Judy, Don and I visited Myanmar (formally known as Burma by the Colonial British) for three weeks (Don longer) in January 2005.
Judy and I began the trip, Friday afternoon on 31 December 2004 (Don departed on 4 Jan). We stopped in NY, Frankfort, Singapore and finally arrived around 11:00AM in Yangon on Sunday, 2 Jan2005. It was a long and uneventful trip. At the time, we were still concerned that Myanmar would be somehow affected by the horrible Christmas-04 Tsunami which had just occurred one week earlier. There was no sign of the disaster anywhere we went -- in Myanmar, Thailand (we stayed three nights in Koh Samui before returning home), or Singapore.
Myanmar is located in South East Asia. On the west is the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, Bangladesh, and India, completes the western boarder, and shares the northern boarder with China. China also accounts for most of the eastern boarder with a ittle Laos. Finally, Thailand completes the eastern border and the very small southern boarder on the Malaysian peninsula. Here is a map or two.
The following are a collection of pictures from Judy and Bob (Don's got great pictures on his site).
Capital city (since late 1800's) -- some photo's of the enormous Shwedagon Pagoda -- quite big and elaborate. An important religious site in Myanmar.
Bago and Kyaikhitiyo
We really just passed through Bago -- but we did get our first glimps of the ubiquitous 4 sided Buddha image -- little did we know it would be the first of 1000's of Buddha images we'd see over the next three week.
The main goal of our day trip was Kyaikhtiyo (the Golden Rock). Myanmar holy places have a few typical characteristics:
We got to the Golden Rock staging point around 11:00 or 11:30 AM. Where we promptly loaded into a pick-up truck that had 8 inch wide planks spaced about 10 inches apart. About 40 or 50 people were packed into the back of the truck for a rather fast ride up a very steep, mountain road with seemly 50 - 100 switch-backs. Both Judy and I were crushed and immobile. The rest of the folks on the truck didn't seem too concerned with the packing, although most of them were about 25% smaller than Judy or me. It was a harrowing 20 minute ride (worse coming down -- I thought my knee was going to be busted -- I was so jammed and twised into the wood in front of me.
We spent two nights in kalaw an old Colonial British hill station in the Shan state. Hill stations were places where the Colonial British overlords escaped to during the hot seasons. Hill stations were higher and therefore, much cooler than the hot river plains of Myanmar. Like the other hill station we visited, Pin U-Lwin, Kalaw has a military college (the military is the ruling elite of Myanmar -- some things never change).
Inle lake is a collection of communities that are located around and on the lake (their buildings are on stilts). I can't image that the lake is ever more than 5 or 10 feet deep, but its loaded with fish and floating farms. The hydroponic farmer are created from 'soil' (scooped from the lake bottom) on floating water plants. On these floating gardens, they grow, flowers, tomato,squash, maize (corn) watercress and a host of other vegetables. The cool thing here is that their fields are staked to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles, and can be moved around (and sold).
This is one of two places that clearly demonstrate that excess is a Buddhist virtue. How many Buddha statues can one cave hold. Apparently 9000 isn't enough, since they are still adding to the cave. It's this place where we met a older man during his monk vacation -- he actually shook Judy's hand. He was a shop keeper from Lashio and his daughter was currently at NYU - he must have been very wealth (especially for someone from Myamar).
Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon, to fulfil one of those ancient Buddhist prophecies: Gautama Buddha was to have visited Mandaly hill along with Ananda and proclaiming tha on the 2400th anniversay of his death, a city would be built. Clearly Mindon, figured that 1857 was 2400 year after Gautama died!
Monywa and Pin U-Lwin
These two towns (one west on the plains and the other east of Mandalay in the Shan State and in the mountains) are day trips from mandalay.
Pin U-Lwin monywa
Mt. Popa is about 50 Km from Bagan and is home to same very special Nats.
Ayeyawady River Trip
One of the more relaxing methods of transportation in Myanmar is via boats. We departed around 5:30 for a 10 hour trip down the Ayeyawady River to Bagan (The colonial Brits called it Pagon). We only bottomed out once, for about 10 minutes and the crew was able to recover without any heroic efforts. We passed many river side villages, but no real towns or cities. We passed bamboo barges transoprting pottery or bamboo, lots of individual fishing boats and a few steamers. The most exciting times were during a few port-of-calls. I bought the package of red biscuts from the woman in the front.
The Plains of Bagan
The 15 square miles of ruined Buddhist temples and fields is just amazing. Everywhere you look, walk, bike, drive or balloon, you never loose site of the temples. It must have been amazing at its zenith during the 13th century. In the early morning and late afternoon golden light, it is a fantastic site. We walked, hired horse carts, bikes and cars. Like everywhere else we could have stayed much longer - three days wasn't enough.
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