Tag Archive: Holidays

Myanmar part 2 – Bagan and Mandalay

FishermenMyanmar

Myanmar – alluring and mysterious. In December 2015, I was fortunate to spend 14 days travelling around this wonderful country.  Here’s part 2 of my travel story…

After our day at Inle Lake (think of the iconic pictures of the fisherman, standing on one leg in their boats using cone-shaped nets), day 4 of our travels saw us taking a Taxi to Heho airport (the name made me smile!) – the smallest airport I’ve ever been to – to catch a plane to Bagan and the Su Tine San Royal Palace Hotel.

Balloons in Myanmar

Balloons in Myanmar

Beautiful temples, dramatic shapes and filigree, colours of the country…and hot air balloons everywhere.  

This place is just awesome; there is so much one could say about Bagan. It is so rustic, has so much charm and completely transports you to a different time. Everywhere you turn there are pagodas and stupors. It’s truly stunning and once again the photos don’t do it justice.  Please visit Bagan for yourself.

Fact: there are over 4000 temples in Bagan

“No matter where you  go, there’s another golden pagoda”

Day 5 and Mandalay.  I’ve wanted to visit Mandalay for so long that it was worth the effort to get there. After an hours ride in pick up truck, we were cramped into a bus for 5-hours with too many other people! It was dark by the time we arrived in Mandalay – just enough time for a beer at a local bar, a chicken kebab and bed!

“Mandalay is the wealthiest city in Myanmar, with the newest airport and the most disorganised chaos”

What a day in Mandalay! One of the wonderful things about this country is that the local people are so keen to share their knowledge which leads to wonderful local finds. With so many sights to see, and only a few days to see them all, Bebo, a local man, drove us around the city, explaining the sights and sounds. Places have so much more meaning when a local tells you the stories about them.

One of our favourites was Mahumuni Paya, a temple on top of a hill where we took an incongruous lift up to the top and escalators down and met a group of Arsenal supporters (we behaved ourselves!), is home to a 13ft tall, 2000 year-old image of Buddha. Male devotees apply gold leaf to the statue which means that there is a 6 inch layer of pure gold over it. This is the central shrine, with a golden roof and long passageways. Bare-footed, we wandered around browsing the stalls and soaking up the atmosphere.

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Next stop was the famous U Bein Bridge. Built out of 1086 poles standing in the water, and with water lapping at the planks that balance between them, the bridge is one of Myanmar’s most photographed sites. It’s not until the rainy season that you can see why it’s needed. The whole area changes from vegetable gardens into a big lake.

 

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U Bein Bridge – the 1.2-kilometre bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

After many, many photographs of the bridge and a good night’s sleep, we used our own steam to meander around the city before we would head to yet another airport. We walked along a 230ft-wide moat and well over 4 miles of crenellated (my new favourite word, it means the square cut outs that you see on the top of castles), reconstructed 26ft-high walls that form a vast square around the site of the former Mandalay citadel.

So onto our next internal flight, this time to Yangon, from where we would head to the beach and some much needed sun, sea, sand and cocktails!  Another 5-hour drive took us to Nwge Saung (pronounced We Song) beach. Crazy that a cab costs £60 when a 7-hour uncomfortable bus journey is £38. Arrived at the gorgeous Eskala 5* resort, looking like something the cat dragged in with two rucksacks and a bottle of Mandalay Rum. The look of surprise on their faces was priceless. Spent the rest of the day by the pool, drinking Hawaiian Blue Cocktails and soaking up the sun. Went for a walk into the ‘village’ in the evening and had a delicious dinner at a Burmese seafood restaurant. Back to villa for a pre-bed Mandalay rum and coke, and a game of crib whilst listening to music on the beach and watching fireworks.

Life is good and I’m looking forward to the beach…

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Myanmar part 2 – Bagan and Mandalay

Myanmar – Alluring and Mysterious

Myanmar – alluring and mysterious. Since it started to welcome visitors in 2012, it is a country that has experienced rapid change, yet there is still a lack of widespread infrastructure and Western comforts. This is part of it’s appeal to me.  In December 2015, I was fortunate to spend 14 days travelling around this wonderful country.  Here’s my travel story, and with so much to see, be warned, it’s in 3 parts!

