A Travellerspoint blog

January 2018

THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

SKIPPING THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME

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The rest of our group had another early rise. They actually took one of the hot air balloon and flew over Bagan. My incredible fear of heights won out over my FOMO (fear of missing out). There were times when I thought I could do it, but I know that sometimes I just freeze and panic and I really didn't want to ruin it for the others so I opted out. They all loved it and I am happy for them and only a little bit envious.

Here are my photo friends after their ride. They look miserable (well maybe not miserable) because they miss me so much (that's my story at least).

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After they had breakfast we drove two hours to Mandalay. We took a midway quick road stop at this interesting little place.

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After checking in, we quickly got back on the bus for a 30-minute drive to Sagaing. Sagaing is located across the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay and has great importance in the Buddhist community for the large number of monasteries. We went to visit one that houses a large number of children. Honestly, I have been conflicted about how life is for the young monks, also known as apprentices. In many places they seem so sad and serious. We have learned that every Buddhist should send their children to a monastery but this can be for as few as 3 days. Our local guide, Tun, says he loved the week he spent there as a child. However, throughout our travels we have learned that many families who cannot afford to look after their children, send them across the state to live in a monastery. They don't have any contact with their families. It seems a little drastic but perhaps I feel this way coming from a place where we over protect our children. This place was different. It housed both young monks and nuns and was filled with laughter and joy. I even had the chance to talk to one young boy, 16, who wanted to practice his English. He enjoyed his life and the opportunity to go school studying math, English, Myanmar and chemistry. Nathan could barely pull us away. So much fun.

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After that, we walked briefly along the river. I am not sure I have ever been so close to this much poverty. Apparently, in the dry season, families who live in nearby villages set up along the riverbank because there is work unloading the boats. It really is a shanty town. But I cannot help but remark that people are smiling and always welcome us with a "Mingalarbar"

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Posted by curlygirl 19:24 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma mandalay myanmar Comments (1)

BALLOONS OVER BAGAN

EXPLORING THE BEAUTIFUL CITY OF BAGAN

sunny 28 °C
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When you do a photography tour with Nathan Horton, he is going to make sure you don't miss any opportunities. That means early rises to make sure you are in position for the shot. We were up 4:30 this morning to make our way for a view point to see the hot air balloons float over the temples. It is surprisingly cold in the night and so we were frozen, waiting on top on a temple, standing on concrete in our bare feet (no shoes or socks in any temples). Totally worth it though. I really appreciate the opportunity to sit and watch how quickly light changes and to have someone coach you through different approaches to managing that light. No sunrise is predictable, nor is the path of the balloons and so, to my surprise, my favorite shots were taken close to 7am. Of course, had someone not forced me out of bed, I would have missed it all, and never got my spot because there were tons of people with the same idea.

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Most people would probably head back for a nap, but no…..there is no resting when there are things to see, do and photograph. So, we hopped on some electric bikes and went off to explore the city. This was a hoot. Or it was a hoot after I got over the terror. My favorite part was passing Giorgio, our sweet and charming Italian gentleman. For some reason it made me feel like a race car driver passing Mario Andretti.

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We stopped at a few locations and had a chance to photography some young apprentice monks passing by.

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We also took some time to explore one of the temples which had four large Buddhas, all different.

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There wasn't much turnaround time before we headed out again for some more sunset shots.

We came across this darling in his mama's basket.

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Then had some fun with some ladies and their baskets as they walked around the temples.

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Another brilliant day in this beautiful county.

Posted by curlygirl 05:56 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan Comments (0)

SUNSET OVER BAGAN

WHAT A VIEW

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A late arrival in Bagan had us do a quick check in and find a good location for the famous shot of sunset over the temples.

We were just a few of the many photographers hoping for the perfect shot.

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Posted by curlygirl 04:47 Archived in Myanmar Tagged sunset burma myanmar pagan Comments (0)

THE KAYAN PEOPLE

THE LONG NECK TRIBE - PAUDAUNG PEOPLE

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Today was the last of our treks to see hill tribes and certainly the easiest…whew.

