Myanmar: The Land Of Pagodas & Smiles
Welcome to Myanmar, once known as Suvanna Bumi (The Golden Earth) in the ancient times. Myanmar is certainly the most exotic country in the world, a land of beauty and charm quite unlike any land you will ever know. You will find a part of Asia that has been preserved through the passing ages, untouched by Western civilization.
90% of Burmese are Buddhists. The glittering pagodas you see everywhere you turn reflects the devout Buddhist religion. That's the reason why Myanmar is called "The Golden Land."
Myanmar is also blessed with snowcapped Mt. Khakaborazi, the highest peak in SE Asia, to the north, beautiful unspoiled Ngapali Beach to the west, mysterious Inlay Lake to the east, and the beautiful coral reefs and marine wonders in Myeik Archipelago to the south. And the ancient ruins of Bagan lies in the middle of the country. Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the wonders of the world is situated in the heart of Yangon, the capital of Myanmar.
Myanmar is one of the most peaceful and safe countries in the world and whether you travel in towns or villages you will not fail to notice Myanmar hospitality and see smiling faces everywhere. You will certainly enjoy your trip to Myanmar, and will always want to come back.
Yangon the capital City, is the main gateway to Myanmar. Evergreen and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and beautiful lakes, Yangon has earned the name of "the Garden City of the East." Relatively simple city without skyscrapers, neon-lit clamor, crowded squalor & the pace of modern life, Yangon is attractive in its own special way. Yangon was founded by 'King Alaungphaya' on the site of a small settlement called 'Dagon' when he conquered the Lower Myanmar in 1755. The name 'Yangon' means "end of strife" which was anglicized to 'Rangoon' after the British annexed Myanmar in 1885. At present, 'Yangon' covers about 500 sq. km and have the population of over 5 million.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN YANGON AREAS
The historic Shwedagon Pagoda, which towers almost 98 metres (326 feet) above the green city-scope of Yangon, never fail to enchant visitors. The shimmering main stupa soars high above the capital and is visible for miles around.
One of the wonders of the world, the Shwedagon Pagoda is believed to be the earliest Pagoda of Buddha Era and it had been built on the Singottara Hill more than 2500 years ago. The Pagoda was renovated many times over the centuries by various Myanmar Kings.
There are many pagodas in Myanmar but few were come closer to it in scale or beauty. It is not just one main stupa but a complex of many stupas. Around the principle stupa is a cluster of smaller stupas, temples, shrines, prayer halls, pavilions, religious images and statues. Lengthy staircases lined with stalls selling religious articles, Sliver wares, Souvenirs, Lacquer wares, handicrafts, flowers , ceremonial umbrella, and etc.
The best time to visit Shwedagon Pagoda is at sunset when its gilded stupa is bathed in the fading rays of the sun & takes on a magical glow. A visit to Myanmar is incomplete without a visit to Shwedagon.
It is situated right in the center of Yangon-beside the Myanmar Travels & Tours Office, Mahabandoola Park and Independence Monument, City Hall & Supreme Court. Sule Pagoda is said to be over 2,000 years old and to enshrine a hair of Buddha. "Mon" name " Kyaik Athok" translated as "the pagoda where a Sacred Hair Relic is enshrined." The golden pagoda is unusual in that its octagonal shape continuous right up to the bell and inverted bowl. It stands 46 metres high and is surrounded by small shops and all the familiar non- religious services such as astrologers, palmists, photo studios, mini-stores, etc.
Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Buddha Statue
Located on Shwegondaing Road, this colossal 70 metres long 0 Reclining Buddha Statue is one of the largest in Myanmar. The original image was built in 1907. But, it have suffered damage due to climate over the years. In 1957, it was demolished and rebuilt to this structure in 1966
Kaba Aye Pagoda
The name "Kaba Aye" in Myanmar means "World Peace" to which this pagoda is dedicated. Built in 1952. this pagoda is significant for the Sixth World Buddhist Synod which was held in its large precinct in 1954. The Buddhist Art Museum, Maha Pasana Cave and newly built Wizaya Mingala Dhammathabin Hall are also located in the same precinct.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Market (Scott Market), a shopping center of Yangon. It was first built and inaugurated on the present premises in 1926. It was named Scott Market after Mr. C. Scott, the then Municipal Commissioner . Nowadays, the name was changed to our national leader General Aung San who was assassinated in 1947. There are some 2,000 shops selling luxury items, handicrafts, foodstuffs, clothing, jewellery, fashion & consumer goods. The market is open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM except Mondays and gazetted holidays. Even though it's open at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM would be the best time to visit, when the entire market is opened.
