Sunday, 27 July 2014

Yangon trip – 27 Jul 14

The traffic to the airport in the early morning is very smooth as there are few cars on the road at 5.30am and we reached airport in less than 1/2hr.

The domestic airport is just beside the international airport but it's a spark contrast from the modern international terminal. The domestic airport is like a huge warehouse instead.

We searched for KBZ airline and saw that it's code share with Mann Yadanarpon airline hence we end up queuing at Mann Yadanarpon counters. Everything is manual here from the boarding pass to allocating the seats. 
Check in counters
Old school weighing scale
Manual boarding pass

There is a snack shop at the departure gate waiting area and I saw sign leading to a restaurant upstairs. There is no WIFI  here. When it's time to board the plane, the airline personnel will announce and go around showing the flight number for board.
Departure gate waiting area

The plane which we took is a propeller plane with 2-2 seating configuration. Wet tissue and newspaper are distributed before taking off. Blanket is also available when requested. Drinks and snacks are served after the plane reach the cruising altitude.
Air Stewardess

We reached Nyuang U airport an hour later. The airport is not the final airport of call as the plane will continue to Mandalay and Heho then back to Yangon.
Landing at Nyaung U airport
Alighting from the propeller plane
Nyaung U airport

There is a Bagan archaeological fee of US$15 payable at the airport and the ticket is valid for a week. I have read online that there will be people checking the ticket at Shwesadaw temple during sunset.
Bagan archaeological admission ticket counter

Initially I was disappointed when we couldn't find our driver at the arrival hall and we even went to the taxi counter to enquire on the rate to the hotel. Alas, our driver is actually waiting for us outside the arrival hall.

The ride from airport to the Zfreeti hotel took 15min. The hotel resemble those Balinese resorts with the decoration and layout. A glass of lemongrass drink was served when we checked in. The hotel comprises of several blocks which are all hotel rooms. Our hotel room is located at the 2nd level of one block and above us is the breakfast dining area.
Zfreeti hotel
Hotel lobby
ATM machine
Hotel rooms
Swimming pool
Twin bedroom

Our driver Win explain to us that Bagan used to have over 4,000 temples but only 2,000 temples remains today. There are temples, pagoda and caves in Bagan and each type serve a different purposes. 

According to the inscription from Bgan period, the literary name of Bagan was Arimaddana-Pura means crushing of enemies. Bagan was derived from Pyu-gama and it was changed to Pyu-gan and then to Pugam. Later it was pronounced as Bagan.

The Bagan dynasty was inaugurated with King Thamudarit. There were altogether 55 kings who ruled in Bagan. Among them, King Anawyahta is the founder of the first Myanmar empire and he also laid the foundation of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar.

The first temple which we went to is Win ne hto. This temple was not in my list and Win brought us here for the view. There is a temple guard who opened the door for us hence we can climbed to the top of the temple. The staircase inside the temple is dark hence touch light is a must. The torchlight can also be used in seeing the temple wall murals as the interior can be quite dim.
Wi ne hto temple

We saw the viewing tower from the temple. The government built the viewing tower which is an ugly sight among the thousand temples. There is an admission fee and even a restaurant at the top of the tower.
Bagan viewing tower
Views of Bagan temples
Temples damaged by earthquake
Only for skinny people
Our driver Win

Once the peddlers selling longyi and souvenirs saw us, they surrounded us and keep asking us to buy from them. We just decline them politely but one lady even rode her motorbike and followed us to the next point. 

