A Travellerspoint blog

Inle Lake Day 1

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First Impressions of Inle Lake

Returning from remote Mrauk U, we have arrived in the backpacker mecca of Inle Lake, the town of Nyaung Schwe. Fish and chips, Indian food, boutique hotels, spa and massage, travel agents, bike rental, wine – perhaps we have arrived at Shangri-La. We checked into La Maison Bermaine and quickly reserved 4 nights after we looked at the impressive $90 villa. Brand new, teak construction with lots of windows and high vaulted ceiling. Gorgeous hardwoods throughout the interior. Before setting out we met a chatty Colombian architect who is designing a five star hotel on the lake and he steered us to nearby bike rental ($1.50/day for a 5 speed) and guide service in case we need one. He also mentioned a favorite Indian Restaurant and we cruised about town on 2 wheels and found Indra just in time for lunch. She runs a hole-in-the-wall Indian Restaurant by the market and quickly had us seated and exploring the menu, along with her urgent interpretation. Her charms were irresistible and we ordered chicken curry and chapatti with all the requisite delicious sauces.


Afterwards, we headed west and hit the jetty to engage a super-friendly boat captain who enlisted us for a trip on Oct 8 to follow the boat procession that corresponds with the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake) 5th - 22nd October. Please read below the pics for a brief explanation of the festival. Yippee, Nge and Min Min the amazing hotel managers just told me we can stay until Oct. 12. Boat races here we come!

Min Min


The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is held with great magnificence and pageantry, with fairs and dances everywhere. 4 x holiest Buddha images are ceremoniously tugged clockwise around the lake on a decorated royal barge by leg-rowing boats stopping at each village to let people pay homage. The procession of the Inle leg-rowers in full pageantry and ceremonial splendor is a sight not to be missed by anyone visiting Myanmar. The unique and most interesting event of the festival is, of course, the Shan traditional boat races participated by leg-rowers of both men and women dressed in their national costumes.

Credit to journeysmyanmar.com

Posted by mjschrum 02:50 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma pagoda festival myanmar maison shwe oo nyaung bermaine phaung daw Comments (1)

Mrauk U Day 3

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On October 3 we embarked for Chin Villages along the Lemro River and Mahamuni Temple outside of Mrauk U, with Koe Sue as our guide. He’s a delightful young Rahkinese who is an official government guide, giving him the coveted ability to take groups anywhere in the region around Mrauk Oo. (He also gives great Burmese and Rahkinese language lessons on the side!) We started out by fitting 7 of us in a Willy style jeep, 2 in front and 5 of us on the benches in back. 30 min north going past Ko-Taung Temple brought us to the boat dock area of the Lemro River.




We thought the Lemro might be a major river to Bangladesh but looking on the map it goes to inland Burma. It is much larger than the upper reaches of the Kaladan River from Sittwe to Mrauk U. We boarded the large canoe skiff with 5 comfy plastic chairs in a line under a secure tarp roof and headed north. 2.5 hours brought us to the first Chin village that was also the most impressive. It was an idyllic little bamboo stilt village with a newly built public school in session. We headed to the school to use the outdoor toilet on Koe Sue’s advice and then toured the two room school. Primary was being taught on one side by 3 teachers and Secondary in the smaller room with another teacher. The students were quite focused doing language recitals from locally printed materials and the teachers were hovering around offering assistance. They were barely distracted by our presence. Koe Sue explained that the new school was built with foreign assistance 2 years ago.


We made a small donation of cash and then met with the tattooed elderly women in the village center for a quick chat and a chance to donate to the village (medicine we acquired at the market that morning.) We took some pictures of the beautiful facial tattoos of the older women (Mid 60’s to 80 years). The women received the tattoos when they were 10 years old taking 3 days and being very painful, according to them. Koe Sue explained that it was a measure to prevent Chin women from marrying into other races. The tattoos ended 2 generations ago – these were the last women in the tribes who had received them.


