The Fantastic Hoi An Temples of Central Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

A day spent visiting the Hoi An Temples are a day well spent in Central Vietnam

Buddhist influences are felt far and wide throughout Southeast Asia, but perhaps the most beautiful and unique are the Hoi An Temples. Thanks to a combination of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and even French architecture notes, the temples are a stunning part of Central Vietnam’s ancient capital.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Hoi An, Vietnam: Click Here

 

Hainan Assembly Hall

Hoi An, Vietnam
Fancy fresh durian or bananas? A lady seller in a rice hat poses in front of the Hainan Assembly Hall

SInce I’ve already written at length about Hoi An this post will stick primarily to the brilliant Hoi An Temples and their overall vibes, architecture and general design.  First up in the Ancient Town of Hoi An is the Hainan Assembly Hall. It was built in 1851 by the Chinese of Hainan to serve both the Hainan and Jialing communities. The story behind this temple is that it is in memorium of 108 Chinese merchants who were mistakenly killed when locals believed them to be pirates. These merchants were named deities by King Tu Duc, who donated the money in order to build it.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Chua Phap Bao Pagoda

Hoi An, Vietnam

The Chua Phap Bao Pagoda is the only temple in this mini Hoi An – Vietnam Travel Guide – that is located outside of the Ancient Town. The well-kept modern pagoda (relatively speaking, that is) is named after its founder and the 34th Chaplain Lam Te Chanh. Three famous Buddha Images are located in the compound – Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and Maitreya Bodhisattva – and it was completely renovated in the year 2000 by Thich Hanh Niem. It was originally built in 1981.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Cantonese Assembly Hall/Quang Trieu Assembly Hall/Hoi Quan Quang Dong

Hoi An, Vietnam

Built in 1885 by Guangdong/Cantonese Chinese immigrants, the Cantonese Assembly Hall is one of Hoi An’s most famous temples. Filled with statues made of pottery and mythical characters from Chinese and Vietnamese lore, the Assembly Hall has so much to see. Some of the temple compound was actually built in China and transported to Hoi An. For a bit of history, the Hall used to be located on a wharf and it was a meeting point for local fishermen and merchants to buy/sell/exchange goods. Festivals are held at the Hall several times a year so make sure to plan your trip around the festivities if possible!

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Trung Hoa Assembly Hall/Trung Tam Hoa Van Le Nghia

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An’s oldest assembly hall, built in 1741, is the Duong Thuong Assembly Hall. Built with money from local traders of the five Chinese counties of Fukien, Zhao Zhou, Canton, Hainan and Jiain. Filled with history, it has been dedicated to a number of different people along with soldiers killed in the “anti-Japanese Resistance War.” It was renamed the Trung Hoa Assembly Hall in 1928, served as a public school for the Chinese and then named the Le-Nghia School. Today is serves as a school for children of the diaspora and is dubbed the Truong Le Nghia. Fun fact: there was a stone stele called “Duong Thuong Rules” which stated the 10 principles for the Chinese immigrants to do business in Hoi An.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall/Fujian Assembly Hall

Hoi An, Vietnam

I’ve already said that the Duong Thuong Assembly Hall is the oldest temple in Hoi An, however some argue that the Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall was actually built in 1690 and is the oldest. Regardless, the large temple is not to be missed when visiting the Ancient Town of Hoi An. Also known as the Fujian Assembly for having been built to serve the Fujian Chinese community, it was sold to traders from Phuoc Kien after some damage from earthquakes and was restored around 1759.  The architecture of this temple is tremendous and its images and sculptures are some of the finest in the city.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Quon Cong Temple

Hoi An, Vietnam

The Quon Cong Temple is another example of Chinese craftsmanship and architecture in the Hoi An Ancient Town. Named after a successful Chinese general and sometimes referred to as the Ong Pagoda, it has been reconstructed several times and also features major sculputres, perfectly-manicured bushes and trees, and several prominent Buddha Images.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

Tu Do Tham Quan

Hoi An, Vietnam
The entrance to the Tu Do Tham Quan from Tran Phu Road

Hoi An, Vietnam

The Tu Do Tham Quan is yet another example of brilliant architecture in Hoi An. The humble entranceway gives way to a quiet and peaceful courtyard with perfectly-manicured trees, clean paths and floors, and well-cared for statues and sculptures.

Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An, Vietnam

I hope you all enjoyed the photo drop and breakdown of some of my favorite Hoi An Temples! Don’t forget to follow the links below to read more about the stunning Hoi An Ancient Town and the rest of my travels in Vietnam!

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Hoi An, Vietnam: Click Here

Hoi An, Vietnam

The Incredibly Colorful Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple of Da Nang

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

The city of Da Nang in central Vietnam has so much to offer travelers – whether that be backpackers, photographers or regular run-of-the-mill travelers. An afternoon drive along the beach brought me to the Vu Lan Bao Hieu – Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple and I just had to snap some pics.

Located along the beach just before the magnificent Son Tra Peninsula, the Chua Buu Dai Son is a colorful reminder to always explore everywhere you go!

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Vu Lan Bao Hieu – Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple: Click Here

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

Many of Vietnam’s incredible sites have been well documented thanks to the enormous numbers of travelers who have ventured to this part of the world. Danang’s Dragon Bridge, Son Tra Peninsula (not too mention the glorious Lady Buddha) and the further Hoi An and Hoi Van Pass of Top Gear fame, have all been written about at length. What has gotten lost in all this clamour are the less-traveled yet important heritage sites such as local pagodas and temples. The Vu Lan Bao Hieu – Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple is a perfect example of the latter, as Vietnamese culture oozes through every part of this fantastically colorful pagoda and surrounding compound.

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son
The Budai (or Pu-Tai) statue in front of the main temple
Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son
Swords and mythical figures – a Chinese epic in the main temple
Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son
Incredible colors and a solitary Buddha Image

Like most places I’ve visited in Southeast Asia, there is a serious dearth of information on the Chua Buu Dai Son Temple. I could wax poetic about the colors though I feel I’ve covered that already! From my visit and perusing the entire compound, I can report that there are many stone statues each with its own unique flair in addition to well maintained albeit smaller temples and the Vietnamese traditional-style architecture, with Chinese infusion, is beyond stunning.

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

So that’s your lot for now. It was a brilliant day of blue skies and I hope you enjoyed the photos from the Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple. I’ll be back with more from brilliant Da Nang, Vietnam – my favorite city in the country! Here are some more photos for a lasting impression.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Vu Lan Bao Hieu – Chua Buu Dai Son Chinese Temple: Click Here

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son
More than a few swastikas, hey

 

Vu Lan Bao Hieu - Chua Buu Dai Son

Wild Motorbike Ride to the Peak of Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

The Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang is one of the most picturesque places I’ve had the chance to travel to. Taking a motorbike up to the top of Monkey Mountain is a must for travelers passing through central Vietnam. 

Monkey Mountain on the Son Tra Peninsula rises 850 meters (about 3,000 feet) above the city of Da Nang and makes for a perfect day trip for any adventurer (or photographer!) and has some of the best views in the entire country.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Monkey Mountain of Son Tra Peninsula: Click Here

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Located almost halfway between the former Vietnamese capital of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the current capital of Hanoi, Danang is one of the gems of Vietnam’s central coastline and has so much to offer a traveler. From the glorious Buddhist pilgrimage sites of the Marble Mountains to the towering Lady Buddha located a third of the way up the Monkey Mountain on Son Tra Peninsula, you really need to stop by this place for a few days at minimum to catch a glimpse of real Vietnamese life. As I’ve just published a blog post on the Lady Buddha I’ll leave that for this post on the motorbike drive up to the peak of the Monkey Mountain.

Da Nang Lady Buddha
The fishing village at the bottom of Monkey Mountain with the Lady Buddha of Danang in the distance
Da Nang Lady Buddha
The bay of Danang and city in the distance, from the circular road leading up the mountain

The Son Tra Peninsula still largely covered with dense, lush rainforest.  Though I didn’t spot any, the mountain gets its “Monkey”moniker from the rare Red Shanked Doucs monkeys that inhabit the area. The narrow jungle roads can be a bit hairy by motorbike as taxis, tuk tuks and open-air trucks can be seen ferrying up visitors to and from the peak. I only came across a few but the one-lane roads make it easy to imagine having to take it a bit slow just to play it safe. Don’t go too slow, some of the roads are pretty steep and you won’t be able to get your bike up it!

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
Some amazing coves and views all around the peninsula. Most of the beaches are empty and can be taken advantage of by those who want some peace and quiet
Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
Clouds starting to form at the peak

I made it a point to leave early in the morning to try and beat the afternoon clouds that usually settle upon the mountain this time of year… however as luck would have it about two-thirds up the clouds started to form around the peak. Back on the bike and with the GoPro attached to my wrist, it was full speed ahead along the increasingly narrow, steep roads to the top.

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
Eek! That was close

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

By the time I reached the peak I was driving in near white-out conditions. From the photo above, you can see how thick the clouds set upon the last stretch of road near the top. The following two pics are almost completely untouched so you can get a real feel for just how cloudy the peak was. What is most peculiar is that just a couple meters below the cloud line, perfect weather mean incredible photos… it was just the top bit that had zero visibility. Check out the pictures below of the chess grandmaster waiting for you at the top and following that some excellent shots of Danang City from just below the cloud line.

I won!

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
A 4-minute drive from the peak broke through the clouds and gave way to some of the most incredible views
Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
STOKED!

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam
The Danang Dragon Bridge crossing the river in Danang, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

From the lookout I continue my descent through the winding roads of the Monkey Mountain. An observatory sits atop a second peak and unfortunately I was unable to get up there. But the view from my stop off was unbelievable. Islands almost untouched by man and some of the thickest jungle in the entire region blanket this little bit of paradise.

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Vietnam

Welp, there you have it… my motorbike trip through the excellent and pristine Monkey Mountain of the Son Tra Peninsula. Keep an eye out for my next post of the Danang Dragon Bridge, a long stretch of road over the river in the form of a traditional Vietnamese dragon… and it shoots fire at night!

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Monkey Mountain of Son Tra Peninsula: Click Here

Biking to the Da Nang Lady Buddha of Son Tra, Vietnam

Da Nang Lady Buddha

The Da Nang Lady Buddha is missing from most guidebooks and travel sites but it is a must-see of central Vietnam. 

Da Nang is best known for its Marble Mountains, close proximity to the Hoi Van Pass, Hoi An and Hue. The Da Nang Lady Buddha isn’t at the top of the list for most travelers but really should be, standing at 67m tall and rivaling the Statue of Liberty in scale.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Da Nang Lady Buddha of central Vietnam: Click Here

Da Nang Lady Buddha
The Lady Buddha of Danang from the fishing village across the bay

The Linh Ung Pagoda of Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang (Danang), Vietnam, is home to a massive Buddha statue which looks over the bay and China Beach (known locally as My Khe Beach).  The beautiful 67m (220 ft) is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam and is only 14km from the Da Nang city center making it a quick drive along the coast and past the fishing village. Perhaps what is most impressive about the Da Nang Lady Buddha is how it is visible from almost the entire city and as well has a lotus diameter of 35m, equivalent to a 30-story building! The official website of the Lady Buddha reads that “facing the sea, the kind eyes looking down, a hand exorcizes (ed) while the other hand is holding a bottle of holy water like sprinkling the peace to the offshore fishermen.”

Da Nang Lady Buddha

In Danang, you can rent a motorbike for around 100,000 dong (about $5 USD) and the drive up the coast to the Son Tra Mountain aka Monkey Mountain takes hardly any time at all. The traffic in this area is quite light while the infrastructure of this area is top class. The only thing a traveler needs to look out for is tight turns around the corners going up the mountain. Vietnamese drivers are notoriously quick and carefree so of course you’ll have to take that into account. The views from the Lady Buddha are brilliant and you’ll want to stop off several times on your trip to grab a few photos. I sure did!

