Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Village Life Around Bagan, Myanmar

A local eccentric shopper

Children playing

Cows in front of a house

A teenager getting a haircut in a barber shop

Our guide Mu Mu on right with a friend
When we told our guide Mu Mu that we wanted to see how people lived and we did not really want to see more temples nor go on an ox cart ride (too Disneyland for us), she graciously designed a wonderful few days where we went on a boat trip up the river to see how people really lived in villages where her family had lived- grandparents and parents- before they moved, or in some cases were told to move by the government.

She took us to the marketplace, to dusty villages, to see children playing and people living their lives. It was so much better than the tourist track! People were very gracious to us and we walked around their small villages. Most of the men were at work. The women were working too. Making things to sell- rice patties, handicrafts, cooking for their families, watching the small children.

More in the next post... so much to see and share!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bagan, Myanmar- Along the Irrawaddy River

Doing laundry along the river

Taking off cargo from the boats along the river

Flying the flag

Using the river for transportation
We took a boat ride down the Irrawaddy River which is a significant part of everyday life for  the people in Bagan. We saw women pounding laundry on rocks, old boats churning the muddy waters, fishermen catching their livelihood. The Irrawaddy River is key to many people in the city.

Next post will describe our visit to some of the small villages along the river!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bagan, Myanmar- Most Gorgeous Hotel Ever!

Around the pool

Sunset at the infinity pool

Landscaping around our villa

Reception area
We stayed in what is acknowledged to be the best hotel in Myanmar- the Aureum Palace Report and Spa- in a Jasmine Villa which had a large bedroom/living room, giant bath and patio. This sprawling hotel had 114 separate grand villas (ours was far from the biggest) on an exquisitely landscaped property which overlooks a breath-taking scene of Bagan's pagoda-studded landscape across a lotus-dappled lake.

It was fun living in the lap of luxury for a few nights!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bagan, Myanmar- Multitude of Pagodas

Bagan- Pagodas and Stupas

Pagodas and Stupas across the Lake of Bagan

Bagan's Many Pagodas and Stupas

Shadow of Aureum Palace Resort's Viewing Tower
Bagan is the most remarkable city because here you find a multitude of temples, thickly studded with pagodas of all shapes and sizes and the ground is covered so thickly with crumbling remnants of vanishing shrines.

Bagan is the seat of the 1st Myanmar Empire founded by King Anawrahta in the mid 11th century. Although legends say that there were supposed to be more than 400,000 pagodas here then, there are now about 2,000 situated in an area about 16 miles square and under the care of the Archeological Department. Many are in ruins but inside these structures beautiful wall paintings are still very fresh as if painted only yesterday. Families erected these to honor their dead.

Bagan, a city that has changed little in the past century, is a graveyard of medieval Burmese culture. There is nowhere the sight so striking as the view across the plain of Bagan, one red-brick pagoda after another, with an occasional white spire reaching heavenward. Our hotel built a viewing tower for tourists to see the large vista across the plain. Now that tourism is opening up in Myanmar things will be changing all over the country, even here in Bagan.

More about this remarkable city and hotel in my next post!

Friday, November 9, 2012

On The Road to Mandalay

Mahamuni Monastery

Cattle on the road

More cattle on the road

Another monastery
Who ever thought I would be on the road to Mandalay? Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope were and I never even knew where it was exactly. Well, it is in a gorgeous spot!! Centrally located in Myanmar. It is regarded as the cultural capital and many artists and artisans make it their home.

Built along the Ayeyarwady River, Mandalay combines Myanmar's royal history and the preservation of spiritual traditions. The royal heritage is found in the Golden Palace Monastery with its exquisite wood carvings. The spiritual heart is in the Mahamuni Pagoda with the most venerated Buddha with layers and layers of gold leaf. So much that the Buddha statue is distorted by the layers of gold leaf.

Myanmar is a delightful country filled with beautiful scenery, friendly people and an interesting culture untouched by western influences.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Inle Lake, Myanmar- Indein Village

On the road

Group lunch at a rest stop minus us!