Next, we visited a cave which was not in my itinerary and was suggested by the driver. The monks meditate inside the caves but stay in the houses provided.
Nandamannya Cave Grotto
Place where the monk meditate
Houses where the monks live

Paya Thonzu meaning 3 temples is actually 3 identical temples joined together. Win lent us his torchlight as it was dim inside the temple. It's advisable to wear short & dress below knee level as some temples are quite stringent on this. I brought a shawl along which can double up as a sarong. Slipper is also a must as footwear must be removed to enter the temples, pagoda & caves. There are painting in 2 temples but left unfinished in the right temple.
Paya Thonzu

Majority of the temples in Bagan are built by kings but Thambula is built by Queen Thambula, wife of King Uzana. Some temples do not allow photo taking inside as some has been restored by UNESCO. Thambula is one of those temples which we are allowed to take photographs of the mural. The mural here pale in comparison to Paya Thonzu.
Buddha in Bhumisparsa Mudra position
Mural on the wall

We saw a woman carrying a basket of grass and after taking photos with her, she started to request for money. Luxiang wanted to give her K500 ~ S$0.60 which she gave us an expression that this amount is not enough so end up we gave her K1,000 ~ S$1.20. The lesson learnt is do not take photo with the local unless you are prepared to pay them.
Local woman carrying a basket of grass
All of us wanted to take a photo with this woman

Leimyethna meaning "temple with four faces" was built by Prime Minister Anantathu and his wife. It looks unique in white among the other temples but it's because the villagers have bleached it with lime.
Ringing the bell

We passed by a local village on the way to the next temple and the houses here are built of atap.
Moo moo cow
Local village

Dhammayazika means “Pertaining the King of Law”. Most pagoda are four sided but this pagoda is five sided with the fifth for the future Buddha. The pagoda was covered with scaffolding when we visited hence we could not see it's true beauty.
One of the 5 temple
These are not allowed

Win drove us to a nearby temple which allows us to have a panorama view of Dhammayazika and the surrounding temples.
Dhammayazika from a distance
Panorama view of the temples

Nan Paya is a prison where Mon King Manuha was held captive. The architectural structure of Nan Paya is unique as the inner walls were built of baked bricks whereas the outer walls were built of sandstones. It also contains intricate stone carving on the wall.
Nan Paya
Stone  carving
Stone carving of Brahma

Souvenir stalls

Adjacent to the Nan Paya is Manuhar temple. Manuhar was built by King Manuhar, a POW of King Anawratha. He sold his jewellry to construct this temple. King Manuha was imprisoned and this temple was built deliberately this way to express the cramped conditions he lived in.
Guess guess what is this?
Donation bowl
Food offerings
A huge Buddha in a confine temple
Such a narrow space for walking
Reclining Buddha

Next we visited Gubyaukgyi Temple which contain murals depicting scenes from the Jataka tales. However what attracted us was the gold shining Myazedi pagoda which is just beside the temple.
Buddha for bathing
Miniature of Bagan temples
Pillar in a cage bears an inscription consecrating Gubyaukgyi and written in four languages - Pyu, Mon, Old Burmese and Pali

Mingalazedi marks both the high point and the end of major temple construction at Bagan. It was completed just ten years before the kingdom's collapse at the hands of the Mongols in 1287. It resemble Shwezigon except that it was built upon a brick platform.

The floor was scorching hot so we did not climb up Mingala Zedi and we only took photos from a distance.
Mingala Zedi

We had lunch at Yar Pyi which is directly opposite The Moon Restaurant. All the cafe around this area serves vegetarian food. 
The Moon restaurant
Yar Pyi vegetarian restaurant
Portrait of Aung Sang & Aung San Suu Kyi

It took more than half an hour from the time we ordered till they served the food. Well, the lifestyle here is indeed moving at a very slow pace.

We had tomato peanut curry, coconut soup, sweet and sour potato and special aubengine (fried eggplant) which adds up to K16,000 ~ S$20. I wanted to order Guacamole but it was not available. The lassi drink is mediocre only.
Vegetarian lunch

A complimentary plate of banana was served for dessert. The banana is not those variety whih we have seen in Singapore as it's short and fat. The taste was bland though.
Banana for dessert

Massiveness that is Dhammayan Gyi, Loftiness that is Thatbyinnyu, Grace that is Ananda. Among the temples we had visited in Bagan, 3 of us unanimously preferred Ananda as this is indeed the most beautiful temple. 

