A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about myanmar

Busy day in Mandalay

Temple bike tour, monastery, Moustache Brothers, and gold markets

There weren't a lot of early risers in our dorm except for the man who was meditating in his bed for an hour. Breakfast spoiled us again with endless toast, juice, tea, eggs and generous fruit plates. We also met 'Moma', the guesthouse's operator, that everyone raved about when we requested a coupe bikes. It was a good thing we'd asked early because when we came down ready with our day bags, there were none except for the ones we'd reserved.

We biked through smaller local streets until we found Skinny Buddha by pure luck. If you found your way to 30th street, it was hard to miss the 75 foot statue done in a very different style to what were accustomed to seeing. We parked our bikes near a golden statue of a person playing the harp. The tall bronze coloured statue of Skinny Buddha had his ribs showing as well as his spine as he sat meditating. There was also a reclining Buddha at the site among other statues. There area was quite open and almost empty at this hour.

SarahMandalayB__1_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__2_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__3_of_71_.jpg
SarahMandalayB__4_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__5_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__6_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__7_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__8_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__9_of_71_.jpg

As we got ready to leave, we found more puppies playing, sleeping or in open boxes set up with a blanket for them. They nipped at each other and ran around the grounds.

SarahMandalayB__10_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__11_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__12_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__13_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__14_of_71_.jpg

We later stopped off at the Air Asia office to confirm there was a shuttle for our flight tomorrow. Then we ventured into a bookstore next door so I could acquire another Burmese short story book.

Sri Ganesh Temple was open this time so we went inside. It was described in our guidebook as a Hindu temple whose gopuram (tower) could excite us if we'd never been to Southern India or Singapore, which we hadn't. It was quite tall and impressive, but despite that we took no pictures. Once inside, we were approached by an impromptu tour from a local Indian man who explained the roles of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, Shiva the destroyer and Ganesha. The explanations were hard to follow at times and remember so hopefully looking some of this up has helped ensure that it's correct.

Brahma has four faces just like the four directions and four Veda, sacred Hindu texts of hymns believed to be divine revelations. He was the revealer of sacred knowledge including the Vedas. Shiva is the destroyer, who will eventually be responsible for dissolving the world into nothingness at the end of creation. In the mean time, Shiva's destruction serves a different purpose to promote progress and regeneration. Our guide explained that Ganesha had an elephant head as after he was beheaded. Ganesha was Pavarti's son and Pavarti was Shiva's wife. She created her son to have someone loyal to her and asked him not to open the door for anyone. Her son listened which angered Shiva who wasn't able to enter the home even after revealing his identity. Shiva cut off the boy's head which enraged Pavarti to the point that she wanted to destroy all of creation. Brahma, the creator, came to an agreement with her. Her son would be brought back to life and worshiped before all other gods. Brahma set out to find the first creature laying with its head facing North for Pavarti. He returned with an elephant head which was fixed onto Ganesha's body and new life was breathed into him.

After our tour, we tipped, as was expected, our guide and he recommended a good Nepali vegetarian restaurant. Although we didn't understand much of the tour, the recommendation alone was worth it. Ryan had a potato paratha which was really good, like a pancake stuffed with savory potato and spices. My curry and puri (thin crispy, fried bread) wasn't quite as great, but still tasty.

SarahMandalayB__54_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__55_of_71_.jpg

The Hindu population in Myanmar is estimated at 2.9 million of an estimated total population of 53 million. Much of the Hindu population came from India or Nepal at different points in history. The Manipuri Brahmins were brought to Myanmar 500 years ago by the King to perform rituals and give advice on astrology, scriptures and medicine. Some Hindu lineages go back as far as 2,000 years. The main influx of Hindus came in the mid-19th century when the British who had taken over, brought a million people from various regions in India to work in government, the army, build roads and railroads or do business and farming. The Nepali Gurkha soldiers settled around a similar time, but post-war. The Nepalese are generally well respected as during the Second World War, they helped fight the Japanese army and reclaim the country. Post-war, the government considered Indians "resident aliens" regardless of how long their families had resided in the country. Property was seized by the government, businesses were nationalized and people were forced to return to India. By the 1980s, those Hindus that remained were allowed to apply for citizenship and own property again.

