Myanmar is one of the ancient countries that have a long history. Buddhism is greatly flourishing in the country as the Buddhists here replete with the power of faith that handed down from ancient times. However, nowadays Myanmar began to open up the country more and more which lead to many developments and moreover, many old points of view of Myanmar start to change greatly for example nowadays the vehicles from the old days that uses oxcart and horse carriage started to change to luxurious car and big buse that bustling around the city instead.
If you would like to witness the beautiful old culture that still exists, I suggest you should travel to Myanmar before the capitalist development take over. Additionally, this is the main reason why I would like to travel to Myanmar to learn the essence of “Myanmar" before everything changes.
Myanmar Now or Never # 1 : Bago , Bagan
Myanmar Now or Never # 2 : Mandalay
Day seventh, we head to Mandalay airport
early in the morning; the airport is approximately one hour away from the city.
For this flight, we fly with Air Bagan once again. After finished loading our
baggage, receiving the sticker for sorting the airlines,
then we wait until the time to board the aircraft. And as usual, it is free
seating flight, thus we could select the seat as we prefer.
It takes us approximately 20 minutes to our destination. Flight time is rather short that the drinks haven't been served and the candy has not melted, nevertheless, finally we arrive at Heho airport.
And this is the airport that Air Bagan recently has plane crash accident news. Coincidentally, the incident time is also at the same time as my flight.
The plane is parked closely to the door of the passenger terminal. Heho airport is kind of a small size airport; it is the smallest airport as I have ever seen before. Upon arriving at the passenger terminal, we stand here waiting for our baggage. The staff will put passenger baggage into the trolley, place them together and let the passenger pick the baggage by themselves; it somehow looks disorganized but this process is also good and simple.
After getting our baggage, then they need to check the passenger again, honestly, I don't understand why they need to check as I don't see any stamp in the passport.
From the airport, we continue riding on the car approximately an hour, and then we are at the pier area of Nyaung Shwe city. We have to pay the entrance fee of 5 USD for each person and the charter boat for 30,000 Kyat per day for four people.
It is rather a big size long-tailed boat with the comfortable adjustable seat; there are also blanket, umbrella, life jacket provided in each seat.
Inle Lake is located in the heart of Shan state in the northeastern of Myanmar. It is away from Heho approximately 35 kilometers. The lake has the area around 116 kilometers and the area will slightly change during dry season.
Inle Lake is Myanmar's second largest lake after Indawgyi Lake of Kachin state which located in the most north part of the country. This lake has been granted as the cultural heritage of ASEAN and it is also the natural heritage of Myanmar. During the dry season, the water depth is approximately 2 meters, however, during the rainy season, the water depth is approximately 3.5 meters.
Along both sides on the boat ride, we could see local people's way of life. After 10 minutes on the boat, we finally arrive at the mouth of a bay which leads to Inle Lake. I have seen Intha people who are the local here go out fishing with their local fishing tools and it is regarded as one of the symbols of this place. When Intha people see the tourists' boat, they will try to act the pose with fish trap to let the tourist watch, it is kind of welcome us to the area of Inle Lake.
The water here is considerably crystal clear as we could see the seaweed underneath the water.
From the mouth of the bay, we continue riding on the boat for around half an hour and then the boat has parked at the pier of Golden Island Cottages Hotel.
Not even getting off from the boat yet, the hotel staffs quickly rush to the pier with the big set of long drum and play them to welcome us while we get off from the boat. This is one of the way that could make the guest get first impression.
I manage to keep my baggage in the room. The room inside doesn't look luxury. We have 3 people in my room; therefore, we add one extra bed.
Inside the restroom.
What impressed me the most is the pleasant atmosphere here. We could watch the wide view scenery of Inle Lake right from our room. The room costs around100 USD per night.
There are the chairs in front of the room provided for sit back and watch the view.
After we done keeping our baggage at the hotel room, it is time for our lunch. We hurriedly eat our lunch and then continue traveling to watch the way of life of Intha people.