Da Nang Lady Buddha
Halfway up to the Da Nang Lady Buddha!
Da Nang Lady Buddha
Mountainous islands and brilliant turquoise blue seas as far as the eye can see

Definitely don’t get distracted while driving up! The Da Nang Lady Buddha is located about halfway up the mountain and a large-scale parking lot is available at the entrance to store your bike. I forget the exact parking fee but it is nominal to say the least. If riding motorbikes is a bit too hairy for you, tuk tuks and open-air trucks regularly ferry visitors up the mountain. Most will take you up to the peak of the Son Tra Mountain after visiting the Lady Buddha, another sight you won’t want to miss. My next post will cover the peak of the mountain.

Da Nang Lady Buddha
The steps leading up the Linh Ung Pagoda from the parking lot
Da Nang Lady Buddha
The entrance… but first turn around quick!
Da Nang Lady Buddha
Worth it!

Da Nang Lady Buddha

Linh Ung Pagoda

The Da Nang Lady Buddha is part of the greater Linh Ung Pagoda, a complex with many different temples and Buddha statues to take in.  On a hot day (it was way past 40C when I arrived, around 100F) there is plenty of shade to take advantage of. As a quick bit of history (and Vietnamese myth), the people of Son Tra “recalled that, at the time of Minh Mang King (Nguyen Dynasty, XIX century), there was a Buddha statue from nowhere to drift on the sandbank here. Believing that was an auspicious sign, people here established a shrine for worship… the sandbank where the Buddha statue drifted was then named Bai But (i.e. Buddha land on earth) also was where Ling Ung pagoda erected today,” – LadyBuddha.org. The modern complex you can visit today took six years to complete, from June 2004 to July 30th, 2010. The Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda is considered the “meeting place of heaven and earth.”

Da Nang Lady Buddha
The main temple of Linh Ung Bai But with the traditional Vietnamese architecture of a dragon roof
Da Nang Lady Buddha
Worshippers praying to the Sakyamuni Buddha Statue
Da Nang Lady Buddha
The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva ‘guarding’ the Buddhist worshippers

Da Nang Lady Buddha

Da Nang Lady Buddha
Rubbing the Buddha belly for good luck
Da Nang Lady Buddha
18 stone Arhat statues line the Linh Ung Pagoda courtyard. Each was carved up by the artist Nguyen Viet Minh (head of the Non Nuoc craft village) with monolithic white stone materials brought from Thanh Hoa
Da Nang Lady Buddha
The view from the main temple. Beat this: Danang City in the background, a pristine ocean, the entrance and courtyard and, of course, the Lady Buddha

Da Nang Lady Buddha

Da Nang Lady Buddha

I hope you guys enjoyed the Da Nang Lady Buddha and Linh Ung Pagoda! I’ll be back with the drive up the Son Tra Peninsula and peak soon, don’t miss it!

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Da Nang Lady Buddha of central Vietnam: Click Here

Marvelous Marble Mountains of DaNang, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

The Marble Mountains of DaNang jut out along the flat and pristine Vietnamese coastline and give central Vietnam its spiritual character.

The Marble Mountains, Vietnam, are a main attraction for tourists from all over the world, including devout Buddhists who wish to find their inner peace within the grottoes of the intricate cave systems.

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Marble Mountains, Vietnam: Click Here

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
The immense view from the “Gate of Heaven” at Mt. Thuy

The Marble Mountains of Danang, Vietnam, are known locally as the “five elements mountains (Ngu Hanh Son)” and upon first glance it’s easy to see why. The karst limestone mountains loom in the distance from the city and a 20-minute motorbike ride south from the city center takes you right into the heart of the pristine mountains. Made out of the same rock as the well-known tourist destination of Halong Bay in the north of Vietnam, you get all the beauty but without the mass amounts of tourists. I’ve been told this is depending on the season, however I was there atthe beginning of the dry season and I had no issues with a mass influx of tourists whatsoever.

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
The Marble Mountains consist of five mountains, each named for an element: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. Each mountain contains tunnels, caves and shrines

First things first – how can you travel to the Marble Mountains on a budget – easy – hostels in Danang are easily bookable for about $5-10 USD. Motorbikes are available for daily rental for around 100,000 Vietnamese Dong/Day (that’s less than $5 USD)! If you want to travel more upscale, there are plenty of resorts around Danang all the way south towards the tourist hub of Hoi An. I stayed at the Glocal Beachside Hostel and “paid extra” for a private two-bedroom room, basically just for the private amenities for roughly $12 USD. Shared room and bathroom options are available for cheaper. After renting a motorbike, I made the 20 minute or so journey along the coastal highway south to the Marble Mountains and was met along the way by a woman wanting to show me her statue shop and offering me free parking. I declined as there is already free parking at the site for motorbikes plus what is a backpacker gonna do with a massive Buddha statue?

The ominous entrance to the “Cave to Buddhist Hell”

Unfortunately once I arrived, there was a power outage at the “Cave to Buddhist Hell” in Mt Thuy and it was closed down with entrance forbidden. Kind of ominous really, but inconvenient mostly. I made a return trip just for this cave system on my next trip south to Hoi An so I ended up being able to see it after all. The cave entrance is much larger than the rest and inside is pitch black save for the artificial lighting which illuminates the way.

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
The narrow passages of Mt Thuy “The Cave to Buddhist Hell”

Marble Mountains, VietnamMarble Mountains, VietnamMarble Mountains, VietnamMarble Mountains, Vietnam

Thumbnails: Just your average stirring boiling souls alive in soup, toture and being eaten by snakes.

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
Buddha Shrine in Mt Thuy illuminated by neon LEDs

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

All is not lost in the eternal damnation sense, however, as the cave has a very narrow walkway up through a skylight to the top of the mountain, named the “Gate of Heaven.” If there is a hint of rain or the steps are wet, climb at your own peril as the small steps don’t offer much room for footing. I climbed up to the top amid a bit of foot traffic and the view was definitely worth the hassle.

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
The brilliant blue sky, sea and a sign of “new Danang” – one of many tourist resorts popping up along the otherwise pristine coast
Marble Mountains, Vietnam
The Marble Mountains, a zoroastrian church and the small town

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

 

Several Buddhist sanctuaries can also be found within the mountains, making this a famous tourist destination for pilgrims. As a bit of history, there was a US military base in the area during the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the “War of American Aggression”) and history buffs may be more familiar with the name “China Beach.” To protect the base, the US dropped copious amounts of napalm in the area and its devasting effects can still be seen today in destruction of the local area and birth defects among the local population where the deadly chemicals infiltrated the water stream. But I digress… Outside of Mt. Thuy, there are a number of grottoes, including Huyen Khong and Tang Chon, and many Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries.  The pagoda Tam Thai was built in 1825 by Tu Tam and Linh Ung along with the tower of Pho Dong. The sanctuaries feature statuary and relief depictions of religious scenes carved out of local marble.

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
So peaceful… swastika!

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam
Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

All in all, the Marble Mountains are a fantastic day trip for travelers in central Vietnam. Make sure to check out the surrounding village and nearby An Loc Temple while in the area for some cool views and fun adventure. I’ll do a photo post here soon for those who just want to see some cool shots from the area.

Alright folks, that’s your lot for today. As always, for all the high-resolution photos from the Marble Mountains, Vietnam: Click Here

For all my travel blog posts on Vietnam: Click Here

Charming Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the gems of Northern Thailand’s dense jungle region

The jungles of Northern Thailand are still a mysterious and wild place to visit, however a traveler can hang his hat in Chiang Mai while enjoying modern first-world comfort

For all my blog entries in Thailand, check out the blog: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Chiang Mai, Thailand: Click Here

Chiang Mai
Arrive at airport, hop on tuk tuk, food. And more food.

Chiang Mai! I was really excited to get a chance to really explore Thailand and after so many trips to the islands it was definitely time to get back to some adventure and the jungle way up north was calling me. The flight over really gets you pumped for what’s to come, I mean check out this view from my plane window:

Chiang Mai
Next-level shades of green

So to be completely fair, I had no idea what to expect of Chiang Mai other than the obvious ‘being in the middle of nowhere.’ It’s about 700 km north of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok and it turns out Chiang Mai is actually the largest city in Northern Thailand and, up until recently, had some serious issues with air pollution. I experienced no pollution while there but after being in the islands for so long the sticky humidity was a bit tough. It was also the capital of the Lan Na Kingdom (1296-1768) and was then known as the Kingdom of Chiang Mai (1774-1899) which are important factoids considering the first thing you see upon entering the city are the expertly well-kept old city walls.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

I was in Chiang Mai to visit a mate of mine that was traveling all throughout Asia after journeying through the Middle East. He told me to expect some craziness and late nights so I left my photography gear at home and was traveling with only my Samsung Galaxy A8 on me. This turned out to be a good call as my sunglasses and watch all were wrecked on this trip (mostly from visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary just outside of town… but that will be in the next post). So after arriving in the Chiang Mai it was time to hit the hostel and drop my bags, then grab some Thai street food and check out the night market. Chiang Mai’s night market is world renowned and is a big part of why TripAdvisor named the city one of its “25 Best Destinations in the World.”

Chiang Mai
Trademark Thai cutoff t’s
Chiang Mai
Pancakes with nutella and banana? Yes please!

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai
Everything from art to t-shirts to watches to electronics are on offer at the night market
Chiang Mai
Obviously a ladyboy show in the middle of the plaza
Chiang Mai
Live music at most bars
Chiang Mai
Muay Thai boxing gyms are located throughout the city for the short- and long-term travelers
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai’s most famous bar/club is Zoe in Yellow – recommended

 

The diverse night market is a great way to meet people and see the city. The vendors here were incredibly friendly and not nearly as pushy as the ones you find throughout Southeast Asia, Bangkok especially. Ladyboys dancing and inviting onlookers to their show later in the evening and bars scattered throughout the market with live music adds to the ambiance all while tourists and travelers from the world over mingle about and peruse all the goods on show. It’s quite a cool experience even for those looking to party and get some drinks in. We ended up at Zoe in Yellow, Chiang Mai’s most famous bar which morphs into a club around 10:30-11:00 pm. Bars close notoriously early in Chiang Mai so you’ll have to get the evening started straight away. You can try to find clubs open late on the popular Nimmanhaemin Road. We met some cool people at the clubs whom we met up later in the trip, however it was time to crash as we had a full day of siteseeing the next morning. Ready for pictures of Wats (Pagodas, Stupas, Temples)? Well here we go:

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai
Thai temple architecture is unique from neighboring Myanmar and Laos

 

Chiang Mai
Some temples are much more ‘touristy’ than others

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

As a pseudo-professional photography (I’ve been paid but this isn’t a full-time gig at all for me, still a hobby), the picture above taken with a sub-par phone camera makes me proud. The photo below, however, is riddled with lighting issues. The debate I have with myself is this: post and tell the story as fully as possible or omit the photo and just photograph the exterior of the building. I’ll let ya’ll decide.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

I’ll be back with another post from the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, one of the gems of Chiang Mai and a brilliant experience. Responsible tourism is an important issue to me and to support a local initiative that takes formerly-captive work elephants and let’s them live a full life in a rich and diverse environment was an unreal experience. The zoo was never an option and time ran out on us to do the Flight of the Gibbon zipline adventure, but I’ve heard good things. See ya’ll soon and here are some parting shots from the charming Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai
Police ceremony at the central square
Chiang Mai
Proper Israeli graze, malawach with tomato sauce at Sababa
Chiang Mai
Turkish coffee, hummus with falafel and homemade pita

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

For all my blog entries in Thailand, check out the blog: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Chiang Mai, Thailand: Click Here

A Morning with the Monks of Myanmar

Monks, Yangon, Myanmar

I recently had the opportunity to spend a morning with the monks of Myanmar and, as you would imagine, it was an unforgettable experience.

Spending a morning with the monks of Myanmar is a must when traveling through the Golden Land. I headed near the Kabar Aye Pagoda for a morning walk with the monks.

