A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11 - Mandalay (Side trip to Pyin Oo Lwin)

sunny 32 °C
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Today it's the side trip to Pyin Oo Lwin.

First stop though takes us to Mankala Primary School which caters for years PP to 3. The kids are fantastic and greet us in English all in unison. Stationary is offloaded to the kids, who are so grateful, even the cheeky ones who line up for extra stuff. We started to run low as we didnt budget very well and the kids towards the end didnt get quite as much, but it didnt matter they were all excited in any case. We saw the children in the classrooms learning and spoke to the headmaster who talks about the new schooling structure since the military are not controlling everything. Things are looking up for the future of Myanmar.

The drive to Pyin Oo Lwin is around 90 mins and we stop at a flower market along the way to see motorcycles being loaded up with flowers piled higher that the rider - I have no idea how they see anything coming.

The rest of the drive is windy as we arrive at our first stop Anaskin Falls - one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Myanmar. I trek downs the sloping hill to get to the bottom it takes about 30 minutes and we are accompanied by a few local girls as guides that fan you when you stop to rest and carry drinks and stuff too. They tell us that they take the trip once per day. Instead of making the climb back up I deceive to take a motorcycle ride back which is quite a steep journey. It's not until half way up when the bike slipped that I realised no helmets are required - nothing major is wrong but a bit of a scrape on the leg. Arriving at the top the guide has run to the car to get some traditional Burmese medicine - toothpaste! And smears it on the cuts. She explains that it keeps the dirt and infection out and seems to form a nice hard plaster over the wound which I found very interesting.

Continuing on we have lunch in the town - again not feeling so well so haven't rated and just opt for some water and lime soda.

After lunch a visit to the Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens is in order. The place is so green and a lake and fountains garnish this beautiful place. Walking through the orchid gardens and butterfly museum is nice but no live butterflied it's more like a butterfly funeral home and they are all open casket.

We see a traditional Burmese wedding for one the generals children - and it's interesting that there are all photos of the parents instead of the bride and groom on display - maybe to show who is paying for the wedding?

After a bit more of a walk we return to Mandalay for the evening. They are setting up for a festivals the next night and we have a look at the few market stalls selling nice greasy food and grab some to try! It's pretty nice and we eat enough to not need dinner.

Posted by lee_1986 23:23 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay pagoda myanmar pyin_oo_lwin Comments (0)

Day 10 - Mandalay (Side trip to Ava Island)

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We gear up today for our side trip to the beautiful Ava Island about 30 mins from Mandalay City.

On the way there is a short stop at the Paleik snake monastery where you can see the bathing of the Burmese pythons. As you enter there are two (on the smaller side of pythons laying around a Buddha statue with a lot of people praying. The handlers then take the pythons to be bathed it is quite the spectacle but ends up being a couple of snakes in a pool but is interesting to see them close up. There is then the opportunity to have a picture holding one which I pass on but read about the previous pythons the made it their home originally where are the current ones have been relocated to the temple.

We take a 2 minute boat trip to o Ava Island basically crossing the river. I'll just add in here that the Burmese food is not amazing and is a combination of Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes depending which boarder you are closest too. So just a warning I guess to future travellers expect the unexpected. For example coffee is sometime very luke warm so much so that the powdered milk does not dissolve. Cold chicken curry (not stated on the menu) so you get confused when it comes out. Don't edit the menu cause you get something really random and anything Western is always very hit and miss.

We take a horse cart ride, which mean squeeze in to a tiny wagon being pulled by the tiniest of horses. I feel horrible but the poor thing doesn't want to go but makes its way through to all the sights.

First stop is the Bagaya Okkyaung monastery which is in its original state and is only occupied by one monk who runs a school for the village children. Seeing the tiny desk and the dark conditions makes me realise how lucky we are to have access to great educational facilities.

We stop at a ancient temple which has not been restored by the government and is in a state of disrepair to say the least. The funny thing is this is my favourite of all the temples, pagodas, and stupas that we have seen. The restored buildings are a little gaudy and most of the Buddha statues have flashing lights around their heads which is quite bizarre from my perspective.

To Mandalay hill for sunset looking over the country on one side and City on the other. We take the elevator to the top and the spectacular view greats us. The viewing platform is littered with people trying to get the best spots for sunset. I stand back and chat to one of the trainee monks who climbs the hill by foot everyday (which is over 1000 steps) for the chance to speak to the foreigners to learn better English. His English is decent and we chat while the sun goes down he is actually very good wi advice and things to see in Mandalay.

