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

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar: Hand-Rolled Smoke & Blacksmiths

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

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

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

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

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

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

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar
Looms on looms

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

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

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

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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

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

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

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.

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Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

  
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Botahtaung
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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

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

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

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