Today Hinduism isn't as widespread as the dominant Buddhist culture, but its presence is accepted by Buddhists. Some Buddhists will go to Hindu temples to worship the Gods or for other ceremonies in addition to their Buddhist religion. The Chinese population will visit Hindu temples as well. (for more information on Hinduism in Myanmar see: https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5647)

We rode our bikes over to the start of the Lonely Planet bike tour and as we found our bearings. A woman came to speak to us in English. It was hard to understand her, but she kept trying and apologizing. She reached in her pocket and gave us 1,000 kyat before walking away. We were pretty confused and decided to donate the money at one of the many temples we'd be visiting as we didn't feel right keeping it.

The self-guided tour took us down back roads and past older homes wedged together. We stopped in a few Buddhist temples and were greeted warmly each time. One had an indoor worship area with shiny mirrors and some interesting colourful statues outside. We weren't really sure if this was on the tour, but stopped in anyway.

SarahMandalayB__15_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__16_of_71_.jpg

Later we passed some teak and bamboos weave home as well, though we never found the jaggery place. We'd been craving the sweet since our Mount Poppa tour.

SarahMandalayB__17_of_71_.jpg

Next, we arrived at Eindawyar Ceti (chedi) which was said to be build around 1200 BE, though the current pagoda was potentially built in 1847. The temple grounds had many interesting statues including meditating monks sitting in front of Buddha and a tree, skinny Buddha, golden statues, a re-creation of golden rock, and Buddha and the naga (snake). We wandered around that section as it was shaded. There was a beautiful golden chedi lit up in the sun and four smaller ones surrounding it that had some animal-man statues at the bases. Even though the temple seemed important, it wasn't terribly busy.

SarahMandalayB__18_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__19_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__20_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__21_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__22_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__23_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__24_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__25_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__26_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__27_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__28_of_71_.jpg

Near the temple was the crocodile bridge representing Ngamoe Yeik, the servant of a Burmese-chronicle hero Min Nandar.

SarahMandalayB__29_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__30_of_71_.jpg

We continued past some old colonial building remains nearby. Next on the itinerary were the monasteries so we entered one at random to look at some of the statues. One of the monks held a rock in his hand aiming at a dog. An older man shook his head at the monk but he unleashed the rock on the perfectly innocent dog. Weren't monks supposed to respect other life forms? Though he was young and potentially still in training. The monk approached us and gave us explanations in very few words of the temples/ stupas as well as the nearby Italian building. He brought us to the back to see the other monk who explained a prayer booklet to us along with a math equation that showed the number of verses. They kept repeating it with joy. The older monk showed us the monk robing procedure and his alm he used to collect food.

SarahMandalayB__31_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__32_of_71_.jpg

The younger monk took us into the old Italian building with photos of monk gatherings and pictures with special visitors. There were books too. We visited the rafters for some reason. The smell was quite funky up there and the heat was intense. Apparently there were birds to see. The monk wanted us to take some photos with him as well. The lighting made them fairly blurry but he was happy. As we left, he asked for a 3,000 kyat donation which wasn't what we'd expected. We gave him the 1,000 we'd received from the lady early and left a bit unsettled with the slightly disorientating tour. No more monasteries for awhile.

SarahMandalayB__33_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__34_of_71_.jpg

We biked on until we found Mandalay's own mini teak bridge and eventually carried our bikes over it as well when we could find the proper way. This bridge had far fewer tourists, some resting locals and a temple to see behind it. The waterway divided the two roads and smelled a bit worse than the water around U-Bein.

SarahMandalayB__35_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__36_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__37_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__38_of_71_.jpg
SarahMandalayB__39_of_71_.jpg

Our journey continued to see cargo ships and passenger ships on the Ayeyarwady river, the country's largest river flowing North to South.

We ventured into the new and impressive Jin Taw Yan Chinese Temple after that. There was a vibrant archway that led to a three story temple, conference room and gift shop. To the right was a smaller temple with paintings of mountains where people played mahjong. We walked up to the third floor to see the incensors, carved pillars, and sloped roofs that all reminded us lots of China and had us missing it.

