Myanmar vs. India AFC Football at the Thuwanna

AFC Football Myanmar vs. India

Yangon’s Thuwanna Stadium played host to the FIFA AFC Football Qualifier between the White Angels and the Blue Tigers

The 2017 FIFA AFC Football Asian Cup Qualifier match between Myanmar and India was played on March 28th at the Thuwanna Stadium in Yangon and ended in a 1-0 result for the visiting team.

For all the high-resolution photos from the Thuwanna Stadium: Click Here

AFC Football

“Mate, wanna go see the Myanmar vs. India Football game? March 28th and tickets should be cheap.” Sounds good to me hey. For 3,000 Myanmar Kyat (roughly $2.50 USD), you can sit in an open-seating area near the pitch which honestly, you really can’t beat. I won’t go too deep into the details of the match (you can catch all the highlights here), but as you can imagine from two teams ranked quite low on the FIFA Rankings there were many easy chances missed for both teams albeit with several spurts of decent play. India took the win 1-0 at the end with a goal in the last five minutes. I’m going to focus on the stadium and experience, but if you want to see all the pics in high resolution check out the Facebook album here.

The Thuwanna Stadium in Yangon is the premier multi-function stadium in Myanmar. I know that might not be saying much given the state of stadiums in the country but it is everything you need for a sports event and literally nothing more. No concessions, limited signs (and those that exist are in Burmese) and chairs which range from affixed plastic shells on concrete to bare concrete steps. I felt like the VIP box seats might be worth a few extra Kyat, but no… no a/c in the VIP. Fine by me, I like to be a ‘man of the people.’ What I didn’t realize was that myself and a mate would be two of the handful of foreigners in the entire stadium.

A couple of Israelis Abroad

First things first – the kit. Upon hopping out of the cab, we drew looks from everyone around wondering why two foreigners (read: white guys) would be at the AFC football. Not wanting to stand out and, of course, being railroaded by a couple old ladies with obviously ‘official’ gear, we picked up two Myanmar football headbands for 500 Kyat each ($0.35) and upon entering the stadium, two official kits for 9,000 Kyat each ($7.00). Not bad compared to the Euro kits which run from $100 USD and up. Each step of the way we were stopped for selfies by locals who loved our outfits and the fact that we showed up to the match. Two Israelis and 32,000 of our newest and closest friends.

Once we found our gate (which of course was any gate they let us in), we made our way to some primo seats thanks to the open seating setup. I caught several people taking our photos and you know, when in Myanmar you just get used to that sort of thing. One of the awesome things about the Myanmar people is that they are the politest fans I’ve ever seen. They smile the whole game, sing and chant for their team and never boo or curse the team even if they miss a sitter or when they gave up the winning goal at the death. Really a great experience vs. western fans who curse as a matter of commentary.

And… free scarfs for the diehard fans. We were able to get some as well.
Not a bad seat for about $2.50

 

Night falling on the Thuwanna

The 18:00 kickoff saw night fall in the second half and after the final whistle, fans started pouring out of the stadium en masse. We got out and started heading towards the main road when I spotted a gap in the surrounding fence and a clear path to the field. About 10 minutes after the whistle the path was empty and we headed towards the field. Perhaps they thought we were FIFA officials or something but no one batted an eye. So to the field we went!

Myanmar’s #1 Ultra Fan
View from the penalty

All in all, a great experience at the Thuwanna Stadium and for the price, absolutely worth it. If you happen to be traveling through Myanmar and find out there is a match to take in, definitely make the effort and of course, if you can make it on to the field don’t skip the opportunity!

