Myanmar Trip Day 6: Mingun and Mandalay City Tour

Today we started our tour at 8 am, after having a decent breakfast at Dingar Hotel in Mandalay. We were going straight to Mingun by boat, so we stopped at a beach and have a boat hopping experience to get into the farthest boat on the dock. The boat ride from Mandalay to Mingun takes quite long, about 1 hour ride, vice versa. Along the boat ride we could see fisherman hut in the deeper water and landscape of fields, getting closer to Mingun we could see a giant unfinished pagoda named Mingun Temple.

DSC06173Boat dock from Mandalay side

DSC06251Another boat cruising beside our boat on the way to Mingun

Our boat was docked in nearby land and we got to pay tourist fee. We get closer to Mingun Temple, built by a King but left unfinished due to lack of human resources until he died. There was an earthquake in the past, leaving a crack on the front wall. Walking from Mingun Temple for 5 minutes, we see another pagoda and Mingun Bell. It is the second largest bell in the world, the first one is in Moscow. But the Mingun Bell could actually produce sound while the one in Moscow cannot.

DSCF8542Mingun Temple

DSCF8552A pagoda 5 minutes away from Mingun Temple

DSCF8556Mingun Bell, the second largest bell in the world

Another 5 minutes walk from Mingun bell, we arrived at a beautiful pagoda named Hsinbyume. It is a white colored, wavy structure pagoda, on the top there is a Buddha statue and kids selling flowers to be given to the Buddha for 500 kyat each. We could also see the whole landscape from the top of Pagoda, where we met a group of Taiwanese lady asking us to take photographs for them. That is all the worth-visit sites in Mingun, as it is a small village and we met only few tourist on our walk.

DSC06291Junior monks in Mingun

Mingun1Hsinbyume Pagoda, one of the most beautiful pagoda in Myanmar

DSC06309Landscape from the top of Hsinbyume Pagoda, Mingun

We rode the same boat back to Mandalay, I listened to music and enjoy the scenery from the lower deck of the boat due to the hot weather. The boat ride does feels long the second time, once we were on the shore our car has already waiting to take us to money changer and eat at a local restaurant in the city.

DSCF8516Our boat deck on the way back to Mandalay

DSC06319Local people moving goods from the boat

The food in Mandalay cost around 6000 kyat ($5) per meal in a decent restaurant and almost everywhere served a fried rice on the menu. We visited a woodcarving workshop after lunch, continued by Maha Myat Muni Image, a temple where many people sticks a gold paper to the Buddha statue to attract a good deed. The temple was moderately large and there is also paintings museum which tells story about Buddha and the King.

DSCF8605Maha Myat Muni Image

DSCF8615Maha Myat Muni Temple, Mandalay

It was one o’clock in the afternoon and the weather was hot, so we headed to gold paper workshop to see how the very thin gold paper is being made from a solid gold. It was 5 minutes away from Dingar hotel, our staying place in Mandalay. As usual, we were given a time to rest in the hotel until 3.30 pm. We took a quick shower and rest for a while.

DSCF8625Workers stomping on the gold paper to make it thinner

DSCF8621Carving workshop in Mandalay

On the evening we were picked up and continue the city tour to Old Palace. It was the biggest complex in Mandalay and occupied by the army, we were sightseeing around and learning the history of Mandalay from two Kings period and how the British conquered northern Myanmar without a single bullet. The structure of the complex looks similar to Palace in China and Korea, however the palace has been rebuilt due to fire in the past, except for one building that is being moved and donated as a monastery, which happened to be our next destination.

Mandalay10Mandalay Old Palace

Mandalay9Mandalay Old Palace

It is a wooden building with very detailed decoration across the door, wall, window, and roof. We aren’t allowed to touch any part of the temple, because it was covered with gold and our sweat oxidates the layer. It took us less than 15 minutes to tour around the small building, we then continued to Kuthodaw.

DSCF8655The only original building from Old Palace

Kuthodaw is included in the Unesco World Record for the biggest book in the world. Inside the complex are 739 white-colored pagoda with a writings inside the structure. The symmetry between one pagoda to the other is great, the biggest golden pagoda looks like a smaller structure of Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan. Were the 739 writings are put on the top of the other, its height will be equivalent to 20 floors building, the reason of its Unesco record.