SarahMandalayB__40_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__41_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__42_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__43_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__44_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__45_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__46_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__47_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__48_of_71_.jpg

Our bike tour finished with a visit to the fancier Riverside Hotel. They even had a pool. We went up to the rooftop and after looking at the menu decided to have dessert and overpriced drinks. I scurried around to get some nice photos of the city and the river from both sides. The coco chocolate crepe was pretty good and my golden watermelon fruit shake as well

SarahMandalayB__49_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__50_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__51_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__52_of_71_.jpg

On the way back, we got a touch lost trying to find our way to the gold markets. We passed through a bustling market overtaking the street rich in smells, colours and sights where our biked slowed to a crawl.

SarahMandalayB__53_of_71_.jpg

We finally found the correct street for the gold market and went to watch the demonstrations. Workers bashed away with larger hammers to create thin strips of paper from bamboo. They'd repeat the process: cut, smash, enlarge for hours until the bamboo was fully utilized and turned into shiny paper. Swinging those hammers was hard labour in this heat. The process for the gold leaf was the same, but they didn't demonstrate it out on the street. We walked through the gift shop and saw people in a closed room cutting up the golden paper. None got wasted, just re-pounded into larger sheets. The sheets were applied to the Buddha statues in religious ceremonies and prayers as we'd observed at Golden Rock.

SarahMandalayB__56_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__57_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__58_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__59_of_71_.jpg

After a rest back at the hostel and chatting with a few people like an Australian man with plenty of diving recommendations, we took a taxi to the Moustache Brothers show. Our driver dropped us off early and recommended Star 81, a busy three-story restaurant where Ryan had fried rice and I had their potato and broccoli off the BBQ menu. Mine was meager but cheap enough. The restaurant was quite accommodating to get our food to us as soon as possible so we didn't miss the show.

We ran down to the Moustache Brothers home and sat in plastic chairs. They gave us laminated articles to read about the comedy show. Both brothers Par Par Lay and Lu Maw were arrested and spent five years in jail after a performance for Aung Sun Suu Ky and others in 1996 while she was under house arrest. They made a joke about the government's sticky fingers. Par Par Lay was subsequently rearrested in 2007 as part of a crack-down on anti-government protests. In 2013, Par Par Lay, who had been released and was still performing the show, was diagnosed with kidney disease. The brothers believe it was caused by the lead paint in the water tanks that were in the prison. Lu Maw and their cousin Lu Zaw continued the shows afterward in his absence just as they had during his time in prison.

SarahMandalayB__60_of_71_.jpg

Their shows are referred to as a-nyeint pwe, which according to Kyaw Phyo Tha's article "Junta Satirist From ‘Moustache Brothers’ Trio Dead at 67" is a traditional Burmese vaudeville performance in which a female performer dances and sings to light music while supported by comedians. While the government had banned them from touring the countryside as they used to performing to local audiences, they were allowed to perform from their homes exclusively for tourists. (http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/junta-satirist-from-moustache-brothers-trio-dead-at-67.html)

Soon the plastic chairs filled up and the two remaining family members came on stage. Lu Maw showed us the scene from About a Boy where Par
Par Lay was mentioned as well as a clip from the 1996 performance, during which the brothers were arrested.

Lu Maw, with his colourful lettered signs, explained today's government as the military without uniforms, still acting in the fashion they did before. He had little hope for the upcoming election. He asserted that the only thing keeping his show alive was tourism because the government wanted to please foreigners to get their cash. For this reason, they'd let the brothers perform exclusively for foreigners, which they did nearly every night.

SarahMandalayB__65_of_71_.jpg

This was one of his well-known jokes.

“I had a toothache, so I went to Thailand to visit a dentist.
"The dentist asked, ‘Do you not have dentists in Burma?’
"'Ah, yes,’ I would say, ‘but in Burma, we cannot open our mouths.’”

Lu Zaw came on stage to do some dancing in costume with an umbrella. Afterwards Lu Maw introduced his wife who was also featured on the cover of Lonely Planet a number of years ago, but he held the book up to her face for reference anyhow. Many of the shows jokes were about her. She had been a dancer in their troupe when it toured locally. He was a few years her senior, but they got married. Their daughter now worked as a taxi driver mainly for tourists and the young granddaughters danced on the stage with their grandmother for a few of the acts.

