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Entries about temples

Biking Bagan

Being sick was no motivation to see sunrise so we just slept in and grabbed breakfast at the hotel. We managed to check out of our first hotel without issue and walked down to the new place that we'd scouted yesterday, Shwe Na Di. We found out that there were even cheaper rooms for only $15 a night which we jumped on. They had some great drying space for our clothes and a fan. The $20 ensuite wasn't available until later. For lunch, we went next door for salad, one tomato, one chicken, with some Max Plus orange, which was essentially a sneaky Coke product trying to look unique. The salads both had more sauce than the ones we'd tried in Hpa An.

Eventually we worked up the energy to go biking. My stomach was still acting up. We worked our way down Anawratha road to see the large Ananda Temple that was undergoing restoration work. They had whitewashed some of the exterior walls in some areas so it looked more modern. Dark streaks were on many of the lighter, gray temples. The round top also gleamed as if it were recently painted or plated in metal. A few workers chipped away at plaster in the tall door arches to reveal more frescos.

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Ananda Temple was built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha. Legend says that eight monks came begging for alms. They told the king that they'd lived in the Nandmula Cave in the Himalayas. Interested, the king invited them to his palace. Through their meditative powers, they showed the king the mythical landscape of where they'd travelled. The king was overwhelmed and desired to build a temple that would be cool even in the plains. To keep the style of the temple unique, the king had the architects executed.

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Inside the temple there were four standing gold Buddha statues made of teak. Each statue faced in a different direction and they were incredibly tall. Looking up at the tall ceilings and cement walls, we spotted many old frescos of patterns and Buddhas. We walked around to see the golden wall enclaves housing many small Buddha statues. There were other gold depictions of Buddhist scenes and dancers. Wandering around was interesting to find the deserted sections that almost felt abandoned.

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Outside the architecture was quite pretty with multiple archways leading into a long corridor. Animal statues sat outside.

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Next we arrived at a gray temple with a golden roof which sat up higher and was visible from a distance. It was That Byin Nyu Temple built in the 11th century. We also visited some of the surrounding smaller temples which were more relaxed.

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We found Old Bagan, a town which the government had forced citizens out of a few decades ago. The archaeological museum was there but given the price tag and reputation, we decided there were more than enough free temples to entertain us for days. The grounds did look quite snazzy though.

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We made it to Bupaya with a white and gold gourd shaped pagoda and a nice view of the Ayeyarwady river. More Burmese people were here praying and taking photos. This pagoda was reputably one of the oldest in the area dating back to the 2nd or 3rd century, although it was also argued that it could have been built in the 9th or 11th. The original fell into the river after the 1975 earthquake then was rebuilt, so dating it is no longer possible.

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Legend has it that the pagoda was built after a young man Pyusawti defeated one of the five menaces plaguing the city of Bagan, the gourd vine plant. The king was so pleased he gave one of his daughters and marriage and erected on the spot. Pyusawti later became king. We relaxed in the shade since I was having a hard time standing for too long without stomach pains.

We also checked out Gaw Dav Palin temple with several cute dogs sitting out front.
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Our next stop, the palace site, turned out to be an archeological dig of the area. They'd found brick walls and remnants of clay pots underground. Several sites had pits open to the public, just a bit fenced off. A parade of dogs came by afterward as we rested on the benches. The bothersome aspect of the site was the garbage that people had just thrown in these historic areas. We left soon after as my stomach wouldn't tolerate being out any more.

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After a rest and feeling slightly better, we ventured more into town past a volleyball game and May Khalar, our previous guesthouse. The area had some newer buildings and some I remembered from last time, like the bike rental shop and restaurant, had evolved or disappeared. New banks had sprung up too. We ate at the wood fire pizza place. Ryan had some sweet and sour pork and I had jasmine tea and a papaya pancake that was surprisingly filling.

