Mystical Myanmar – Mandalay Part I

It was the 2nd morning in Myanmar, and again we had to wake up early. We checked out after breakfast, and soon we were at the airport again:

Bagan Nyaung Oo Airport is different from any airports I’ve been before. It was extraordinarily quiet with no announcement blaring.  I could feel the serenity, LOL! We were given some stick-on tag to wear on our blouse. I also noticed that there were at least 2 (if not 3) different colours for the same airline. Later I found out that the color indicated our destination.

When it was time to leave, some airport workers would just come to us and requested us to board the plane! One of them would be holding a placard with the flight number on it. Cool… 🙂

Mandalay Airport is relatively very far away from the town. Some of the views we got on our way to town :

popular public transports, I guess:

But before we entered town, our first tourist stop was at the  100 year old 1km-long pedestrian-only teak bridge:

It connects the small town/village with another village across the lake (not river).

Mandatory portrait 🙂 :

The 2nd stop was at a nearby monastery where visitors are allowed to come in to see their livelihood. Nah… joking! We were allowed to go in to see how them during their lunch.The males here (very young, and old too) come here to study Buddhism. The younger ones study normal education during the day and study Buddhism at night. Many come from poor families. This monastery’s modus operandi reminds me of the “pondok” system we have back home!

When we arrived the meals were readily served:

Apart from the huge (main) dining hall above, there are a few other “wings”, like this one:

Since we were a bit early for the lunch event, our guide took us for a kitchen tour first:

I was fascinated with the modified huge rice cookers (that’s our guide in pink):

That day’s main dish was beef:

Their meals are paid for by individual/corporate sponsorships.

For that particular day, the lunch was sponsored by a rich family, whose family members (seen below in white tops) came along to personally hand over their contribution:

Some student leaders helped out:

The monastery has over 1000 residents, hence the long queue:

It was very solemn (no joking or laughing):

Well-printed rules:

The donor family members also took the opportunity to give the monastery residents stationeries and fizzy drinks (individually) while tourists looked on.

Many of the residents were shy. They would eat a bit of the food, then take the rest in their containers and went back to their dormitories to continue eating. (I forgot to mention earlier that everyday they are only served breakfast and lunch, NO dinner. On most days, the meals are simple. Occationally, like the day I was there, they would get elaborate lunch, sponsored by some philanthropist ).

Back to our visit, we left the place when the queue was still very long! Looking at them made us feel hungry too. We needed to get our lunch, then go to our hotel to check in and a quick a rest, before continuing our site-seeing!

to be continued…

Mystical Myanmar – Bagan (Part III)

After the morning market visit, and the “until Noon” pagoda walkabouts, we went back to our hotel for a break. It was too hot to continue with our tour!

When it was relatively much cooler, we went out again. I tried to read the map and understand the layout of the small Bagan:

We first visited a place where they make the lacquerware called The Bagan House:

Before the visit, I never knew that it is such a laborious and time-consuming process!

First we they need to make thin bamboo strips:

which are then layered/rolled to get the required shapes  such as this:

These “raw” shapes are then kept in a cave for at least a week, before it’s taken out for a few other processes of coating/layering/shaping, etc… The various stages are shown here:

One of the main ingredients is the lacquer which comes from a special tree.

Othe processes include etching, and then coating them with gold (via the use of gold-leaves!):

Oh, did I mention that for every initial layers, the items are put back in the cave for “maturing” :-), before the above decorating processes take place.

Luckily the place is breezy:

With such elaborate stages, no wonder lacquerware can be expensive (though I am sure there are cheaper “short-cut” versions 🙂 ) .

Done with the place, we continued with more pagoda visits. I think I saw more Buddhas than I could handle:

Most pagodas have one Buddha facing each sides (north, south, east and west), like this:

and this:

I eventually called it quit, and went outside:

and enjoyed the old architecture instead:

It was almost sunset, and I thought our Pagoda Day was over. How wrong I was!! I was told that we were going to this  pagoda for the sunset:

I told DH I was not going to climb that high! Why? Because it was too steep to my liking:

So I ended up on a lower level:

I have to admit that the view from above would be spectacular, as shown by DH’s pix here:

and here:

Many people didn’t think like me, and these people caused a unique traffic jam, as can be seen here:

If you look carefully here, you would be able to see me (the only one in head scarf) trying to make my way down:

Our guide told us that it was not a nice sunset because it was a hot day… So we left earlier, and went back to our hotel.

Our hotel is a really nice place, with the river at the back of it which we decided to have a look at:

These boats/ferries were taking tourists for an overnight river cruise!

If I EVER come back here, I would love to stay at this hotel again. It’s so relaxing and serene:

As for now, that’s all about Bagan….

Mystical Myanmar – Bagan (Part II)

Previously, Part I

Date: 25th March 2011

First stop was at the Pagoda:


more pagodas

We climbed one of the pagodas, and got a great view from above:

Another angle:

It was noon, and the brick floor was too hot for comfort!

and too bright to open my eyes!

I soon called it quit, but the climb down was even more difficult for me (I hate the steep stairs!):

We waited patiently for DH to come down:

We then went to a few more pagodas/stupas. I was happy this one is not climbable 🙂 :

But I found inside it a huge Buddha waiting for me 🙂 :

Met with some entrepreneurial kids on the way out (caused a damage of some USD):

I bought some stuff because I pity them, not so much because i like the goods!

After a few more pagoda stops, I was happy when our guide said the next stop was for chow!

The restaurant was very touristy, but it was really nice because it was by the Irrawady River:

Part III

Mystical Myanmar – Bagan (Part I)

Date: 25th March 2011

First look at the main road from Bagan Airport to Hotel:

This is one of the main roads in Bagan!

We were taken to a nice hotel (forgot the name). The room is very nice:

nice pool too

After a quick rest, we met  our guide and driver (for the day) again. He told us the first place to visit is the Nyaung Oo market.

The parking lot, facing the market (yes, that’s how the market look like from the outside):

First was the vegetable row:

These woods are used for the facial powder (you grind with water, then apply on your face (women and men use them regularly):

The local shrimp paste (belacan?):

DH reminded me that we used to import rice from Myanmar (in the 1970s). Nice rice:

Fish from the nearby Irrawady River:

This is more interesting:

I tried my best to help the local business, but most of the cotton are either not attractive enough design-wise or price-wise 🙁

Done with the market, now we are off to some “serious” touring…. (to be continued in Part II)

Mystical Myanmar – On The Way To Bagan

Date: 24th March 2011

DH and I took a late afternoon flight to Myanmar. As we were about to land:

First view of the airport:

After the immigration checkpoint and baggage collection, our guide and driver quickly took us out of the place.

By the time we got out of the airport, it was past sunset. We took a quick drive to a halal joint  for some takeout at Phai Lin Restaurant :

Our fried rice was expensive, USD4 each:

The view from our hotel window:

We woke up very early the following day, to catch a 6am flight to Bagan. Here’s me waiting for the car to arrive:

We took the early morning Asian Wings (new local budget airline) to Bagan. We were served nice breakfast on the plane:

Our guide waited for us at Bagan Airport:

I looked back at the airport when we were at the car park:

I couldn’t believe that I was already on the land of Pagodas!

To be continued..