SarahMandalayB__61_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__62_of_71_.jpg

The dances signified certain messages or acts, one of which was carrying the harvest. One dance they had a mask that reminded us of the Sichuan opera a bit. The costumes were quite bright and colourful. A performer studied for three years before joining the troupe. The troupe was then hired to perform at events around the country. Hiring a troupe for an event was considered a prestigious thing.

SarahMandalayB__63_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__64_of_71_.jpg

The finale featured seven dances and much of Lu Maw's family performing as monkeys, ogres and a prince. After the show they had t-shirts for sale and called for some photo shares on social media. Our splurging couldn't go any further today as we had just enough cash to get ourselves home and to the airport tomorrow and we didn't plan on exchanging or withdrawing anymore. Even though our day was quite busy, it was a nice way to spend our final day in Myanmar.

SarahMandalayB__66_of_71_.jpgSarahMandalayB__67_of_71_.jpg

Posted by Sarah.M 04:59 Archived in Myanmar Tagged performance monk bridge dance mandalay pagoda crocodile monastery myanmar chinese hindu comedy sri_ganesh_temple eindawyar jin_taw_yan_temple riverside_hotel moustache_brothers par_par_lay lu_maw lu_zaw Comments (0)

Nam Tok waterfall and Shan Palace

Ryan was pretty excited for breakfast and feeling better today. The buffet offered a similar spread except they had rice instead of noodles and fried veggies. We though there were no pancakes until another guest commented on it and we found out they were made and available by request.

We rented bicycles, talking to a French girl doing the same. Our first stop was the Shan Palace so Ryan could hear the story as well. I enjoyed hearing Fern's story a second time. In the discussion that followed, once we were joined by people from Singapore and the Netherlands, Aung San's role was discussed. He was as a man in charge before independence. He had to seek help from the Japanese to throw out the British during the Second World War. The Japanese occupation was quite brutal so Aung San went to the British for help and joined up with the allies. He spoke with ethnic groups after the war to try and get them on board with independence. After ten years, he told them they could re-evaluate their choice and be independent.

We also discussed the current political situation which was essentially all for show. Those in charge were the same military personnel but just without uniforms. It was all an act for international investors to get off the blacklists. Politics in place forbid Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the upcoming (March 2016) election left people having less faith in a freer Burma. Candidates like Aung San Suu Kyi can't participate because of having foreign family members, i.e. her British born sons.

We spoke of the ethnic conflict and how its existence helped justify the military recruitment and expenditure. Currently, their army was the second largest in Southeast Asia after Vietnam and they hoped to expand from 400,000 to 500,000. Opium production and underdevelopment were theories on why foreigners were barred from entering some areas of the country. Once again, it was a wonderful opportunity to sit and chat with the woman who had so much to share.

We biked over to Little Bagan, much easier to find this time. We went inside the Bamboo Buddha Monastery, Maha Nanda Kantha, to see the Bamboo Buddha this time as well.

SarahHsipaw__61_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__62_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__63_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__64_of_111_.jpg

Since neither of us was hungry after the monster breakfast, we took a short rest then continued our ride to Nam Tok waterfall. To get there, we followed highway number 3 and turned right after a bridge. The guesthouse had given us a map to help find it as well. We biked past an impressive Chinese cemetery with hundreds if not thousands of graves ranging from Burmese cement caskets to fancy Chinese shrine ones. They continued up and down the nearby hills. A few people worked on new sites as we rode by.

SarahHsipaw__65_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__66_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__84_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__83_of_111_.jpg

Just past the cemetery where the road forked again, we saw a group of foreigners including Sven and the French guy from the last waterfall we visited in Pyin Oo Lwin. The others returning from their walk said the falls were mostly dry but the walk was nice. We locked up the bikes and set down the steep trail. The other two guys decided to turn back partly there as they'd rather just rest. We continued through fields of watermelon covered in plastic, rice and the occasional water buffalo resting. Most of the path followed a stream and we went through a couple small villages with thatched roofs rest houses, animals and transportation like motorbikes.