We drive back down the hill on the worst drive I have ever been on flying around hair pin turns are ridiculous speeds but I manage to survive just chucking in some earphones and turning up the music.

Posted by lee_1986 23:20 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay pagoda myanmar Comments (0)

Day 9 - Mandalay (side trip to Mingun)

sunny 30 °C
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Up a little early and did not get much sleep last night so a cruisy day might be nice.

We first head to Mandalay Fort and Palace which as the old capital of Myanmar housed the royal family. The shear amount of buildings for different ranks of the royal family is incredible and listen to stories about King Mingdon and his 60 wives.

I have the chance to climb one of the watch towers which isn't as high as I had first expected but you can see the view over all Mandalay and I realise that they must have don't the job as the palace is in good condition and are told that there have not been much restorative work completed.

Next we take the boat to Mingun for our side trip. The highlight of Mingun is it houses the second largest in tact bell in the world weighing in at approximately 101 tonnes. After having few rings of the bell we go to the Pondawhpaya and Settewa Pagodas which have been damaged in he earthquake in 2012. Big cracks stream through he construction as we have explained the the construction actually prevents the building from falling down if it is cracked. A combination of horizontal and vertical bricks have been used and this apparently is quite good against the threat of earthquakes.

We stop at a shrine for a guy that is in the Guinness world records for being able to recite the largest amount of text from a book from memory word for word. He was able to recite 12 volumes of Buddhist scripture and seeing the books on display It was no easy task.

In lieu of walking back to the boat I take the chance to ride on a bullock cart. The ride is bumpy and unpleasant but a great experience none the less.

We catcher the boat back to Mandalay and retire to the skybar once again not feeling the best after being sick for the last 4 days so have decided to skip dinner in lieu of a couple of glasses of juice.

Posted by lee_1986 23:12 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma mandalay myanmar bell mingun Comments (0)

Day 8 - Mandalay

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After a simple continental breakfast we take the drive 12km drive to Amarapura to the see the famously U Bein bridge which is the longest fully teak bridge in the world measuring 1.5 kilometres in length. The bridge is quite a sight and is busy with vendors selling a huge range of souvenirs the most unique being watermelon seed bracelets. Walked the length of the bridge and then returned before the heat set in. The girls selling jewellery on the bridge are fascinating and speak upto 6 different languages and it shows the the opportunity in Myanmar is greatly lacking as people with these skills in the western world would be highly regarded.

From the bridge we drive the the Mahagandayone monastery where over 1000 monks are fed and study throughout the day. We watch the procession of monks collecting and eating their food and then head to the kitchen watching rice and curry get cooked in giant woks and lots that I could easily take a nap in.

From here we have a looks at some of the local arts and crafts shops including stone carving, silk weaving and gold leaf making. The gold leaf process is Turkey the most amazing thing. Workers take a gold nugget and hammering it for 45 minutes with a mallet thin it out, after the flattened nugget is then placed into bamboo paper and malleted for another 2 hours. This heats and flattens further as water is added to cool the paper and metal. The process to make a 3x3 cm gold leaf piece takes 3 hours and Myanmar has entire pagodas covered in the stuff.

As we leave the factories we see a street painter that is completing painting using wine - the speed at which he is doing these pictures is amazing and sells them for 2AUD a piece. I have to buy a few to support the local talent.

We head back toward the U Bein bridge at the end of the day to experience the sunset over the water in a row boat. The view is amazing as the silhouette of people walking on the bridge and fisherman in the water is breathtaking.

We return to the hotel and have drinks at the skybar overlooking the whole of Mandalay.

Posted by lee_1986 23:06 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay buddha pagoda myanmar Comments (0)

Day 7 - Bagan to Mandalay

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Up at 4:30am this morning no breakfast to rush to the docks leaving Bagan behind to catch the 11 hour boat ride to Mandalay our next stop on the trip.

The boat is nothing special but does the job but the scenery is spectacular. As I am writing this I am sitting on the rear deck looking across the murky brown water that is the Irrawaddy River and Delta. Across the river the banks are scattered with people washing clothes, small riverside villages (which we would pay millions to live), pagodas and greenery. The river is full of life with boats transporting good and tourists alike. The Irrawaddy is riddled with boats with fisherman trying to have a good haul with nets and rods.

