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

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

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

Brilliant Botahtaung Pagoda & Jetty

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

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

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

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

Botahtaung

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

Botahtaung

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

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

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

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

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

Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung
There are many Gautama Buddha Images around the compound

Botahtaung
Botahtaung

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

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

Botahtaung

  
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung
Botahtaung

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

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda & Mahapasana Cave

Kabar Aye Pagoda, Myanmar

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

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

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

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

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

 Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

 Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda
Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda
Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

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

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda

Kabar Aye Pagoda  Kabar Aye Pagoda

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

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

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

The Tremendous Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

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

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

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

 

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

Chaukhtatgyi Reclining Buddha Temple, Yangon Myanmar

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

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

Walking the History of the Jews of Burma

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Yangon, Myanmar, Burma

The Jews of Burma have a long and interesting history

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

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

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

Jews of Burma
Baghdadi Jews

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

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

Jews of Burma
U Nu and David Ben-Gurion

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

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

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

Jews of Burma

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

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


Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

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

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

Jews of Burma

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

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

 

Sources: Wikipedia, JewishTimesAsia

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