Myanmar are and crafts, mostly pure hand-made, are best souvenirs and prices are very reasonable. Lacquer-wares, wood and ivory carvings, tapestries, silverwares, brasswares, silk and cotton fabrics and bags ( especially traditional sling bags ) are some of the favourite items. For jewellery, there are Myanmar a ruby, sapphires, jades and pearls available at the authorized Myanmar gems shops.
ENVIRONMENT OF YANGON
Thanlyin ( Syriam )
Only 45 minutes by ferry along Ngamoyeik Creek and Bago River and about 30 minutes drive from Ynagon by car or by train through " Thanlyin Bridge" which was constructed by the aid of People's Republic of China. and one of the Biggest & Longest bridge in Myanmar.Thanlyin was an important trading centre in the 17th century under the Portuguese Colonial Administration - Old buildings can be seen in Thanlyin. Kyaikkhauk Pagoda and Yele Pagoda (a pagoda on a small island) at Kyauktan are worth visiting. Ferries for Thanlyin leave lower Pazundaung jetty every hour. In the future, Thanlyin Area will be one of the Industrial and Economic Zones of the country according to the government plan.
An ancient capital of the Mon Kingdom (15th Century), Bago (Pegu) is situated only 80 Km from Yangon. It is about 2 hours drive from Yangon across the countryside. There are many tourist attractions in Bago like Shwethalyaung Images, Shwemawdaw Pagoda, Kyaikpun Pagoda etc. The new International Airport Project of Bago is under construction.
Over 2,000 year old Shwemawdaw pagoda, 114-metre-high stupa overlooks the landscape, was built by two merchants 'Taphussa' and 'Bhillika' and was rebuilt several times because of damages caused by earthquakes. The gilded pagoda is said to house a number of Holy Relics of the Buddha and is consequently one of the most venerated pagoda in the country.
Mandalay (Yadanabon), the last capital of the Myanmar kingdom, is in Central Myanmar, 688 km due north of Yangon. It is the largest city after Yangon and is the place where one will come closet to real Myanmar. The royal city came into being only in 1859 when "King Mindon" established it as new center for the teaching of Buddhism. The King also made Mandalay as his capital, moving from near by Amarapura to the newly built Royal Palace at the foot of the Mandalay Hill. Being rich in monasteries and pagodas, it is still accepted as the arts and cultural heartland of Myanmar. For lovers of arts and crafts.
Skilled crafts-men make world famous genuine tapestry called "Shwe Chi Htoe" (Golden Weaving), beautiful articles of ivory, wood, marble and stone, silverware and bronze statues according to the time-honored traditions of their fore-fathers.
It takes about one hour and thirty minutes by air from Yangon. There are daily flights during the tourist season from October to May. The new International Airport has already finished & opened .Express trains are running which takes about 14 hours. Yangon- Mandalay highway is over 700km and overland travelers are advised to break journey at Taungoo ( 280 km ) or at Meikhtila ( 540 km ) where there are hotels for overnight stay. The government and private express busses are also running everyday.
PLACE OF INTEREST IN MANDALAY AREAS
The hill has for long been a holy mount and legend has it that the Buddha on His visit had prophesied that a great city would be founded at its foot. Mandalay Hill,230 metres in elevation, commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. At present, it has already finished the construction of motorcar road to reach hilltop easily.
The fire during the World War II destroyed the whole magnificent palace complex. However, the finely built palace walls, the city gates with their crowing wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still present an impressive scene of the Mandalay Palace " Mya-nan-san-kyaw Shwenandaw" , the model of the Mandalay Palace, Nanmyintsaung, Cultural Museum and Pyi-gyi-mon Floating Restaurant in the moat are located inside the Palace grounds.