Our reception in the village was quite warm and casual. The second village, 30 min upriver, was similar with most residents in the orchards and forest working, so we had the place almost to ourselves. We met with 2 tattooed older women in their house and admired their Buddha shrine for a few moments. Underneath there were stores of locally gathered products, including some tuberous looking very large “buttons” that were exported to China and used for “artificial flesh?” (Please comment if you recognize these roots)


We donated more paracetemol and we met with the response that others had donated cash instead of medicine. (Oops) Koe Sue afterward brought us to a local Nat Shrine under a large tree nearby and explained that residents would pray here for good luck, and sacrifice the occasional chicken if someone were sick.


The second village was more vacant than the first but had the same idyllic pastoral feeling with animals and children running about amongst the neat little bamboo huts on stilts under a canopy of shady trees – luckily the sun was still out. Momentarily, the Rain started as we boarded the boats to head back, and we were pelted with a 10 minute mini storm before it subsided and starting clearing.


In between the 2 villages there is a large mining/gathering operation for riverrock that are exported to Singapore. They appeared to be smooth rocks for landscaping etc. but were explained as bowl rocks? An hour downstream we were at the jetty and in the jeep. We decided based on our efficient timetable to head to Mahamuni Temple 20 mi west of town because we were all scheduled to leave the next day so it was an attempt to see another major site with our 2-3 hours remaining. We arrived at the temple at 4:00 PM, in time to watch the doors close. Koe Sue made a brave attempt to talk local police into opening the doors but they refused. We took a window walk of the temple, seeing the sacred Buddha image from approx 500 BC, when Gautama Buddha visited Mahamuni and there were 9 images made from the donations of 9 kings, one of which is still in Mahamuni. Locals bless the image with gold leaf when they have ailments, placing the leaf on the image in the area corresponding to their illness.


The photo highlight is the statue procession of the Buddha leading 500 followers up to the temple.


Koe Sue gave us a walk around the grounds and the Boddhi Tree nearby, explaining that this tree was grown from an offshoot of the original Boddhi tree. Mahamuni is specially revered because of the visit from Gautama Bhudda, and is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Burma.
Koe Sue (Govt licensed tour guide) is highly recommended and his contact details are:
Mobile: 09421761802

Posted by mjschrum 06:27 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma u monastery myanmar mrauk shittaung rakhine sanamuni mahamuni Comments (4)

Mrauk U Day 2

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Mrauk U - Day 2 with sunny weather. Rented bikes through the hotel at 3000 kyat each for the day. Standard Chinese commuter style single speed bikes with bent cranks etc. but well maintained. We headed out for some East Mrauk U sites but quickly got lost around the old palace area. We stumbled into the museum entrance unknowingly, peered through the doorway at the reportedly weak collection, and decided to forego the $5 entry and buy a book. The book is excellent, a photocopied (partly color) edition for $4 that has great description and maps of Mrauk U and surrounds, including Mahamuni Temple. We climbed Haridaung Paya near the palace and had a great overlook of the town and nearby temples. We noticed some very prominent temples covered in vines to the east that looked to make great exploring.

Mystery Temple


Mystery Temple 2

We struggled to get back to the hotel afterward around noon but found the road. After covering only one pagoda in the morning we decided expedited transport would be best and hired a jeep through Jack, the manager at Schwe Thazin. Our driver arrived at 1:00 and we took off in the middle of a downpour for Ko-Taung, the fortress-like pagoda to the East housing 80,000 Buddha images and is the largest in the complex. It was monsooning such that we didn’t get out of the jeep and headed to the market for umbrellas. Luckily afterward we went directly to the Sandamuni Monastery to look at another prominent Bhudda image and enjoy the surroundings. It was a special place on a hilltop, full of young devotees studying and older monks hanging about and meditating. The trustee at the Bhuddha image was delightful and answered a few questions about the tooth relic that is stored at Sandamuni. We descended again and went into an antique shop full of Bhuddist statues, old coins, and other ancient looking things. A monk offered us a coin there from the East India Company, Empress Elizabeth, dated 1897 which we accepted and then slowly made our way back to the jeep. This monastery was a special place, imbued with a peace and calm that was exceptional even among the tranquil pagodas of Mrauk U. Note: In 123 AD, Gautama Buddha visited Mahamuni and there were 9 images made from the donations of 9 kings, one of which is still in Mahamuni and another is housed in Sandamuni Monastery. This image was covered in concrete to hide it from the British invaders around 1850 and in 1988 rediscovered when an eye dropped out in front of a Sandamuni monk cleaning nearby the image. The monk inspected the eyehole and saw brass underneath concrete, whereby the original image was uncovered.