For all the high-resolution photos from the Thuwanna Stadium: 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

The Mysterious Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar Grave, Yangon, Myanmar

The Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar is a stark reminder of the harsh British colonization of  India and Southeast Asia

Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last emperor of the Mughal dynasty and his remains have been interned in the land of which he was exiled, modern-day Myanmar.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Bahadur Shah Zafar: Click Here

 

Bahadur Shah Zafar

The Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar represents a fascinating bit of Asian history and is located just south of the mighty Shwedagon Pagoda. The mausoleum is a half-mosque half-tomb which pays tribute to the last Mughal Emperor of India. Zafar was exiled to what was then Rangoon after supporting the Sepoy Rebellion in Delhi (Indian Rebellion of 1857) against the British East India Company. The might of the Mughals had already been severely injured beforehand and British Colonial Rule began shortly thereafter with the Government of India Act 1858 which established the British Raj.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar
The Bahadur Shah Zafar Memorial Hall is exquisitely kept in a very dusty part of town

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar
The tomb of Zafar resting in the lower level of the Hall

The Mughal (also known as Mogul) Dynasty was a Turco-Mongol lineage consisting of a “Classic Period” from 1556 with Akbar the Great, his son Jahangir, Shah Jahan and more all holding the throne. Mirza Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar, to give his full name,  had a reputation as a talented Urdu poet and held the throne from 1837-1857. He died in 1862 and chronicler William Dalrymple wrote of how his shrouded corpse was quickly buried in an anonymous grave inside his prison enclosure so that, as the British Commissioner in charge of Zafar insisted, “No vestige should remain to distinguish where the last of the Great Mughals rests.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar
The entrance to the tomb of Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar

A mausoleum was later built on the location of the prison yet the grave itself remained a mystery until the year 1991 when workmen discovered his remains three and a half feet underground during excavations for a new structure at the site. Today his grave is covered in silks and strewn with sweet-smelling petals. The tomb now serves as a place of pilgrimage for Indians, Muslims and others interested in the history of the Raj. The mausoleum still functions as a mosque and is home to the remains of his wife and children. (Hat tip to LonelyPlanet).

Bahadur Shah Zafar
The courtyard of the mausoleum

The compound is located on a small road just south of the Shwedagon Pagoda. The entrance is fairly easy to find as a golden gate stands out from the lush green surroundings. The quiet aura of the mosque is disturbed only by some locals grabbing a quick lunch at a street cart near the entrance. Upon entering the compound, several locals move about sweeping different areas, eating some strong-smelling Indian cuisine or washing their feet for prayer. I was the only tourist at the tomb (not uncommon at ‘tourist’ spots in Yangon) so the chance to really explore the mausoleum undisturbed was quite a treat.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar

A poem by Bahadur Shah Zafar:
Umr-e-daraaz maang ke laye the char din/Do aarzu mein kat gaye, do intezar mein
Hai kitna badnasseb Zafar dafn ke liye/Do gaz zameen bhi mil na saki koo-e-yaar mein.
Na kisii kii ankh ka nur na kisii ke dil ka qarar hun/Jo kisii ke kam na a sake main vo ek musht-e-Gubar hun
Na to main kisii ka habiib hun na to main kisii ka raqiib hun/Jo bigar gaya vo nasiib hun jo ujar gaya vo dayar hun
hamane duniyaa mein aake kyaa dekha/dekhaa jo kucch so Khvaab-saa dekhaa/hai to insaan Khaak kaa putlaa/lekin paanii ka bulbulaa dekhaa)
I had requested for a long life a life of four days/Two passed by in pining, and two in waiting/How unlucky is Zafar! For burial/Even two yards of land were not to be had, in the land (of the) beloved./My life gives no ray of light, I bring no solace to heart or eye/Out of dust to dust again, of no use to anyone am I/Barred the door of the fate for me, bereft of my dear ones am I/The spring of a flower garden ruined/Alas, my autumn wind am I/I came into the world and what did I see?/Whatever I saw was just like a dream/Man is moulded from clay but/I saw him as a bubble of water.
Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar
Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and his wife Smt. Gursharan Kaur pray after offering chadar at the Mazar of Bahadur Shah Zafar, on May 29, 2012.
Bahadur Shah Zafar
A rare photo of Shah Zafar in exile
Bahadur Shah Zafar
The mausoleum doubles as a regularly-used mosque for Yangon’s local Muslim population
Bahadur Shah Zafar
Muslim Myanmar

Bahadur Shah Zafar

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Bahadur Shah Zafar: Click Here