Maha Muni Pagoda
The Image is said to have been cast in the lifetime of the Gautama Buddha and that the Buddha embraced it 7 times there by bringing it to life. Consequently, devout Buddhists hold it to be alive and refer to it as the Maha Muni Sacred Living Image. Revered as the holiest pagoda in Mandalay. It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1784. The Image in sitting posture is 12 feet and 7 inches ( 3.8 metres ) high. This pagoda enshrines the famous Maha Muni Buddha Image brought from Rakhine State also called the Rakhine Buddha Image. The early morning ritual of washing the face of Buddha Image draws a large crowd of devotees' everyday. And the Image is also considered as the greatest, next to Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. A visit to Mandalay is incomplete without a visit to Maha Muni Pagoda.
Built by King Mindon in 1857, this pagoda modeled on the Shwe Zigon Pagoda at Nyaung U, is surrounded by 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures as edited and approved by the 5th Buddhist Synod. It is popularly known as "the World Biggest Book" for its stone scriptures
Situated about 11 km south of Mandalay, Amarapura is an ancient capital of the Konbaung Dynasty. Patodawgyi Pagoda and silk weaving industries are places of interest to visit.
U Bein Bridge
The old intriguing 1208 metres long " U Bein Bridge" was totally constructed with teak planks by Mayor U being over 2 centuries ago near Amarapura, south of Mandalay. This bridge is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. It can be use to cross safely and stand as a new style except minor reconstruction.
Innwa ( Ava )
The historical capital was founded by King Thado Minbya in 1364. There is Maha Aungmye Bonzan monastery which is a fine example of Myanmar monastery, and arts and architecture.
Me Nu Brick Monastery
The beautiful brick monastery which was erected in 1818 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, chief queen of King Bagyidaw ( 1819-1837 ) in Inwa , had an epitome of religious beliefs that were a part of Myanmar culture until today. This graceful and beautiful stucco decorated building was also known as " Oak Kyaung". because of the masonry construction. The visitors can study the great deal of Myanmar traditional engineering technique and architecture.
Sagaing lies 21 km South-West of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyaewaddy River. It is also an ancient capital of " Sagaing Dynasty". Sagaing Hills are known as a religious retreat where over 400 monasteries for monks and nuns are located for Buddhist studies and meditation. About 10 km from Sagaing is the Kaung-hmudaw, an enormous dome-shaped pagoda, built by King Thalun in 1636 on the model of the Maha-Ceti Pagoda of Sri Lanka. There is also Ywataung village known for its silversmiths.
Pyin Oo Lwin (May Myo)
Over 1,100 metres in elevation, it is located 69 km to the east of Mandalay. It enjoys cool and pleasant weather the whole years round. Places to visit include the Botanical Garden ( 142-hectare), the Chinese Temple, Pwe-kauk Waterfalls and Peik-chin-myaung cave . Pyin Oo Lwin is most favourite and ideal place for visitors during the summer. It is one of the most pleasant scenic spots not only in Myanmar but also in South-East Asia perhaps.
Patodawgyi Pagoda is situated Southwest of Mandalay on the west bank of Ayeyarwaddy River. The pagoda was built by King Bagyidaw in 1820. The lower terraces have marble slabs illustrating sciences from the Jataka. A marvelous fine view over the surrounding countryside and Ayeyarwaddy River bank can be seen from the upper terrace. This history of the pagoda's construction is described on inscription stone. The Mingun Bell is also well known as the biggest ringing bell in the world.
A historic capital, Bagan, known as city of four million Pagodas, is the richest archaeological site in Asia. This enchanting city is situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River about 193 km south of Mandalay.
The ruins of the city of Bagan covers an area of 42 sq.-km containing over 2000 edifices. The majority of these well-preserved temples and pagodas of a rich architectural heritage from the 11th to 13th century Era.
How to get there
It takes about one hour and twenty minutes to fly from Yangon to Bagan / Nyaung U. There are daily flights to Bagan during the tour season. By overland Express Trains to Mandalay stop at Thazi junction from which one can take a bus to Bagan. The newly constructed Railways lines of Mandalay- Bagan was unveiled on 19th September, 1996. The express trains are running daily and the round-trip takes about 8 hours only. There is a regular bus and steamer service between Mandalay and Bagan.
