Posts Tagged With: Myanmar

Myanmar’s Maymo – A little slice of the old country

Nestled in the hills above Mandalay is the old British era Hill Station of Pyin Oo Lwin. The British called the village Maymo and moved their capital there every summer to escape the heat and dust of Yangon. The temperature noticeably cools as you work your way higher and higher North.

Colonial building in Pyin Oo Lwin

Colonial building in Pyin Oo Lwin

Today Pyin Oo Lwin retains much of its colonial legacy from the strawberry fields and the National Kandawgyi Botanic Gardens which look as if they have been transported directly from England to the rows of English cottages and buildings left from the previous century and the large number of Indian and Nepalese families bought here as part of the Colonial Administration.

Roses of every colour

Roses of every colour

National Kandawgyi Botanic Gardens

National Kandawgyi Botanic Gardens

A path through the swamp at Kandawgyi

A path through the swamp at Kandawgyi

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Categories: Colonialism, Myanmar | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Tools – the Night Bus

Saving on a night’s accommodation can be an important tool for a budget backpacker. Combine this with traversing hundreds of kilometers across a country and you have the joys of travelling on a night bus. In Myanmar this was by far the easiest and cheapest way to get around. I travelled on night buses between:

  1. Yangon to Inle Lake
  2. Inle Lake to Bagan
  3. Bagan to Yangon
  4. Yangon to Mawlamyine
  5. Yangon to Mandalay

 

Pros

Cheap and you save on a night’s accommodation

You don’t have to see the dangerous driving that during the day would have you gripping your seat for dear life

Good way to meet some locals

 

Cons

It’s often pretty cramped

12 hours in a bus is no one’s idea of a fun time

Very loud Buddhist chanting being played on the tv or over the radio

Terrible Burmese soapies being played on the tv

Terrible Burmese songs (or rip-offs of Western Songs) being played on the tv 

The gastro roulette that is eating at all night restaurants

Getting to your accommodation at 4 in the morning and having to way until 10 to check in meaning that you have to sleep on the lobby floor

The ‘shuttle service’ from central Yangon to the main bus terminal which took around an hour on the back of a ute sucking in peak hour fumes

 

It can be a great experience though – glimpses of traditional villages through a moonlit night, pagodas lit up like a Las Vegas casino flashing past, watching villages waking up as the sun slowly rises over paddy fields and banana plantations and that ultimate joy of reaching your destination in one piece!

Categories: An Aussie abroad, Food, Myanmar, Travel Tools | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

On the road to Mandalay in Myanmar – the last capital of Royal Burma

Fulfilling a Buddhist prophecy King Mindon selected the short lived site of the Burmese Royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

Lord Buddah pointing to the site of a Royal Burmese Capital

Lord Buddah pointing to the site of a Royal Burmese Capital

The British conquered upper Burma in 1885 and exiled King Thibaw into India ending Mandalay’s role as a capital city.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace moat

Travelling to Mandalay was partly an excuse to do a nice night bus but also as a transit stop before heading North into Shan States. That is why this post is very light on detail!

Mandalay is a well known city partly because of a Rudyard Kipling poem called Mandalay written after he had visited Mawlamyine (formerly Moulmein). Kipling never made it as far as Mandalay. This hasn’t stopped a plethora of bars being named after him.

http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_mandalay.htm

Categories: Colonialism, Myanmar | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Miraculous Myanmar – The Power of Buddah’s Hair

Buddha's hair must be strong

Buddha’s hair must be strong

South of Yangon is the famed Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock. Perched on a hair of the Buddah this rock seems to defy the laws of gravity. A significant pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists this was an impressive site.

Buddhist Prayers

Buddhist Prayers

Also impressive was the very cramped truck ride up and down the mountain that managed to squeeze over 40 people into a space for 20. The twists and turns of the mountainous road made it almost feel like a roller coaster ride.

Obligatory tourist shot...

Obligatory tourist shot…

 

 

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The Mon of Myanmar – Surviving Ogre Island

A hand made pipe made up of Ogre heads

A hand made pipe made up of Ogre heads

The Mon are one of the ethnic groups that make up the diverse nation that is Myanmar. Off the coast of Mawlaymine (formerly Moulmein) in Mon State is an island called Bule Kyin which apparently translates as Ogre Island. After a local ferry ride got us most of the way to the jetty (the tide was very low) we choose to jump on a long boat to get in instead of slop through the mud like most of the other passengers. Especially after one guy seemed to get a particularly sharp fish stuck in his foot…

Walking the plank

Walking the plank

A chance encounter on the long boat with a much more organised London based traveller helped us to set a path through the Island to see some traditional crafts and back out to a different jetty to get a boat home. The roads were not fantastic but our tuktuk driver took us to a few good places including a walking stick and smoking pipe house, a rubber band making family and a bamboo pen making place. Seeing how rubber bands are made was actually pretty interesting.

Rubber bands of Ogre Island

Rubber bands of Ogre Island

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Mesmerizing Myanmar – Pagoda City

Around the same time that William was telling his Norman mates that a jaunt across the channel might be a bit of fun, King Anawrahta of Pagan (now Bagan) was building and encouraging others to build a city of pagodas, stupas and monasteries dedicated to his Buddhist religion. While many were destroyed by Mongol invasions and the passage of time there are still around 3000 pagodas scattered throughout Bagan. They collectively make an impressive sight (you might need to click on these two photos to see them clearly).