The Immaculate Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery, Yangon, Myanmar

Amidst the crowded streets and loud ruckus of day-to-day Yangon, the Rangoon War Cemetery is a welcome reprieve

The Rangoon War Cemetery is a perfectly-kept grass rectangle hidden down a dark alley from small street food shops and local car repair joints.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Rangoon War Cemetary: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Rangoon War Cemetery: Click Here

Rangoon War Cemetery

From time to time I peruse sites looking for new programming on Myanmar as I’m always curious to see what the world is showing about this ‘little’ corner of the world. Recently I came across a BBC program entitled “Burma’s Secret Jungle War” and my first thought was “Oh great, a program demonizing this country during a time of transition from brutal military junta rule towards a liberal democracy… c’mon fellas, leave it.” You see, I presumed that this new program, a two-part series, was based around Myanmar’s (or Burma’s, if you will) decades-long struggle with rebel groups in Kachin State, Karen State, Shan State, etc. Planning to watch it anyways, I quickly realized that it was about the incredibly-brave British fighting force, the Chindits, taking on the Japanese army behind enemy lines in Burma back in World War II. Fears resigned and curiosity piqued, I settle in to watch both hours-long episodes with my Mrs. Of course, fate would have its say the next day as I somehow happened to find myself next to the small cemetery which pays homage to these fallen warriors in the heart of Yangon. More on my part of the story later.

Rangoon War Cemetery
The Rangoon War Memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Rangoon War Cemetery

The Chindits fighting force was a mix of British and Indian fighters who were deposited behind enemy Japanese lines in the far north of Myanmar in the Shan and then Kachin States during World War II. Fighting a guerrilla war of sabotage against he Japanese, the force encountered not only the harsh resistance of the army but also the powerful monsoon rains, thick bugs and mosquitoes, viral and other sicknesses along with food shortages all piled on top of long treks through thick Southeast Asian jungle. The host of the aforementioned television program Burma’s Secret Jungle War, Joe Simpson, is a renowned mountaineer and author of Touching the Void, and his father actually served in the Chindits as the coordinator of airdrops and as their navigator. Armed with his father’s old maps, diary, and a special permission to enter parts of the country normally closed to tourists, Simpson and guest host/fellow adventurer Ed Stafford attempted to retrace the group’s steps but fail to follow completely as fighting in the area between the Myanmar army and aforementioned rebel groups hit a crescendo during the events of the filming of the show – Myanmar’s first free elections in decades.

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

I won’t give anything further away from the show (you can watch both episodes free on YouTube (Part 1; Part 2) however the last bit shows Simpson touring the Yangon War Memorial Cemetery. Having traveled all around Yangon it was one of the few places I’ve yet to go and the next day while randomly getting my car fixed down a dirty and dark alley (busted motor starters hey?) off the main drag a bit south on Pyay Road, I noticed a sign for the Rangoon War Memorial. Now it wasn’t the Taukkyan War Cemetery featured in the show, however it seemed that fate meant for me to check it out. What are the odds the local car repair joint sits next to a Commonwealth War Graves Commission site?

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery  Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery
More than 74,000 Commonwealth casualties came from the war

Rangoon War Cemetery

The immaculate grounds are in part thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the good work of the British Embassy and a caretaker who resides on site. The Rangoon War Cemetery is open daily from 7:00 – 17:00. The CWGC site is wheelchair accessible and easy to access and meander about. The Rangoon War Cemetery was first used as a burial ground immediately following the recapture of Rangoon in May 1945. Later, the Army Graves Service moved in graves from several burial sites from in and around Yangon, including those of the men who died in the infamous Rangoon Jail as prisoners of war.

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery
There are 1,381 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery
86 of the burials are unidentified and there are special memorials to more than 60 casualties whose graves could not be precisely located

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

The cemetery is a lot to take in, however its location off the back road and insulation from the main drags by residential buildings make the cemetery a quiet ground to pay your respects. As a final resting place in Yangon, it really doesn’t get as serene or green as the Rangoon War Cemetery.

