A Travellerspoint blog

Inle Lake

We are back in Yangon and have an internet connection now. The last couple of places were an exercise in patience for sure. Had an amazing meal here again at this 5 star hotel next to ours and they will let us spend the day at their pool and spa tomorrow for $1 each.
Here is the blog of our four days at the amazing Inle Lake.

We flew from Bagan to HeHo airport and arrived at 9AM. Our drive in from the airport took just under an hour down the main road which was just over one lane wide. On either side of the road was a creek with homes on stilts and people working in the very fertile looking red soil on the other side of the creek.

We are staying in hotel that is on the outskirts of a small town. Our home for the next four nights is a bamboo bungalow overlooking fields of bamboo and sugarcane. There is a lovely pool and we are welcomed with a very much appreciated cold drink whenever we return. The hotel is only two years old and the man and woman who own it have immense pride and you feel as though you are in a five star hotel. We discuss what we are going to do for the next few days and he helped us organize our trips to take advantage of local markets and events.

What’s that noise? Oh it is silence. AHHHH. No motorcycles or honking horns 24/7.

We hop on the bicycles that are provided and explore the small town. The roads are very rough and bumpy but we manage. Lana has not been on a bike since she was 10 and did extremely well. Feeling a bit more oriented we head back to the hotel to laze around the pool for the rest of the afternoon and yet again another early night.

At 6AM we head to the top floor of the reception area for our included breakfast. The hotel only had 8 rooms but we are the only ones there at this time of the morning. He feeds us a large plate of sweet papaya and watermelon, thin crepe like pancakes (to die for) toast and egg juice and tea. We insist that this is far too much food and please give us less tomorrow. It was a wonderful start to the day however.
Our boat man met us in the lobby at 6:30A and we walk for 10 minutes to the boat jetty. A long tail boat with three wooden chairs is waiting for us. We are bundled up with four layers of clothing and he also has a blanket for us as it is very cold. Within ten minutes we see many fishermen on the lake who are the one leg rowers. They stand on the bow of flat wooden dugout canoes with perfect balance and agility. They wrap one foot around the oar and row the boat with their leg. This leaves one hand free to work the nets. It is amazing to watch.
Women and men were dragging nets in shallow water for shrimp and well as fishing for fish. We travel south on the lake and all the tourists in boats are passing us going north. This makes us very happy. Our trip will take three hours just to get there so not many tourists go to this area of the lake. We need to pick up a Pa O guide. TunTun is from a local tribe and we need to pay an entrance fee and also for his services for the day to go to this area. He is a lovely young man of 20 something and his English is excellent as well as his sense of humor. The lake is like glass and as we pass the many villages with homes on stilts they reflect in the water and the light is amazing. As we turn off onto smaller waterways we see that this part of the lake is green with water lilies and we are going though of path of only about three feet in width with the lilies on either side. We take turns with other boats coming towards us as the opening is so narrow. There are some boats like ours, small dugout canoes and larger long wooden boats carrying many goods to other parts of the lake. There are so many fishermen on the lake and most will wave and smile if we wave at them. The children especially love to wave and say hello to us. There are little villages of homes on stilts at various parts of the lake. To visit your neighbor you would have to take a boat as they are all separated by water. Under most of the homes are areas where they have minnows and when they are big enough they release them into the lake so that they keep their fish supply up. Men and women walk to the bottom of their stairs to use the washing machine, dishwasher and bath or more accurately the lake. The lake water looks very clean and is used for everything. The women wear a sarong and bathe on the stairs with their sarong on, just soaping it down. The men do the same in their longhis.
another fisherman

another fisherman

man standing on boat

man standing on boat

boy rowing with leg

boy rowing with leg

As we travel south we watch the landscape change from jungle like vegetation to where the lake is sandwiched between two large hills on either side and looks very much like Kamloops or part of the interior of B.C.
We arrive at San Kar, which is on another large lake connected by the narrow waterway that we have just arrived one. This is a manmade lake as the government flooded the area in 1990 when they built a dam. There are some temples that are partially under water because of this and some are in the middle of the lake. The town that used to be there had to move as it is now flooded. We got out of the boat and started to walk through the village. I had to use the toilet (of course you did as my kids would say), so Tun Tun asked a local family if I could use the one in their home as they were all out sitting on the deck. They directed me to the out house at the back of the house which did the job. I wanted to show my appreciation and had some kazoos in my pack so gave the three children each a kazoo and showed them how to use them. We had a bit of fun with that .
women getting shrimp