It's just a nice peaceful journey floating down the expansive Irrawaddy which my biggest issue is whether to sit in the sun or the shade. We arrive in Mandalay and transfer to the hotel.

Posted by lee_1986 23:04 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan burma mandalay myanmar Comments (0)

Day 6 - Bagan

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Today was an early start as we head to Mount Popa which is a climb of 777 steps and is located about 1.5 hours outside of Bagan.

We stop on the way at Toddy Farm which is where they harvest toddy trees which are similar to palm trees in a way. We saw a bullock walking around and around in a circle to crunch peanuts to make peanut oil - the owner tells us it takes 2 hours to make 4 litres of oil.

The rest of the drive has some great scenery and upon arrival we gets a view of the mountain from across the valley. It is covered in greenery with a small walkway to climb the mountain. On arrival I climb a 6 flights of stairs and I decided to stop and take in the view. There are monkeys covering the mounting fighting amongst each other the view is spectacular. The only thing is the mountain is covered in stalls selling nic nacs of all varieties which is the same stuff you see all over Myanmar.

On the return from the mountain we stop back at the toddy farm where they use every part of the tree to make products which is a great example of how much the western world wastes. The track and bark are used to make cigars, the leaves and sap for alcohols and lacquer for wood products and the seeds and nuts for oil and sugars.

On the return to Bagan we stop at a peanut field to see 6 month peanuts being harvested and sorted into big bags of for transport to China who get 25% of peanuts from Myanmar.

We then stop in a in a local village to see longee weaving and cigar being made. The lady making the longee runs over to the loom and start weaving just for us it's an amazing process, and then shows us how to cut the food for the livestock on an handmade guillotine using your foot it's truly an amazing sight and tough work. The lad manufacturing cigars is the typical old lad smoking away you see on em national geographic channels she is very funny and jokes around with us and let's us take a toke on here big cigar it's at least 30 centimetres long and 4 centimetres in diameter.

Posted by lee_1986 23:01 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan burma hill buddha pagoda myanmar Comments (0)

Day 5 - Bagan

semi-overcast 29 °C
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Relatively late sleep in and up at 9 this morning and straight into seeing the sights after a quick breakfast. Went to Manuha Phaya which houses the largest/longest reclining Buddha statue in Bagan.

From here we went to see a lacquer factory to see he a process of how each piece is made. There are 3 different materials used for creating lacquer ware - horse hair, teak and bamboo. Each piece has 18 coats of lacquer applied and takes each layers at least a week to dry. After this process the colour and design in allied in the traditional colours. From start to finish each piece takes approximately 1 year to complete.

Our next stop was at the Ananda Temple which is said to Be Bagans most beautiful of all temples/pagodas. The temple has four main statues of Buddha each in a different pose on the four internal sides of the temple. The temple is absolutely grand and you can easily see why it is most beautiful. Tons of carvings and paintings line the entrances and hallways, the huge Buddha statues covered gold flakes and the crowns of the temple being a lacquered and gold flaked with truly make this the most impressive looking temple.

For sunset today we went to Shwe San Daw the most famous sunset pagoda in Bagan. The climb to he top was difficult with steep steps and minimal footing but the view for the climb was amazing to say he least. You could see out for miles and everything in the Bagan region. This was truly an impressive sight.

Posted by lee_1986 08:41 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple bagan buddha pagoda yangon myanmar scott_market Comments (0)

Day 4 - Yangon to Bagan

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Left our accommodation in Yangon at 4:30 this morning as our flight has been moved forward 2 hours and now leaves at 6:30 to Bagan.

Flying with Bagan airways was an interesting experience on the hour and a half flight we were serviced drinks and a full meal which consisted of a chicken sausages in a sweet bun roll which didn't taste too bad.

On arrival in Bagan we were met by our guide, Kyi (pronounced 'gee' and driver, Len. We went straight to the archeological zone check point which is for all foreigners so they pay 15USD to enter Bagan which covers entrance into all of Bagans 1500 pagodas/stupas.

Straight from the airport we were taken to 'That Byin Nyu Temple' the tallest temple in all Bagan. The view for the top was incredible as you had a panoramic view of all the grassland and pagodas surrounding this area.