For all the high-resolution photos from this part of my journey: Click Here

Monks
Fresh shaves and burgundy robes

Well, it’s good to be back folks! I’ve been away for awhile handling a few things (parenthood, that sorta thing), however I’m back and hoping to be posting quite regularly from now on. I actually had these photos loaded up and ready to post (you can check out the full high-res gallery on Facebook here) however I just never had the opportunity and then, of course, completely forgot about them after I flew out to Vietnam and then on to Israel. But I digress…

Monks
Squad

The morning started with a ride out to the junior monks’ monastery at around 7:15am.  As a quick lesson in Myanmar Buddhism – Southeast Asia’s second-largest country is about 90%-plus Buddhist and they practice a very ancient form of the faith called Theravada. This type of Buddhism is a bit different than the more familiar Tibetan Buddhism most commonly depicted in Western movies and film.  The primary focus of Theravada Buddhism is on practicing strict personal meditation and finding the monastic path to Enlightenment. This branch of Buddhism uses the oldest recorded teachings of the Buddha and is found throughout Thailand and Sri Lanka with its total number of followers estimated at over 100 million. In Myanmar, monks are venerated and given the title of “U”, as in “U Phil” if I were a monk. They are treated with the utmost respect and live solely off alms and donations from the community. OK, now that  you’re familiar with Myanmar Buddhism, back to the story….

Monks

So it’s pouring rain all morning and when I arrive at the monastery everyone is taking cover and enjoying the cool, brisk air – a rarity in Myanmar. The break in the humidity and punishing heat was a great respite for the junior monks who live here at the compound. The monastery, located just north/northeast of Yangon’s largest lake, Inya Lake, has around 60 novice monks. Every morning before they set out for their alms collecting, they usually get their laundry and places sorted for the day. Myanmar monks have a custom of not eating food or drinking water after 12pm noon so they are on a different schedule than most of us, as you can imagine.

Monks

The purpose of this visit was to film a TV show for Israeli television on the history of sport around the world. Serving as a bit of a guide/translator, my role was support and snapping some photos of the whole process and experience. Accompanied by staff from the Embassy of Israel, we got to take in some local games from the monks and local schoolchildren before the procession. One of the most striking things you’ll notice when visiting the monks is their lack of shoes… and I’m not referring to just being inside buildings as is Asian custom, but the entire procession down the streets are bare-footed occasions. It’s really quite a thing to witness.

Monks

Monks

The following daily march is actually quite a straightforward process – a lead junior monk walks in the front tolling a bell to alert the neighborhood residents the monks are passing by. The narrow roads of Myanmar are nothing new to those that frequent the country but feel especially claustrophobic when you have about 60 children walking through the street, dozens upon dozens of residents passing them food and charity all while cars and trucks pass in both directions.

Monks

Monks
The burgundy robes of Myanmar’s monks are iconic for travelers in Southeast Asia. Orange robes are usually worn in Thailand while the Vietnamese wear brown.

Monks

Monks

Monks

Monks

Monks

Monks

Monks

For all the high-resolution photos from this part of my journey: Click Here

Stunning Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda

Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda is a magnificent work of art located in Yangon

One of Yangon’s more unique pagodas, Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda looms behind several large trees on Shwedagon Pagoda Road.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda: Click Here

 

Sein Yaung Chi

Located just south of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the jade-colored Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda can be found just behind Pan Tra Street obscured from street view by several massive trees. The mirror-like exterior of this pagoda makes it one of Yangon’s more unique religious shrines as its exterior is completely covered by mirrored-glass pieces interspersed with touches of green paint. The shiny-jade effect that comes off when the sun is at its zenith on a clear day is simply mesmerizing and an incredible interior makes this a perfect spot to spend a half hour poking around.

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi
The very bright entrance to the rotunda hall
Sein Yaung Chi
But first, let me take a selfie

Sein Yaung Chi

The interior of Sein Yaung Chi is built in a rotunda layout with large Buddha Images layered in an also shiny gold leaf. Each Buddha Image has its own unique posture and frame which surrounds it, on each side many disciple images and fresh flowers, water and incense as it Myanmar Theravada Buddhist custom. With the sound of birds chirping overhead as they come and go from the interior of the pagoda, the soundtrack of nature mixed with hums and occasional songs from devout locals fill the air while perusing each Image. The ceiling is a rich teak wood and the walls are completely covered with smaller Buddha Images leaving not an inch to spare.

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

Out the backside of the pagoda is a quiet little meditation area complete with a gold-leaf covered tree, more Buddha Images and other iconic and local mythical creatures known to inhabit this land. Around the back of the Sein Yaung Chi is a small house with a Gautama Buddha Image that serves as a home for several resident monks. The entire area is immaculately well kept and is a delight to visit. You’ll only need about 30 to 45 minutes to explore the whole area, more of course if you want to take a rest and take in the surroundings.

Sein Yaung Chi
Golden Gautama Buddha Tree
Sein Yaung Chi
Ogres (Belu) and Meilamu
Sein Yaung Chi
Warriors in traditional Myanmar dress
Sein Yaung Chi
The legendary and very popular Hintha Bird with a pair of princesses
Sein Yaung Chi
Monks’ residence
Sein Yaung Chi
Wide view of the courtyard

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

Sein Yaung Chi

It was hard getting the whole pagoda into one frame, as there are plenty of trees and bushes around obscuring the view. I found one corner, however, were options were aplenty. Hope you enjoyed this post and I’ll be back soon with more!

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda: Click Here

Beautiful Views at Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery, Yangon, Myanmar

The Taung Pulu Monastery is one example of the many hidden gems of Yangon

“Off-the-beaten-path” is la régulière for seasoned travelers in Southeast Asia’s largest continental country and to find the Taung Pulu Monastery you’ll need to be determined and adventurous.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Taung Pulu Monastery: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Taung Pulu Monastery: Click Here

Taung Pulu Monastery

Myanmar is known as the “Golden Land” and Yangon is a prime example of this nickname in action. I’ve written at length about how Myanmar is, for the most part, unexplored, and that information online is as scarce as it can be for a country shut off from the world for six decades. It seems that around every corner and tucked into every nook and cranny of the entire country is filled with a golden dome denoting either a monastery or pagoda which is indicative of Myanmar’s devotion to Theravada Buddhism.

Taung Pulu Monastery

Obscured from view from University Road just south of Inya Lake are two monasteries definitely worth checking out in an afternoon. Taking a small side street past the Myawady Gas Station you’ll come across the Inya Wailuwun Monastery on the left and further down the lane the Taung Pulu Pagoda and Monastery. Heading first to the bright gold-domed Pagoda of Taung Pulu, the site contains a monastery and living quarters for monks on the left right on the bank of the central Inya Lake.

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Located inside the golden dome are seven large Buddha Images each in a similar design and surrounded by fresh flowers, well-cared for plants and other accouterments. As I entered midday on a toasty Saturday, the hall was relatively empty save for the occasional devout Buddhist stopping in to quickly offer respects and pray to the figures. After snapping a few shots I headed up to the second and third tiers which offered brilliant views of the surrounding Inya Lake and waterfront on the east side (facing Kabar Aye Pagoda Road) and the Myanmar Plaza shopping center, a brand-new $440 million USD project.

Taung Pulu Monastery
A symbol of Myanmar’s opening to the world

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery
There are four Gautama Buddha Images around the top center spire

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

This little pocket on the shores of Inya Lake is a great example of how many things there are to see in Myanmar. I mean, down a small road from a gas station lies great views and beautiful buildings. What a gem. In any case, my time was almost up for the day so a quick stroll around the grounds and stop off near the Wailuwun Monastery was in order before massive stray dogs ran me off. Well, it was actually one dog. And it wasn’t that ‘massive’… but I digress… until next time!

Taung Pulu Monastery
“No girls allowed” club
Taung Pulu Monastery
Did I mention peaceful? This is where to find mindfulness

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery

Taung Pulu Monastery
Don’t be fooled, this is a vicious beast!

Taung Pulu Monastery

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Taung Pulu Monastery: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Taung Pulu Monastery: Click Here

Magical Maha Wizaya Pagoda

Maha Wizaya, Yangon, Myanmar

 The Maha Wizaya Pagoda is an often overlooked gem located down the road from the Shwedagon Pagoda

Yangon is flush with golden pagodas of all shapes and sizes and each is as unique as the previous. The Maha Wizaya Pagoda (Maha Wizara Pyay; on Google Maps: Mahavijaya Pagoda) is no exception, as the interior of the grand stupa is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Maha Wizaya Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Maha Wizaya Pagoda: Click Here

Maha Wizaya
A monk making his way over the bridge to Maha Wizaya Pagoda

With the immense Shwedagon Pagoda looming just down the street, the Maha Wizara Pagoda sits just south and to the right on Shwedagon Pagoda Road behind a pond full of fish and turtles. You’ll have to cross a bridge up a set of stairs guarded by two looming Chinthes (Myanmar mythical lions), a hallmark of Burmese religious sites. The entrance to the Maha Wizara Pagoda compound is a large golden structure complete with the filigree you’ll come to grow and love as you venture through the Golden Land.

Maha Wizaya
Shwedagon Pagoda Road with its namesake in the background and the entrance to Maha Wizaya on the right
Maha Wizaya
Locals earn merit by feeding the fish and turtles over the bridge to the Maha Wizaya Pagoda

IMG_3658

IMG_3665

The compound area around the Maha Wizara Pagoda features sheltered bells in each corner where locals can either ring the bell for good luck or hang out in the shade to escape the oppressive heat of the day. Clear blue skies and the powerful Southeast Asian sun make these spots handy locations to chill out however the high humidity Yangon is known for means travelers will still find it sweltering in the shade.

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

Stepping back from the different size bells and housings, the grand Maha Wizaya is a majestic sight to behold (hyperbolic speech and the like is commonplace here). Built on Dhammarakhita Hill (translated to Guardian of the Law), the pagoda was built and consecrated by the former Myanmar leader and army general Ne Win to commemorate the first successful convening of all sects of the Buddhist Monastic Order under one supervisory body in 1980. Known locally as “Ne Win’s Pagoda,” the pagoda remained largely unvisited due to the negative feelings the people held towards the harsh military rule.

Maha Wizaya

The interior of the pagoda, as mentioned before, is where the Maha Wizaya truly separates itself from other pagodas in the Golden Land. Masterful mosaics line the ceilings of each entrance depicting the stories of the Buddha’s lives. An outer hallway features paintings on the far walls with Buddha Images and depictions of Myanmar’s thousands-upon-thousands of pagodas in each state and region are set behind clear glass. The interior of the pagoda is a circular room with high ceilings depicting animals both real and imagined and at the center are Buddha Images of gold and jade, the showpiece of which is an enshrined relic from the Buddha donated by the King of Nepal. The walls are covered in trees and leaves which give the feeling of entering the jungles of the north and central parts of Myanmar.

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

IMG_3679

Maha Wizaya
Pagodas and Buddha Images in the Rakhine and Kayin styles
Maha Wizaya
Golden Rock in Mon State
Maha Wizaya
Centerpiece Gautama Buddha Images
Maha Wizaya
Buddha relics gifted by the King of Nepal are said to lay within the Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

Maha Wizaya

IMG_3778

It’s like a jungle in the middle of Yangon! The Maha Wizara Pagoda may not be the most popularized pagoda or well-known to travelers but it is a one-of-a-kind place where travelers can see and learn more about the history of Myanmar along with its devotion to the Buddhist religion. Visit for an hour or two after spending an afternoon or morning at the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s so close you can’t miss it!

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Maha Wizaya Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Maha Wizaya Pagoda: Click Here

The Mysterious Mitta Oo Pagoda in Myanmar

Mitta U Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Mitta Oo Pagoda is a local temple complex located down the road from the Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda

One of the things I love about Myanmar is that the dearth of available information (in English anyway!) on the internet makes travel around the Golden Land so fun and fascinating. The Mitta Oo Pagoda is a perfect example of that.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Mitta Oo Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Mitta Oo Pagoda: Click Here

Mitta Oo Pagoda

I know I’ve written that many times before but a day trip out to the Kyain Thit Sar Shin meant not only the opportunity to check out a giant, unique and unknown pagoda but also another pagoda hardly mentioned to the outside world: the Mitta Oo Pagoda.