 

Myanmar Meanderings – Part 1

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Kandawgyi Nature Lake https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kandawgyi_Lake

 

Driving around the car-jammed M25, en route to Heathrow airport, I let out a little wee….  not that kind! – the “weeeeee” sound that meant “we’re off!” Myanmar (formally known as Burma) has been on my hit list for a while and now I was heading there with my favourite man, for Christmas and New Year. First to Bangkok, our transit point, and then onto Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, and it’s mix of colonial architecture, modern high-rises and gilded Buddhist pagodas.

We eventually arrived in Yangon at 9am where it took an hour to clear passport control, not because it was busy, it just takes a while as the people are so laid back. A 15km drive saw us at Hotel Esparado, where we dumped our backpacks (so incongruous, turning up at a luxury hotel with backpacks!) and took in the views from the shore of Kandawgyi nature lake. My first impression – gorgeous temples, lots of family gathering together, and the smell of incense everywhere. I love it here already.

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Commuters heading home from work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A walk around Yangon assaulted our sensibilities. It has yet to be commercialised and so we only saw about 6 other tourists all day, making us feel like part of a well kept secret. The locals we met were so friendly, insisting on us taking their photographs and taking the time to talk.

I’d sum the city up as being high rise grandeur juxtaposed by slums. My photos don’t do the city any justice as they can’t convey the friendliness, the feeling of hustle and bustle and the smells. And the fact that I’ve never seen so many bananas!

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Shwedgaon Pagoda lit at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then as the sun sets, Chinese lanterns were lit in the trees along the streets – magical. By the time we got back to our hotel, the Shwedagon or Great Dagon or Golden Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, was lit up, the gold sparkling in the light. Just stunning.

Fact: The 325ft Zedi (the pointy-dome bit on top) is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, and is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas.   (Lonely Planet: Myanmar)

The next morning saw us heading off to Bogyoke airport for an Asia Wings flight to Inle Lake. On arrival we had a little hairy ride … to the wrong hotel, partly because our driver didn’t speak or read English – should have learnt Burmese before we got here. The Amata Garden Lake hotel is divine even if the Wifi is very slow and intermittent. That’s OK, we’ll be just fine having a massage, cycling, going to the floating market, and boating on this enormous lake.

After a great sleep, we caught a boat to Nyaung Shwe, the gateway to Inle Lake. It’s a very busy town, the most touristy we’ve seen so far, but traditions still prevail with the locals getting on with their daily life undisturbed by us foreigners.

“Myanmar is very different to any SE Asian country I’ve been to. Another 5-10 years and I’m sure it will be very similar”

Arriving at Inle Lake was wonderful.  After meeting our boatman Dewo, we headed out to the many villages by motor boat. Sitting in two wicker chairs plonked in the boat, moving from side to side and back and forth, added to the excitement! We saw so many fascinating sights – silk making, silver and gold designing, weaving, boat making, tool workshops. All was going swimmingly until Dewo went too fast through the mangroves and the boat engine conked out. We were a fair way from hotel and our call for help ended with us paddling most of the way back before another boat came to our rescue!  We missed the floating market and fishing village but were greeted like royalty back at the shore – with the owner of hotel bringing cold towels and so many apologies that it didn’t matter in the end. All was rectified by a wonderful cocktails on the terrace watching the sunset. Bliss.

Back on dry land and at Nyaung Shwe (the main town at Inle Lake) we hired bikes to cycle to the Yan Aung Nan Aung Hsu Taung Pye Paya (don’t ask me to pronounce it) 26ft-high sitting Buddha. It was well worth the effort. I’m really falling for this country.

Join me next month for part two of my travels

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A lacquer workshop where women make making bowls, tissue boxes, chess sets, and coasters from bamboo, then decorate them by hand. So much time and effort and the finished products are such good quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wine made just outside of Inle Lake. Makes a nice change from Myanmar beer

Myanmar – Alluring and Mysterious

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