Andaw Temple
Andaw Temple
Lay-Myut-Nha Temple

We spent the rest of day 2 walking around the major temples in central Mrauk U. Dukkenthein, a major monument there, is an impressive, fortress-like temple that has an elaborate spiral of vaulted passages leading to a beatifully lit central chamber where the Bhudda sits. Its structure is like a flat surface in the form of a drum. It is approx. 200 ft square and it sits directly to the west of Shittaung. There are 146 niches housing Bhudda images in sitting posture that are spaced 20 feet apart in the tunnels leading to the interior Bhudda chamber. Seated ladies with different hairstyles are offering lotus buds to the Bhudda. Traditionally there are 64 different hairstyles found among the devotees.

Niched Bhudda
Lotus Offering
Lay-Myut-Nha Temple
Lay-Myut-Nha Temple
Lay-Myut-Nha Temple

Lotus Offering

Posted by mjschrum 21:08 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma u monastery myanmar mrauk shittaung rakhine sanamuni Comments (1)

Mrauk U Day 1

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The Government Boat from Sittwe arrived at 12:30 PM. (See entry below on Mrauk U Ferry for more info) The 5.5 hour trip was a pleasant surprise given that we expected 7 hours.


We checked into the Schwe Thazin Hotel, unloaded and hit the restaurant for a cup of Nescafe and some advice. Jack (Anglo name of manager - he explained his name is too difficult for us to pronounce) gave us some good advice about nearby temples and by luck the major group of prominent temples and pagodas is nearby the hotel. It was hot and humid but we don't let that slow us down, recently arrived from Saudi Arabia. Off we went walking to the most famous of all the Temples- Shittaung. We wandered among the approx 6 concentric tunnels of Buddhas inside the temple, of which there are 78.000 and enjoyed the coolness and serenity of the smooth stones inside the Pagoda. We sat out on the Temple terrace and looked westward, soon being surrounded by a group of teenage girls who wanted to take Marcy's picture and chat a bit. They were customarily super-friendly and pleasant, and we stayed until their entourage of boys arrived and left us a chance for an exit. We walked to mini-market row next to the hotel afterward and bought water and saw what kinds of snack foods were on offer in Mrauk U. It all looked strange at first but we found some awesome Japanese Cui Wei dried plums and have been eating them ever since. We went back to the hotel lugging water and retired to the restaurant for a frosty Myanmar Beer.

Flower Girl - Entrance Shittaung Pagoda

Byala for Good Luck! (Mythical composite of 9 different animals)

Vasunvra figure typical of Shittaung Temple

80,000 Bhuddas in tunnels

Ancient Bhudda image of the Vesali Period (Rakhine Period)

Principal Shittaung Bhudda

Tunnel Image

MFSB - My favorite Shittaung Bhudda

Shittaung view

Posted by mjschrum 06:24 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma u myanmar mrauk shittaung rakhine Comments (1)

Pre-Departure Planning

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Getting ready to head to Myanmar Sept. 29, leaving Bahrain in the evening, one hour stop in Doha and then looking forward to arriving in Yangon at 7:00am on the 30th.

Posted by mjschrum 02:36 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (0)

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