The Ananda Temple, completed in 1090, is King Kyansitha's master-piece and the crowning achievement of the early style of temple architecture. The plan is that of a perfect Greek cross. There are 4 huge Buddha images in standing position and a series of 80 relieves depicting the Final Life of the Buddha from His Birth to His Enlightenment, which is notable. The Ananda Pagoda festival held in January is a big event drawing pilgrims even from far away places.
Masterpieces of lacquer-ware have been the pride of Bagan since the days of the Bagan Empire. It is still main industry of Bagan since the days of the Bagan Empire. It is still the main industry of Bagan today and every body can see the process of making lacquer-wares from the basic stage to the finished products ready for sale at the shops. Lacquer-ware such as ash-trays, bowls, jewellery boxes, trays and paintings are the best souvenirs of Bagan.
ENVIRONS OF BAGAN
Mount Popa, 1500 metres high, is an extinct volcano located about 67-km south-east of Bagan. Among the western foothills, the mountain stands a perpendicular rock formation with almost vertical sides. The whole top is dotted with pagodas and shrines which are made accessible by a series of stairways. It is generally known as the abode of legendary "Nats" (Spirit Gods) for which the annual festival is held during the Myanmar month of Nayon (May / June).
Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State in the eastern part of Myanmar, is known for scenic beauty and pleasant climate. It is cool the whole year round and the area is colorful with lovely flowers, pine trees and green orchards. Being situated over 1400 metres above sea level, Taunggyi is ideal for holiday-makers during the summer.
ENVIRONS OF TAUNGGYI
Inlay Lake, the jewel of Shan State, is located about 30 km to the south of Taunggyi. This vast, beautiful and picturesque Lake, sheltered among the hazy blue mountains of 1524 metres, stretches 22.4 km long and 10.2 km wide. The lake itself is about 900 metres above sea-level and studded with floating islands. Inlay lake is famous for its unique one-leg rowers, floating villages and colourful markets, Ywama, the site of the daily floating markets and Inlay Khaungdaing Spa are places to visit.
Inlay silk is quite popular in Myanmar and silk weaving and hand-looms can be seen at Innpaw-Khon village. The celebration of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is situated in this lake. The festival, held once a year in October, is full of pageantry and splendor. There is one thing very peculiar and different from other countries i.e. Inlay traditional unique one-leg rowers races can be seen by visitors during the festival of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
Indein Pagodas in Indein Village are located west of Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda. From there, it takes about 30 minutes boat ride to Indein.
Indein Pagodas were built 2,000 years ago. Then King Anawratha and later kings of Bagan Dynasty have rebuilt them so many times, so that it remains like it today. There are 1054 pagodas in total.
The long corridor hall entry to the Pagoda is made of 43 poles. It's 10 minutes walk from the boat stand to the entry. The walk is pleasant and you can enjoy beautiful scenery.
You can also visit the Pa-O villages around Indein, and it's only about 10 minutes walk from Indein. You can learn about their culture and their ways of life.
Kyaington, the Golden Triangle City, is situated in the eastern part of the Shan State. Picturesque with many ethnic groups, such as Wa, Shan, Akha, and Lahu living together, the main attraction is the warm hospitality offered by the natives. Built around a small lake, it's also know for its scenic beauty. It is accessible by flight from Yangon or by car on a very rough road (160 km) from Tachileik. Places of interest in Kyaington include Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, Naung-Tone Lake, Hot-Spring and One Three Pagoda. Visitors are allowed to cross into this border town with Border Passes.
Katku, a hidden treasure of magnificent collections of Buddhist Stupas is unheard by many historians, nor listed in any guidebooks. The city lies in the deepest Pa-oh territory, 26 miles south of Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. To the west lies a blue, hazy Khe-Lu mountain range, stretching from north to south. The drive from Taunggyi to Katku normally takes about 1 1/2 hours car
The main highlights will include Kakku, an ancient Pagodas complex. Rebuilt by a powerful King of Konbaung Dynasty on his tours, dating back to 16th century. Legends says, the Pagodas were originally built by an old Shan farmer couple who found Buddha relics and statues. They built small pagodas covering the relics and Buddha images with the help of a wild pig. They named the pagodas " Wet-Ku": "Wet" means "pig", and "Ku" means "help." As the time passed by, the name "Wet-ku" changed to Kakku. In 1928, more than 2500 stupas were known to exist.
