Friday, December 4, 2015


From October 17th to November 4th we led a group of seven on an excursion through Myanmar
which included not only well known attractions but more remote and seldom visited locations. In the next 5 Blog entries come join us as we review highlights of our trip to this most fascinating and rapidly changing destination. Part 1 will cover Yangon and vicinity, Part 2 Bagan, Part 3 Mandalay and vicinity, Part 4 Inle Lake and vicinity and Part 5 Kengtung and vicinity. 

Part 1 Burma/Myanmar 2015 - Yangon and vicinity.Our gateway city was Yangon (Rangoon) though it is now possible to enter by air nonstop from Bangkok to Mandalay. After an early morning flight we enjoyed a variety of breakfast items at the popular Feel restaurant.
Reviewing the menu at Feel restaurant.
Some of the items on offer for breakfast.
After enjoying our breakfast we headed for the river and Botataung Pagoda located  near the Dalah jetty on the Yangon River. The pagoda is believed to be of similar age to the Shwedagon Pagoda and to enshrine a hair of the Buddha. Unfortunately bombed during World War ll the Pagoda was rebuilt along original lines. The golden stupa rises 131 feet and is hollow where inside one can view relics unearthed during its post war reconstruction. Also on the grounds is a large gilded Buddha image which has an interesting history in that it was cast during King Mindon's reign and after residing in King Thibaw's glass palace it was shipped to London when King Thibaw was exiled in India. It was not returned to Burma until 1951. In the complex there are several places where nats or spirits are worshipped including Thagyamin the king of the nats and Bo Bo Gyi believed to be the guardian spirit of the temple.       

Gilded Buddha image in Botataung prayer hall.

Sermsri praying at the image of Thagyamin - king of the nats.
Prayer beads for sale at Botauthaung Pagoda
Buddha image at Botauthaung Pagoda

Botauthaung Stupa
High on our itinerary was the incomparable Shwedagon Pagoda believed to have been built over 2500 years ago though some historians believe it was built by Mon people some 600 to 1000 years AD. The central gilded stupa rises 325 feet above Singuttara Hill. It is believed to enshrine relics of four past Buddhas thus making it the most sacred pagoda in all of Burma and an important destination for pilgrimage. The central stupa is surrounded by a vast array of prayer halls, lesser pagodas, Buddha images and other auspicious monuments  and shrines.

Shwedagon Detail

One of Many Prayer Halls
A Place for Meditation
One of Many Buddha Images
Evening Sky at Shwedagon
There are so many spiritual places to visit it is impossible to see them all even in multiple visits. Two other special temples we enjoyed were the Chauk Htat Gyi or the Pagoda of the Reclining Buddha and the Ngar Htat Gyi or "five storey Buddha." The reclining Buddha began construction in 1899, was completed in 1907 and extensively reconstructed in 1973.  Its reconstructed length is 216 feet. The five storey Buddha was originally donated by Prince Minyedeippa in 1558 but the larger modern inage was erected in 1900. Of note is the investment of the image in the regalia of kings such as diadem, ear ornaments and jeweled sashes as opposed to the original monastic robes. 

Face of the reclining Buddha
The Five Storey Buddha
In order to obtain a different view from the busy streets of Yangon and the upscale neighborhood of Golden Valley which is home to an excellent art gallery we ventured to Dala pier and took a cross river ferry where we connected with trishaws for our visit to Kamarkaweik fisherman village and other outlying villages. There is considerable traffic of less well to do workers who commute to work in the city but return to their lower rent housing on the opposite side of the river. We enjoyed the friendliness of the people and were happy to gain a wider perspective of life. The waterfront is a busy place with cross river traffic by new large ferries, small motorized or rowed water taxis plus wharves with freighters from near and far. Once across we visited with local fishermen, saw the remains of the Buddhist Saint U Pinnya at Shwe Zar Yan Pagoda and laughed with kids and villagers along the way.

Near the end of our ride we were impressed to find the well constructed Mahar Thingan Pagoda.
Busy Yangon Waterfront 
Cross River Taxis

Cross River Ferry
Our Rural Transport
The Remains of Saint U Pinnya at Shwe Zar Yan Pagoda
Rural LIfe Around Kamarkaweik Fishing Village
Fixing Lunch on a Fishermans Boat
Local Boats
Lost in a Rice Field
Local Housing Across the River from Yangon
Childhood Joy at Receiving a Treat
Home Typical of the Rural Poor Around Yangon
Youthful Smile
Village Still Life
Village Seller of Sweets 

Mahar Thingan Pagoda
After completing our journey to the delta area across from Yangon we returned to visit the bustling activity of the Yangon fish market where trawlers would pull up to the quay and unload their catches. Fish were sorted, iced and loaded on trucks for delivery all over Burma. Walks around cental Yangon included markets such as the well known Scotts Market, local street markets and views of colonial era buildings as well as the National Independence Monument set in the expansive Maha Bandoola Garden. To complete our tour of Yangon we rode a train on a segment of the Yangon Circle Route which introduced us to suburban areas without having to negotiate Yangon's increasingly heavy traffic. Our visit also included a stop at the home of two royal white elephants which indeed were a very light shade of pink and are said to bring peace, stability and prosperity to the nation. A positive note on which to end our tour of Yangon. Next stop Bagan.

Unloading The Days Catch
A Lane in the Central Fish Market
Ice for Fish to be Shipped Around Burma
Produce in Streetside Market
Building Dating to the Colonial Era
Cutting the Lawn at Maha Bandoola Garden
So Much to Choose from at Scott Market
Young Fan Seller at Scott Market
Shopped Out at Scott Market
Cleaning the Carriages
A Stop on the Circle Route
Watermelon on the Platform
Royal White Elephant at Hsin Hpyu Daw Park

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