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery
Layout of the Rangoon War Cemetery
Rangoon War Cemetery
The Chindits
Rangoon War Cemetery
Ed Stafford (l) and Joe Simpson (r)

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Rangoon War Cemetary: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Rangoon War Cemetery: Click Here

Resources:

CWGC.Org

Chinditslongcloth1943.com

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

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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

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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

Real Myanmar Nature at Hlawga National Park

Hlawga National Park, Myanmar

Hlawga National Park is a great way to see some Myanmar nature while in Yangon

About an hour and a half north of the hustle and bustle of Myanmar’s largest city and former capital of Yangon is the Hlawga National Park. The jewel of a Myanmar nature preserve is flush with free-roaming monkeys, deer, elephants and more.

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Hlawga National Park: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Hlawga National Park: Click Here

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The Myanmar nature reserve is divided into two parts: a walk-through zoo and a drive-through safari area. The zoo area features several types of bears, deer, full-grown monkeys, alligators, exotic birds and much more. The zoo has plenty of animals running around like monkeys. Be careful around these animals as they are absolutely wild and can be friendly one minute for some free snacks and then hyper-aggressive due to their territorial nature. Feeding the bears is quite fun as is tossing fresh leaves to the deer. As far as zoos go (especially in Asia) these animals have quite large and clean habitats with plenty of resources to stay cool and comfortable in the hot sun.

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The Asian Sun Bear
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Bears love fruit

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The drive-through safari is a dream but as a tip, for sure don’t take the local bus. The local bus is usually crammed with people, lacks air-conditioning and is so crowded and slow that locals hang from the outside just so they don’t have to walk in the oppressive Southeast Asian heat. Spend a few extra thousand Myanmar kyat (an entrance fee of around 3-4,000 kyat or $2-3 USD plus private mini-bus or ‘tuk-tuk’ fee of 5-6,000 kyat or $4-5 USD) is absolutely worth it. With the private vehicle you can stop off and feed the animals, interact with them and even hang out at a petting area and get up close and personal with some deer and monkeys. Elephant rides are also available but as a conscientious traveler I usually refrain from these activities. It’s hard on the animals and immoral due to their training and ‘breaking-in’ process.

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You also have the option of taking your own private vehicle through the park but I wouldn’t recommend it (unless you drive a beater!). The dirt path is narrow, wildly uneven and contains debris that may scrape your undercarriage to a nerve-wracking point. You can toss out treats to the animals (purchasable around the park) but visitors tend to throw any old food at the animals. Not a great idea and absolutely not recommended.

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Myanmar Nature

The whole experience is great and is very family-friendly. Independent travelers in Myanmar can have a great time as well and it’s definitely worth the drive if you have a free afternoon. Buses head this way as well and are frequent from Yangon. During the hot and dry season you’ll need to pack plenty of sunscreen and down copious amounts of water.

Myanmar Nature

Myanmar Nature

For more information from our Travel Guide on the Hlawga National Park: Click Here

For all the high-resolution photos from the Hlawga National Park: 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

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

Balance Fitness Center Charity Sports Day

Balance Fitness Charity Yangon Myanmar

Local Gym Balance Fitness Center hosted its 3rd Annual Charity Sports Day

Yangon’s premier gym Balance Fitness Center holds an annual sports day for local underprivileged children and those from orphanages.

Balance Fitness Center
Dance with Balance Fitness instructor Mimi Wu

During my time here in Southeast Asia, I’ve had the opportunity to  work with some local businesses and organizations to help the underprivileged, impoverished and those who have suffered from years of conflict and natural disasters. On January 10th, Balance Fitness hosted its third annual Charity Sports Day for over 360 orphans and poverty-stricken children from all around the Yangon area.

Balance Fitness Center

Balance Fitness Center

Held at the Seinn Lann So Pyay Garden on Inya Road (just south of Inya Lake; blog, more info), the event featured many famous Burmese musicians, local businesses selling their goods for donations to the charity and plenty of sports-related activities for the children to take part in. Soccer (known here as football), hacky sack, yoga, leithwei (Burma’s version of the well-known Muay Thai kickboxing), dance and more were offered for the children to take part in.