SarahHsipaw__77_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__67_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__68_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__69_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__70_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__71_of_111_.jpg
90_SarahHsipaw__81_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__78_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__79_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__80_of_111_.jpg

By the time the uphill portion started again, we were burnt out and feeling the sun's destructive heat. We made it eventually to see water trickling down the tall mossy rock walls. Thank goodness we'd made it to the ones at Pyin Oo Lwin. We rested further down in a shady pond area with our sad water supply. At least the town was close enough. The walk back was harder toward the end as thirst, hunger and exhaustion took over.

SarahHsipaw__72_of_111_.jpg90_SarahHsipaw__73_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__74_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__75_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__76_of_111_.jpg

After a rest and some water, we tried Pontoon Cafe but I wasn't too big on the vegetarian menu so we went to a teahouse instead, La Wun Aung. I tried samosa salad, Shan noodle soup and Ryan had fried rice. I really enjoyed my salad as it was something different but Ryan was put off by the fried dough stick we'd had as an appetizer. We didn't do much else that night except buy bananas to serve as my vegetarian meal option for our trek as another patron said there'd be mainly rice as a non-meat option.

SarahHsipaw__85_of_111_.jpg

Posted by Sarah.M 04:24 Archived in Myanmar Tagged la waterfall hot dry myanmar ñam hsipaw tok wun aung Comments (0)

Shan Palace and Little Bagan

Exploring Hsipaw

Ryan was feeling pretty sick this morning and didn't want to go to breakfast. I took the elevator up to the fourth floor for the breakfast buffet that I'd been excited for since last night. They had fried noodles, fried veggies, tomatoes and crepes in addition to the standard eggs your way and toast.

There were even tasty brown baguette-like slices that were delicious. The highlight was the crepes with jam and I knew Ryan would enjoy them so I went back down and talked him into coming up for breakfast. He managed to eat a little and loved the crepes too. The view from the rooftop was a bit foggy this morning but we could still see other rooftops and trees.

We rested in the room for awhile after breakfast. For lunch, I ventured out to the street for some mediocre fried rice that I couldn't finish after the marathon breakfast. I came back to check on Ryan who still wanted to rest so I rented a bike so he could do so without me shuffling around the room.

My destination was Little Bagan, but it was far harder to find than I'd anticipated even with the hotel's hand drawn map. I passed the railroad tracks and kept going past some uphill construction to find nothing but trees, fields and sunrays. I turned back and headed for another temple but that road had a dead end. Riding up and down the street one last time, I spotted a couple foreigners and followed them to Mrs. Popcorn. I continued down the little trail to find Little Bagan.

SarahHsipaw__32_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__33_of_111_.jpg

Near a monastery, there were white and gray stone chedis with vegetation growing out of them. There were around a dozen all together near the gates. One outside that area called Eissa Paya had cracked down the middle as a result of a growing tree. Behind were nice terraces and a few woman working in the fields.

SarahHsipaw__36_of_111_.jpg
90_SarahHsipaw__44_of_111_.jpg

Further down the road, there was the Bamboo Buddha Monastery, Maha Nanda Kantha. A small pagoda sat near a seated Buddha on an island reached by small bridge. The monastery was mainly wooden and not very busy. Across the street there were more chedis of a similar age to those in little Bagan. Some had loud speakers attached and others were newer. They were all together in a courtyard area, different than the spread out and endless nature of Bagan.

SarahHsipaw__37_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__38_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__39_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__40_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__41_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__42_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__43_of_111_.jpg

I biked maybe five minutes back down the main road to reach the much easier to find Shan Palace. The gate was locked and closed so I pulled out the travel journal and prepared to make the most of the wait. The resident dog was not so happy to see me so I began to walk away. Luckily, the grandson of the owner was more friendly and invited me inside as he and others drove off to work.

Fern, the owner, came out to greet me and invited me to explore the yard. I went back to the 90 year old prayer house, a two story wooden building that hadn't aged so well. There were three smaller shrines in front of it as well.

SarahHsipaw__45_of_111_.jpg

When I returned to the European style house, Fern kindly explained the history of the Shan Palace in the sitting room. Sao Khun Seng was the ruling Shan prince or chief in the early 20th century. His son, Sao Khe went away to school in England and was even knighted at one point. He finished his studies and upon his return, he wanted to embrace western life and had the current Shan Palace built as a home to live in separately from his family. There was already a Shan Palace not far from there which housed his family. When his father passed away, Sir Sao Khe used the original palace for administrative purposes. He had no children but his uncle had two sons, Sao Oo Kya and Sao Kya Seng.

