Asia Myanmar

Myanmar – From Gold Leaf Temples to smoking sisters

Our tour of Myanmar began in Yangon, a vibrant, bustling city with an ample supply of Buddhas and pagodas. While our day was spent exploring old colonial buildings and smaller pagodas, viewing huge reclining Buddhas and relaxing by Kandawgyi Lake, the highlight was certainly saved for sunset.

Late afternoon our group made its way to the Shwedagon and after ensuring we were properly attired, we assembled under the Bodhi tree. Armed with a brief rundown on the history of the Shwedegon and a time to reassemble, our group dispersed to take it all in at their own pace. It was a very surreal and peaceful experience, in spite of the thousands of tourists enjoying it with us. It never felt crowded or rushed. So briefly, the religious significance of the Shwedegon is that it was built to enshrine eight strands of hair from the Gautama Buddha, as well as relics from the three Buddhas before him. Oh did I mention it dates back to about 588BC. Pretty cool huh?

After locating what I thought was the optimal location for taking some shots, I set up a tripod and relaxed. Clicking occasionally, but really just chatting to other tourists and taking in the serenity. It wasn’t long before the rest of the group joined us and we just relaxed in awe of this holy site. Once back at our hotel, those that were hungry ventured out to 19th Street for street eats, while others succumbed to the lure of a comfortable bed.

From Yangon our group jumped on a plane and flew to Bagan. We had our work cut out for us here. There are about 2200 pagodas and temples here. It sounds like a lot, but there were once over 10,000. After landing, we quickly headed out for an afternoon of temple viewing.

Taking in Shwezigon pagoda, Ananda Temple and Gubyaukgyi, before heading to Shwesandaw Pagoda to watch the sunset. If that wasn’t enough, we also managed to take in a tour of a lacquer-ware workshop on our way to the Shwesandaw Pagoda for sunset.

The skill and patience of the artists working there was amazing. After packing all that into our first afternoon in Bagan it was time to rest up with a cold beer and a swim by the pool in our hotel. Good thing too, as the following day would be just as event filled.

Our group was up early next day to take a hot air balloon trip over Bagan. This would have been a spectacular way to observe the temples, however the weather wasn’t cooperating and high winds meant the ballooning was cancelled.

It was disappointing for our group, but we all understood you can’t control the weather. So for those of us that didn’t head back to bed, we organised a taxi to drive us to the nearby temples to see the sunrise. While it wasn’t a hot air balloon trip, it was a thoroughly enjoyable fall-back option.

After breakfast we headed across the Ayeyarwady river to Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda. It’s far quieter and more peaceful here – probably due to the journey required to get here, complete with some bouncing around in the back of a lorry to get up the steep hill to the Pagoda. But it’s well worth the trip.

The afternoon was spent in Myinkaba Village. We saw local villagers sewing, weaving, rolling cigars and producing more Lacquer-ware. It was lovely to just sit and share tea with two beautiful older sisters, one worked rolling cigars the other smoked them. It didn’t really seem like a fair deal, but they were both happy and the tea was great.

The next morning we would be up early and boarding a boat to cruise up the Ayeyarwady river and onto our next destination – Mandalay.

Adrian hosted this tour with the awesome Two’s A Crowd travel company.

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