Balance Fitness Center
Leithwei with Aung Thett
Balance Fitness Center
Hacky sack with Tony Jones

The past two years’ events saw over $30,000 USD raised for 8 orphanages and this year’s event was the biggest and most successful yet. The charity day began from around 1pm and ended after 6pm, with happy and ‘tuckered-out’ children heading to their homes with plenty of prizes, new clothes, toys and huge smiles on their faces. Of all the fundraisers and charities I’ve attended so far in Myanmar, this was by far the most fun and most well-organized event. A day gone and already we are looking forward to next year’s event.

Balance Fitness Center

Balance Fitness Center

Balance Fitness Center

Balance Fitness Center
Burmese orphans wearing the traditional ‘longyi’

Balance Fitness Center

To check out Balance Fitness Center, click here for the website or click here to ‘like’ on Facebook.

2015 Myanmar Election Through the Lens

Elections, Yangon, Myanmar

The 2015 Myanmar election shot live in Yangon by a diplomat’s spouse

The opportunity to experience democracy in action during the 2015 Myanmar election was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

2015 Myanmar election

November 8th 2014 marked the day I proposed to my wife, a diplomat of the State of Israel, and I never thought that we would be celebrating our 1-year proposal-versary in the country of Myanmar (formally Burma) observing the nation’s first free and fair elections in over a quarter of a century. The build-up to this day was marked with a speculative excitement  and nervousness I’ve never felt before from the locals, who feared everything from a military crackdown to a delay in voting to a rigging of the elections. As we await the closing of the polls at 4:00pm local time, it seems as though the fear and tension have abated by now as happy voters and thrilled security staff lined up side-by-side since 5:00am to cast their vote and celebrate their leap towards democracy and a truly representative government.

2015 Myanmar election

2015 Myanmar election

Much has been made in the international media of the regime’s oppression of minority Muslims and disenfranchised citizens, however in Yangon, the nation’s former capital, all were united in a peaceful and beautiful display of camaraderie and hope. As an American born and bred, I can honestly say that the overwhelming feeling of optimism far surpassed anything I felt during Barack Obama’s election campaign back in 2008.

2015 Myanmar election

2015 Myanmar election

2015 Myanmar election

As luck would have it, the polling station we were at in Bahan Township in Yangon was graced with the presence of National League for Democracy chairperson, Nobel Laureate and world-renowned freedom fighter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she cast her vote. Daw Suu Kyi’s famous history, for those who don’t know, includes a war hero of a father who negotiated Burma’s independence from the British, General Aung San, and years of house arrest by the military junta who previously led the country for her advocacy for democracy.

2015 Myanmar election

Given her status and high profile nature, international press and media attended the polling station and crowded out many of the locals hoping to ‘get that one shot’ of Daw Suu Kyi to blast around the world’s mainstream media and social media. The media horde dissipated as soon as Daw Suu departed and business returned to normal. Happy voters with ink-stained fingers proudly waved them after voting in the 2015 Myanmar election, as election organizers are using this method to prevent anyone from voting more than once. Many families all attended together, helping their parents and grandparents sort through the process and make it to the polling booths. Even the security guards were more than willing to lend a helping hand to those in need.

2015 Myanmar election

2015 Myanmar election

There is much more to say on the elections, including discussions on the current president U Thein Sein, his USDP party and the constitution of Myanmar, written by the military, which excludes Daw Suu Kyi from holding the title of President, however I’ll leave that to the mainstream media. I will leave this post on one thought – how incredible it is to see real, true democracy in action in a place that has little experience with it in the past. Myanmar is a place with a truly special culture and people, and I’m thrilled to having been able to watch it from the sidelines.

2015 Myanmar election 2015 Myanmar election

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.

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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.

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Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi

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Nga Htat Gyi

Nga Htat Gyi
Chaukhtatgyi (green structure) and Buddhist monastery

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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

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Wijuwedo

Wijuwedo

 Wijuwedo

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Wijuwedo
The locals believe ringing the bell brings good luck

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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

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Meilamu

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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

Walking the History of the Jews of Burma

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Yangon, Myanmar, Burma

The Jews of Burma have a long and interesting history

The history of the Jews of Burma is linked to that of Myanmar’s largest cities and grandest institutions.