SarahHsipaw__46_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__47_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__50_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__49_of_111_.jpg

The eldest was invited to Taunggyi to be the secretary for all of the Shan states. The youngest, Sao Kya Seng, left for Colorado to study where he met an Austrian woman on a full scholarship. They fell in love, got married and moved back to Hsipaw. His father passed away, leaving him as chief. Inge, his wife, learned Burmese and Shan as well as adopted Burmese and local dress. The local people liked and accepted her for that reason. She stayed along with her two daughters for 10 years.

SarahHsipaw__48_of_111_.jpg

Post World War II, Burma went through political change and independence. Sao Kya Seng served various roles such as the Mp for Burma's house of Nationalities, a member of the Shan State Council and secretary of the Association of Shan Princes. The military came into the area where some Shan rebels seeking independence resided. The rebels would be arrested, go missing or be tortured. Sao Kya Seng maintained his position as prince, saopha, while others were giving up theirs. In 1962, ethnic groups were planning on asking for federation. Ne Win knew this and also planned to take over the country. A coup occurred and he seized power.

The heads of Shan state were all arrested including the two brothers and Fern's father. The family were able to write to them so the families relocated to Rangoon (now Yangon). Inge stayed until her mother in law confirmed that the Hsipaw prince, her husband, had also been arrested. Then Inge moved to Rangoon and sought assistance from the British and Austrian embassies and friends. They found out that her husband had been killed but the government would not confirm this. They wouldn't even confirm that he'd been arrested anymore.

Since she wasn't a Burmese citizen, she chose to move back to Austria and then America for her family's safety. She wrote to the government, asking for information on her husband but this earned her a spot on the black list. To this day, he is still considered missing. Therefore, by Buddhist tradition, they cannot hold a funeral for him. Her blacklist status has been lifted but she has grown older and is not well enough to travel. She wrote Twilight Over Burma twenty years ago about her experience.

Biking back to the hotel, I was quite happy with the experience. It was very special to have someone share such a fascinating family history to such a small audience. It was one of my highlights of Myanmar so far.

Ryan was feeling better after a good rest so we decided to tackle sunset hill. The walk to the river was nice and straightforward. A water buffalo was grazing on the boulevard. The first hill and temple we saw, we attempted to climb, but it wasn't the right one. Further down, the hill had a sign and quite the climb, even after a few ambitious short cuts. The climb wasn't too long, maybe 15-20 minutes. Many took a tuktuk to save time and energy.

SarahHsipaw__52_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__53_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__54_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__55_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__56_of_111_.jpg

The top had a great view of the Dokhtawady river and Hsipaw. The sun was still up, illuminating a statue with monks kneeling around their teacher and Thein Daung Pagoda. The sunset soon painted the sky in pinks and oranges.

SarahHsipaw__57_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__59_of_111_.jpg

We made good time on the way down, passing others on our way to find supper. We went to Mr. Food to have a Chinese meal. I had an omelette and Ryan had tasty fried tofu. Sharing the table with us was a Canadian man from Newfoundland and his Canadian/Thai wife. He was 85 years old and they came to see the viaduct then return. They also met other Newfoundlanders earlier in their trip who were twins. Another man joined us from Germany and he'd been trekking for three days with the guides from Mr. Charles guesthouse. They slept in hammocks and ate a monkey that their guide shot. I hoped when we did the trek that there'd be a vegetarian option or that he was exaggerating.