Next on to 'Shwe Gu Gi' near the old palace this time is just inside the gate way to old Bagan and Tharabar gate built in 849AD. We drove through Tharabar gate which 2 statues greet you; Mr Handsome and Lady Golden Face.'the story goes that the king of the time bought the brother and sister so he could marry Lady Golden Face but before he condemned her brother Mr Handsome to be burnt, and because Lady Golden was so upset she threw herself into the fire after him.

After seeing a few more temples and pagodas we want to a traditional Burmese produce market -'everything looks fresh and vibrant and smells amazing. So many vegetables that I have never seen before and all organically grown and still manage to be cheap. The fish and meat market is a little different and is open air with flys all over the uncovered meat which makes eating it at a restaurant a little unassuming.

We had lunch at Shwe Myanmar Local Food a family run restaurant where we were served an huge spread of different spices and sauces and pickles following this were 4 curries - chicken, mutton, fish and vegetable. Lunch for 4 with drinks cost 15000 kyats which is around 15AUD.

After lunch we checked into our hotel which has a pool - it is so hot so will be a nice reprieve to cool off.

Heading out again at sunset to a pagoda that is under construction to view the the landscape as the sunsets. Was amazing to see this occur over the untouched landscape.

Had more curry for dinner at another traditional restaurant - so much food to try 3 weeks will not be enough.

Back to the hotel to get ready for a other day.

Posted by lee_1986 08:39 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple bagan buddha pagoda yangon myanmar scott_market Comments (0)

Day 3 - Yangon

semi-overcast 32 °C
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A bit of a late start today we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel which includes fruit platter and omelettes they are superb.

Taking a taxi to the Central Yangon Train Station we set of to find a local wet market to walk around a town on the outskirts of Yangon. We arrive at the station and buy are tickets for 1USD each which gets you a day ticket on the circle route of Yangon. After about 20 minutes we arrive at a small town where we explore we markets looking at all the fresh produce. The meat and fish market smell at it's a midday and sweltering old fish heads line the street and some unusual items for sale include pig heads.

We have lunch at a local cafe where they have child's plastic chairs, we order a few beers, fried rice and some prawns. The meal for all 4 of us costs 9.50AUD which you could never get back in Australia.

Back on the train we continue along the circle route to Yangon Central station. The trip takes about 3 hours on the train in total without stopping. The train ride is fascinating - at one stop a couple got on with huge bags of recycling measuring 2.5 metres long, another was the grocery area and people were punching bags upon bags of groceries into the train through the windows before hopping on themselves, getting them off was even more of an endeavour. The kids on the train are fascinated and friendly towards westerners and interact through the language barrier.

After returning from the long train journey we head into china town on 19th street for dinner. We have skewers or various food grilled such as lotus root, chicken, mutton, beens, broccoli, squid, quail eggs etc.

After dinner we retire to the hotel for drinks.

Posted by lee_1986 08:36 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple buddha pagoda yangon myanmar scott_market Comments (0)

Day 2 - Yangon

sunny 35 °C
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Found a fully westernised shopping complex down the road from the hotel which I was not expecting to see in Myanmar at all. The grocery stall is just like woolworths/Coles in Australia and have been told that they are going up all over the place which is a little sad that the corner store may become a thing of the past. Picked up some water, Myanmar beer which is surprisingly delicious and some snacks for the road.

Headed back to the hotel to meet my Aunty who arrives from the UK today.

After her arrival, we drop bags and head to the Botatoung Pagoda or Buddha Hair Relic Temple which holds the hair of her first Buddha. The temple is amazing and covered completely on the inside with gold leaf so the glare is intense. Walking around its amazing to see how much work has gone into these ancient structures.

Walked up the road to Kandawgyi Lake. The place is so serene with an old walkway bridge made from wood. It's the Buddhist full moon festival the bridge is lined with little oil lights that make the bridge and water glisten. The lake is immense had had a duck boat temple across the way where offerings are made to Buddha.

We head to a restaurant down the road for dinner which serves curry. I ordered a chicken curry which had got to be the best one I have had and makes the food on the trip all the more enticing. The staff are being trained and eager to please and the meal was tasty after a few local beers we head back to the hotel.

Posted by lee_1986 08:34 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple buddha pagoda yangon myanmar scott_market Comments (0)

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