To read the Travel Guide about the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue: Click Here

For all my High-Resolution images of the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue: Click Here

Jews of Burma
Baghdadi Jews

Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and the Jews have an incredible albeit little-known history together. The first recorded Jew in the country of Burma came in with a bang and left a lasting legacy – Solomon Gabriol was a commander in the army of King Alaungpaya, responsible for founding he Konbaung Dynasty and its much-storied and famed capital which stands to this day, Rangoon (Yangon) in 1755.

The history of Jews of Burma is mainly tied to that of the Jews in India and the development of the British Empire. In the 19th century, Jewish merchants from India and Baghdad began establishing sizable communities in Rangoon and Mandalay trading cotton and rice. At its height the community of Jews of Burma stood at 2,500 members. Jews were so established that Rangoon had a Jewish mayor in the early 20th century!

Jews of Burma
U Nu and David Ben-Gurion

With the Japanese invasion in 1942, many Jews fled to India due to fears of being seen as British spies or sympathizers. The Jews kept tight relations within Burma however, and those manifested in Burma becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize the State of Israel. The two countries and leaders were so close that David Ben-Gurion visited Burma and struck up a lasting friendship with U Nu, Burma’s first Prime Minister. Israel opened its first Diplomatic mission in Yangon in 1953, and in 1957 it became an embassy. Both nations shared a Socialist outlook in their early years and until today cooperate in many different fields, such as agriculture, health and education.

Jews of Burma
Moshe Samuels Z”L (Photo courtesy of the Israeli MFA)

In 1962, the Burmese military toppled the government and nationalized businesses. Most of the remaining Jews left, however one man and his family stayed – Moses Samuels. The Samuels family has looked over the Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon for generations. Moses Samuels inherited the task of synagogue caretaker from his father Isaac Samuels and before that his grandfather. After his recent passing at the age of 65 from throat cancer, his son Sammy Samuels, a graduate of New York’s Yeshiva University, will assume the role of keeping the synagogue open. Sammy Samuels (Aung Soe Lwin) has already made a bit of modern history in the state as he and his wife Zahava Elfhady (Ei Ei Phyo) were recently married, marking the first Jewish wedding in Myanmar in 27 years.

Jews of Burma

I recently visited the Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon and was blown away not only by its beauty but its sheer size. Immaculately kept, the 2-story temple which was built in 1896 and once housed 126 Torah scrolls still maintains its presence amongst the street market outside. Most of the electronic, food and clothing vendors each carry signs adorned with a Magen David (Star of David) which mean that first, you are close to the synagogue, and second, that tourists should visit their shops!

Jews of Burma
Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, Israel, or… downtown Yangon, Myanmar…


Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

The synagogue, located down the road from the famous Sule Pagoda, is built with blue and white tile, blends a British Colonial-era feel with the warmth of a small-town American synagogue like Piqua or Ashtabula, Ohio. Knowing that you are now part of a small remnant of a once-thriving community is a strange feeling in and of itself, but the history, the location in the heart of the city and the distinction for which it’s held and appreciation of what it stands for is, quite frankly, a feeling I won’t soon forget and a privilege that I’m proud to now be part of.

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

To read the Travel Guide about the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue: Click Here

For all my High-Resolution images of the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue: Click Here

 

Sources: Wikipedia, JewishTimesAsia

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

Ho de Yangon Zoo ho de

The Yangon Zoo is one of Myanmar’s most prestigious zoological gardens

If you’ve ever wanted to get a taste of wild Myanmar, head to the Yangon Zoo and be prepared to sweat!

Check out the Travel Guide to the Yangon Zoological Gardens by Clicking Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Yangon Zoo: Click Here

Yangon Zoo

Let’s start with a quick lesson in the Myanmar language – “Ho de” is literally translated into “OK” in English, however you constantly hear a mixing of the two around Yangon – “Ho K, Ho K, Ho K” usually said three times. Why? No clue. Now let’s continue with a lesson in local custom – myself and my wife being eye-balled at the zoo more than any of the animals. Apparently a white guy and a black girl are more rare in this part of the world than elephants, hippos or tigers. Apparently.