women getting shrimp

ruins at SanKar in the water

ruins at SanKar in the water


Ten minutes of walking and we came upon a local market which only happens once a week and why our hotel owner suggested we go here today. We were the only tourists. Shan tribe people come from all over the area to sell trade and buy their goods here. The men and woman wear either red or orange cloths wrapped around their heads as a headdress and wear black clothing. We bought some produce and some wild rice from the mountains which we will take home. There was a woman making beetle nut packages which was very interesting. They put flavorings in the leaves to give it different tastes. Apparently it is like a strong caffine and the drivers chew it to keep awake. Tun Tun showed us many plants and spices for sale . They use every part of a plant or tree either for food, medicine, decoration or furniture. Nothing goes to waste. The only garbage you see is that evil plastic which is polluting the entire planet.
shan woman waiting

shan woman waiting

market women

market women

There were very old ruins from the 5th century all overgrown and crumbling. Walking through this and other villages we saw how they make pottery by turning the wheel with their foot, and rice wine at the distillery where Jane and Lana tried the local moonshine. Another weaving place on the lake explained how they make fabric out of lotus flowers. They use 800 stalks to make one scarf. The prices are very high because of the length of time it takes to make them but they are beautiful.

Some of the lilies are in bloom and a bright fushia pink color. According to our guide someone introduced the water lilies here a number of years ago and like our broom it has taken over. We were going through a small area off the lake and got stuck. The engine on these boats are designed so as to go on the top of the water or deeper so as not to get tangled in the weeds. We got into an area of too many plants and the boat stopped. In no time the water lilies surrounded us and wedged us in. It was like a horror movie “attack of the water lilies”. Our driver and guide had to work the boat for at least a ½ hour to free it, rocking it, trying to push it with the paddles and moving it. They could not go into the lake as the water lilies were too thick. We did get a little nervous as they were rocking it quite a bit and walking on the edges of the boat, we would lean the other way to counter balance but it felt like the boat might tip over. It would be easy to drown as you wouldn’t be able to find your way to the surface.
lilies

lilies

village on lake

village on lake

We did escape of course and continued on our journey. As the day wore on we peeled off layers of clothing and put on our hats and applied sunscreen. It was only around 25 degrees but felt warmer and it was very dusty walking around the villages. We only saw two other tourists the entire day which was wonderful.

shan woman at market

shan woman at market

shan men at the maket

shan men at the maket


A restaurant in the middle of the lake was where we had lunch and it was okay, not fantastic but did the trick.
We said goodbye to Tun Tun back at the hotel he works at and continued on for another hour back to our little town. We see many more fisherman and watch the sun go down turning the sky a beautiful red color. We had been on the water for 11 long but amazing hours. Our boatman did not speak any English but was very perceptive of our needs, slowing down for us to take pictures whenever he saw the camera come up and sometimes he just knew that we would want to take a picture of something before we did.
one leg rower

one leg rower

girls on the boat inle

girls on the boat inle

Our entire day cost $50 in total but we tipped both of them very handsomely for a very memorable day.

Day 3. The same driver took us onto the lake for a ½ day tour. The three of us were moving a little slower today and never went out on the boat until 8:30AM. We did not have a guide today as we were not going as far down the lake and did not require one. The lake had a very thick fog for the first hour but then the sun came through and it was another gorgeous day. The lake is so blue and once again like a mirror. Our stops today included a silversmith where we watched them make silver jewelry. Everything is done by hand and without any machinery but the jewelry was very expensive. Next stop was an umbrella making factory. We told the driver no, we did not want to go but he pulled up anyhow and we are glad that he did. The factory was run by a family from the Shan Tribe and there were some ladies there with the long necks. Two older women and two young girls. At first I was torn, do I take pictures as this encourages putting these women on display for the tourists to gawk at? In the end we couldn’t help it. I talked to the younger girls, asked them if it hurt and they said no. They start when they are 14 and stop adding rings when they are 19. They have a total of 20 rings and it does not elongate your neck but push down on your shoulder blades to give the illusion of a longer neck, or giraffe neck as they are sometimes known as. They also have gold bands around their calves. This tradition was started years ago because the prince of Myanmar at the time would travel the country and kidnap all the beautiful women for himself. The elders of the tribe decided to make their women less attractive to the price by making the girls ugly with these rings. The tradition still continnues today and the girls told us that they do so willingly in their village.
long neck woman face

long neck woman face

long neck women weaving

long neck women weaving


young shan girls

young shan girls


long neck woman

long neck woman


These women come down from their village and according to the shop keeper are paid by the shop and do some weaving there as well as attract the tourists who will spend money on their goods. We did give each of them some money for taking their pictures which they gladly accepted. Our guide says that they work there because they need a job, just like everyone else, and do this willingly.