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Yangon is flush with ‘smaller’ pagodas and while everyone knows about the Sule and Shwedagon Pagodas, few know of the Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha or Ngahtatgyi Pagoda, no-one writes or discusses the ‘off-the-beaten-path’ pagodas. There are just too many of them, and this is just one more example of the many and vast compounds that dot Southeast Asia’s second-largest country and the reason why Myanmar is affectionately known as the “Golden Land.”

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Like the majority of pagodas in Myanmar, the Mitta Oo Pagoda contains many golden stupas along with statues depicting various stages of the Buddha’s life. Each one is captured in brilliant detail which pays real testament to the artistry of the Burmese. This particular pagoda has some years on it and it shows, however I wouldn’t describe it as “being in a state of disrepair.” Some upkeep could be needed however it plays hosts to children playing all sorts of games, from cards to the local chinlone and football. Footvolley on dirt with a decrepit net adds some real local character to the pagoda.

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

For high-resolution images from my trip to the Mitta Oo Pagoda, click here and don’t forget to ‘like’ our Facebook page for more stories and updates!

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

Mitta Oo Pagoda

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Mitta Oo Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Mitta Oo Pagoda: Click Here

Photo Essay: People & Places of Bagan, Myanmar

Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar

The powerful people and picturesque places of Bagan, Myanmar

World-renowned and recognized by UNESCO though visited by a fraction of the tourists which make their way to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Bagan, Myanmar is a must-see for anyone making their way to Southeast Asia.

For more information from our Travel Guide on Bagan: Click Here

More on Bagan: Brilliant Bagan Sunrise in Myanmar: Click Here

More on Bagan: The Extraordinary Plains of Bagan: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Bagan: Click Here

Bagan, Myanmar
Mandatory Thanaka to blend in with the locals
Bagan, Myanmar
Some things never change
Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar Chinlone “Footvolley”
Bagan, Myanmar
Traditional Bagan Palm Wine. Delicious and does the job!

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar
Foaming at the teeth in Nyaung-U
Bagan, Myanmar
Hey bro, for sure get outta the way!
Bagan, Myanmar
Modern products are still made in the traditional methods
Bagan, Myanmar
Traditional everything at Bagan
Bagan, Myanmar
Locals believe Thanaka leads to beauty
Bagan, Myanmar
Off-the-grid Buddha Image at a worn-down Bagan Pagoda
Bagan, Myanmar
After taking in the Bagan sunrise, locals gather to pitch their wares to tourists
Bagan, Myanmar
Travelers and backpackers taking in the beautiful views from Shwesandaw Pagoda
Bagan, Myanmar
Watermelon fresh and cheap
Bagan, Myanmar
Kyaw (pronounced Joe), our guide
Bagan, Myanmar
Shwezigon Paya through the Ray Bans

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar
Gautama Buddha images of all shapes, sizes and styles are found throughout the thousands of temples of Bagan

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar
Famous hand-drawn sand paintings at Dhammayangyi Temple
Bagan, Myanmar
Famous hand-drawn sand paintings at Dhammayangyi Temple

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is well-known for lacquerware products
Bagan, Myanmar
There are plenty of lacquerware workshops and shops to visit in Bagan
Bagan, Myanmar
This cottage industry dates back to 12th Century A.D and runs in Burmese families where fathers pass it on to their sons as a tradition
Bagan, Myanmar
Hand-made lacquerware guitars a future purchase for sure

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar
South African backpackers hey

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

For more information from our Travel Guide on Bagan: Click Here

More on Bagan: Brilliant Bagan Sunrise in Myanmar: Click Here

More on Bagan: The Extraordinary Plains of Bagan: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Bagan: Click Here

The Extraordinary Plains of Bagan

Bagan, Myanmar

The plains of Bagan rival Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in size and scale

Perhaps only Cambodia’s more-famous Angkor Wat can rival Myanmar’s Bagan in terms of religious importance, size and scale in southeast Asia.

For more information from our Travel Guide on Bagan: Click Here

More on Bagan: Brilliant Bagan Sunrise in Myanmar: Click Here

More on Bagan: Photo Essay: People & Places of Bagan, Myanmar: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Bagan: Click Here

Bagan

After taking in the unbelievable sunrise from the Shwesandaw Pagoda (Shwesandaw Pyay), a quick breakfast was in order back at the hotel and then it was straight out for a full day of pagoda hopping. Our first stop after breakfast was the Shwezigon Pagoda (Shwezigon Pyay, Paya) in the small town of Nyaung-U. The prototypical Burmese pagoda is as bright as gold can get and gold leaf-gilded stupa shone even brighter in the bright sunlight. Our guide filled us in on its history, having been built during the reign of Anawrahta in 1102 AD and finished during the reign of King Kyansittha of the Pagan Dynasty. Though he doesn’t buy the traditional story, it is said to house the bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha.

Bagan
No tourists, only locals… and a few at that!
Bagan
A reflection pool was used to measure the straightness of the pagoda in previous times
Bagan
Mon inscriptions can be found all around the Shwezigon Pagoda

After walking the wide expanse of the Shwezigon and peppering our tour guide with questions both relating to the pagoda, general history of Bagan and his relationship with Buddhism, we hopped back in the minibus and made our way to the Sulamani Guphaya Temple, one of the wonders of Bagan. The Buddhist temple located in the village of Minnanthu about 10 minutes southwest of Bagan from the Shwezigon and is an immense structure kept in relatively great shape. As a main destination of travelers, there are plenty of stalls and stands to purchase hand-made sand paintings and all sorts of little knick-knacks and other trinkets. As for the pagoda itself, take a look:

Bagan

 Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan
The famous hand- and sand-sculpted paintings of Bagan

Bagan

Built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu and similar to the Thatbyinnyu Temple in design, the Sulamani Temple also shows influence from the Dhammayangyi Temple and was the model for the Htilominlo Temple. Sulamani Temple was restored after the 1975 earthquake and utilizes brick and stone with frescoes in the interior of the temple. It was rebuilt in 1994 and maintains its aura even today. After we purchased two too-many sand paintings, we hopped back in the minibus for a tour of the jewel of Bagan, the world-renowned Ananda Pyay (Ananda Pagoda, Ananda Paya).

Bagan

The Ananda Temple is the holiest and most important temple in Bagan. It houses four massive standing Buddha Images each facing towards the four cardinal points. The Ananda Paya displays a mix of Mon and Indian architecture.  Originally built in 1105 AD, it is one of only four temples that survives within Old Bagan. The temple was extensively damaged by an earthquake in 1975 but has been restored with the spires being gilded in 1990 in preparation for the celebration of the 900th anniversary of its completion. The Buddha statues are made from teak wood gilded with gold leaf and the ones facing North and South are believed to be originals. The four Standing Buddha Images are:

Bagan
Kakusandha Buddha – Faces north and pictured for scale
Bagan
Konagamana Buddha – Faces east
Bagan
Kassapa – Faces south, appears to smile the further away you get
Bagan
Gautama Buddha – Faces west and the final Buddha of Ananda Temple

The name ‘Ananda’ derives from ‘anantapannya‘ the Pali word for ‘boundless wisdom‘. There are only so many pagodas that fit into a day and our last stop was the impeccable Dhammayangyi Temple. The largest of all the temples in Bagan, the Dhammayangyi was built during the reign of King Narathu (1167-1170). Narathu, who came to the throne by assassinating his father Alaungsithu and his elder brother, presumably built this largest temple to atone for his sins. Local legend backs up this tale, although he was never able to finish it.

Bagan

The Dhammayangyi Temple is also the widest temple in Bagan and is built in a plan similar to that of the aforementioned Ananda Temple. Burmese chronicles state that while the construction of the temple was in the process, the king was assassinated by some Indians and thus the temple was not completed. Sinhalese sources however indicate that the king was killed by Sinhalese invaders. The temple’s interior is bricked up for unknown reasons, thus only the four porches and the outer corridors are accessible. I definitely accessed them. Stay tuned for a final post on Bagan and it’s villages, people and culture. Until next time, Cheers!

Bagan

Bagan
A rare opportunity to enjoy the quiet halls of this famous pagoda

Bagan

Bagan
Old and ‘new’ brickwork on the outside of the temple

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

For more information from our Travel Guide on Bagan: Click Here

More on Bagan: Brilliant Bagan Sunrise in Myanmar: Click Here

More on Bagan: Photo Essay: People & Places of Bagan, Myanmar: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Bagan: Click Here

Kyain Thit Sar Shin Monastery

Mahar Kyain Thitsar Shin Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Kyain Thit Sar Shin Monastery is a place you can’t believe isn’t more famous

One of the more unique pagodas in Yangon is the Kyain Thit Sar Shin Monastery, a giant open-air Rakhine-style Gautama Buddha Image which can be seen from miles away.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda: Click Here

So I’m at the rooftop of Parami Hotel at the popular Piano Bar midday trying to book the location for a work event and I notice a huge, and I mean absolutely massive figure due north just glaring in the sunlight. I say to the manager “Akko le (Burmese for my brother), what is that huge statue over there?” He replied “Big pagoda. Very nice, big big pagoda.” Cool bro, and the name? “Kyain Thit Sar Shin Paya.” Alright my man, how do you spell this bad boy? After a quick location search on Google, I had my next location to check out in Yangon.

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

Large trees and dilapidated buildings obscure the vision while driving north on Thudhamma Road, however my expectations were high and once we made the turn onto Thu Nandar Road the giant Buddha Image hits you like a bright sun. The incredible reflection of light from the entirely gold-leafed image is really something to see, so much so that it boggles the mind that people don’t know about this place. Built atop a two-storied monastery, the hollow Buddha statue house a monastery for Buddhist monks and the walled compound surrounding it provides housing.

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

One thing that stands out about this Image is that the face and crown look far different from the rest of the Buddha Images in Yangon. The reason for this is that the head monk of this sect of Buddhism, called Adit-Htan, is from Rakhine State in the north of Myanmar and in this state they have a very specific style of Buddha. This Buddha has several names, like Mahar Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda, Kyain Thitsar Shin Pyay, Adit-Htan Pagoda and Maha Kyein Payagyi. It stands an imposing 130-foot tall (45 m) and is a testament to Burmese craftsmanship and dedication.

Kyain Thit Sar Shin
The head monk Mahajeyyasiddhi Adit-Htan Sayadaw U Kularakhita

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

The compound itself is guarded by several Nagar (Burmese Mythological Dragons) near its gate. The rather large walls are quite thick, as they contain housing for Monks and devoted followers who pilgrim to North Okkalapa Township in Yangon to pray and study at the monastery. On top of the walls are many Gautama Buddha images each intricately detailed and housed in expertly-crafted coves.

Kyain Thit Sar Shin
Nagar guarding the temple

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

Kyain Thit Sar Shin
The first floor of the Monastery
Kyain Thit Sar Shin
The second floor of the Monastery
Kyain Thit Sar Shin
Stairs leading up to the hollowed-out Buddha Image

Kyain Thit Sar Shin

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Kyain Thit Sar Shin Pagoda: Click Here

Inle Lake Life: Bamboo, Ancient Pagodas & More

Shwe Indein Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

Life on Inle Lake is simple yet refined – pagodas, open-air markets and hand-made boats of all shapes and sizes dot the lake

Inle Lake in Shan State, Myanmar, features a myriad of pagodas and more!

For more on Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths: Click Here

For more Out and About on Inle Lake: Part 1: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Inle
Shwe Inn Tain Pagoda

Life revolves around the water for the Shan people of Inle Lake. Bamboo, however, is what sustains it. From boats to housing to bridges and lacquer ware,  it’s bamboo that makes it possible for the Shan to keep on keeping on. Having already taken in blacksmiths, cigar and clothing factories and some iconic scenery like one-legged fishermen, it was time we saw how the people make their life possible. Our stop at the Hein Thapyay Bamboo Shop gave us a first-hand look at how dishes, plates, hats and more are made solely from hand.