Posted by Sarah.M 07:31 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temples bagan ananda_temple that_byin_nyu_temple ayeyarwady bupaya may_khalar gaw_dav_palin Comments (0)

Exploring Ubon Ratchathani temples

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We lazed around in the morning, savouring the comfy bed as last night the receptionist had informed us that they'd mistakenly put us in the wrong room and we'd be switching today. We also had to fight with the wifi to book a place to stay for tomorrow night near the national park we wanted to visit. Holidays left us with few options, but there always seemed to be something.

At breakfast, the other receptionist was unaware of our wrong room situation and told us just to stay in the room, unless there was something wrong with it. The wifi kicked back in and we scored a room near Pha Taem National Park through Agoda. Sketchy, given my luck with them booking us a sold out room last time, but it was our only option.

By the time we got moving, it was almost lunchtime The place with vegetarian options was closed so we went to a bakery instead which to our luck had dishes I could eat too. Ryan had pork and rice while I had veggies and rice. We also stumbled across some creative gardening.

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We wandered down to Thung Sri Muang in the high noon sun. The crowds were absent save a few Thai people taking photos or resting in the shade. We went to the giant gold monument used in the candle ceremonies. It also took the shape of a boat and had demons, birds, snakes, dragons eating people and even a crab. It was beautiful from afar and fun to inspect more closely. There were also big artificial plastic lotus flowers opposite it. We played on the semi-functional exercise equipment after that.

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Nearby, the river market was closed but we got to enjoy Moon river. It was pretty quiet, though there was a boardwalk and a 'Full Moon' boat parked. It was likely much different and more low key than Koh Phanang's idea of Full Moon celebrations.

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A washroom break turned into us tucking into the room to escape the heat until we figured that sunset loomed too close to complete our temple visiting plans. Our first destination was the temple we could see from our window and hear quite well last night called Wat Luang. It faced the river. There was a tall, thin, white temple, a large Buddha statue and a bell tower. A neat garden facing the river was tended by the monks. It had animals both in living and plant form.

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The second temple we visited, Wat Klang, was pretty standard, with a large wooden building on stilts. We were able to go inside and see the Buddha statue. It also had a concrete looking temple in gray and beige.

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Some of the homes we came across during our walk were quite colourful. I thought my mom would enjoy this picture

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The third temple, Wat Tai Phrachao Yai Ong Tue, was fairly epic with an almost Hindu influence. It shined, glittered and had animals as well as religious figures in every direction you looked. There were two giant sitting Buddha statues, one in gold and the other in white. Another great feature was a temple with beautiful tile artwork as well as a view of the whole complex from the top.

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We left happy and went to see another temple which was under renovations. We kept walking past a market to Wat Buraphanam. It was a residence for famous meditating monks: Achan Si Thachayaseno, Achan Man Phurithatto, Achan Li Thammatharo, Achan Sao Kantasilo, and Achan Sing Khantayakhamo. There were statues of them along with wooden houses on raised stilts and a big snake statue. Some dogs were there to check out what we were doing as well.

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For supper, we returned to the bakery and had a half decent meal of fried rice. Back at the room, we opened the celebratory A&W root beers we'd been too tired to drink yesterday and threw on a movie. For a few hours, we almost forgot we were in Thailand.

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  • **

It's been awhile, our apologies, we've been busy, busy during our last month in Australia. Soon we'll be off to New Zealand. This post is a bit light on details. We managed to misplace the helpful pamphlet the tourism authority gave us before I could write this entry up. If I mixed up any of the temple names I do apologize, I've done the best I can tracking them down on Google Maps. I hope to have some better write-ups for temples when I go back and have more time.

If you're curious about the temples' history, this website covers many of the ones we saw both this day and the previous: https://sites.google.com/site/watthaikhoobarn/english-information/history-of-ubonratchathani .
Just take a look at the side tab for the English temple names.