Another temple was on the agenda. We are pretty much templed out. As we get off the boat we see miles of vendors on either side of the road selling souveniers and food stuffs. We run the gauntlet to the ruins at the top of the hill. But we didn’t get away. All of us ended up buying some goods, helping to stimulate the economy here. These folks were not very aggressive though so it was a pleasure to look.
There are 1000 ruins here all very close together and in a great state of disrepair. They are made of brick and many have missing statues or heads of statues and lots of greenery growing on and around them. There is evidence of some restoration and even some newer ones being built.
trail through the lilies

trail through the lilies

shan woman with baby

shan woman with baby

ruins at Indien

ruins at Indien


ruins at San Kar

ruins at San Kar

I stopped to change the memory card in my camera and put my things on the ground, spilling out a few items in my back pack. Before I know it a bull has made his way over to check out what I had dropped and ate my banana. I am trying to pick up my things, Jane and Lana are just laughing and not helping at all, the bull is pushing me out of the way with his horns and looks as though he is going after my wallet!! I quickly grab everything and move them to a shelf on one of the ruins. Thanks Jane and Lana! That could have been a disaster.

From here we continue to a place on the water where they make cheroots, or Myanmar cigars. They add anise or other flavors to the tobacco. I don’t know anyone who smokes any more so we didn’t buy any. On the way back we went through some floating gardens where they grow miles of tomatoes beans and flowers as well as other vegetables. They are on trellis’ in the water and quite ingenious. They get plenty of sun and you never have to water them.
Our afternoon was spent around the pool reading our books. Lana and I stayed up past 10:30 tonight! Wo Hoo…

Day 4. Another huge breakfast and we start off on our journey north with our hired driver and the fancy tourist van that transported us in complete comfort for the day.
We drove an hour or so north passing small villages and towns along the way. There was a government military base, all walled with barbed wire, that seemed to go on for miles and miles. Inside were homes for all the military and their families in the Shan state, which is where we are.
The town of Taunggyi is at the top of the mountain and we are so surprised at how big it was, over 300,000 in population, and it was so clean and fairly modern. The cars are newer and in better shape, the roads and sidewalks in good repair and it seems to be a much more prosperous town. When the British occupied Burma they would come up here because it is so much cooler. We stopped at a local market and it was very different from the others we had been to. Everything was clean, well presented and fresh. The fish was so fresh it was still flapping around. Really, they were lying there still alive.

We picked up a 50 kilo bag of rice and our driver put it into the van for us. We had wanted to go to another school in Inle Lake but our hotel owner said that it would be difficult to do here and suggested one of the three orphanages in Taunggyi that he supports. The one we chose was run by three older sisters who never married and two of the sisters have died so only one left to run things. It was started by her grandmother so now third generation and they currently have 200 children there from the age of 2 and up. There were only the pre schoolers there in the morning so we left the rice and decided to come back after our trip to Kakku.
orphanage

orphanage

children in orphanage

children in orphanage


Again we had to pay a fee and pick up a Pa O guide for the trip to Kakku. The fee is $3 each and the guide is $10 for the day. His name is long so he said to call him Mr. A. He is around 40 years old and very warm and friendly with a great sense of humor. On the drive, south now, he tells us a lot of information about the Pa O people and the area. It appears to be an area rich in agriculture, the road is one lane paved, but with major pot holes, and bright orange red soil on either side. He says the soil is not good for growing things as it is rich in iron, but none the less the fields are green and lush with many crops growing. We see groups of four or more women with their large conical bamboo hats squatting in the fields tending to the garlic and other crops. We can imagine that they spend the day chatting and perhaps gossiping while they work. There are rolling hills of green fields and everything is neat and tidy. You can tell that they take great pride in their homes and surroundings. We get out to walk a bit, we need to move around after sitting so long, and find that the temperature is much cooler up here.