All nature lovers, or birdwatchers would enjoy passing through Pa-oh villages, seeing the ways they earn their livings, and their ways of life.
Pindaya , situated at the foot of Mene- Taung Range about 45 km north of Kalaw, is a picturesque place. This small quiet town is famous for its caves in which thousands of centuries-old Buddha Images are seated. The images are of various sizes, some carved in the face of rock and some deposited in niches in wells. The road from Kalaw to Pindaya ( 38 km ) passes through a countryside of magnificent scenic beauty.
Colorful & full of life, the markets are attraction for visitors in search of native life and souvenirs. Hand-woven Inlay bags and shawls, Shan jackets, Zinmai longyis designs, bamboo hats and wooden sandals are available.
Myauk U, the ancient City of Rakhine Kingdom ( 15th Century ), is known for its old temples with paintings of Indian cultural influence. It is reached by boat along Kalatan River from Sitway ( Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State. A boat trip takes about 5 hours.
The high-lights of Myauk U are the massive Shitthaung Paya a curiously remarkable temple with countless Buddha Images and relief, the fortress-like temple Htaukkan thein noted for the interesting stone sculptures in the vaulted passages; an octagonal temple Andaw-thein with its unique stone carvings and floral design; Sakya Man Aung, a tall attenuated stupa; and Archaeological Museum. 8 km to the north of Myauk U is Wethali, another ancient capital ( 8th to 10th century AD ) There is one more ancient capital called Danyawady which is about 22 km to the North of Wethali.
This one, built in 1535 by King Min Bar Gyi (the most powerful one of the YAKHING kings), took one year to complete it with one thousand skillful workers. Its name means (Shrine of the 80000 images) for the 80000 Buddha images and the others were enshrined in it. Many interesting relives about the history of Buddha, Depicting people in YAKHING traditional dress engaged in festival-oriented activities (boxing, dancing, drama, wrestling) and The impressively carved and painted wooden ceilings, etc can be seen. And, it is said that it was used as a royal fortress with its thick walls, tiny windows and the commanding views of the surrounding area.
This temple was built in 1553 by the king whose father built Shittaung pagoda (80000 images). Its name means (Shrine of 90000 images). The points, which make the temple so interesting, are the thousands of small Buddha relives on the walls, four Buddha images etc. Then, it is surrounded by the paddy fields and good views.
Kyaikhtiyo or "Golden Rock" Pagoda, one of the most famous landmarks of Myanmar, is located in Kyaikhto Township, Mon State. Over 110 km above sea level, the small pagoda, 7.3 meters highs, sits on top of the golden rock, a big, gold leaded boulder, balancing on the edge of a cliff on the top of Kyaikhtiyo Hill. The boulder and the cliff barely touch each other.
No one have the logical explanation on how the pagoda was built.
How to Get There
The famous legendary Pagoda on the Golden Rock about 160 km from Yangon. It is a 11 kilometer uphill climb for the hikers from Kinpun base camp. A narrow, steep motor road also winds up to a point, Yathay Hill, about 1.6 kilometer from the Pagoda. Sedan chairs, carried by four man, can be rented for the weary travellers.
Ngapali Beach, Rakhine State
Ngapali Beach, named after the Italian word "Naples" as it was very beautiful & pleasant like the Italian town of Naples. The beach surface is smooth & water is shallow. The rise or fall of the tide is not rapid. There are no dangerous animals in the water. White sand of the beach serves as the best ground for sun bathing, rest & recreation. This beach stretches over 3 km and is an ideal place for everyone who loves sea, sand, sun or swimming, snorkeling or carefree loitering on the beach, exploring or just sitting amidst whistling wind. Ngapali beach opens from October to May.
Ngwe Saung Beach (Silver Beach)
Ngwe Saung Beach, One of the prettiest beach resorts in Myanmar, is the best place for Relaxation &Recreation with its clear water, white sand, blue sky, fresh air, natural surrounding views. This beach on the Bay of Bengal, is about 48km from Pathein (the capital of the Ayeyarwady Division) which is famous for its hand-crafted umbrellas and clay pots, and just about 210km South-West from Yangon. Its extensive beaches, rocky shoreline, silvery sands and the views against a background of tropical rain forests and Rakhing mountain ranges make it famous and interesting.