The Pagodas of Bagan

The Pagodas of Bagan

Sunrise

Sunrise

But what really made Bagan a great place was the hospitality and service provided by Aung at the Mya Thida Guesthouse in New Bagan. Aung was not only just a genuinely good guy but his tour of the pagodas, an afternoon in a local village trying local palm wine (sky beer) and a sunset cruise and dip in the Irrawaddy River was a highlight of Myanmar.

Our Sky Beer drinking site on the banks of the Irrawaddy River

Our Sky Beer drinking site on the banks of the Irrawaddy River

Sunset over the Irrawaddy

Sunset over the Irrawaddy

 

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Monasteries of Myanmar – Training Whiskers

The Inle Lake region in Shan State is possibly the most popular tourist destination of Myanmar. With traditional fishing, floating markets as well as floating gardens tended by farmers in boats Inle Lake sounded like a promising way to spend a few days.

Traditional fishing on Inle Lake

Traditional fishing on Inle Lake

From the base of Nuang Shwe village we biked around paddy fields being ploughed for the coming rainy season and canals full of ducks, water buffalo and swimming kids. The surprising highlight of Inle was the Red Mountain Estate winery which made a great spot for wine and fried tofu fed sunsets.

Our longboat ride

Our longboat ride

A day on Inle Lake is reminiscent of taking an organised day trip through Bali. Cruising on a longboat from village to village our skipper took us to a number of tourist orientated shops including silversmiths, lotus silk weavers, lacquer ware and cheroot cigarette makers.

One of the numerous non-jumping cats of the Jumping Cat Monestary

One of the numerous non-jumping cats of the Jumping Cat Monastery

Possibly the oddest stop was a Buddhist Monastery famed for its jumping cats. That’s right, out on the middle of Inle Lake is a Monastery visited by thousands of people a year hoping to catch a glimpse of a cat jumping through a hoop. As I expected there was not a whole lot of jumping going on but there were a lot of cats weaving their way between the monks and statues of the Buddha.

Sunset over Inle Lake

Sunset over Inle Lake

Categories: Myanmar, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Myanmar Mastication – the Burmese Exxon Valdez

Straddling the centre ground between the curries of India, the spices of China and the tastes of Thailand expectations about Burmese food were high. While there have been some good dishes I can see why Burmese cuisine isn’t storming the world.

Before

Before

After

After

A Burmese curry, unlike their Indian or Thai counterparts usually consists of lots of garlic, onion, the meat of the dish and copious amounts of oil. Meals literally glisten like a sunbaking Aussie in the 50s as they come out of the kitchen and finished dishes are left with a thick slick resembling the coastline of Alaska after the Exxon Valdez had been through.

Highlights have been:

  • Intha inspired dishes around the Inle Lake region
  • Shan noodles found in most places but originating in Shan State
  • Chinese style BBQ consisting of lots of meats, vegetables and unidentified food on sticks
  • Deep fried samosas and curry puffs for breakfast – terribly unhealthy I know but it is important to try the local approach to life…
  • A salad made of fermented tea leaves, tomatoes and crunchy nuts and beans
  • The range of condiments served with a traditional Burmese meal although half will be variations of fish paste and the other half will have fish paste as a main ingredient there have still been some good chillies and chutneys.
Condiment heaven

Condiment heaven

 

Categories: Food, Myanmar | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Myanmar Madness – Celebrating Thingyan ‘Burma Style’

Despite being soaked for three days in Bangkok, I conveniently timed my arrival into Yangon midway through the Myanmar New Year celebration called Thingyan. Similar to Thailand’s Songkran Festival the Burmese festival focuses around throwing copious amounts of water on passers-by. While the Thai people were content with water pistols and small buckets, the people of Myanmar have gone for hoses and water drums.

Kids getting into the Thingyan spirit

Kids getting into the Thingyan spirit

With ready made stages dotted throughout central Yangon, trucks of people would do laps around the main streets getting soaked by stages full of young people armed with hoses ready to fill the truck trays full of water (often pumped out of nearby none too clean lakes).

Truck load of Thingyan revellers

Truck load of Thingyan revellers

Pumping water out of Inya Lake... Better to keep your mouth closed when getting soaked!!

Pumping water out of Inya Lake… Better to keep your mouth closed when getting soaked!!

What struck me more than the shivering chill of cold water dripping down my back was the attitudes of the Myanmar people. Incredibly friendly and always armed with a killer smile all generations  were truly getting into the Thingyan spirit. Some areas were pretty boozy with rocking stages and drunken revelers singing along to ‘I Love Rock n’Roll’ by Joan Jett as well as the increasingly annoying Gangam Style (renamed Burma style here apparently) to more sedate family friendly gatherings. In the mountains the festival revolves around visiting local Buddhist monasteries and places of worship although I’m sure a bit of water is still thrown around!

Songkran and Thingyan have been great to experience but I’m glad to get back to being able to walk around remaining relatively dry apart of course from the hot season sweating…

 

Categories: Myanmar | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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