Yangon Zoo

The locals also have no real concept of obeying rules at the Yangon Zoo, especially the ‘don’t feed the animals’ rule. Seeing kids throw fruit at hippos or otters is cute, but a monk giving absolutely zero f*cks and jumping over the guard rail to feed a massive 300+ lbs white tiger is one of the gnarliest things I think I’ve ever seen.

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

We arrived at Myanmar’s oldest zoo mid-day and the temperature was already well over 100F. After paying the 6,ooo Kyat entrance fee (about $3 each – more expensive for foreigners) we entered into a tropical path with various trails off of each side.

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Like the locals here in Yangon, we had an umbrella to shield us from the sun however it didn’t help much. With righteous humidity slowing our progress we ended up cutting the zoo a bit short, however the hour-plus we were there we were still able to catch most of the Yangon Zoo main attractions, of which included several behemoth Asian elephants, deer from around the region and more than a few strange birds and mammals.

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Yangon Zoo

Most Asian Zoos are strange to visit as they tend to have a much different view on animal’s right, upkeep and care. The Yangon Zoological Gardens are not much different and regardless of the small sizes of some of the enclosures, the elephants’ area was quite troubling to see.

Yangon Zoo
Riding elephants is a very harmful practice to the animals.
Yangon Zoo
Chains and…
Yangon Zoo
Very obvious struggle marks.

 Click the links below for more!

Check out the Travel Guide to the Yangon Zoological Gardens by Clicking Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my trip to the Yangon Zoo: Click Here

Of Tropical Diseases and Beautiful Lakes

Inya Lake

Of Tropical Diseases and Beautiful Lakes – Checking out Inya Lake in Northern Yangon

Surrounded by new developments and dilapidated old ones, Inya Lake is a part of Yangon’s long and storied history.

For Myanmar Travel Guide information on Inya Lake: Click Here

For all my high-resolution photos of Inya Lake in Yangon, Myanmar: Click Here

Inya Lake Inya Lake
Before & After – 4 days in

When people talk about their worst fears, usually it’s like “bro I hate snakes” or “dude I can’t stand clowns” or even “OMG, like, cockroaches are icks.” Welp, in my case I learned that it’s being in a third-world country and getting bit by a bug with some weird type of infectious disease and the local doctor says with absolute authority “yeah we’ve seen that before.” Then does nothing because there is nothing he can do.

Well this morning I’m grateful for doxycycline, the atomic bomb of antibiotics. The Iron Sheikh of Defeating Infections. The… you get the point. Doxycycline treats “Lyme disease, chronic prostatitis, sinusitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, acne, the yips, rosacea, rickettsial infections, urinary tract infections, intestinal infections, eye infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia, periodontitis, Baltimore-rioting syndrome and more. As an aside, I do want to mention how three nurses came running over to me in the International Emergency Medical Center and waited on my every need. I received two doctors’ undivided attention and they sorted me out with high priority. Israel could learn a thing or two from the Burmese as how to run an emergency med center efficiently and effectively.

So let’s continue shall we to the gorgeous Inya Lake, located smack-dab in the center of Yangon. Surrounded by beautiful golden pagodas, hotels, restaurants, a gorgeous walking path and gardens (as is custom here), the lake played host to many events for the Thingyan Festival (Myanmar’s New Year).

Inya Lake

Modern and primitive come together all around the lake and, as I’ve said before, the higher you go the more it seems like the city is growing right out of the jungle. This is also a hot spot for young local couples to come out, take a walk or lay and rest in one of the many gardens. The gardens are dotted with umbrellas which shield the couples from the blistering sun and weird foreigners with cameras snapping photos of them… like me.

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

Inya Lake

For Myanmar Travel Guide information on Inya Lake: Click Here

For all my high-resolution photos of Inya Lake in Yangon, Myanmar: 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!