Inle

Inle

Inle

Inle
Fashion and function, crafted into one

Perhaps the third ingredient for life on the lake is religion. The Shan are deeply religious and having seen the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda in the village of  Nyaung Shwe, I thought we had seen the gist of Inle Lake Buddhism. Then we arrived at the ancient Shwe Indein Pagoda (Shwe Inn Tain Pyay) near the small fishing village of Indein. The quiet hillock is located on a busy little stream that the locals fish, bathe and wash their clothes in.

Inle

Inle

The twisting and turning Indein Creek is laden on both sides with paddy fields and it isn’t uncommon to see water buffaloes and farmers strutting about, but I digress, the Shwe Indein Pagoda is a huge hill filled with hundreds of ancient, destroyed and newly-built stupas of all colors, shapes and sizes. To reach them, you’ll have to walk up about 700m worth of  footpath in your bare feet. Each side of the walkways are lined with souvenir and gift shops with vendors hawking everything from puppets to longyis and fabric and every other sort of tzotchke you can think of.

Inle

Inle

Inle

The older stupas, gray and serene, were built around the 8th century (some sources say between the 14th and 18th centuries). We arrived around 4:00pm and most shops and vendors, along with the few tourists on the lake, had mostly cleared out. This left us to take in the unrestored and natural, overgrown beauty of the pagoda to ourselves. It can be an eerie place, as the only thing you can really hear standing among the hundreds of centuries-old pagodas is the light breeze and quiet wind. Truly an awe-inspiring and memorable place to behold.

Inle

Inle
There are over 1,000 stupas in this Pagoda complex

Inle

  Inle Inle Inle Inle Inle Inle

Further down the hill from this incredible section of unrestored stupas are a core section of more modern pagodas, each built with donations from all around the world. Some of the more recent pagodas are marked as recent as 2005 and in total, there are said to be 1,054 different stupas in this complex alone! For a little Myanmar legend, according to an inscription on a stone tablet, the Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda was built by India’s greatest emperor Ashoka Maurya (304-232 BC). There is no real archaeological evidence for this legend or others that claim the area was originally built up in 200-300 BCE.


Inle

Inle   Inle

Inle
Inle

I hope you enjoyed reading about the trip to Inle Lake! I will post a repository of photos (you can take thousands of amazing photos in one day at Inle) under the “Explore Myanmar” tab at the top of the page. See you on the next adventure!

Inle

Inle

Inle

For more on Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths: Click Here

For more Out and About on Inle Lake: Part 1: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths

Inle Lake, Myanmar

There is so much to see and do at Inle Lake, Myanmar, that you can spend days on the water and not catch it all

There are few places on Planet Earth like Inle Lake, Myanmar – it’s a must-see destination in Southeast Asia.

For more on Inle Lake: Bamboo, Ancient Pagods & More: Click Here

For more Out and About on Inle Lake: Part 1: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Inle Lake, Myanmar

September weather in Shan State can be a bit of a coin toss. The monsoon in Myanmar this past year hit several areas of the country rather hard and led to serious flooding and damage.  Not only were cities cut off from the rest of the country but even entire townships. Inle Lake was spared serious flooding and the weekend we spent there was quite nice during the day with overcast skies saving us the brunt of the oppressive Southeast Asian sun.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

The last post finished with a tour of the main village of Nyaung Shwe and the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda (also known as the Phaung Daw Oo or Phaung Daw U Pagoda). After checking out the city, we hopped back in our boat and headed to a hand-rolled cigar factory, one of the lake’s main tourist spots. While I prefer off-the-grid locales, this is definitely a spot to check out. Now using the word ‘factory’ is a bit misleading, as about 8 women seated around the floor of a shack on the water doesn’t quite make for mass production but it does make for a tasty mid-morning smoke.

Inle Lake, Myanmar
“Ugh, tourists always taking our pictures…”
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Lake-grown aquaculture tobacco, honey-paste for glue
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Palm leaves and corn-rolled filters
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Flavors include betel nut, coconut, honey, vanilla and more! I went with berry flavor

I also used the bathroom. How about that middle-of-the-lake plumbing and fully-functional toilet! But I digress, our next stop was the Khit Sunn Yin Lotus, Silk & Cotton Hand-weaving center. Some of the finest dresses and scarves come from Southeast Asia, with Laos and Myanmar particularly renowned for their weaving skills. I have to say I don’t know much about all that but hey, when in Rome… or in this case on the lake…

Inle Lake, Myanmar
Looms on looms

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Everything at Inle Lake, Myanmar, is handmade – from breaking apart the individual lotus branches to the threading and sewing. After perusing the factory we hopped back on our boat and headed to what might be the highlight of our trip to Inle Lake, a real, good ol’ fashioned blacksmith.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

In Se-khong village, there is a blacksmith workshop which produces knives, swords, farming tools and more. Sold at different 5 different day markets around the Inle region, visiting the shop is a must if you want to see how things are done in the original form. Wearing traditional Myanmar longyis, the blacksmiths strike rhythmically and in turn on super-heated metal forming crafted swords that put Renaissance Fair enthusiasts to shame. I purchased a coconut-cracking dagger for a very reasonable 20,000 kyat (about $15 USD). Definitely worth the splurge.

Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake, Myanmar

The modern-meets-traditional forms of production and life at Inle Lake, Myanmar, is really cool to take in. With so much to see and experience, one day doesn’t seem like nearly enough time on the water. Another example of this is modern-style housing with amenities such as electric, satellite television and plumbing built on bamboo shafts stuck into the lake and next to ancient pagodas hundreds of years old. I hope you enjoyed part 2 on the water and part 3 will come soon, with a trip to a bamboo factory and some unbelievably beautiful and ancient pagodas.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

For more on Inle Lake: Bamboo, Ancient Pagods & More: Click Here

For more Out and About on Inle Lake: Part 1: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Out and About on Inle Lake: Part 1

Inle Lake, Myanmar, Burma

Inle Lake is home to unique fish species and a unique single-legged method to catching them

Myanmar’s Inle Lake is a massive body of water with full-on cities built right on the water with bamboo and even plumbing!

For more on Inle Lake: Bamboo, Ancient Pagods & More: Click Here

For more on Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Inle Lake

Starting our day bright and early (and by skipping breakfast!) we headed out from our hotel The Pristine Lotus Resort on a small boat towards one of the most iconic places in Shan State, Myanmar (Burma), Inle Lake. There is nothing like taking a boat from your room straight on the water and heading down a small waterway towards the lake itself, we were both buzzing from excitement.

Inle Lake

 Our boat driver, whom we hired for the full day for 15,000 Kyat (about $13.00 USD), was in a chipper mood and with his basic English and my very basic and heavily-accented Burmese, we were able to communicate where he would be taking us. The simple explanation was everywhere! Our first stop was to see the famous fishermen of Inle Lake, complete with bamboo fishing traps, basic line and their unique one-legged fishing technique. The Intha technique, standing on the stern of the boat on one leg, apparently was developed as a way to get a better view of the water as the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants.

Inle Lake Inle Lake    Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

 The peace and serenity of Inle Lake is truly something to experience. Set between two large ridges, the seemingly sleepy water poses in front of a backdrop of golden pagodas and green rolling hills. Water agriculture and houses made of bamboo and standing on stilts of the same wood line the waterways towards the main village of Nyaung Shwe and the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda (also known as the Phaung Daw Oo or Phaung Daw U Pagoda).

Inle Lake
The Kaylar Village floating garden, where locals grow tomatoes, peas, chillies and flowers
Inle Lake
The Intha (Hintha) Bird is a mythical creature believed to have golden feathers and can fly great distances
Inle Lake
Inle Lake taxis complete with umbrellas to shield you from the powerful sun

As we arrived in September, the area was buzzing for the Phaung Daw U festival and around 9:00 am you could see the lake waking up with water taxis sprinting about and farmers harvesting their crops. As we arrived to the main pagoda the town was buzzing. A literal town on the water and a market to boot. The Phaung Daw U Pagoda contains four Buddha images which have been turned into golden globes as each male pilgrim adds his own gold flake in homage to the Buddha.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Just a short walk over a bridge from the market a barge in the shape of the Hintha Bird was being prepared for its annual trip around the lake. Bright gold and large enough for several dozen people, the barge carries the Buddha images to each village on the lake so locals can pay their respects. The trip is accompanied by paddling competitions, signing and dancing along with martial arts challenges.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

For more on Inle Lake: Bamboo, Ancient Pagods & More: Click Here

For more on Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Inle Lake: Click Here

Peaceful and Inspiring Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave, Shan State, Myanmar

The Pindaya Cave is a truly one-of-a-kind place unique to the hills of Shan State

Myanmar has so much to offer that you can’t find anywhere else in the world and the Pindaya Cave is a perfect example.

For more information on the Pindaya Cave: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Pindaya Cave: Click Here

Pindaya Cave

Of all the places I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to visit in the world, one of the most impressive man-made creations interacting with nature is the incredible Pindaya Cave in Shan State, Myanmar. The natural cave has been turned into a shrine of epic proportions by the local Buddhists and what they’ve created on the side and inside the limestone Myelat ridge is a worthy destination for anyone.

Pindaya Cave

In order to access the cave, one must travel about 1.5 hours away from the Heho Airport and drive through the quiet but active town of Pindaya where you can take an elevator up 9 stories to the entrance of the cave.  The southernmost Pindaya Cave can be entered and extends for about 490 feet along a well-worn path. It is known for its interior which contains over 9,200 images of Buddha (there is some variation of this number). Some of the older statues and images in the cave have inscriptions dating to the late 18th century and the earliest one dates from 1773. There may be some images without inscriptions that are older, but based on the style elements some believe none of them is older than the early 18th century and even suggests 1750 as the earliest possible date. The statues and images come in all shapes and sizes and have been placed there on an ongoing basis by different donors throughout the cave’s history, from lay people to the ruling authorities. The collection begins from the early Konbaung era to the modern period. (Wiki)
Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Within the cave, there are about seventy unique images of the Bhisakkaguru tradition dating to the late 18th century. They are unique in that the styling of hair, eyes, nose, ears, robe are different from most other images from Burma. The salient feature of this type of image is the holding of a seed in the upturned right palm. Than Tun reports that such images are found nowhere else in Burma, and based on Buddhist iconography, that these images are from the Mahayana tradition, and the conjecture is that the Pindaya cave at one time served the Mahayana Bhisakkaguru cult. (Wiki). The fact of the matter is that each point is in contention as locals believe this cave and some of the images are thousands of years old.
Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

There is a 15-m (49 ft) pagoda named Shwe U Min (Golden Cave) Pagoda at the entrance to the southernmost cave. Local legend attributes this pagoda as being built by King Asoka and repaired by King Alaungsithu in the 12th century, but this is not corroborated by any other historical source. In its present form and style, it is immediately apparent that the pagoda is of recent origin.

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave      Pindaya Cave    Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

There are many legends surrounding the Pindaya cave. One is that a blocked-off path at the end of the cave leads to the ancient city of Bagan. There is also the legend of the seven princesses bathing in a lake and how they were captured by a giant spider and trapped in the cave to be rescued by Prince Kummabhaya of Yawnghwe. Sculptures of the spider and the prince aiming with his bow and arrow have been added in recent times at the entrance of the covered stairway to the caves.

Pindaya Cave

After touring the cave (which took almost 3 hours!), we explored the outside and cliffs of the Golden Cave area which featured awesome statues and stupas as well as a game of Chinlone (Sepak Takraw) or as we know it, hackey sack mixed with football played with a ball of bent bamboo. We didn’t jump in, but it looked fun!
Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

Pindaya Cave

For more information on the Pindaya Cave: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Pindaya Cave: Click Here

The Grand Palace at Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace is a highlight of Wat Phra Kaew 

Modern history meets ancient history at the Grand Palace of Wat Phra Kaew

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Temple of the Emerald Buddha: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

The Grand Palace

Having previously written about the Wat Phra Kaew in beautiful downtown Bangkok, Thailand, here is quickie on the Grand Palace of Thailand – located on the back end of the compound. The Grand Palace certainly gives credence to the name. Constructed during the reign of King Rama V from 1897 to 1903. The new palace, Phra Thinang Boromphiman (pictured above), was built over the site of an old armory after King Rama V had it demolished. The new palace was intended as a gift to the first Crown Prince of Siam, Prince Maha Vajirunhis. It was originally named Phra Thinang Phanumart Chamroon, however before the construction was finished the prince died of typhoid at the age of 16. Once completed the palace was handed to the next heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiravudh, who ascended the throne in 1910 as Rama VI. He later gave the palace its present name (Wiki). After seeing the Phra Thinang Boromphiman, you can literally turn around and see the original palace shining in the sunlight.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) served as the official residence of the kings of Siam (and now Thailand, for those who haven’t watched the play “The King and I”) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) currently resides at Chitralada Palace but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. As mentioned in my previous post, the palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand and on this day it was easy to see why.