Mr A took us to his village and we walked down a path to the pagoda (temple). Each town and village has to have a pagoda and a monastery as all the boys have to do a stint as a monk. A lot of our guides and drivers only lasted a couple of weeks because the monks only eat twice a day, breakfast and lunch, and as boys they got too hungry. Each of them had joined around age 10 but came home after a couple of weeks. The minimum requirement is one week but you can stay as long as you like. The pagoda is large and in great shape with more being built. There are small bells at the top and the wind was blowing so the sound of the bells tinkling was very magical. All the carvings are done by hand and we watch as one young man is cutting away some wet cement to create some very ornate decorations on a newly built pagoda.

Beside the pagoda was another temple and we were invited inside to sit and have tea with the head monk and another monk. Neither spoke English but it was a wonderful opportunity none the less.
Next stop Kakku. This a group of 2,278 temples and we only saw one other tourist there which was great. They are all very close together and all have bells on top which were ringing because there was a wonderful breeze. It was so peaceful and quiet except for the sound of the bells. Mr. A said that sometimes tourists come and the wind does not blow which is a disappointment to them, but we are very blessed as it is a windy day. The temples were built in 3000 BC by a king in India and then more and more thereafter. They are in very good condition because they were not discovered by the Western world until 1990. Because there weren’t any real roads here the British and Japanese never found them during their occupation. The carvings were incredible and we loved this place, different from the others that we have been to.
pagodas at kakku

pagodas at kakku

//photos.travellerspoint.com/341001
our Pa O guide Mr A

our Pa O guide Mr A

kakku

kakku


In Myanmar everything is made by hand, there is no machinery for much of anything which keeps everyone working. One machine could put 10 people out of a job and they want to keep it that way. If you build a house the foundation is all dug by shovel and carvings and printing all by hand. Driving back we saw where they were working on the road and there was about a 15 foot area and a man running with a square bucket with holes in the bottom full of hot tar, tarring the road.
We say goodbye to Mr. A and then head to the market again to buy some books. The woman who runs the orphanage was saying how expensive it is to send the kids to school and keep up with new exercise books and pens etc. Jane and I went into a stationary store and bargain with the shop keepers for exercise books for different grade levels. In the end they gave us a couple of extra packages and we were able to buy 120 exercise books for the kids at the orphanage.
When we arrived back there was a man around our age from Belgium who had come with gifts and what we suspect was a healthy donation from his friends. One of his good friends is a dentist and he comes once or twice a year to do dentistry there.
We are shown to a building at the back of the main one, which our hotel owner built for them, and she calls some of the children to come inside. We had around 35 children from age 3 to 16 and played a Bingo Numbers game. Again we had a lot of fun as did they. Our driver was right in there with us and he was having fun too. This orphanage was so well run, the kids were clean and happy and the woman running it was very loving and kind to all. She says she never turns away a child and is the only one who will take babies or kids with disabilities. She follows the Christian faith. I would love to help out more but it is impossible to send money here, you would have to bring it in personally.

Our drive back is around an hour and a half and take the opportunity to talk to our driver to find out more about Myanmar. He was saying the taxes in Myanmar are so expensive for vehicles and people opening shops, all going to the military. The van we were driving in cost over $250,000 after the price and all the taxes were paid. It was probably a $50,000 van at home.
We spend our last night in Inle Lake at a terrible restaurant unfortunately. The food at our hotel is the only great food we have had here. Now we are back to Yangon for our last days in Myanmar. What a wonderful trip, each area having its own charm.

Posted by debbep 06:45 Comments (2)

Last day in Bagan

How can each day be so fantastic?! Our last day in Bagan was just as wonderful as the first. We were going to ride bikes today but the traffic in the morning was still pretty busy with all the villagers leaving to go back to their home. We found a horse cart and driver out front so decided to hire him for the day. What a great choice as he was just perfect. We headed north this time and went to a little market and wandered around for about an hour. We picked up some books and pens and pencils to drop off at a local school, more on that later.

When we were in the local part it was great, no one was bothering us because they figured we wouldn’t buy anything anyhow. We did get some little shelled peanuts to bring home and some tamarind candies, both of which are served free when ever you go to a restaurant and we just love them. Then we hit the tourist stuff. I was getting overwhelmed with all these women yelling and holding things up in front of us. I held up my hands and just said a firm ‘NO’ and they backed off a bit. We bought a couple of souvenirs and then this woman came and wrapped a longhi (long skirt) around Lana and then put a blouse on her. They just came up and dressed her. I said it looked nice, which it did, so they started to dress me too. Before I knew it was in a silk blouse and long skirt in that blue color that I love. I almost felt violated it happened so fast. But we ended up buying them…….how does this happen? They are so dam good!! Jane was smart and just walked away.
We made our way back to our horse cart and off to the post office to buy stamps. You can only buy stamps and mail letters at the post office and they are only open Monday to Friday 9-5 so it has been a challenge to get them. I want to send some off to my 93 year old father in law. We went down some peaceful back roads and saw more of village life here.