90_SarahHsipaw__60_of_111_.jpg

  • **

I've done my best to try and make sure the details are accurate, especially with the history. If you're interested in further reading on the Shan prince situation here are a few articles:

http://www.irrawaddy.com/feature/hispaw-haw-abode-of-tragic-shan-prince.html

http://www.irrawaddy.com/contributor/posthumous-award-revives-memories-of-a-shan-prince.html

Posted by Sarah.M 19:17 Archived in Myanmar Tagged palace breakfast burma pagoda myanmar shan sao buffet lily prince hsipaw inge kya seng little_bagan thein daung sunset_hill Comments (0)

Gokteik Viaduct

Myanmar's highest bridge

We arrived at the train station just before eight to stand in a long line of foreigners buying tickets. If there was one train journey that guidebooks recommended in Myanmar, it was the Gokteik Viaduct over a deep river gorge, the longest railway trestle in the world upon its completion in 1901. At 102 metres high, even today it is the highest bridge in Myanmar. The viaduct stretches 698 metres from end to end. The bridge was built during British occupation by the Pennsylvania Steel Company.

SarahHsipaw__1_of_111_.jpg

It took about ten minutes for the line to start moving, but it moved quick enough. We'd debated catching the train from Mandalay, but the price wasn't terribly different and if we caught the train in Pyin Oo Lwin, we departed at a gentler 8:20 am compared to 4:00 am in Mandalay. The train was an hour late anyhow. Once it arrived, something got lost in translation where we were mildly worried that our train was bound for Mandalay and not Hsipaw. But the staff assured us this was going to Hsipaw and that we'd be fine. The couple in front of us asked to switch to the left side, the one recommended by Lonely Planet to get the best views en route to Hsipaw. We asked if we could switch too and they obliged. The downside was a far more worn out seat cushion. The price to pay for photos.

SarahHsipaw__2_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__3_of_111_.jpg

The train crawled along like a horse carriage in the beginning and gradually worked up more speed. We stopped in small towns where the stations consisted of only a small ticket cabin and locals would hop on and off.

SarahHsipaw__4_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__5_of_111_.jpg

Eventually, we made it to the Gokteik Viaduct, a gleaming silver bridge across from the plunging gorge and river below. More than a century old, you can only imagine how well maintained the bridge has been, a bit of an eerie thought. The train inched its way down the winding path to the bridge. The long tracks gave us time to take photos of the bridge, peeking out between the trees, and then observe hill as we switched sides about three times. Locals were used to us crazy foreigners jumping around and let us take pictures out their windows too. The final approach had spectacular views of the reddish rocks and viaduct.

SarahHsipaw__6_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__7_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__8_of_111_.jpg

Soon we reached the end of the safe views and headed for the bridge. Luckily, it didn't quite look its hundred plus years old and it had been restored recently enough to inspire confidence. The creaking wasn't as ominous as described since the train had done that the whole time. Below us, the river meandered through forested landscape. Large hills were visible from either side. Out the windows, elbows and hands stuck out attached to smart phones and cameras. An unmarred shot was almost impossible.

SarahHsipaw__10_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__12_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__15_of_111_.jpg
90_F790D5CFB946074A474570F00919F504.jpg90_F795F6FDB0BCD6D2F7EF682702C971BA.jpg270_F79ADDDED973838CC2926522067F16E6.jpg

Soon we reached the end of the spectacular gorge and viaduct views. We travelled through a few tunnels. As we neared Hsipaw, more rice terraces dotted the relatively flat landscape.

SarahHsipaw__16_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__17_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__18_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__19_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__20_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__21_of_111_.jpg

We arrived late afternoon. Lily the Home guesthouse was there to pick up its guests so we grabbed a ride to check out their $10 per person rooms with private bathrooms. We pulled up to a hotel-like building and double checked the price. Typically the places we stayed were a little more toward the bottom of the barrel. The room they showed us was nice, clean and had facilities to do laundry, a never ending task for us. Once that was out of the way, we set out to find food since our cinnamon bun and Oreo train lunch hadn't quite filled us up.

At the end of the street, near the river, there was a quaint park. After going inside, we noticed bridges over calm ponds, a children's structure, decaying paddle boats with panda faces. There were plenty of trees for shelter in the area. There were some people but not a whole lot. We left down the main road and saw the digital clock tower.

SarahHsipaw__22_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__23_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__24_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__25_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__26_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__27_of_111_.jpg
SarahHsipaw__30_of_111_.jpg

We ventured down a street with a few restaurants and settled on Sein restaurant which had a barbeque and cheap enough food. I ordered a skewer of potatoes and one of okra. Ryan had fried rice, a frequent choice of his. The food was tasty and came with teriyaki and spicy sauces. The portions were affordable and a good size. The man working there was friendly and funny too, poking fun at the grumpy tourists walking by without acknowledging his greetings. "Why you come to Myanmar?" He'd jokingly ask. "So angry, why can't they smile?" He was from Southern Myanmar and had just started working at the restaurant a few days earlier.