 The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace The Grand Palace The Grand Palace

Construction of the palace began on May 6, 1782, at the order of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, when he moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok. Throughout successive reigns, many new buildings and structures were added, especially during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). By 1925, the king, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace, and had moved to other residences. After the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932, all government agencies completely moved out of the palace.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The palace complex is roughly rectangular and has a combined area of a massive 218,400 square meters (2,351,000 sq ft) surrounded by four walls. It is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island, today in the Phra Nakhon District. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum, but it remains a working palace, with several royal offices still situated inside. After our walkthrough of the Grand Palace, we headed down the road to check out some other sites and grabbed a cab back to our hotel. As always, a quick drive through Southeast Asia can lead to its own little adventure.

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

    The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Temple of the Emerald Buddha: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew stands out among all the hustle and bustle of Bangkok

Thailand’s crown jewel temple, the Wat Phra Kaew, features three massive pagodas in the Sri Lankan, Thai and Khmer styles.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Phra Kaew

Simply put, the Wat Phra Kaew Pagoda is a mix of three things: the spiritual center of Thai Buddhism, the former residence of the Thai Monarch – the Grand Palace, and a fairy tale. I’ll go more into detail, but that is the gist of what we’re talking about. That, and an incredible collaboration between religion, history and modern politics.

Wat Phra Kaew

Our trip starts out with the Temple Guards, who stand mightily by protecting tourists from taking photos without something clever in them. They did their duty with flying colors while I learned that Ethiopians are more afraid of horses than the Chinese or Koreans. There is a Genghis Khan joke in there somewhere, I just can’t find it. So after that discovery, we entered the packed compound and here it is ever more apparent that tourists have discovered Thailand whereas in Myanmar, locals still dare to tread. In a way it’s almost like looking into the future for Myanmar’s incredible sights as many tourists kind of cheapen the experience of the Far East… but then again, we’re here so… here are the crammed gates:

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

After paying a small entrance fee and changing into long pants (insider tip: always wear long pants into religious sites in Thailand), we finally got a chance to take in the incredible and fantasy-minded Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The most sacred Buddha Temple in Thailand doesn’t disappoint in the least as three large pagodas surrounded by a more than mile long wall make for a once-in-a-lifetime skyline.  There are two main parts of the compound, the first of which contains three pagodas and the second contains the Grand Palace.

Wat Phra Kaew

The three pagodas of Wat Phra Kaew represent the changing centers of Buddhist influence. Phra Si Ratana Chedi is a 19th-century Sri Lankan-style stupa housing ashes of the Buddha. Phra Mondop, in the middle, is a library built in Thai style by Rama I, known for its excellently crafted Ayutthaya-style mother-of-pearl doors, bookcases containing the Tripitaka (sacred Buddhist manuscripts), human- and dragon-headed nagas (snakes) and statues of Chakri kings. The Royal Pantheon, to the east, was built in Khmer style during the 19th century. It’s open to the public for one day in October to commemorate the founding of the Chakri dynasty. All were closed while we visited as security was on high alert for the Queen of Thailand’s upcoming birthday (as a note, we left Bangkok the day before the bombing in downtown). Also to the north is a model of Angkor Wat, perhaps the most sacred of all Cambodian shrines. It was constructed by King Mongkut as a reminder that the neighboring state was under the dominion of the Thai. Thanks Wiki!

Wat Phra Kaew

Besides tourists, the first part of the Wat Phra Kaew compound is chock full of incredibly-detailed statues, figures and more. There is so much to see in the compound that you’d need a few days to take it all in. We tried, but again Thailand’s mini heatwave was baking this boy. So I’ll give a quick history lesson on this part and head to the Grand Palace after these pictures: According to popular belief, the Emerald Buddha is ancient and came from Sri Lanka. Art historians, however, generally believe that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. The much-revered Buddha image has traveled extensively over the centuries. The story goes that the Emerald Buddha was once kept covered in plaster in a monument in Chiang Rai, but a damaging lightning storm in 1434 uncovered the treasure.  The king of Chiang Mai tried very hard to procure the statute, but three times the elephant transporting the statute stopped at a crossroads in Lampang. Taking it as a sign from the Buddha, the statue was placed in a specially-built monumental temple in Lampang, where it stayed for 32 years. The next king of Chiang Mai was more determined, succeeding in bringing the Emerald Buddha to his city. It was housed in a temple there until 1552, when Laotian invaders took it. The statue stayed in Laos for 214 years, until General Chakri (later King Rama I) brought it back to the Thai capital at Thonburi after his successful campaign in Laos. In 1784, when he moved the capital across the river to Bangkok, King Rama I installed the precious figure in its present shrine, where it has remained as a tangible symbol of the Thai nation. It is feared that removal of the image from Bangkok will signify the end of the Chakri dynasty.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew

 Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew   Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

  Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew     Wat Phra Kaew  Wat Phra Kaew

Oh and of course the Emerald Buddha.

“It is not known when the statue of the Emerald Buddha was made, but it is generally believed that it was crafted in 14th-century Thailand. However, there are also claims that the statue originated in India or Sri Lanka. None of these theories can be firmly established as none of the historians could get a close look at the statue. The Emerald Buddha was found in Chiang Rai, Lanna in 1434, after a lightning storm struck a temple. The Buddha statue fell down and later became chipped, and the monks, after removing the plaster around the statue, discovered that the image was a perfectly made Buddha image from a solid piece of green jade. The image was moved a few time to various temples, first to Lampang, then to Chiang Mai, from where it was removed by prince Chao Chaiyasetthathirat to Luang Prabang, when his father died and he ascended the throne of both Lanna and Lan Xang, in 1551. The statue remained the it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. The statue remained there for twelve years. King Chaiyasetthathirat then shifted it to his new capital of Lan Xang in Vientiane in the 1560s. He took the Emerald Buddha with him and the image remained in Vientiane for 214 years until 1778. In the reign of King Taksin, Chao Phya Chakri (who later became Rama I) defeated Vientiane and moved the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane to Thonburi where it was installed in a shrine close to Wat Arun. Chao Phra Chakri then took over the throne and founded the Chakri Dynasty of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, and shifted his capital across the river to its present location in Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha was also moved across the river with pomp and pageantry and installed in the temple of Wat Phra Keaw.” – Wiki

Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace… coming soon.

For more on the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Phra Kaew: Click Here

Wat Arun and Roll

Wat Arun Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s history comes alive at Wat Arun

The Wat Arun “Temple of Dawn” is a brilliant spot to take in some Thai Buddhism near downtown Bangkok.

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Wat Arun

Caked in sunscreen on an atypically blistering day during Thailand’s rainy season, it’s easy to see why the locals are complaining of a heat wave… and why white boys from southwestern Ohio have a hard go of it traveling in Southeast Asia. Bangkok is only 45 minutes away by flight from Yangon, Myanmar, so a weekend in BKK it was! Our second day in Bangkok saw us travel to the outskirts of Bangkok proper to the Bangkok Yai district located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The lovely Wat Arun brought us out of the Sukhumvit district in downtown and while unfortunately for us it was in the middle of a reconstruction period it was still worth the hour or so trek.
Wat Arun

Wat Arun, or to call it by its full name Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, is a Buddhist temple named for the Hindu god Aruna. Meaning “Temple of Dawn,” the Wat Arun is one of Thailand’s best known and most ancient landmarks. Originally built around the beginning of the seventeenth century, it’s distinctive spires were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.

Wat Arun

The compound itself is quite large, with several different temples all in a typically Thailand/Khmer-ish architecture. Something I’ve found quite interesting around Southeast Asia is that the Buddhist statues are all very similar while the architecture of each pagoda varies depending on the country you’re in. For example, Myanmar’s pagodas all have a very distinct gold-domed appearance while Thailand’s are covered in statues and intricate carvings and are colored primarily in a white-ish hue. This was particularly noticeable at Wat Phrae Kaew, but more on that in the next post.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colorful porcelain. The height is measured between 66.8 meters (219 feet) and 86 meters (282 feet) tall. Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower. The circumference of the base of the structure is 234 meters. The corners are surrounded by four smaller satellite prang. The prang are decorated by seashells and bits of porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China. The presiding Buddha image, cast in the reign of Rama II, is said to have been molded by the king himself. The ashes of King Rama II are interred in the base of the image.

Wat Arun  Wat Arun Wat Arun

Next to the prang is the Ordination Hall with a Niramitr Buddha image supposedly designed by King Rama II. The front entrance of the Ordination Hall has a roof with a central spire, decorated in colored ceramic and stucco work “sheathed in colored china.” Basically, it’s incredibly colorful and detailed intricately. It is also a much welcome respite from the searing heat.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun  Wat Arun  Wat Arun

In addition to the towering stupas, a market, several shrines and monastery are all located in the compound. After taking in the incredible sights of the Wat Arun, we took a quick walk around the area (it’s a photographer’s dream) and then stopped off for a fresh coconut and on to the next stop on our journey… the awe-inspiring Wat Phrae Kaew.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun Wat Arun  Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

For all the high-resolution photos from Wat Arun: Click Here

Fast Times at Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda (Koehtatgyi) is a massive monument which stands testament to Burmese artistry

They don’t call Myanmar the “Golden Land” for nothing, and the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda is yet another example of gold mixed with ingenuity and devotion to Buddhism.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

 

Koe Htat Gyi

Upon arriving at the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda (Koehtatgyi Paya), I joked with my wife about how small the temple appeared from the outside. Half-joking and half-assuredly she told me that it would be gigantic on the inside just like the Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda and all the Pagodas we’ve seen around Myanmar. As always fellas, listen to your wife. She will usually be right and boy, was she ever.

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Located near the world-renowned Shwedagon Pagoda on Bargayar Road in the Sanchaung Township of Yangon, the bright and cheerful Koe Htat Gyi boasts a huge Buddha Image known locally as the nine-story (or -tiered due to the CGI sheet roof) pagoda or the Atula Dipatti Maha Muni Thetkya Image. Built in 1905 on the 14 acres of the Bargayar Monastery, the Image stands 72-feet tall.

Koe Htat Gyi   Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi
Vipassana meditation is very popular in Buddhism

According to local legend, a frog ate a snake at the site symbolizing victory – hence the image was built there. Also located around the main Image are many smaller Buddhas and pictures and scenes depicting the Buddha’s life. On the grounds of the compound, you can find many small shops selling beads, flowers, books, candles and many other assorted tchotchkies. Astrologers and palm-readers are also aplenty around the pagoda.

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi
The Gautama Buddha Image is incredible from every angle

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

The lively atmosphere at the pagoda is made by children running around and playing games. Plenty of statues and little figurines made out of marble and other materials are found throughout the entire complex.

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

Koe Htat Gyi

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

The Dark and Desolate Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda is an enormous Gautama Buddha Image centrally-located in Yangon

The Golden Land is filled with massive pagodas and the Nga Htat Gyi (Ngahtatgyi) is a testament to the Burmese use of gold and design to create a brilliant Image.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

Nga Htat Gyi

The Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda is perhaps the truest testament to Burmese craftsmanship in all of Yangon. Located across the street from the enormous Reclining Buddha Image of Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, Nga Htat Gyi (or Ngahtatgyi) has an almost eerie air about it. In order to access the temple, one must maneuver the increasingly traffic-heavy Shwegonedaing Road and ascend up a long and narrow staircase surrounded by jungle and overgrowth on both sides. As you make your way up the winding path, the sounds of the city grow ever more silent as you enter the desolateness of the main temple area.