It is so much quieter here today than yesterday. Unfortunately at least five young men died here last night in traffic accidents on the main road. All motorcycles. There were lots of fights as well so glad that we stayed in.

We made our way back to our hotel slowly and had a couple of hours to relax read and swim. Our driver picked us up again at 2PM and we made our way to a little village primary school that our driver Min Thu yesterday suggested we might want to visit. Our driver came in with us which was great and told the teacher what we wanted to do and then we were sent to the head of the school (principal) and talked to her. Primary schools, up to grade 8, are free of charge. We were only allowed to go to a village school however. High school and university cost money.
kids at school

kids at school

me at school

me at school


She brought us to a grade 6 class and between her and our driver explained to the teacher what we wanted to do. They were all for it so I brought out a game that I had bought at home and one that I had used when I taught English in Laos last year. It is a Bingo game with pictures of things like Dog, Cat, Shirt, Tree etc.
There were 39 kids in the class all crammed together. They were looking at us wide eyed with curiosity as to what these strange women were going to do in their classroom.

We handed out one bingo card and chips for each two children. I briefly explained the game but they caught on right away. I called out the English words and Lana and Jane went around to help the children with the words that were less familiar to them. It started out very calm and controlled but as they got closer to filling their cards it got very exciting. The recess bell went but no one moved. Children from other classes came and were hanging in through the windows watching and shouting out to the children when they saw that they had one of the pictures on their card of what I was calling out. Each group would fill their card and put their hand up and be so excited, but like in Laos it didn’t matter much if they were first or not, they were just excited to finish. We had a blast. Our driver was having so much fun too, walking around and helping the kids with the game. We left the game with the principal and then went across the school yard to the grade one class. We handed out some exercise books and pencils but didn’t have enough. We gave the rest pens but they are not able to use pens until a higher grade unfortunately. We couldn’t leave without giving each child something however. We had such a great time and our driver was grinning from ear to ear.

Back to the money changer. We decided to get more money here as we would need some in the next few days anyhow and we heard that the exchange rate in Inle Lake is not as good. Funny how the exchange rate differs by what city you are in.
Then it was time for a coffee so we went to a really nice hotel to sit by the pool and have an amazing cup of coffee. I haven’t been drinking coffee but indulged anyhow and it was wonderful. We decided that we like our hotel better and ours is $250 a night less too.
I used the free internet and computer there to try and work on my blog, I had it on a memory stick. I work on it at night in my room on my little net book. The internet here was a little better than our hotel. I got most of it on and then the internet went out. It is so frustrating to go on the internet here. You have to refresh every two minutes. You need a lot of patience that is for sure. Pictures here were very hard to download. Inle Lake may be better, but I am not holding my breath. I really didn’t expect to have internet at all in Myanmar so it is all a bonus anyhow.

By now it was 4:30PM and getting close to sunset so we went to a temple that we were at yesterday and climbed to the top to see the sunset from there. Lana and I are both afraid of heights and get vertigo, but doing really well here on these narrow steep stairs up to the top of the temples without hand rails or anything.
us in horse cart bagan

us in horse cart bagan

us at temple in bagan

us at temple in bagan


temples in bagan

temples in bagan

This temple had a lot less people on it, the view was not as good but we were very happy to be there. We met two couples from England, a single guy from Cologne, and two women from France so had a chance to talk and joke with each of them.
As we headed back to the area around the temple where the festival was last night we passed the place that was bumper to bumper with ox carts and tents. It was now empty of people and all evidence of them being there was gone too. They cleaned everything up, burnt what refuse they had and left it as they found it.

Our last dinner in Bagan was back at the ‘Moon’ restaurant and we ordered exactly what we had yesterday and it did not disappoint. The full moon was overhead, the night was quiet and gorgeous. What more could you ask for? Packing up for our next stop we are hopeful that we can close our suitcases after all our purchases. I had said I wouldn’t buy anything!! Not working out too well.

pictures will follow when we have a better internet.