Posted by Sarah.M 19:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples ubon_ratchathani Comments (0)

Shanghai

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We arrived in Shanghai safe and sound. Our flights were delightfully empty. I've actually never seen so few people on a flight even on those bound to Winnipeg (just kidding guys) or those really expensive ones in Laos. They fed us meal after meal of food that was pretty good. Ryan had a healthy or perhaps unhealthy supply of Ginger Ale (he's not too impressed with this statement) and I was loving the orange juice. We took the metro to our hostel, which almost went by without a hitch until the train we were on started going backwards and we realized that listening to the announcements on the train probably would have been a good call. We jumped off and rectified the situation quickly. The only thing we lost were about twenty minutes and our seats on the metro. Luckily, there were maps posted and bi-lingual announcements in Chinese and English.

China is cleaner than we expected with only the occasional sewage smell. It felt pretty safe finding our way to the hostel and one man offered to help us with our printed bilingual map. We'd rather walk around here at night than downtown Winnipeg. Lots of skyscrapers and commercialism. Our hostel is pretty nice with a pond in the front and western toilets. Our room is a bit on the smaller side but the common area is pretty big and the beds comfortable.

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Day one we went to visit the Shanghai Museum in People's Square. The metro line was quite handy. We bought ourselves some day passes and tackled the metro lines at rush hour. This was no feat for the faint-hearted. The lines and crowds were always moving and in a rush. We squished into the trains and hardly made it out at our stop in time. People move in lines like traffic and leaving the popular path is quite tricky. There's quite a bit of bumping and pushing that goes on as everyone is in a rush, except us and the people sleeping in the subway halls. We got our first authentic Shanghai experience out of the way.

People's Square is a beautiful park, quite large and well kept. There were city workers dressed in blue uniforms sweeping the leaves that fell on the paths, quite the commitment to cleanliness. We sat on a bench to enjoy some Chinese oranges from the market. Less than a dollar for four large ones. They were delicious to eat in the park and a few people stopped to take our pictures. We must have been looking great!

The Museum containing thousands of artifacts from Chinese history was free to enter. It had four levels. We started with the Buddhist and religious statues section which was interesting as it spanned several dynasties and showed changes from when Indian Buddhism became more prevalent in the society as well as a bit of influence from Middle Eastern areas. We went up to ceramics and pottery next, a whole adventure on its own. It started around 6,000 B.C. and developed from there. Some of the kilns they had reached impressive temperatures of 1300 degrees Celsius considering the time period. The pieces ranged from pots to statues to bowls. As time progressed, people would add different elements such as copper, cobalt, and iron to give the clay colour and finish with glaze to protect them from the elements.

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We also saw exhibits on calligraphy, painting, furniture, minority tribe artifacts, and bronze. The paintings mainly had a natural theme and you could tell that the ruling dynasty had a fair bit of influence over the preferences of style and subject. The bronze exhibit revealed an interesting insight into Chinese culture. We all knew about Chinese food being important and the other 40% of the bronze pieces included wine vessels. There at least nine different Chinese words to describe the different types of wine vessels and their functions. Many were extremely large to store large quantities of wine. There were also some knives and swords to add some diversity to the collection, but the overall theme was still food and drink.

We attempted to find lunch after that, extremely sleep deprived and hungry. We wandered off down a nearby street and didn't find many restaurants that I thought I could find a vegetarian meal at. There were pet shops and apartments though. Ryan was excited to see the buckets full of small turtles laying out in the street.

Venturing back to the mall, we found a restaurant called Tomato Girl Rice Flour Noodles (some things must not translate that well). It had some sort of vegetarian option, gross tofu noodles and some sort of pickled greens or seaweeds or mystery item I managed to eat without gagging. Ryan had a flavourless chicken noodle bowl with a nifty spoon. He found the noodles hard to eat with chopsticks, slippery guys. The upside is that we didn't get food poisoning and the mango juice was alright.

