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!

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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

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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.

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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

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

Living “Large” ‘in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

There are few places as beautiful as Luang Prabang, Laos

The flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Luang Prabang, Laos, is a short but sketchy one… and well worth the trip.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, click here.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang International Airport

So are you Chinese or Japanese? As a guy from Ohio that clip from “King of the Hill” was pretty much the only time I had every heard of Laos and you can bet after spending some time in Myanmar and Thailand I was pretty stoked to continue making my way East. Having just finished up a week in stunning Chiang Mai, Thailand, a quick 2-hour, super-choppy plane ride brought me over the jungles and mountains of Southeast Asia to the quaint Luang Prabang International Airport.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Headphones and view after view
Luang Prabang, Laos
The infamous Mekong River
Luang Prabang, Laos
Touchdown, Laos

 I had no idea what to expect upon arrival nor did I have any idea about what Laos would be like. Having been in Asia for some time, I assumed hot, jungle-y, but that really was it. On the plane, our route started trailing the Mekong River and when you notice the only signs of civilization are little fishing villages lining the wide-then-skinny-then-wide murky and muddy water of the Mekong, well, you realize pretty quickly that you’re about to be in the thick of it. Touchdown saw an unbelievable sight from the tarmac of rolling hills and mountains. A 20-minute or so wait for a visa-on-arrival and I was on my way via airport shuttle to a hostel in ‘downtown’ Luang Prabang. The 30-minute or so drive saw the sun set on me and at the last moment I got to catch the sunset just over the Mekong from the waterfront. Immediately my favorite shot of the trip so far.

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mekong River waterfront sunset
Luang Prabang, Laos
Utopia Bar off Aphay Street. Your experience will directly be affected by the people in town. The bar is super-chilled
Luang Prabang, Laos
Hostel found – time for Laotian street food
Luang Prabang, Laos
The crew
Luang Prabang, Laos
Post-drinks bowling
Luang Prabang, Laos
Our Laotian tuk tuk driver around 3am

The photos from this trip are a bit ‘below-par’ so to speak as I was shooting from my mobile – a Samsung Galaxy A8 – which turned out to be a good idea as my Canon would have been destroyed, like my watch, sunglasses and other affections that didn’t survive the trip. Laos is a helluva place! So hostel found, street food devoured (basically half a Euro for a chicken and avocado sandwich) and whiskey poured (1 Euro for 1 bottle!), we headed to a local pub popular with backpackers. Late-night bowling is all the rage in Luang Prabang so we ventured out there as well.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Not bad for $10/night for two people
Luang Prabang, Laos
The beautiful views of Luang Prabang, Laos

The next morning we woke up a bit late, hit up a breakfast and grabbed some motorbikes to head about 30km away to the Kaung Si Waterfall. I’ll cover that in the next post as this one will stick to just Luang Prabang. There’s so much to do in this little city up north in the jungle. The layout of the city is based on the side of the Mekong River with a large mountain in the middle of the city. Mount Phousi serves as a religious point in the heart of the city and has some of the best lookouts on offer.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Mount Phousi in the distance

Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddhas on Mount Phousi

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos

The Luang Prabang night market was also a big hit and well worth a visit in the late hours of the evening. In any case, I’ll be back with a trip to Kaung Si Falls about 30km outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Luang Prabang: Click Here

For High-Resolution Photos of my journey to Vang Vieng: Click Here

To check out my crazy trip to the Kuang Si Falls, click here. For the crazy part life of Vang Vieng, click here. For my photo essay on the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng trip, 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

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

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

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

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

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