Posted by debbep 23:59 Comments (1)

Bagan part two

Jane and Lana were up early and did a hot air balloon ride over Bagan this morning and said it was fantastic. Seeing the thousands of temples from the air would have been magical. I had just done one in Laos last year so opted out. We met for breakfast afterwards at 9AM and they were still flying with the excitement of it all.
bagan 2 239

bagan 2 239

The horse cart driver that I had originally booked came at 9:30AM. We had a communication problem about yesterday which is such a shame as he was incredible. He spent the day taking us to various temples but came inside with us and explained everything in detail and gave us so much information about the people the history and the temples. He is such a gentle and kind young man of around 25 years old. He graduated with a BA in Economics but can’t find a job here for his training. His knowledge of Bagan and the temples was incredible though. It makes such a difference to be with a guide who can explain what you are looking at and how to put it all into perspective. 80 percent of the temples were destroyed in the 1975 earthquake and UNESCO came in to try to restore a lot of them but after a short time they were told to leave by the Myanmar Government. It is amazing that this is not a world heritage site, but the government will not co operate with UNESCO in any way. Our guide, Min Thu, showed us the temples that did get restored and the old and new parts of them. There were photos of what they looked like before the restoration to compare. It was fascinating. He took us to a number of temples where we were the only ones there, off the beaten track.
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bagan 2 196

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bagan 2 096

bagan 2 019

bagan 2 019


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bagan 2 127

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bagan 2 087

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bagan 2 032

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bagan 2 182

There is a full moon tomorrow and a festival at one of the larger temples. Thousands of people have come into Bagan for the weekend for this festival. They came mostly by oxen and cart and have set up tent cities all over the town. Bus loads of kids are pulling in and having a great time already. These buses have the inside full to the brim with passengers and then 20 or more young men sitting on the roof singing and dancing. We see large dump trucks full of people too. The monastaries and temples are full of these campers and it is such a treat for us to be here during this time. Large pots of rice and vegetables are cooking over open fires in the midst of 50 to 100 per group. The amazing thing is that they are all looking at us. They most likely come from villages that don’t get tourists. We went into one old monastery and there must have been over 100 people from a village camped out there. There was a woman about my age smoking a cheroot which looks like a cigar, and I asked if I could see it which she obliged. I then asked if I could take her picture which is fine as well, then another woman who was 82 came out and we exchanged smiles and she said I could take her picture as well. I showed them the pictures on the camera which they thought was very funny and then I went off into the monastery so that Min Thu could explain things to us about the architecture. When we came out the older woman came up and wanted to give me a bowl of peanuts. I said that one or two would be fine but she insisted I take the entire bowl. It was so sweet. We were like the pied piper, all of the people came out and were looking at us and smiling and curious. One boy came over and found a snake related to a viper but non poisionous that was about 6 feet long wrapped around his shoulders to show us. We had interactions with these villagers all afternoon as they were set up all over Old Bagan. It was wonderful.
Bagan is divided into three parts. Most of the temples are in Old Bagan. The government kicked all the people out of Old Bagan and made them pack up and move to New Bagan in the 90s so as to put hotels in the Old Bagan area for tourists. There is also another little town as part of the three which is Nyaung U.
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bagan 2 242

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bagan 2 140

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bagan 2 137

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bagan 2 163


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bagan 2 145


We broke for lunch at ‘Moon’ Vegetarian restaurant which was also written up in Lonely planet. The food was amazing. We each got a dish to share, the best meal yet. The kitchen was a little dirt hovel, best not to look inside, but the food was so delicious. We sat at an outdoor table with a trellis of bougainvillea over our heads. The owner came over and sat with us for a bit and told us about his business and how the tourism has gone up and down over the last few years because of the government and tourists not coming because of them and then the cyclone of 2008 didn’t help tourism. Last year after Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and the new leader of government was elected the tourism has gone way up. He is hoping that tourism will continue to rise. We have heard that Myanmar is the number one place to go for 2012.

We complimented him on his wonderful food and I told him I had been a vegetarian for 32 years and trying to convert Lana and Jane. Fat chance. Jane will eat anything!

He came back to our table later and gave me a ‘Moon Restaurant ‘ t shirt and Jane and Lana a cool wooden bottle opener. What a wonderful surprise.

Min Thu was coming back at 2:30 so we had a few minutes to wander around and explore. This was a hopping area as it is right beside the Ananda Temple where the festival is taking place. It is also an area where they are selling large pots and planters and there were hundreds of them all lined up in rows.