Inle Lake is a huge water place which is originated from the flowing water of many mountains line that surround the area. From the huge area, it makes the marvelous way of life happen here which is the city in the middle of the water.
It is the large community area, the space of the town in the water area and the shore area has totally 17 villages located here. Most of the villagers do the fishing, agriculture, weaving, making steel, making cigarette for a living and some villagers have the income from tourism.
Does it make any sense to you at all? Although the whole area of land is the water area, they also can grow the vegetable in the water.
Intha people know how to get the most of their nature resources. They cut the weed that grow on the land along the shore of the lake and binding it to the big raft approximately 10 meters long and then take it to the right location in the lake. After that they will use the long bamboo to settle the raft by stab it into the soil beneath the water. After that they will scoop the mud and the seaweed in the water which abundant with the organic substance and place them on the raft. Then they will do the planting on the raft. Most of the plants that I have seen are tomatoes. This place is regarded as the most important place of planting tomato in Myanmar .
We continuously ride on the boat along the tomato plot of Intha people. And then we reach one village, the house condition is the wood house; some house is large with 3-stories. I think that local wisdom of building the house here is just pure brilliant.
Pass the temple.
After that the boat man parked by the river bank. From the pier, we have to walk pass Inn Thein village, market and school; the distance is quite far, however, the surrounded environment makes us feels refreshing.
This little boy looks a little naughty.
The little vendor selling the nut and even asks us to buy some of her nut.
The riverfront way of life, bathing, washing clothes and drying it right here.
Finally, we reach our first destination today, Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda.
Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda resembles to the field of ancient pagodas, they are approximately 2000 pagodas here, some of pagoda is very old that they have been built in the reign of King Anawrahta.
There are the Buddha Image and mural painting located inside some pagodas.
The principle Buddha image in the main hall.
The pagodas that situated inside Inn Dain temple are being renovated which are different from the other pagodas that situated around the temple; they were neglected to be old along the time. As for the new pagoda, I have seen the name of Thai people who donated to the renovation of this temple as well.
There are a lot of shops selling goods from local people at the entrance area of the temple. The seller here could not speak English very well, therefore, when we ask the price, they will bring the paper that has many numbers in there and point the price that they want to sell to us. And if we would like them to give the discount, we could point at the price number that we want to bargain with them.
We end today's travelling
program here. However, we still have the activity that we are waiting for that
is riding on the boat and looking for the scene of catching fish with the large
fish trap of Intha people. I consider this activity as the significant activity
of Inle Lake.
The boat man rides the boat for quiet sometimes, but we still didn't see any of the Intha people.
The boat man tries to explain that catching the fish by using fish trap need to do in the shallow water area. Though, we are in the deep water zone and we could not see how they do the fishing by the fishing trap.
However, we could see the fishing by fishing net instead. When they finish casting the net, they will hit the water surface to drive the fish to the net direction.
Rowing style of Intha people is distinctive not like anywhere in the world as they will stand and use their legs and feet to row the boat. The reason that they need to stand is because they must observe the environment from high angle view and in the same time, they could use their hand to arrange the fishing tools around them by not losing control of the boat. This action looks similar to ballet performance somehow.
I wait to take the photo of the last light of the day at our accommodation today. The sunshine began to light down and then set behind the range of mountains in front of me.
The light gradually went down and during this time, the Intha people start to go back home, thus, there are lots of boats bustling around.
The last light is stunning today.
The last light of the day.
Our next day early morning, we have the travel program to looking for the fishermen.
In the morning of our eighth day with the cool weather and it is considered the coolest weather in the trip. We have scheduled the time with the boat man; he will take us to see the fishermen who use the large fish trap for fishing that is regarded as the unique of the Inle Lake.
I'm ready to set out before the appointed time, therefore, I walk to look for the best location to take some photo at the back of the resort.
The boat gradually takes us to the middle of the lake. When the wind that flows by the stream has touched our skin, we feel that the weather is getting colder than it is. The morning light start to shine and it is the sign of the new day of local people's way of life is about to start too.