Next, we visited the Yuyuan Gardens with our handy dandy metro passes (and student cards for a fifty percent discount). They featured classic Chinese architecture with slopped roofs, clay shingles, and ornamental decorations. Most of them were redwood coloured. We went through countless archways and passages to explore the extensive garden grounds. There were plenty of large fish in the ponds and greenery everywhere, including willow trees! The garden was built during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century.

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On the trip there and back, we went through a heavily commercial area where we were asked several times to buy watches, wheelies and other trinkets. We were in a hurry to get out of there and over to the Bund boardwalk. The Bund was a skyline view of modern Shanghai's skyscrapers. The sun was going down, with the pollution masking the sunset. We walked the long river walk and took many pictures along the way. At 5:30, the Oriental Pearl Tower with two round spheres lit up in vibrant blue. Half an hour later a few other buildings lit up too and the Oriental Pearl Tower began to flash different colours in the chilly night sky.

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We discovered some vibrant cow sculptures on the way back with some more living walls, adorned with colourful flowers. We got a little lost trying to find the metro back, but made it eventually. Back in our neighbourhood, I got 'I don't eat meat' written down in Chinese so we could explore the area and find some supper. We found a nearby restaurant and had a delicious meal. Ryan had Spicy, crispy beef with interesting star-like peppers and I had eggplant, potato and peppers in a strong garlic sauce.

Day two we took off to Zhu jia jiao, an ancient town outside of Shanghai with some reputable buildings. The bus ride there was easy enough once a man on the street helped us find the right bus at the stop and talked to the driver. He was very kind. The bus ride was longer than we expected and had some interesting sights. There were clusters of high-rise apartment buildings in the industrial areas, likely servicing the countless factories in the area making everything from car parts, to perfume, to clothing. The shear numbers of these apartments were overwhelming just to imagine a fraction of the area where the world's products are produced. There were quite a few trees along the roads as well.

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The town, we figured we could find on our own. We tried to follow the signs and did end up on a bridge after passing schools, fruit vendors, and back alleys of people's homes. The bridge was not the ancient one people would travel to visit, but we looked down the river and backtracked our steps. Once we arrived in the area, it was obvious that it was the right place. The architecture was similar to what we had seen at Yuyuan Garden's yesterday and there were ample vendors selling everything you could want and more.

The town had many canals and bridges. Small boats could be rented to travel the canals, hand paddled by a local driver. We opted just to take it in on foot. There were many red lanterns hanging from the rooftops as well. We found Kenzi Garden and paid the admission. Inside was a large garden similar to the one we saw yesterday but with some impressive rock caves, pavilions and a bamboo forest. It was quite large as well and worth the admission price. Very picturesque.

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Next we tracked down the post office, the next item on our admission scavenger hunt. It was neat with blue cloth hanging in the entryway. Apparently their mail system has been around for thousands of years and envied by visiting cultures. We sat down to canal-side lunch afterwards. To celebrate Ryan finding a bamboo forest, I thought we should eat some, since it's so tasty! The teriyaki flavour was rich and flavourful. We also had some spicy bean curd which was not as well received. I didn't mind it, but the tofu-like texture can be off putting. Plus it's hard to eat with the chop sticks.

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We had two more stops on our hunt, the humanist museum, mainly modern looking art of various figures in the local area. We didn't quite get the name, but the art was very beautiful. I mistook the firefighting painting for a happy festival and Ryan ad a laugh at my expense. Next was the pharmacy, a quite stop as the woman inside seemed to want us to leave before we had even arrived. Maybe it was just the language barrier.

Our ride back was hectic, lots of horn blasting and fast driving on the bus. I'm surprised there weren't any accidents. We managed to find our stop alright with a little help and made our way.

(Sorry half the pictures are sideways: we're still learning on this blog platform and my computer doesn't want to save them properly for some reason.)

Posted by Sarah.M 16:46 Archived in China Tagged temples food metro china shanghai bamboo bund Comments (0)

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