I wandered off to see the camping villagers and take some pictures and came upon an older and younger monk crouching down behind some large pots sneaking a smoke.
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bagan 2 114

We toured more temples in the afternoon a little different as these had paintings inside from the 11th century. It is just incredible that these paintings are still here after all these years. Some have been restored but many are the original and in colors of red blue green and yellow.
Our last stop was a money changer in the black market. The further you get from Yangon the lower the exchange rate apparently. There was a woman inside a laquerware shop and we sat down on wooden couches to do our transaction. It is all in the open , we hand over 3 brand new 100 US Dollar bills and she goes to the back of the shop and unlocks a door. She returns with a large package of money and counts out three bundles of 78,000 Kyat in 1000 bills. We all recount the money and Lana was short 8,000 so asked the woman if she would please count it again. She did and realized her mistake so gave Lana another 8,000. I am convinced it was an honest mistake, I don’t know how she counted the money anyhow as she had two people talking to her and asking her questions the entire time she was counting. We leave with our huge wad of bills and head home. People wander around here with wads of money in their hands all the time and no one worries about being robbed or any problems because of it. Someone once told me that you could walk around Myanmar with money taped to your clothes and no one would try to take any of it and I believe that would be true.

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bagan 2 085

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bagan 2 006

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bagan 2 119


Day 3.
We are in front of our hotel at 7:30AM to hail a cab or horse cart to get to the Ananda Temple by 8AM. There is a steady procession of people on foot, motorcycle and large busses heading that way as well. There are thousands of them, it looks like a pilgrimage. We are finally able to get a taxi and reach the temple just before 8. We heard that there was going to be Alms given to the monks today. I had thought that it would be like it was in Laos where people lined up and put food in the Monks bowls. This was quite different and on a much grander scale. There was an L shaped platform about 5 feet high and probably 50 feet in one part and 100 feet long on the other. They were filled with offerings from local people. Bowls of peanuts, bananas, rice,and different foods as well as money. There were thousands of people there and it was so interesting to see the different villagers. They were all smiling at us and saying hello and giggling. Out of the crowd comes this old woman towards us laughing out loud, cackling really, and looking at us and just laughing and laughing. We thought,’ is she the town crazy woman?’ Then we recognized her as the woman who gave us the peanuts yesterday and she was just so happy to see us. What a great moment.

A monk is chanting over the loudspeaker for the next hour or so and Lana figured out that monks from each village would line up all together and the monk would be chanting the name of their village or monastery . Each monk would get some food and an envelope. When they were finished they would go to another area and all sit together and compare and sort out their loot. It was like Christmas. We watched this older monk on his own open his envelope and there we some bills inside, I am not sure how many Kyat there was but he had this huge smile on his face.
young monks lined up

young monks lined up

young monks

young monks

monks lining up

monks lining up

offering for monks

offering for monks

We watched this well dressed man handing out crisp new bills to each of the monks as they passed by. I nodded to him and gestured how wonderful that was. The woman with him called me over and handed me a big stack of bills and told me to give two to each monk that passed by. A very special moment for me for sure. The couple was from Mandalay and probably done well for themselves so giving back. It was so generous of them to share their moment with me too.
A number of young monks came up to us with US dollars and asked if we would change them for them. We gladly exchanged US for Kyat. They would not be able to exchange them most likely.

We toured the temple a bit and then headed towards a spot to have some tea. It was so crowded, crazy really. It was like a Harley Davidson convention with all the motorcycles except that they weren’t Harley Davidson bikes, they were small 100 cc or there abouts. Lots of young men on motorcycles and being very wreckless and we felt things were really heating up. We had planned on coming back tonight to see the dancing and full moon festivities but had second thoughts as there will be a lot of these young men drinking too much and the crowds were just too unpleasant.

We decided to go back to our hotel and had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon swimming, sunning reading and playing cards. I even fell asleep for a bit of a nap. I went for a pedicure and it is great to have clean feet, for a few minutes anyhow.
For dinner we tried a resteraunt in the other direction from our hotel and were pleasantly surprised to be entertained by some local music and some marionettes. The five men working the puppets were so talented and the evening was a wonderful surprise. I ordered a mystery vegetable dish and ate something that was super hot, some kind of jalapeno or something. My throat and mouth was on fire and it was so painful. I couldn’t believe it! Lana went and got me a little package of sugar and I put it in my mouth to melt. Amazing, the fire was gone. I had never heard of that before.

Another early night again.

