A Travellerspoint blog

Myanmar

LAST DAY IN MYANMAR

MAHAMUNI PAGODA, ARTISANS, LOCAL MARKETS AND TEARFUL GOODBYES

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Impossible to think that this trip is coming to an end and that we have covered as much of this beautiful country as we have. But also, incredible to think of all that we experienced in this short a period of time.

Many of the group had flights out at noon, but don't think that meant a morning off. Instead our van was waiting to take us to see the incredibly beautiful Mahamuni Pagoda. After seeing so many temples and Buddhas, I was not expecting to be so impressed. This place was spectacular with its rooms of gold and jade.

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This is one of the major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. Wikipedia tells me , "that ancient tradition refers to only five likenesses of the Buddha, made during his lifetime; two were in India, two in paradise, and the fifth is the Mahamuni Buddha image in Myanmar. According to the legend, the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 BC. King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni" which means the great sage.

We were fascinated by the devotion of people and I watched with great curiosity as the men (women are not allowed) enter the room with the Buddha to rub gold leaf on the statue. A practice that has left parts of the statue looking more like lumps than body parts.

You could really see it on the webcam.

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Of course, we were fascinated by the people around the site. These beautiful women who traveled from Shan state were delighted to pose for us.

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Others were just subject to our curiosities.

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Or smiling from their flower shops.

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From here, we walked through an artisan area. If you need a Buddha, any shape, any size, this is the place to come.

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We also visited this beautiful shop with incredible wood work. I could have bought a lot here, with a bigger bag and no import restrictions.

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After returning to the hotel, we said our good byes to the most amazing group of friends.

Fortunately for me, both Paula and Nikki also had late flights, and so we took the rest of the afternoon to explore a local market and the riverside villages. This was another awesome experience. Not expecting to see tourists roaming around, people were warm and equally as curious. They loved it when we tried the local food.

The market. Hard to believe I was right around the corner from our very beautiful hotel.

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The riverside villages

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Myanmar is a beautiful country. Warm people, blue skies, lush greens, unique culture, great food…..I could go on and on. It is a country and people that has suffered from years of oppression and sanctions that has only recently been improved. The recent crisis with the Rohingya has caused a major decrease in tourism. While I understand that we are all horrified by the atrocities, I feel bad for the locals who were just beginning to see the benefits of the tourist dollars. There is a whole country of people who are good, kind and have no idea about the poor politics of their government or other regions. They do not deserve to pay the price for others. I feel good for having spent my money with them.

This trip could not have been all that it was without the amazing group of people that shared the experiences with me. Normally, I would have been telling our tales each day so you would know more about them, but with this busy itinerary, it was an impossible task. I am playing catch up.

We had an incredibly strong, intelligent, accomplished group of women that I love. Thanks Paula, Sigrid, Alessia, Nikki, you do womanhood proud. And to the wonderful men, also intelligent and accomplished, who tolerated us (me), Jurgen, Bradley, Girogio, and Egil, I am happy to call you all my friends. We had a local guide, Tun, who loves his country and loved taking care of us. He wouldn't even sit to eat until we had absolutely everything we needed and more. The best! Very grateful to have a tour leader like Nathan, he loves the people, places and had such a passion for photography that it is contagious. He is a giving teacher and friend.

All this to say, that I can't wait to see you all again next February in Nepal. Yup, that's right. We had such a blast that before the first week had ended, Nathan had a special tour in the works for us all to meet again.

As always, feeling blessed.

Now to catch up on Thailand and Laos.

Posted by curlygirl 07:10 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma mandalay myanmar Comments (0)

UBEIN BRIDGE, AVA, AMARAPURA AND MINGUN

TRAMATIZING THE YOUTH OF MANDALAY

sunny 30 °C
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Another very full day indeed that began with another sunrise. This morning we went to the very famous Ubein Bridge, a 1.2 kilometer teak bridge that spans Taungtaman Lake. Normally the lake is very large and boats ride under the bridge. However, the lake was almost dried up and we could barely manipulate the 3 boats we had. Still we had some fun and it was great seeing life come alive as the sun rose over the bridge.

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We had a few attempts to capture the fishermen tossing their nets.

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From there we took a short ride and a ferry to Ava, the ancient capital of the Shan and Burmese Kingdoms. After crossing the Myint Nge River by ferry, we explored Ava by horse and cart.

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One of my favorite stops was at the 300 year old Bagaya Teak Monastery. What a beautiful building. It really needs some love so I hope the country finds a way to restore such gems.

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We had lunch in Ava and then made our way back to the hotel because a few of us had massages booked at the hotel. What would a trip report from me without a few good massage stories? This will go on record as the best yet…not massage, but story. When we arrived in Mandalay we were told that the massages were especially good because they were done by men. 3 of us gals happily booked. In case you don't know, in Asia there are several types of massages, but basically one category requires you to strip off with no shyness and the other, the Thai massage has you laying down fully dressed while someone uses there body to stretch yours with you both in intertwined positions.

Sooooo, we get back to the hotel and were a little surprise that there appeared to be 3 young teenage boys waiting to give us our massage. And, feeling a little awkward about them coming to our room. Myself and another girl decided to go to her room while our third friend was left alone ( we reallllllly wanted a third bed to stay together). Knowing we felt uneasy, our tour leader suggest we go to the room and "get ourselves ready". Well we took that to mean, get naked. Well the short story is, those poor boys were horrified when they walked in the room to see us face down in just our panties as they were there to do a Thai massage. We were mortified, sent them out of the room and dressed and subsequently giggled the whole way through the massage. They got a 50% tip.

Well, after that was over, we went off on another outing and lovely boat ride over the Ayerwaddy River to Mingun. This location, has a giant unfinished pagoda ( because the king building it died) that was cracked in half by an earthquake.

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While photographing there, a large procession appeared on the scene with a number of young boys on hours. Apparently it was a celebration of the transition into monkhood.

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We also had some fun with three young monks at the Hsinbyume Pagoda.

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After a relaxing ride home, I was almost able to forget what those poor boys were thinking.

Posted by curlygirl 06:40 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bridge myanmar mingun amarapura ava ubein Comments (5)

THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

SKIPPING THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME

sunny 29 °C
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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

sunny 28 °C
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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)

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