We pass the area where the legend says that Phaung Daw Oo Buddha Image which drowns into the water show up here.
I'm not sure what this is whether it's a house or temple? It has been built in the middle of the lake.
We ride on the boat back to the mouth of the bay once again. As that area is the shallow water area and it comes out as we expect, we find many fishermen catching the fish at this area.
The tool using for catching fish of Intha people seem like the fish trap in our country, however, it is much larger than the one in our country. It has cone shape with the net attached inside, this fish trap uses for catching fish in the shallow water area.
They will press the fish trap in the water and use the spear to stir in the water to check whether there are the fish inside or not. If there are the fish inside, they will cast the fish net to catch the fish. I think it is the intelligent local wisdom of local people here.
This is really an authentic local people's way of life.
Each person has a unique pose.
Everyone has their own styles.
I really enjoy watching them; it is as if I'm watching ballet performance in the theatre. It is kind of having some Dry Ice floating all over the stage.
We stay at this area around an hour and after we are contented with taking some photos. We then head back to the resort to take shower and have some meal before continue riding on the boat to visit the important attractions in Inle Lake.
Upon reaching at the resort, I go to take some pictures at the back area of the resort when the sky is still bright and blue.
After breakfast, we continue riding on the boat, we chill out on the boat for a while, and then the boat has brought us to the first destination of today, Phaung Daw Oo Temple.
This temple is the ancient holy temple; it is the spiritual center of Intha people as Phaung Daw Oo Buddha Images or well known as Bua Khem Buddha Images have enshrined here.
Bua Khem Buddha Images were carving out of sandal wood. At first, Intha people find only four Buddha Images from the water, however, when building the throne for enshrine the Buddha Images, the miracle happens, there are five Buddha Images there.
Beside the temple, we can see the parking area of Kalavinka boat.
In the end of Buddhist Lent Day , the Intha will parade the Buddha Images around the village. Once, the Kalavinka boat which situated Bua Khem Buddha Images sink, only four of Buddha Images were found by the Intha and return to the temple. Surprisingly, the fifth Buddha Image has situated at the temple waiting for the four to return back. Therefore, this is why the Intha is very devout to Buakhem Buddha Images and covers the Buddha Images with the gold leaf until they cannot be seen as a Buddha statue figure.
After we are done at the Phaung Daw Oo Temple, we pass the Art and Craft center which located at the opposite of one temple that I didn't know the name. The Long neck Karen people will be welcoming the tourist in the front of the center as well.
The center also sells local products but the price is pretty high as it is set to sell to tourists especially. I know that because as I asked for a scarf price, I could not remember the exactly number but the price is around ten thousand kyat. Thus, I went back off because it is too expensive and we do not want to bargain it. By accident, I met Thai guy who can speak Burmese and he is bargaining the scarf at the time, hence, I ask him how much did he negotiate for. He was only negotiating for 3000 kyat!! I ask him to bargain for me as well but the seller knows that so he refused to sell it for me at 3000 kyat but I was offered for 3500 kyat instead; therefore, I did not buy it at that time.
However, when we are out of sight of the seller I ask the guy to buy 3 scarfs for me once again and this time, I got the scarf at 3,000 per piece.
There is a Flea Market for locals at the back of the center. In the market, there are souvenirs, clothes and plenty of fresh foods which are cheaper than the one in the center that I have been visited. I bought another linen cloth but comparing the price the one at the resort, it is 1000 kyat more expensive. However, It is alright as they doesn't have this color at the resort and I like it.
At the front of the centre, there are a pier for tourist to stop by which there are many vendors row the boat to sell things to the tourists.
Our final destination at Inle Lake is at Nga Phe Chaung Monastery. This temple has 162 years of age and it is the most respect place of the entire resident around the lake, therefore, there are many ancient art works that local people have created and give them to the temple.
One day the chief monk tried to train a cat which is very hard to train, finally, the cat that was trained could successfully jump through the loop. As a result, this temple was well-known that they could train a cat to jump even most of the travel books state this story and recommend their reader to visit the temple and watch with their own eyes. Nevertheless, the resort staff and the boat man told me that the cat doesn't jump anymore, thus, there are no more cat jumping show at this place now.