Posted by debbep 05:10 Comments (2)

how to navigate this blog

The blog will always open at the last entry. Sometimes I will do two or maybe even 3 entries at a time. If you go the the index it will show the order of blogs, or you can scroll down on the one that comes up.
Thanks for all the comments and following along. I hope to add another blog tomorrow but the internet in Bagan is painful. Having a blast though.

Posted by debbep 06:04 Comments (4)

Bagan

Our hotel here is gorgeous. We are taking turns having our own room as three in a room is a challenge here, so I have my own for the next five nights. It is a huge modern clean (for Myanmar) room on the edge of the pool. There are lots of resteraunts serving vegetarian food here too so I am a happy person.

We had arranged a horse cart driver for the next two days but he did not show up this morning. The internet here is very temperamental so I couldn’t check my emails back and forth to him so we just hired another horse cart driver to take us to the temples. One would sit in front beside the driver and the other two in the back. Sounds romantic and fun doesn’t it, a horse cart in Bagan going to visit all the temples. Not. It was very bumpy and uncomfortable and only the person in front had a really good view.

There are thousands of temples in a very small area, it is breathtaking. There are the golden pagodas, one of which we went to first. Again, it was nice but we are getting pagodaed out already. We met two German women there who said that they have pagodaitis. Seen one you have seen a thousand. But the rest were the Cambodian type. Clustered together in fields, some small some huge. A few of them looked like castles. Our guide said that there are now 4,000 but before the earthquake in 1975 there were 4 million. We are not sure about that number but suffice to say there were a lot more and a large number of them ended up in the river because of the earthquake. They were built by wealthy families, each one would have their own temple.

One of things that we don’t appreciate here I’m afraid is all the people trying to sell us things. We arrive at a major pagoda and find sellers with their shops on either side of the walkway on the way in. When we arrived at one these three ladies practically accosted us getting out of the cart and were very insistent that we look at their shops. It is hard to get away from them. If you show any interest at all they follow you until you either get almost rude or buy it. One mask I was looking at started at 35,000 Kyat and I ended up getting it for 10,000 but I am not even sure I really wanted it……

In front of one we saw some ladies and children selling what looked like small pieces of wood, so we went and asked what they were for. They showed us how the end of the wood is ground on a small platform with water and then the little girls put some of the yellow paste on our cheeks and noses. This is the paste that everyone wears on their faces. We had no idea that it came from a tree. I bought a small pack of it and then we started taking pictures and joking around with them. This little girl had a small package of it in a plastic bag and was holding it in front of me. I kept saying,’ no thank you I just bought one’. She kept insisting and so I opened my pack to show her that I already had one and realized that she had not given it to me yet and was trying to get me to take it. They are so honest.
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bagan 091


The women all try to trade their goods for lipstick, mascara or perfume. I wish I had brought some with me to trade for their goods. Our hotel clerk was telling us that the people here are so poor. The hotel staff only work in the winter as do the horse cart drivers. The summer is so hot here, 42 degrees, that tourism is down so much they lose their jobs and have to farm or do something else. We try to buy from different vendors if we do buy and try to spread it around.

There are young children selling postcards at every temple. We have bought a number of them, even though we may not use them, but it is a good way to give them a little bit of money without them having to beg. One little boy of 8 was selling a group of postcards that he had made. They were all colored drawings and so sweet. I asked how much they were and he said 1,000, which is what the regular postcards cost ( 10 for $1.25). I gave him the 1,000 and took the postcards and his picture and he was jumping around he was so happy. It may have been his first sale of his own art but he sure was excited.

We were able to climb (gingerly) to the top of a few of the temples and get an amazing panoramic view of the countryside. Our cart driver took us to where they make laquerware. Most laquerware is made here in Bagan and the process, for good quality, will take up to 6 months for each piece. It is quite fascinating and gives a whole new appreciation for it. Did you know that the base is made from either bamboo or teak and some are bamboo and horsehair. Then there are up to 7 layers of laquer put on top of that. Laquer is from a tree, like a rubber tree, and looks like tar. Then these young girls carve pictures into the piece and it will then be dyed. They get paid $2.50 per day for this and they are amazing artists.

We went back for lunch and a swim before continuing on to see a couple more temples and then climbed to the top of the biggest one to witness the sunset. It was straight up, no handrails and quite high. Coming down was worse. The view was spectacular but the sunset just so so. We love Bagan. There are very few cars and motorbikes compared to the last two places we were in. We are going to rent bikes in a day or so and see the villages and temples that way. I am glad we have five nights here.
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bagan 108

Posted by debbep 18:20 Comments (2)

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