DSCF8671Kuthodaw complex, Mandalay

DSCF8670A script inside every pagoda in Kuthodaw, the reason it is called the world’s thickest book

Mandalay11Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay

At 5.15 pm we leave Kuthodaw for Mandalay Hill, where we will watch the sunset. Mandalay Hill at sunset is a must visit for tourist in Mandalay, the landscape facing North is simply AMAZING, with the lights creating a gradation of green and yellow on the rice fields. We spent almost two hours there, capturing 360 degrees view of Mandalay city and durrounding landscape.

DSC06325Mandalay Hill taken from the city

DSC06358Cityscape of Mandalay taken from Mandalay Hill

DSCF8727Mandalay Hill condition at sunset

DSC06404My favourite photograph in Mandalay, a vast green landscape beautifully illuminated by the soft-natural light

DSCF8694Viewing to the city from Mandalay Hill

DSCF8714A bench facing the city from Mandalay Hill

Afterward we dined on a street vendors selling Shan noodles, then stopped at a bakery to buy some chocolate cakes for dessert. It was around 8.30 when we fot back to our hotel and rest. Tomorrow, we are leaving Mandalay and headed to Inle by flight.

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Myanmar Trip Day 5: Palm Oil, Drive to Mount Popa, Drive to Mandalay

Today we leave Bagan and drive to Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, en route via Mt. Popa. We leave the hotel at 8 am and after 30 minutes drive we stopped at a palm oil workshop, we learned how palm oil is cultivated, processed, and turned into alcohol. The tools being used are traditional simple tools operated by human. The workshop took us only 20 minutes, then we continue driving South toward Mt. Popa. From Bagan to Mandalay took about four hours, so we planned to arrive around 4 pm, inclusive of time for lunch and toilet break.

DSC05873Extracting oil from palm fruit using an ox

DSC05880A man climbing a palm tree to harvest the fruit

We went to Popa Mountain Resort, a nice hotel with view to Mt. Popa itself. Sadly, at 10 am it was foggy and we can’t see farther than 20 meters. So we descent the mountain and lucklily our guide know two other photo spots to photograph Mt. Popa. The location is on lower ground, but we were able to see the monastery on the top of the mountain.

DSC05901Landscape from Bagan to Mt. Popa

DSC05925Monastery at the top of Mt. Popa

DSC05973Cityscape and Mt. Popa

After two hours drive we stopped at a small city called Mingyan for lunch. We aren’t able to find single decent restaurant in Mingyan, so we are betting ourselves by eating a fried rice cooked by a local. Then we continue our drive again for 2.5 hours to Mandalay.

Once we arrived in Mandalay, we were dropped near Mandalay University and saw many students going home, some are walking and others with a open back car. We walked for twenty minutes to U Penn Bridge, a wooden bridge spanning for several hundreds meter. Walking on U Penn Bridge is great, with landscape on each side of the bridge, local people taking photos and selling goods on the intersection. The slightly windy breeze also makes the walk pleasurable. We walked across the bridge for fifteen minutes and continue our trip to the city of Mandalay.

DSC06028U Penn Bridge, Mandalay

DSC06061Locals crossing the river on U Penn Bridge

DSC06084A fisherman on U Penn Bridge

DSC06128The famous U Penn Bridge at outer part of Mandalay

We checked in at Dingar Hotel in the southern part of the city, where we learn later that it is quite far from the center. We took photographs of sunset from the rooftop and walk to a fancy European restaurant named Bistro @82. It took us 90 minutes of sweating to walk there from hotel, Mandalay road is easy to follow but it is not suitable for walking due to the unaccessible walkaway.

DSC06145Sunset at Mandalay

We crossed a railroad, 8 blocks north and 6 blocks west to arrive at the restaurant. Bistro @82 is a recommended fancy European restaurant for tourist bored with local foods or longing for a decent Western food. I ordered a schnitzel and my father a bratwurst, closed with a chocolate mousse. We spent 47.000 kyat ($41) for two person meal, which I’d say reasonable but certainly not cheap. Since we were tired and didn’t intend to walk our way to hotel, we ordered a taxi from restaurant and they charged only 5000 kyat ($5), less than what the hotel receptionist wanted (1000 kyat or $10). Then we took shower and rest for the day.