Ananda means boundless wisdom of the Buddha. The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The 4 Buddhasstatues are carved out of wood and 2 statues were destroyed by fire and replaced in the 18th century.
Original Buddha statue
Replacement Buddha statue

A close up view of the Buddha gives a stern expression of the face but a distant view from the devotional hall provides a smiling face
Saw the difference?
Buddha coated with gold paper by the devotees

The temple is well ventilated where there are constant air circulated and beam of light falling into the temple. 

There are hundreds of stone works along the corridor and at the lower base, the stone works depict the life of Buddha. Each stone work is carved from a single block of stone.
Stone sculptures of Buddha
Tall wooden door over 900 years
Buddha foot print
Ananda temple before restoration
Ananda temple after restoration
Group photo
Doesn't this resemble a building in India?

Bulethi/ Pulethee is a pagoda which one is able to climb to the top. The stairs are steep hence decending is more intense than ascending. There are no railings at the side so we use our bare hands  to cringe on the bricks. Win told us that during certain period of the year, there is great sunset view from Bulethi.
Steep stairs
View from top of Bulethi

Sulamani means ruby and is even more impressive than Dhamma Yangyi since both are of the same architectural style but Sulamani is better preserved. It is also one of the taller temple in Bagan but access to the upper level is blocked. Win told us that these temples have restricted the access due to the instability of the temples.
Mural of Reclining Buddha
Out of bound

Shwesandaw is famously known as the sunset temple and it get extremely crowded during sunset. The pagoda is high enough to offer an unobstructed view of the temples and Irrawaddy river.
Look how tall we have climbed
View of Bagan Archaeological Museum &That Byin Nyu
View of Dahmmayangyi

Inside the same compound, Shinbinthalyaung houses the largest reclining Buddha in Bagan
Reclining Buddha in Shinbinthalyaung

We are exhausted from the blazing sun and returned to the hotel for a rest. I had 1hr foot massage at the hotel but the masseur is not skillful. I missed Thai massage. 
Massage area

At 5pm, Win fetched us to Dhammayangyi. This is the largest temple and it's shape like an Egyption pyramid when viewed from a distance. This temple was commissioned by King Narathu to atone for his sins of assassinating his father, brother and wife. The eccentricity of this king is reflected in the building's finely set brickwork (it was noted that he executed a bricklayer for his not too perfect masonry work - gaps are too wide) and its unfinished construction (work abandoned after he himself was assassinated). These generate many riddles and mysteries that lead to be known as ghost haunted temple for some inhabitants.

The interior is tall and dim. We did not explore the interior as we are worried that we will be caught by the bat shit since there are numerous bats at the ceiling and the pungent smell turn us off.
High ceiling

The last temple which we visited today is Myauk Guni. It is an alternative sunset place and not as crowded as Shwesandaw.
Myauk Guni

The sun was too shy that day as it hid behind the clouds until it set. Win told us that the sky at the end of the year will be clear and that's when we will be able to see awesome sunrise and sunset.  
View of Tant Kyi mountain
Waiting for sunset
Dahmmayangyi at dusk

We had dinner at Weather Spoon's (Add: Thiripyitsaya Quarter, Block 4, Bagan & GPS: 21°11'36"N 94°53'56"E) which is 10min walking distance from Zfreeti hotel. The cafe is located at the "restaurant street" where there are plenty of restaurants and cafes.
Weather Spoon's

We ordered papaya salad, spring rolls, burger, Masman curry, Myanmar style chicken curry and drinks which adds up to K17,000 ~ S$22. The lime and ginger drink is highly recommended as the taste is very refreshing. The service in Bagan is extremely slow as we waited for more than half hour for the food to be served. We tapped on the cafe WIFI while waiting for the food but the WIFI in Bagan is also very slow. =(
Dishes ordered

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