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

  Nga Htat Gyi

I’ve mentioned before how few tourists enter Yangon’s lesser-known pagodas and this day was no exception. Nearly empty save the few monks and locals there to pray, Nga Htat Gyi’s dark and empty halls combined with the sound of thunder and rain in the background made this visit even more impressive and isolated. Just before you enter the main temple area with the usual huge, iconic Buddha image, each side of the entrance is lined with paintings of the Buddha’s life and teachings. They were, to be succinct and keeping with today’s theme, quite dark.

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

  Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

So now that we’ve established the seriousness of this site, let’s move on to the gigantic image itself. Built underneath a five-tiered roof (Ngahtatgyi translates roughly to “Five-Layered Roof”), the Buddha image stands about 15 meters tall (46 feet) and has Magite armor surrounding its body. Built around the year 1900 and painted in an incredibly gaudy and brilliant gold, the Buddha stands in contrast to its rich carved-wood background. An original 20.5-foot tall Buddha image stood previously at the site and was donated by Prince Minyedeippa back in 1558.

Nga Htat Gyi Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi
Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

The robes of the Buddha are meticulously detailed as are jewels in the headpiece. Furthermore, throughout the pagoda area are more statues of the Buddha, various figures such as the Naga Snake (a mythical snake which protects Buddhism), a large bell and a row of monks ascending into a 3-D image onto a wall.

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi
Nga Htat Gyi

.Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

 Nga Htat Gyi Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi
Chaukhtatgyi (green structure) and Buddhist monastery

   Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda: Click Here

Off the Grid in Yangon: Wijuwedo Paya

Wijuwedo Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Day-trip to the Wijuwedo Pagoda and you won’t forget it!

Close to Yangon but still ‘off-the-grid,’ the Wijuwedo Pagoda stands tall in the jungle.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Wijuwedo Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wijuwedo Pagoda: Click Here

Wijuwedo

The phrase “off the grid” in Myanmar is a very relative term – meaning that if you travel just a hop, skip or jump outside Yangon you are pretty much traveling into areas unknown to the West. Now, this doesn’t mean that no one outside of the locals have traveled there, but it means that you cannot find any information online (especially in English) about the sites you will come across. For this very reason, I have started this blog and dutifully maintain it to show the outside world just how much there is to see in this incredible country. Think that’s an exaggeration? Let’s consult Google Maps on the Wijuwedo Pagoda:
WijuwedoWijuwedo

So how did we find Wijuwedo Pagoda? While touring the incredible Meilamu Pagoda we came upon the murky and untamed Pazundaung Creek. Quick aside – the creek, though more of a river, typifies the absolute raw nature of Myanmar and how close the jungle really is to the newly-built modern civilization. Yangon is, for the most part, a city growing within a tropical rainforest. As soon as you step outside into the outskirts of the city, you find yourself entrapped and mystified by its sheer beauty and natural state. But I digress. Seeing several shining stupas in the distance I quickly inquired with a local restaurant owner about what the location was and they told me “Wujiwedo Pyay,” the Pagoda of Wujiwedo. With nothing on the internet or maps depicting its location, we knew we had a mission on our hands.

Wijuwedo
Wujiwedo Pyay across the Pazundaung

Upon exiting the Meilamu Pagoda, we found a taxi who was familiar with the area and, to our luck, knew enough English to understand where we wanted to go. The language barrier in Myanmar is enormous, however it isn’t surprising – after all, the country formerly known as Burma had been cut off from the Western world for almost 60 years. Cutting through the banned-in-Yangon proper motorcycles that line the streets, drive on the curbs and skim through traffic, we made our way across “Industrial Road Bridge” over the river and hung a right onto a dirt path lined on both sides with thicker than thick jungle bush. At the end of the dirt path, however, was the Wujiwedo Pyay.

Wijuwedo

There are very few tourists in Myanmar and only a handful of westerners, so my Ethiopian-Israeli wife and my whiter-than-white freckled features draw attention everywhere we go. Here, however, we seemed to be the first visitors to ever visitor the place. Whether that’s true or not, everyone seemed more than happy to guide us around the grounds and show us the different buildings that line the area. Unlike some of the more famous sites in Yangon such as the Shwedagon Pagoda and Sule Pagoda, this is not a tourist attraction.  Paved areas are at a minimum and there isn’t a lick of English in sight.

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Seriously, how does no one know about this place? And those photos of from just the FIRST stupa. It’s mind-boggling the detail on each pillar, doorway, ceiling and shrine is unknown and not publicized. This is just one example of the hundreds of locations not toured by outsiders. And one more reason to share with the world the beauties of Burma.

Wijuwedo
Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo
Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo  Wijuwedo

With about 7 total buildings and the sunlight fading, we needed to make haste in order to see the entire compound. Of course, who can refuse a nice photo op? Or three?Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

 Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo  Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo  Wijuwedo   Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo
The locals believe ringing the bell brings good luck

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Wijuwedo Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Wijuwedo Pagoda: Click Here

Swal Daw Pagoda aka Swe Taw Myat Paya

Swal Daw Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Swe Taw Myat Pagoda is a gorgeous gold and white dome standing over Yangon’s north

The Swe Taw Myat Pagoda in Yangon’s North is a welcome respite from the more touristy pagodas of its center and south.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Swe Taw Myat Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Swe Taw Myat Pagoda: Click Here

Swe Taw Myat

As with most places in Myanmar, several names for one location can be quite confusing. The Swal Daw Pagoda (or Swe Taw Myat, or Swe Dal, or… ) is a more recently-built pagoda in Yangon, funded mostly by donations from the Burmese people and Buddhists from the world over. It was commissioned to enshrine a sacred Buddha Tooth Relic from China, believed to be from the Gautama Buddha who died around 2,500 years ago.

Swe Taw Myat

The tooth was brought over from China in 1994 and was enshrined in the Pagoda for about 45 days, along with two ivory copies. As for the Pagoda itself, it is large white structure adorned with gold and incredibly intricate detailing all around.

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Unlike most relics in Myanmar, the Swe Taw Myat tooth relic can be viewed by the public. Usually the relic is hidden deep in the pagoda or stupa and cannot be viewed. Burmese Jade, ivory and gold make for the centerpiece in the Swal Daw Pagoda in an unbelievably impressive form. Located at the center of the large hall, the roof is supported by massive gold-painted columns. A raised structure is topped with a very elaborate, multi-tiered ceremonial umbrella. The surrounding fence is encircled by Buddha images in various mudras seated on pedestals. The relic is kept in a small cylinder-shaped glass case topped with a small multi tiered Pyatthat. The relic is encircled by small green jade Buddha images.

Swe Taw Myat

As for the Pagoda itself, it was built to resemble the ancient Ananda Pagoda in Bagan which dates back to the 11th century. Four entrances lead to the inner shrine in perfectly-symmetrical fashion. The stairs to each entrance are flanked by a pair of white and gold Chinthe, a mythological creature that looks like a lion. Chinthes are often seen guarding temples in Myanmar. The center of the structure consists of several tiers of receding size, topped with a gold painted sikhara and a spire.

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat
Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

As always, shoes come off upon entering the Pagoda compound. The grounds are open daily from 6 am until 6 pm. Admission is free, however I needed to make a 200 Kyat (20 Cents) donation fee for my camera. Located upon the Dhammapala Hillock in Mayangone Township, Yangon and across from a Buddhist monastery.

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

Swe Taw Myat

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Swe Taw Myat Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Swe Taw Myat Pagoda: Click Here

Massive Statues of Meilamu

Meilamu Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The Meilamu Pagoda is a Disneyland-like playground of Pagodas north of Yangon

There is so much to see and do in Yangon and one thing not to be overlooked on your travels is the Meilamu Pagoda.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Meilamu Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Meilamu Pagoda: Click Here

Meilamu
Several giant Gautama Buddha Images are stationed around the pagoda

The Meilamu Pagoda, located on Thudhamma Road in the working-class suburb North Okkalapa Township in Yangon, is a literal Disneyland of pagodas and stupas. Nominal access to the city’s power and sewer grid leave the Pagoda virtually untouched by tourists as electricity is available only several times per day. The pagoda and area is so remote that LonelyPlanet and the internet are little help to visitors as this is as far off the grid as  you can go in Yangon District.

Meilamu
Meilamu

Established in 1959, North Okkalapa Township serves as home to several structures on the Yangon City Heritage List and our day there was fulfilling and gorgeous as even storm clouds couldn’t keep our excitement at bay. Larger-than-life 3D stucco depictions of the Buddha’s life and practice can be found throughout the compound while a giant concrete crocodile houses a gallery depicting the legend of Mei La Mu, the girl born from a mangrove fruit, after whom the temple is named.

Meilamu

Meilamu

Walking through the compound takes quite a while even if you don’t pause to stop and look at all the sites. Making your way to the back of the compound, you come to Nga Moe Yeik Creek and Pazundaung Creek with teahouses and local restaurants galore. Houses floating on the water is truly a sight to see and across the creek is the stunning Wijuwedo Pagoda, but that is a story for another day!

Meilamu

Meilamu

Back to the compound, and numerous buildings scattered throughout the complex shelter other images of the Buddha before and after he became enlightened. In addition, many little shops adorn the walkways and entrances. You can buy little crabs, fish, clothing and more!

Meilamu
Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

Meilamu

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Meilamu Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Meilamu Pagoda: Click Here

Brilliant Botahtaung Pagoda & Jetty

The Botahtaung Pagoda & Jetty is a terrific stop when in downtown Yangon

Less well-known than the Sule Pagoda, the Botahtaung Pagoda located on a jetty that shares its same name is a brilliant stop when traveling through downtown Yangon.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Botahtaung Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Botahtaung Pagoda: Click Here

Botahtaung

Located next to the Yangon River in downtown Yangon, the Botahtaung Jetty features many shops, shrines and restaurants. The piece de resistance of the jetty is a pagoda so gold plated that it is disorientating. Literally disorientating, so much so that I didn’t even realize I was traveling in a circle within it.

Botahtaung

Botahtaung translates literally to English as “1,000 Military Officers” and with gold everywhere, it seems a fitting tribute to (according to legend, 1,000 military officers who escorted relics of the Buddha to Yangon from India around 2,500 years ago). Built around the time of the Shwedagon and Sule Pagodas, it was originally known as Kyaik-de-att, a Mon name, or Sandaw Shin. Enshrined in the hollowed gold-covered pagoda is a sacred hair of the Lord Buddha.
Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

The Botahtaung Pagoda stands about 40 meters high (132 feet) and features many ancient relics and artifacts from the Buddha and the local area. Every year during the dry season, the locals hold a festival at the shrine during which a weaving contest and Htamane cooking contest are featured. Htamane is a tradition Myanmar dish cooked with sticky rice, nuts and coconut. Theatrical troupes perform for the public at night while food stalls adorn the surrounding jetty.

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Modern history of the Botahtaung Pagoda includes a rebuilding project after it was destroyed during British Royal Air Force bombing in World War II when Japan had previously invaded the region. The relics excavated during the time of repair are enshrined in the visible showcase on the interior corridor walls. Together with the relics are silver, bronze and alabaster images of Buddha in a Pagoda- shaped casket serving as a repository of the sacred Hair and relics of the two great Disciples.

Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung
There are many Gautama Buddha Images around the compound

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

The jetty itself has many docks with cruises that run up and down the Yangon River for tourists, while locals use small skiffs to ferry across the river to residential neighborhoods and local markets. A delicious restaurant named Junior Duck sits at the far east end of the jetty, a great local joint that I highly recommend if you’re in the mood for Myanmar cuisine and great duck.