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Myanmar Trip Day 4: Sunrise at Buhlaygyi, City Tour of Bagan Major Temples, Sunset at Pyathatgyi

Today we woke up early at 4 am to catch sunrise from the top of a pagoda called Buhlaygyi (don’t search it on the internet, there’s no result on it), we went from our hotel (Su Tine San, a very good and affordable hotel whose guest are only two person, us) at 5 am. The site was 10 minutes away by car and we arrived at 5.15 when the sky was still dark. The pagoda isn’t as tall as Shwesandaw pagoda where we spent our sunset yesterday, the view is great though. There were also fewer tourist in the pagoda compared to Shwesandaw.

DSC05364Bagan after sunrise

Bagan22Bagan at the morning

We descent the pagoda at 6 am, the sun is already out and the sky is light blue, we drove back to hotel for breakfast and shower. We started our city tour at 8 am, visiting in total 15 pagodas across Bagan. Today’s tour is exhausting, at noon both of my feet have scratches due to the extensive use of slippers and walking barefoot. Mind you that we have to take off shoes and socks before entering each pagoda. We see too many pagoda to remember one by one, but here is some pagoda we visited, in order:

Sunrise at Buhlaygyi, Shwezigon, Gubyaukgyi, Htilominlo, Ananda, Thatbyinnyu, Shwe Gu Gyi, Manuhar, Nanphayar, Dhamanyangyi, Sularmani, Pyathatdar, Sunset at Pyathatgyi

Bagan26Landscape in Bagan

Bagan29Ananda, one of the most magnificent pagoda in Bagan

Bagan31Dhammayangyi temple at the right side of image

Bagan32Closer look of Dhammayangyi temple, Bagan

DSC05401Random pagodas in Bagan

DSC05421Another random pagodas I forgot the name

There are mostly Buddha statue inside each temple, with some temple could be hiked to the top, an opportunity to capture great panorama of Bagan’s 2000 temples. After visiting Thatbyinnyu, we have our lunch at Sunset Garden Restaurant, a very nice and affordable restaurant by the river. I would recommend having lunch there after half day walking under the sun.

We were scheduled to take two hours rest at the hotel after lunch, simply because it is too hot to walk around at 13-15 o’clock in Bagan. Instead of going back to hotel, we were looking for a reflexiologist and finally found one with reasonable price near our hotel. One hour of massage cost $15, significantly cheaper than in Bagan Lodge (5 stars resort) which cost $65.

We eventually walk back to our hotel and took a shower before beginning the city tour again at 15.00. The temples in Bagan are similar with each other, except Ananda, the most beautiful one covered with white colour. We also saw many tourist, mostly western, who rent a bicycle or electric bike and tour around the small road. Renting a bike cost 10000-15000 Kyat ($10-15) for the whole day.

DSC05440Thatbyinnyu temple, taken from other temple in Bagan

DSC05573The magnificent landscape of Bagan, a combination of pagodas, jungle and mountains

DSCF8143Shwezigon pagoda under reconstruction or repainting every 5 years

DSCF8461Dhammayangyi temple at noon, Bagan

Our tour guide name is Aung, a 23 year old guy with extensive knowledge in history and proficient in English. He showed us photo spots for taking great photographs around Bagan, even though it wasn’t in the itinerary program. Should you want to hire him, let me know, I have his contact. There were few Indonesian tourist we met in Myanmar, however we were asked several times by the local to exchange Rupiah to Kyat, it seems that there are Indonesian fooling around Bagan and paying with Rupiah.

We close our day by watching sunset on the top of Pyathatgyi pagoda, a large pagoda with open top where we could climb and sit on the wall facing the landscape of Bagan. We were there early at 5 pm and the sunset was at 6.50, so we have plenty of time to take photos 360 degrees of the temple. After finding the perfect spot for taking photo, I sat on the wall and listened to an album of Andrea Boccéli while enjoying the scenery, it was a very pleasant experience to me.

DSC05677Goats running near a lake in Bagan

DSC05712Herds roaming on the wilderness of Bagan

DSC05769Sunset in Bagan from Pyathatgyi

It was 7 pm when we left Pyathatgyi, then we have dinner at Star Beam Restaurant in downtown area of Bagan. The price for one meal cost between 15000-75000 kyat ($1.5-7.5), very reasonable for the food we ate. Since there wasn’t any interesting places to visit at night, we got back to hotel and rest, for tomorrow we are leaving Bagan to Mandalay.

