coffee break. After all, we were a little sleepy after the red-eye flight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt another lane there were restaurants that offered Western cuisine.  We thought of trying but were too full after the sushi breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked by an interesting sliding door panel leaning against a low wall outside the row of restaurants that offered Western food.  Was the move to Toyosu already underway for some restaurant owners we did not know.

DSC_5873Judging from the mini figure that actually moved continuously as if devouring a bowl of delicious noodles, the door might belong to a ramen restaurant.  After the sushi and coffee, we decided to move on to Roppongi for a dose of design culture.


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

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

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

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

DSC_4935Another satisfying meal at Sanon Restaurant.

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

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

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

DSC_4953Some were still checking out the souvenir vendors.

DSC_4958The most attractive shop was an traditional umbrella store.

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

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

DSC_3940The dining area was a pleasant open terrace.

DSC_3927We started our Christmas Eve dinner with a delicious cocktail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

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

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

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

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


DAY 2 (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