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

  
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Botahtaung Pagoda: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Botahtaung Pagoda: Click Here

Kabar Aye Pagoda & Mahapasana Cave

Kabar Aye Pagoda, Myanmar

The Kabar Aye Pagoda & Mahapasana Cave complex are prominent landmarks near Inya Lake

Yangon’s Inya Lake houses two huge pieces of modern Myanmar history in the form of the Kabar Aye Pagoda and Mahapasana Cave.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Kabar Aye Pagoda: Click Here

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Mahapasana Cave: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Kabar Aye Pagoda & Mahapasana Cave: Click Here

Kabar Aye Pagoda

The Mahapasana Cave & Kabar Aye Pagoda make for a great afternoon trip. Built in the 1950s for the Sixth Buddhist Synod (1954-1946), the locations played host to some 2,500 monks and marked the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment. The Mahapasana Cave (Great Stone Cave) was created as a replica of the Satta Panni Cave of India, which hosted the first Buddhist Synod. The Cave was used for congregation and reading scriptures and now serves as a place for pilgrimage.

Kabar Aye Pagoda

The hall itself was commissioned by Prime Minister U Nu and measures 67 meters long and 43 meters wide. The ceilings and walls are adorned with the teachings of the Tripitaka while the end of the hall has a Buddha image seated in the “Calling the Earth to Witness” posture. Six entrances along with six pillars all symbolizing the Sixth Synod.

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

 Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Heading out and south of the Mahapasana Guha is the Kabar Aye Pagoda (Kabaraye Paya). Meaning “World Peace,” the three-tiered hti Stupa stands 35 meters tall and the Pagoda is wonderfully decorated in almost every color imaginable. Golden statues along with lotuses of all shapes and size can be found throughout the Pagoda’s balcony.

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Aside from an exquisite exterior, the hollow interior of the Kabaraye Paya features exquisite paintings, Buddha depictions donated from around the world and four golden Buddha images: Kassapa Buddha, Kakusandha Buddha, Konagamana Buddha and Gautama Buddha.

Kabar Aye Pagoda

 Kabar Aye Pagoda

On August 29, 1961, the Burmese Parliament announced that Buddhism was the official state religion, mainly as a result of U Nu’s efforts. Cow slaughtering was officially banned in Burma. However, in 1962 Ne Win, who succeeded U Nu, repealed this measure and the effort to make Burma a Buddhist country was effectively halted. The construction of the Kabaraye complex was part of U Nu’s attempt to institutionalize Buddhism at the national level.

Kabar Aye Pagoda
Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

The Kabaraye Paya also underscores the failure of U Nu to standardize and institutionalize Buddhism. There are numerous minorities in Burma such as the Kachins and Karens who felt alienated by this effort to make Buddhism a state enterprise. Furthermore, Buddhists did not believe that Buddhism should be a part of a political institution. They wanted Burma to be a moral society but did not wish their religion to be imposed on the citizens. The monks who want religion to be a social practice that is separate from the state do not associate with these pagodas. Therefore, the pagodas such as the Kaba Aye are not affiliated with any monasteries. The fear is that if these monks become tied to a pagoda, which was built by the state and is run by the state, they will be captured by the state and lose their autonomy.

Kabar Aye Pagoda
Kabar Aye Pagoda

On December 25, 1996, two bombs exploded at the Kaba Aye Pagoda and Maha Pasana Cave, killing five people and wounding 17. The initial explosion took place at the Kaba Aye Pagoda at 8:20 pm, but nobody was injured because pilgrims did not use that entrance. However, the second explosion, which detonated two hours later as authorities were looking into the other blast, went off inside the temple as it was filling with pilgrims, causing the fatalities and injuries. At the Kaba Aye compound Buddha’s tooth relic was on display, and thus many more pilgrims were at the site than during normal times. The tooth relic, on loan from China and believed to be one of two surviving since the Buddha’s death 2500 years ago, was not damaged in the bombing.

The explosion followed a crackdown on student protestors who were demanding more civil liberties. The SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) accused the All-Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and the KNU (Karen National Union) of carrying out the bombing. Both groups denied the accusation. Aung Naing U, the foreign affairs liaison officer of the ABSDA, denied all involvement and added, “This is just an excuse by the SLORC to use force in suppressing the democratic forces. We learned that more security forces were placed at the site of the bombing; despite this measure, the explosions took place. Thus, it is assumed that it must be the work of the SLORC.”

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda  Kabar Aye Pagoda

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Kabar Aye Pagoda: Click Here

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Mahapasana Cave: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from Kabar Aye Pagoda & Mahapasana Cave: Click Here

The Tremendous Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The Reclining Buddha of Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple is a masterpiece of Burmese craftsmanship

Huge Buddha Images are not uncommon in the Golden Land and the Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple is a shining example of that.

For more information on the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, visit the travel guide here: Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

For all the high-resolution photos from Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda: Click Here

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The giant Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple (Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda) located in Yangon is, in a word, breathtaking. Standing 30 meters tall and over 65 meters long, the gigantic Reclining Buddha image is one of Buddhism’s most revered religious symbols. Built in 1907, it was in severe disrepair until a group of devout monks restored it in 1966.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

The monsoon season in Myanmar runs from May/June to early October and on this day it was already in peak form. A great metal structure was built to protect the Paya (Myanmar for Pagoda) from the elements along with many other smaller stupas and Buddha images.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

At one end of the colossal Buddha you can take in the exquisite detail of the face and hands (not to mention bejeweled headpiece and sash) while at the base of the Buddha its feet tell the tales of his life in 108 different and highly-detailed segments. A pedestal at the base allows for some photo op session, however the real challenge is to fit the entire Reclining Buddha in one frame. After some time, I finally succeeded-ish.
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Attached by rickety walkways and tin roofs is the local monastery Ashay Tawya, which houses both monks and the sick from all around the country seeking care at one of the local hospitals. I was given a tour by a monk I met on the site who was more than happy to share his knowledge and the history of the area with me.

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
My guide and new friend studies in India and is on his way to becoming a full-fledged monk of 30+ years of learning.
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
Walking down into the Ashay Tawya Buddhist Monastery

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
The view from the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda towards the gnarly Ngahtatgyi Pagoda

 

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
Brand-new donated Gautama Buddha Images line the back of the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
This stone tablet is a popular spot for male and female monks alike
Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar
A pair of female monks (Buddhist Nuns) capture the Buddha’s teachings on their phone

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

For more information on the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, visit the travel guide here: Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

For all the high-resolution photos from Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda: Click Here

Sule Pagoda & Maha Bandula Garden

Sule Pagoda

The Sule Pagoda & Maha Bandula Garden can be visited together in downtown Yangon

Yangon has many beautiful features and the Sule Pagoda packs both beauty and political meaning into one brilliant spire.

To read the Myanmar Travel Guide visit the blog here: Sule Pagoda

For all my High-Resolution images: Click Here

Maha Bandula Garden Yangon Myanmar

100+ Fahrenheit didn’t stop us from vising two of Yangon’s iconic landmarks – the 2,500 year-old Sule Pagoda and the  independence-marking Maha Bandula obelisk. Situated in the middle of the Maha Bandula Garden, the obelisk pays tribute to its namesake General who fought the British in the Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) and was built in 1948. The gardens around the massive monument are filled with beautiful trees and a well-manicured lawn, where many young couples lay around covered by umbrellas in an attempt to hide from the oppressive sun.

Maha Bandula Garden Yangon Myanmar

Maha Bandula Garden Yangon Myanmar

Maha Bandula Garden Yangon Myanmar

Maha Bandula Garden Yangon Myanmar

As the sun began to beat down on us, we made a quick run caddy-corner from the park to the ancient Sule Pagoda. A focal point for local Burmese politics and social events, the golden spire stands tall among all the modern development in the area. Built during the time of the Buddha, the stupa was the rallying point during the 1988 uprisings and the 2007 Saffron Revolution. Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar
The Pagoda sits above the road on an elevated platform

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

The Sule Pagoda was made the center of Yangon by Lt. Alexander Fraser of the Bengal Engineers, who created the present street layout of Yangon soon after the British occupation in the middle of the 19th century. (Lt. Fraser also lent his name to Fraser Street, now Anawrattha Street and still one of the main thoroughfares of Yangon).

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar
Donations to monks go inside the basket and a pulley system takes them up to the pagoda

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar
Donating bananas to the Gautama Buddha Image
Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar
Many forms of meditation occur at the pagoda including vipassana

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

Sule Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

To read the Myanmar Travel Guide visit the blog here: Sule Pagoda & Maha Bandula Garden

For all my High-Resolution images of the pagoda: Click Here

Photo Journal: Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

The Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha is an unbelievable work of art

Of all of Myanmar’s incredible pagodas, the Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha is certainly one of the most impressive.

For all my high-resolution images of the Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha: Click Here

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Yangon is flush with Pagodas of every shape and size. While looking for apartments around the city, we caught view of a beautiful brown and gold structure and had to take a look. What we found was a huge street market, massive Pagoda-guarding Lions and, perhaps, one of the most epic marble stone structures we’d ever seen.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha. Seriously massive. Standing just north of the city about 30 minutes through traffic-packed streets, the temple compound is a labyrinth of shops and devout Buddhist worshippers of all ages ascending towards the top of the hill in which the main chamber is situated.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Expert craftsmanship all around the exterior is somewhat commonplace in the Golden Land, with smaller stupas and statues dotting the landscape. Gautama Buddha images each unique in their own right are found throughout the entire area.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Most Pagodas contain steps leading up to a plaza and central monument, such as the Shwedagon’s sky-scraping golden spire or the Kyauk Taw Gyi’s big ‘ol Buddha.  Along each side of the steps, peddlers and local sellers pitch tourist gear, trinkets and tchotchkes. Upon reaching the plaza, many separate stupas are built around the main building with the Kyauktawgyi Marble Buddha and each is as detailed and elegant as the next.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha
Junior monks study meticulous paintings depicting the Marble Buddha’s move from the north of the country down the river and into Yangon

  Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha
Burmese Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha

There are several Marble Buddha’s located throughout Myanmar and in Burma’s former capital there are none quite as perfectly carved as the Kyauktawgyi Marble Buddha.

For all my high-resolution images of the Kyauk Taw Gyi Marble Buddha: Click Here

Photo Journal: Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

The world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda is more impressive in person than in photos or videos

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a pillar of Myanmar Buddhism and is as revered as it is incredible.

For all my High-Resolution images of the Shwedagon Pagoda: Click Here

For all my High-Resolution images of the Shwedagon Pagoda at NightClick Here

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda located in Yangon, Myanmar is certainly a one-of-a-kind compound visible from all parts of the former Burmese capital. Also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda or the Golden Pagoda, the main spire stands 325 feet tall (99 meters or taller than a football field is long) and is one of the more impressive sites in the entire area.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda
There are thousands of statues of Gautama Buddha around the Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda
Gautam Buddha is covered by different robes according to the season in Burmese tradition

The entire “compound” features hundreds of smaller stupas with Buddhas and carvings of all shapes and sizes. The detail on each column, figurine, statue and stand is incredible. There is so much to see even in one of these individual stupas that it overwhelms the senses to the point where you look at the main figurine and move on. To give each its proper due would take months. Literally months.

There are 4 entrances to the Shwedagon – East, West, North and South. Each entrance contains a massive covered walkway guarded by two Chinthes – Burmese mythological creatures – and many flights of stairs. There is a ‘bonus’ entrance off the north side with an elevator for those who need assistance reaching the pagoda which sits on top of the Great Dagon Hill.

Shwedagon Pagoda
Yangon Myanmar in 2016

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda
Rangoon, Burma, is one of the premier places for travel photography

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Vipassana Meditation techniques along with many others are practiced throughout Myanmar and Burma is home to thousands of monasteries, some of which accept foreign practitioners.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda
All type of meditation can be seen at the Shwedagon, including Vipassana

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

For a country that ranks 2nd in landmass in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has more than its share of golden stupas and pagodas located throughout. Yangon’s centerpiece is a class above the rest as its renown is legend around the globe of the world.

For all my High-Resolution images of the Shwedagon Pagoda: Click Here

For all my High-Resolution images of the Shwedagon Pagoda at NightClick Here

Shwedagon Pagoda
Rocking a longyi in Myanmar Burma

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda
Actual Ivory carved with images of Gautama Buddha
Shwedagon Pagoda
Make your own globe of the world!