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Myanmar Trip Day 3: Going Back to Yangon, Old Monastery, Taukkyan War Cemetery, Flight to Bagan

After taking photographs at a windy night yesterday, today we woke up at 5.30 am and have a very horrible choice for breakfast at Kyaikhtyo Hotel. I found the food unedible but the sunny side up and end up eating nothing. I tried to drink the tea, after a sip of very bitter taste in my tounge I stopped drinking. So when I pack my luggage, I took a crackers I brought from home and eat it on the way.

DSC04836A monk walking barefoot on a rainy morning in Kyaikhtiyo

There were monks asking for donation in front of the hotel entrance, we learned that monks in Myanmar is very different with Chinese, Tibet, and other monks we thought of before. In Myanmar, monks are living from day-to-day donation and preaching. There are many monks everywhere in Kyaikhtiyo, all of them carrying a small bowl for donations.

DSCF7911A junior monk at Kyaikhtiyo

We depart around 8 from the hill and arrived at 9 at the base camp, where our car to Yangon been waiting. Due to our early arrival in the base camp, we visited an old monastery in Bago, where only 9 monks were living. The monkees were playing football when we arrived. We look around the 130 years old monastery then continue our way to Yangon Airport.

DSC04838Monkees playing football at Old Monastery in Bago

Our lunch was at Shwe Pyi Resort and Restaurant, a decent restaurant on the way. I ate another chicken fried rice (I didn’t like how Myanmar people cooked pork) and have an orange juice as well. The resort is well maintained and looks clean, with a lake in the center of it.

DSC04893Shwe Pyi Resort and Restaurant

Thirty minutes from the restaurant we visited Taukkyan War Cemetery, where British and Indian army in World War 2 are burried. The cemetery is a must visit for architecture lover, its symmetry an simplicity is excellent. British government are still paying for the maintanance of the cemetery today, makes it a clean and comfortable place to spent an evening walk. There were several couples and local people strolling an sitting across the park, few of them taking pictures with a selfie stick.

Yangon CemeteryTaukkyan War Cemetery, Yangon.

DSCF7980Taukkyan War Cemetery, Yangon.

We were then transfered to airport and waited until our flight at 15.00, but it was delayed. The domestic terminal of Yangon Airport is adequate, but far from great in many ways. The toilet is clean but lack of adequate lighting, the TV showing flight schedule isn’t updated, and there is no clear procedure on how we go to the plane.

Taukkyan War Cemetery, Yangon.

We board the plane at 15.30, it was a small ATR passenger airplane. The first stop was Heho, it took one hour there, where the plane dropped half of the passenger and we were asked to move to the back of the plane to balance it. With another 40 minutes we landed at Nyaung U Airport in Bagan. We were picked up by another local guide and went straight to Shwesandaw Pagoda for sunset.

DSC04989Landscape from the air before landing in Nyaung-U Airport, Bagan

The sunset in Bagan was at 6.50 pm, a little bit late than usual. We hiked toward the top of the pagoda where other tourist are located, waiting for sunset on a cloudy sky. Stairs to the top circle is very steep and quite dangerous, however there is a handrail to hold on to, you have to take the steps one by one and make sure your bad knee take a good rest.

Bagan1View from Shwesandaw Pagoda at evening, Bagan

Bagan2View from Shwesandaw Pagoda at evening, Bagan

We waited for an hour until the sky turns dark blue and the lighting are litted around the pagodas and temples. Bagan is certainly the most spectacular archeological site I’ve visited so far, the surrounding environment does feel like ancient time and the architectural structure is well maintained. Photographers will definitely love this place, simply outstanding and makes you speechless.

Bagan6View from Shwesandaw Pagoda at evening, Bagan

DSC05090View from Shwesandaw Pagoda at sunset, Bagan

We went to our hotel, Su Tine San, at eight and have dinner in the hotel, where they charged in US$ and more expensive compared to our previous meal. A decent meal cost $15 while we could get it for around $8 in another place.