SarahHsipaw__28_of_111_.jpgSarahHsipaw__29_of_111_.jpg

Posted by Sarah.M 04:20 Archived in Myanmar Tagged train rice terrace myanmar hsipaw gokteik_viaduct pyinoolwin lily_the_home Comments (0)

Sunrise over Bagan

Finally, we had enough energy to tackle a bike ride to see sunrise. The staff were up too so we could rent the bike for the dark and chilly venture. There was a little traffic but we stayed safe enough. The dirt road was kind enough to us too. The sky began to light up so we opted for our familiar sunset temple, Buledi. We weren't the only ones there either which confirmed it might be a decent place to watch sunrise.

SarahBaganB__37_of_81_.jpg

The sun hadn't broken through the clouds yet but light trickled to the temples. Red hot air balloons were being inflated in the distance, just waiting for the sun to take off and illuminate the rusty landscape. There were green balloons as well.

SarahBaganB__38_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__39_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__40_of_81_.jpg
SarahBaganB__41_of_81_.jpg

As the sun began its ascent, two scenes emerged: the sun rising between two stupas, a bit darkened by the direct lighting, and the fire powered giants rising over the lit temples to the North. The green Oriental Balloon giants rose in photographic succession that I captured all too many times. The balloons soon drifted in front of, over and behind us.

SarahBaganB__42_of_81_.jpg
SarahBaganB__43_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__44_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__45_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__46_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__47_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__48_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__49_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__50_of_81_.jpg

Switching to the other side on the temple, a colour splash awaited of red, yellow and green. It really added something special to the already stunning vista. We both left pretty happy with the experience.

SarahBaganB__51_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__52_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__53_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__54_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__55_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__56_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__57_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__58_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__60_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__61_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__62_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__63_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__64_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__65_of_81_.jpg
SarahBaganB__66_of_81_.jpg

With time on our hands, we ventured to the large Dhammayangyi Temple. Built by King Narathu between 1167 and 1170, the temple had a bloody history. King Narathu murdered his own father to ascend to the throne. He was a strict overseer of construction and would execute masons if a needle could be pushed between the bricks. As fate would have it, he never completed the construction, due to repercussions of his actions. Displeased by Hindu rituals, he executed an Indian princess. Her father, Pateikkaya, sought revenge and sent eight disguised officers to assassinate Narathu in the temple.

SarahBaganB__67_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__75_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__69_of_81_.jpg

Each entrance was nearly closed off by Buddha statues. The structure had a more pyramid-like shape than the others. In the sections that protruded, there were paintings of Buddha as well as circles on the archways. The building had high ceilings, but they were relatively empty, save the birds and the bats whose feces was pungent. A walk outside went better for us.

SarahBaganB__68_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__70_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__71_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__72_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__73_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__74_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__76_of_81_.jpg

We biked by Shwesantaw Paya on our way out for more photos. Things were pretty relaxed just after sunrise.

SarahBaganB__77_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__78_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__79_of_81_.jpgSarahBaganB__80_of_81_.jpg

After breakfast, our minivan came with air conditioning and decent seats. A few locals and a monk sat up front and we always had an extra passenger hopping on or off. Once we made it to the Yangon-Mandalay highway things sped up. They even dropped us off close enough to our hotel.

SarahBaganB__81_of_81_.jpg

Garden Hotel had okay priced rooms with shared bathrooms on the 5th floor. Once you lugged all of our bags up, it was hard to motivate yourself to say no and look elsewhere. We took the drab, clean room. The price of the room went up when we didn't have US currency to pay with.

We found a Shan restaurant after wandering the industrial district. We had a meal of potatoes, watercress and rice. It wasn't amazing, but it was better than having no vegetarian options.

Posted by Sarah.M 04:36 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bikes balloon sunrise bagan mandalay myanmar buledi dhammayangyi garden_hotel Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 8) Page [1] 2 » Next