After the disappointment that there are no
more cat jumping show, we head back to the resort to have lunch and pack our luggage to return back to Yangon. We arrive at Heho
airport a little ahead of time. After check-in and get a sticker, then we have to sit and wait at the terminal building for quite sometimes
because the airport has nothing to do except to sit and wait. The funny thing
is that each time when the planes are ready to take off, the wind from the
propellers would carry all the dust through the passenger building. This time
I fly with Air KBZ airline and the flight takes approximately one hour and a
half. In the flight, they serve us water, candy and some appetizer as well.
Finally we reach Yangon, and have to rush to our hotel at Central Hotel. The
hotel costs around 2,500 baht per night. Besides, tonight we need to sleep early
as tomorrow we have to start the tour early in the morning.
In the early morning of the day ninth which is the last day of the trip, we will start our travelling program at Shwe Dagon Pagoda. This place is one of the five greatest worship place in Myanmar. I have been here twice already. The first time visiting, I came around twilight time, however, this time I come here at 5 in the morning. When the car is parked, we head to the elevator and go straight up to the temple. I heard the sound of people praying which at first I thought I came pretty early, however, I am still slower than the local Buddhists here.
The Shwe Dagon Pagoda was not created by mixing gold homogeneously but it was made by hitting real gold into plates and has it cover around the pagoda. Moreover, one plate of gold has the weigh around six baht (one baht=15.16grams) and if the gold are dull, they would take them off and clean them once a year; this tradition has been practiced for very long time. When combine weight of the gold of the entire pagoda, the gold that cover the whole pagoda have a weight of 1,100 kilograms and every five years will have one major renovation. They will use an iron grate like building a brick to fasten to the wall of the pagoda. Then use the brass to attach to the iron grate before. After that, place the gold plate over by using the pin to pitch it. In addition, the pin was made of gold as well, it is pretty superior. At the top of the Pagoda is a gold tiered umbrella which has been changed 3 times already. Furthermore, on the gold tiered umbrella, there are diamond rings, gold necklace and numerous kinds of jewelry which come from the noble faith of Myanmar people to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. It is believed that the pagoda has enshrined 8 lines hair relics of the Lord Buddha.
We wait until the sky begins to change color.
The sky gradually lights up.
Let's take a silhouette photo.
The halls inside the Shwe Dagon Pagoda.
The bright blue sky with Shwe Dagon Pagoda.
At the front of Shwe Dagon Pagoda is situated two outsized lion figures.
Our second destination is at the Tooth relic Temple which was built according to the ancient Bagan architecture style. This temple is in octagonal palace shape and the top is ornamented with the real gold.
At this moment, I could not stay outside for too long as the weather is terribly hot and my feet are burning. Beside, the novice ask us to make the merit all the time, therefore, I quickly entered the pagoda.
In the middle of the pagoda, we could find the golden and elegant pavilion. Inside the pavilion was enshrined the tooth relic model of the Lord Buddha which is derived from Nanzhao kingdom and around the pavilion will also have the different birthday Buddha Images lined up for the Buddhists to pray a respect.
Our third destination is at World Peace Pagoda, this pagoda was enshrined the sacred relics of the Lord Buddha and the relics of the Maudgalyayana and Sariputta disciples. The pagoda is in round shape and its height and diameter measurement are at 34 meters. Inside has been built resemble to Mahapasana cave or Sattabannakuha cave according to the one in Rajgir city.
Moreover, this place also situated a model of Mahamuni Buddha Image. The first time I came here, I was thrilled with this Mahamuni Buddha model, however, when I already saw the real one at Mandalay, I felt a slightly indifferent of this model of Buddha Image. Almost all of the temple in Yangon will all charge the camera fee.
Our fourth destination is the Mahapasana Cave, the tunnel entrance was decorated with a piece of jade (real jade). This tunnel was once used for the place for the sixth revision of Tripitaka, and latest, it is a location for holding the Buddhist Summit in December 2004 as well.