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Myanmar Trip Day 2: Kyakhatwine Monastery, Shwethahlyaung, Shwemawdaw, Golden Rock (Kyaikhtiyo)

Today is our second day in Myanmar, after yesterday city tour in Yangon we are heading to Bago and Kyaikhtiyo for the famous golden rock at thr top of the mountain. We started our trip at eight and drive to Kyakhatwine Monastery where hundreds of monk and monkee learn Sanskrit. The trip from Yangon to Bago is quite long (2-3hours) and there were traffic inside the city. Along the way we passed several market, rice fields, and villages.

Kyakhatwine Monastery in Bago

The monks are having lunch at 11 am, so when we arrived at 10.30, we got plenty of time to tour around the small monastery. There are hundreds of them on a line waiting to get rice for their lunch, we could participate by helping the seniors giving rice to the bowl they have individually. In the monastery we also tour to their study hall and surrounding room. There were monkees (children monk) as small as seven years old until 22 years old in the monastery. When we enter the monastery, we also have to leave our shoes and socks in front entrance, so when we exited we have to give the children 500-1000 kyat ($0.5) for guarding our shoes. People in Myanmar is quite innocent, the criminal rate is low as well. In other countries, perhaps we won’t see our shoes again.

Monastery BagoStudy room in Kyakhatwine Monastery, Bago

After visiting the monastery we visited again another place of reclining Buddha, called Shwethahlyaung. We learned that shwe means gold, so anything with “shwe” in its name usually has something gold on it. The site itself doesn’t really makes a good photograph, but it tells the story of how Myanmar religion mostly becomes Buddha. In the past, King’s son is fall in love with a women from a jungle who doesn’t worship the king’s god. When the women was brought to the palace, she didn’t follow the king’s practice and was punished to death. She prayed to her god (Buddha) and the statue of the king’s god was shattered. Then the king regret his decision and the whole kingdom converts to Buddha. There’s also shops around the area, but nothing interesting or new.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda, Bago

Despite the more famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, actually the tallest Pagoda in Myanmar is Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago, which is our next destination. One thing I noticed was how few tourist were in the site compared to Shwedagon pagoda, perhaps it was due to the location of Shwemawdaw that is far from city center. The architecture is similar to Shwedagon Pagoda, however the complex is smaller and cleaner.

It was around twelve when we finished touring the pagoda, so we headed to a decent, popular among tourist restaurant nearby and continue our trip to Kimpun camp, where we will ride an open truck to Kyaikhtiyo Hill. We arrived at the truck station at 3 pm and it was raining heavily. The truck ride cost 2500 kyat individually ($2.5) for the backseat (open top) and 15000 kyat ($15) for 5 people next to the driver’s seat. Since there were 3 of us, we booked for the frontseat and we are grateful for it. We waited for other tourist to fill the truck and depart at 4 pm. It rained heavily during our drive to the hill, people on the back are soaked wet, despite wearing rain coat.

DSC04817On the way from Kimpun Camp to Kyaikhtiyo

We got down from the truck and pick up our luggage, prepared to walk about 5 minutes to our hotel tonight. When we were ready, a lady asked to carry both of our 10 Kgs luggage to the hotel for 5000 kyat ($5), we agreed. In the hotel we took a quick shower and unpack our luggage quickly because at 6 pm we have to walk to the golden rock and watch the sunset. The weather was dissappointing though, it wasn’t raining, but the wind is very strong and the sky was foggy. Clearly sunset is not going to be visible from the golden rock, we walked anyway, barefoot because we have to leave our flip-flop at the entrance. The ceramic floor was slippery and the stone floor hurts our feet, so the 15 minutes walk is quite unpleasant. We photographed the golden rock from various angle for half an hour, the lighting around the rock and the fog creates a mystical environment around it.

DSCF7857The Golden Rock at Kyaikhtiyo at evening

Because the sky is not very dark yet and we didn’t want to wait on the open space, we headed to another hotel at the back of the golden rock. We eventually decided to have dinner there, I had fried rice again and a hot chinese tea. After dinner we went back to the same spot we photographed from earlier, but this time the sky was dark already. It was less windy than at the evening, but the fog is still quite thick

DSCF7896The Golden Rock at Kyaikhtiyo at night

When we walked back to hotel, it was dark and the stairs edge was hard to see, so remember to bring a flashlight. We arrived at our room at 8 pm, took another not-so-hot-water shower and went straight to sleep. The bed wasn’t the most convenient bed I’ve ever sleep on, but it was raining the whole night, makes snuggling below a blanket very comfortable

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