Water buffalo out of its pen

Indein village ruined pagodas

Stupas in the distance

Carving was recreated

Vegetation is growing around the pagodas
The Indein  Village is located on the western shores of the lake. Indein  in Burmese means shallow lake. True to the name, the village of Indein  is situated in the shallow part of Inle Lake. The village can be accessible by boat only during rainy season and winter, and cannot be reached by boat during summer months, as the water becomes shallower during hot months.

Indein is quite famous among tourists for its collection of ancient ruined pagodas. At the entrance of the village, you can see a large group of tourist waiting boats, which partly ruin the nice atmosphere of the village. Nevertheless, the ruined pagodas on the hilltop are still a dramatic sight to see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Inle Lake, Myanmar- Part 2

Five Day market

Five Day market

Colorful head scarves at Five Day market

Traffic at Five Day market

Ngaphaechaun Monastery

Local handiworkers

Local handiworker

A local market serves most common shopping needs and is held daily but the location of the event rotates through five different sites around the lake area, thus each of them hosting an itinerant market every fifth day. When held on the lake itself, trading is conducted from small boats. This 'floating-market' event tends to emphasize tourist trade much more than the other four.

Hand-made goods for local use and trading are another source of commerce. Typical products include tools, carvings and other ornamental objects, textiles, and cheroots.

The Inle lake area is renowned for its weaving industry. The Shan-bags, used daily by many Burmese as a tote-bag, are produced in large quantities here. Silk-weaving is another very important industry, producing high-quality hand-woven silk fabrics of distinctive design called Inle longyi. A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced only at Inle lake and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha images called kya thingahn (lotus robe).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Inle Lake, Myanmar- Farming and Fishing

Intha fisherman on Inle Lake

Intha fisherman on Inle Lake

House on stilts

Residential neighborhood

Farming mats with crops

Neighbors helping each other

Children playing on farming mats on Inle Lake

The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake's shores, and on the lake itself.  Most of the people are Intha and are devout Buddhists who live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers.

Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with single cylinder inboard diesel engines. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern.

Farmers use floating mats woven of dried reeds and grass covered with mud to grow crops. They mats are as long as 196 feet, but very narrow so that they can be easily worked from a boat. The term gardener gets new meaning with some Inthas towing this land behind them and selling off slices to the needs of their customers.

More about this interesting area in Myanmar in the next post.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yangon, Myanmar- More Observations

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha with guide for scale

Fisherman and tourist boats

Fresh fish at open markets

Big market in Yangon

Fresh vegetables sold by lady with cosmetics

Street vendors

Heavy loads without automation
Yangon is a bustling city with so much to see and do. Chaukhtatgyi Paya or Reclining Buddha is a serene visiting spot. Almost all the people are Buddhists. Many people shop for food every day. Fresh vegetables and fish are available at open markets that farmer's families maintain. usually women are sitting around on the ground with their produce out in rows and rows. Then there are rows and rows of fish and other things as well. Everything is fresh, organic and not expensive.

The huge marketplace is filled with many stalls selling fabrics to make their traditional clothing. The “Longyi or Hta-mein” is one of the traditional dresses of Myanmar women. This skirt cloth or lower body wrapper was worn by women during the Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1855) as a wrap-around skirt, or sometimes as folded clothing material placed “tightly across the abdomen slightly left center of the waist”. In comparison, a Myanmar men wear the “Longyi or Pa Soe” around the hips; the men tie a knot in the front and women fold it and fix on the one side (right or left).

The woman pictured above who is selling the lettuce is wearing cosmetics which the Burmese find attractive. It is made from bark which is sold in an open market and boiled to make a paste which is put on the face to lighten the skin. It looks beige and is applied in circles on the cheeks, not blended in. It's a look! Beauty is definitely a cultural thing, right?

Watching the port and how things are done showed us how behind the times Myanmar really is. Unloading materials from a boat was all done by many men lining up and carrying heavy bags of materials. There is no automation available in any part of the process. Labor is cheap and the men work for a pittance.

Life is different here in many ways yet people are the same. We buy our food, looking for fresh, wholesome food. We wear cosmetics, trying to look our best. The details are refreshingly different.