This was a very exciting day for me because I remember seeing these women, those that wear coils on their necks, as a child while reading a National Geographic magazine. I remember learning that the coils could never be removed because the muscles in their neck would never support the head and they would therefore suffocate. It horrified me. So, I was completely delighted to see these women happy and welcoming.

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The Kayan people who are also known as Padaung called themselves Kakaung in their own language, which means "peope who live on the hilltops". Our local guide Tun, who is fantastic and sweet, explains to us that the village that we will visit, Pan Pet, is the original settlement of this tribe, north west of Loikaw town. Today the Padaung are spread out over 7 villages in Myanmar. In 1988, fleeing fighting, about 500 Paduang, moved to Thailand and settled on the border.

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We watched and photography with fascination as we walked through the villages. Our photographer teacher, Nathan, always has a stack of photos that he has taken on a previous trip and he attempts to find the people and give them a picture of themselves which always goes over well. A couple of times, we meet someone new and they don't have a picture. In these cases, I was able to use my new portable printer to give them a small photo. Also brought pleasure and bewilderment.

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In Myanmar, the custom is fading, only women in 3 villages still wear the coils, athough, there are still some children who follow tradition. It starts at age 5 and a coil is added every year until marriage.

This lady had perfect posture

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But we are told most of these people are plagued with back issues and curving of the spine, like this lady.

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In Thailand it is said they continue the custom due to economic necessity and the ability to make money through tourism having been prohibited by the Thai government from cultivating the land because they were not citizens.

Why do they do this? Some say it was to protect the women from tiger attacks in the jungle, as tigers usually attack humans by biting their throats. Others claim that the Padaung are descended from swans, so they elongate their necks in a bid to look like their ancestors. Another tale records that the Padaung tribe was originally called Lae Khoe, and ruled over the Burmese people. Later, the Burmese and ethnic groups joined forces to fight against the Lae Khoe and drove them off their land. During the war a young Lae Khoe princess escaped. She wrapped the tribe's sacred gold-coloured Padaung plant around her neck and declared that if the Lae Khoe failed to regain their land, she would never take it off. Since then, the Lha Khoe have been known as the Padaung.'

On our way out we saw this guy tucked in a pot while his mama was cleaning cotton. He was terrified by us and started to cry.

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A few more from a very fascinating day.

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Posted by curlygirl 02:16 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

INLE LAKE - BOAT RIDE TO THE SOUTH- LOIKAW

THE LESSER KNOWN PART OF THE LAKE

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Today was simply beautiful. An incredible day on the water which included fishermen, local life, temples and the best pee stop of my life.

Because it had been too windy the previous night, Nathan wanted to give us an opportunity to get in the little boats with the fishermen this morning. This required transferring oneself from one small boat to a tiny boat. It went surprisingly well. That is, I didn't fall in or knock the fisherman out of the boat.

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We made our way towards our next stop by boat. It was about a 5 hours boat ride with a few stops along the way. Our first stop was a local market about two hours away. Of course, I couldn't make it that far and had to ask our driver if he could let me out for a pee. I was perfectly content to go in the bush, but no, instead we pull up at a beautiful old monastery. I learned that only the two older monks lived there and they graciously let me used their facilities. The monastery was beautiful and even though the facilities, were simply a little hut built out over the lake, I loved it. What a great opportunity to peek, once again, into the simple life of a monk.

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It wasn't much further until we reached the local market at Nampan Village. This place was bustling with activity.

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The boat ride itself was spectacular. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more beautiful it did. We saw the bluest blues and the greenest greens and I loved the white ferns that blew in the breeze. People lived on stilt houses to accommodate the varying water levels. Out of nowhere were spectacular temples.

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Even our lunch stop, Sagar, a very small and traditional village had stupas, a monastery and great food. We all loved it and so Nathan things the next tour might just spend a night there. Sigh.

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It was another couple hours before reaching our final stop, Phekone where we drove on to Loikaw.

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During this trip we left Shan State and entered Kayan State which has only been open to tourist for 3 years so it promises to be interesting. Upon arrival and some whining from our crew, Nathan agreed to let us chill for a bit. He pushes us hard but the learning and pictures are totally worth it. Too be honest, I don't think anyone is this group would really want to sit around very long. Did I mention yet that out groups is AMAZING! We have been having the best time.

Posted by curlygirl 02:32 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

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