Today, it seems to have some special event here as I see that there are table with Dharma book placed on. It is completely different than the time I have been here as it was just an open space and look like a stadium.
Our fifth destination is Baramee Temple. We come here to worship the hair of the Lord Buddha which they believed that is still actually alive. This temple is well-known as they store most of the Buddha relics here, whether it be, Maudgalyayana, Sariputta and others disciples. The chief monk will be the one who prepare the ceremony for us to see that the Buddha's hairs are indeed alive.
After the ceremony, he gave us some of the relics to respect back home. Our former Prime Minister, Mr.Abhisit had come to worship the hair relics here as well. It's strange that this temple is well-known for Thai's people over the Myanmar as most people do not know this temple. My van driver still does not know this place, I have to explain the location for the driver and it is quite hard, fortunately, I have found one of the Myanmar tour guide at the Tooth relic temple so I asked him to wrote the name down in Burmese for my driver. However, the driver still does not know and we have to ask the locals along the way for direction.
The sixth destination is at Kyauk Htatgyi Buddha or well-know by Thai people as sweet eyes Buddha.
The Kyauk Htatgyi Buddha has been named as the largest and most beautiful reclining Buddha of Myanmar. The Buddha length is more than 70 meters and the robe is in stucco design with a realistic movement. An another thing that is not like the recline Buddha in Thailand is that the tip of the toe as the reclining Buddha of Thailand will place the feet vertically stacked on each other but in Myanmar the bottom finger feet is somewhat parallel to the ground. The other side of the feet is set to put his feet on the other one.
Under the foot, there is a Thammachak painting at the central sight and surrounded by a 108 auspicious figures.
I could guarantee you the sweetness of the Buddha eyes; I am not tired to look in the eye as it looks very lively.
I even could see the reflection in the eyes. I really respect the person who builds it.
I admit that they pay attention to every detail even the eyelashes.
Botataung Paya Pagoda. The pagoda was built by one thousand soldiers to enshrine the relics of the Lord Buddha that eight India monks brought along 2000 years ago. This pagoda had been bombed in the center of the Pagoda from the Allies of World War II. Therefore, after that they found the golden urn containing the hair relics and other relics of the Lord Buddha, moreover, they discovered 700 Buddha images in gold, silver and bronze. They also found the inscription in Pali text and Brahmin letters in South Indian which are the prototype of Burmese language.
Inside the temple, there are three important places. The first place I chose to go to worship is Bobogyi spirit as Mon and Burmese people usually come to worship. They believed that every wish will be fulfilled straight away.
Botataung pagoda, where the hair relics of the Lord Buddha have been enshrined covering with a clear glass mondop.
Inside the pagoda is beautifully covered with gold leaf. It's very splendid to look at.
In some corner, the locals will come to sit and pray. The monks and nuns come to practice meditation which seem to add the mystique to the pagoda very well.
And the last place is the golden Buddha Image in the attitude of subduing Mara which is quite spectacular. According to the history, this Buddha Image was enshrined at the Mandalay Palace before. However, during the time when the British colonized Burma, it was transported to the Museum of Calcutta in India instead. As a result, it was a great thing as it was saved from the bomb of the Allies at Mandalay palace. Later, the Buddha Image is held an exhibition at the Museum of Victoria and Albert and finally it has been brought back to enshrine at this place.
I would end our trip to Myanmar at the Scott market. Let's do some shopping here, we have a lots of kyat money to spend. Therefore, we bought back some Tanaka cream and get a sarong which is pretty reasonable price compare to the material. The price is around 3000 kyat. And then we headed to Yangon airport, flying back to Thailand .. Thwa Dau Mal.. Myanmar.
Currently, AirAsia just launches new routes from Bangkok - Mandalay. It is an alternative way to travel to Myanmar, therefore, you could fly to Mandalay first and then continue travelling and end the trip at Yangon and fly back to Bangkok. This route will save your budget a lot and will cut one route on domestic flights for you.