Journey to the Discovery of Burma

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

Author and references

A beautiful and very interesting journey, which we have come to appreciate even more? on our return, remembering the moments spent there.
Departure from Rome, at the end of July, towards Bangkok. From there, we took another plane to Yangon.
Let's start immediately by saying that summer (ours) is not? the season pi? recommended to visit the country, being a rainy period but, except for some episodes, we can say that there? went very well.

Before proceeding with the story of our journey, some practical information:

- Italian cell phones do not work as roaming is not yet active. However, you will often find the wi-fi that will allow you? to communicate anyway (this in 2015, check for any updates);
- bring your dollars (those issued after 2006 and in good condition). Once there, you will change the desired amount into kyat, the local currency;
- to enter you will need? visa. You can ask a few days before at the Burma Embassy in Via di Villa Grazioli 29, Rome. For us it took a week.

1 day

We arrive in Yangon in the late morning, immediately caught in a scorching heat, and very humid.
We stay at the Panda Hotel (80 $ per night with breakfast).
It is about the city? pi? large of Burma which, until 2005,? was the capital of the country. Since 2006, the new capital? Naypyidaw, whose name means? Abode of Kings ?.
Under British rule, Yangon became an important political and commercial center of the country. Its structure was embellished with lakes and new buildings, so much so that it was called the? City-garden of the east ?.
Rangoon became the capital of Burma on January 4, 1948, when the country gained independence from the British, returning to its original name, Yangon.
Today the city? it is in the process of evolution. Everywhere you will notice construction sites and buildings under construction. IS? big enough, turn on foot not? very simple. The population ? of about 4 million inhabitants.
Our first stop? obviously the Shwedagon Paya (admission 8 $), symbol of the city.
It is a 98 meters high golden stupa which, located west of the royal lake, dominates the entire city. The upper part ? studded with 4531 diamonds.
It represents the largest pagoda? sacred for all Burmese and is the hub of religious life and activities? of the community.
The legend states that the pagoda is around 2500 years old, although archaeologists date it to a longer period. recent. In any case, as expected, there are still disputes over the date of origin.
Its story is said to have begun when two merchant brothers met Gautama Buddha whom he delivered? their eight of his hats to keep in Burma. The two went to Singuattara Hill, where the other relics of the Buddha were kept. Unfortunately, after a while, the stupa fell into disrepair. It was then rebuilt, damaged by earthquakes and rebuilt again.
The area around? very wide, the pagoda? surrounded by other minor stupas. There are several entrances, the atmosphere that you breathe? enjoyable.
Subsequently, we set out to discover the city? and we arrive at Nga Htat Gyi Paya and then at Chaukhtatgyi Paya. Both houses two giant statues of Buddha: the first? a seated buddha, covered in gold with wood inlays, the second lying, 72 meters long, one of the most? large statues of Burma.
Before dinner, we visit the Sule Pagoda which is located in the city center. It too, gilded, differs from the others for its octagonal shape.
On foot, passing in front of an? Infinity? of stalls, we reach our restaurant, the Danu Phyu Daw Saw, one of the many frequented by locals: we eat very well! ($ 8 for two).
Burmese food is not? particularly varied, unlike, for example, the Thai one. However, in its own way, it can be equally tasty!

2 day

The next morning, we leave in the direction of Kyaiktiyo and, more? specifically, of the famous Golden Rock (admission 6 $ per person).
We drive to Kinpun (4 hours from Yangon). From there, the only way to get to the top? take one of the local trucks (2500K per person for outside seats? 3000K for inside, next to the driver). Get ready to hug yourselves and? Hold on tight? They run like crazy along the road, with us not even the rain stopped them ?
Please note that departure times vary depending on how fast the truck fills up. IS? it happened that someone waited even 3 hours!
The weather on this occasion we can say that it has not really assisted us. Did we get to the top under the flood - there was nothing to be seen - it was almost spooky!
Anyway, the show? it was good all the same. There was something fascinating about it!
Located in Mon State, this small stupa represents Burma's third sacred pilgrimage site. The particularity? ? which, entirely covered with gold leaves, is perfectly balanced on a rock.
Legend has it that this balance? secured by a lock of Buddha's hair, underneath.
After the visit, we spent the night in Kinpun, at the Golden Sunrise Hotel ($ 55 per night with breakfast). A beautiful place, surrounded by nature.

3 day

In the morning we leave for Bago (by car from Kinpun it takes 2 hours).
It is located about 80 km from Yangon, and? one of the major cities? of Burma. It was the capital of the Mon kingdom and in 1500 an important port for the trade of rubies.
Before arriving, we stopped at a local market.
Arrived in Bago, we visited the Shwemawdaw Pagoda and the Khakhat Wain Kyang Monastery.
For lunch we eat in a restaurant frequented by locals which, as always, has its own charm!
Before leaving the city, we stop to visit the famous? Shwethalyaung ?, a? immense statue of reclining Buddha, 55 long and 16 high.
Do not forget the curious Kyaik Pun Pagoda depicting 4 giant statues of Buddha, 34 meters high, positioned at the cardinal points, back to back.
To visit all this, we made a card including the various sites (10.000K each). In some places, however, they will ask you for 300k for the camera.

4 day

In the early afternoon we return to Yangon and immediately head to Bogyoke Aung San Market (Bogyoke Aung San Road) which, inaugurated in 1926,? the pi? famous market of Yangon. IS? very large, inside there are about 1.641 shops where you can find everything from souvenirs to local crafts. Pay attention to the colonial-style building, is it worth a visit ?? very characteristic.
Behind the market, a very suggestive railway.
Leaving the market, we try to pass in front of the house of San Su Kyi. Failed mission. Impossible to enter, the whole house? fenced, you can't even see it.
For dinner we go to Aung Thukka (7800 K for two), also frequented mainly by locals.

5 day

The next morning, wake up at 4.00: flight to Bagan.
Before reaching Bagan, we make a quick detour to Mount Popa (50 km from Bagan). Before that, along the way, we stop to see how palm processing works.
After a while we arrive at our destination. Now extinct volcano, Mount Popa? famous above all from a mystical and religious point of view, the Burmese consider it the sacred mountain. It is said, in fact, that it is the home of the? Nats? (the spirits of ancient ancestors). Today ? one of the most popular pilgrimage sites popular of the country.
At the top is a monastery with the effigies of 37 Nats. When you go up, you will be surrounded by monkeys.
Quick lunch along the way, recommended by our driver and finally we arrive in Bagan.
Here we stop, 2 nights, at the Thiripyisaya Sanctuary Resort (130 $ for two nights, including breakfast).
You should immediately get a ticket for entry to all the archaeological sites ($ 15 per person). Furthermore, we advise you to rent bikes, electric or not, to ride freely and enjoy the visit in the way that suits you best. you like it. We hired them directly from the hotel ($ 5 for 4 hours? $ 10 for the whole day).
Bagan is located in the central part of the country, definitely more? dry than that of Yangon. The climate ? muggy and very hot. We usually went out in the morning and in the afternoon after 5, also why? with the sunset light? a whole other thing.
Capital of the first Myammar empire, Bagan? one of the most? rich people of Southeast Asia and one of the main tourist destinations in the country.
Its surface? very vast, and? full of pagodas dating back to the 2500th and th centuries. To date, about are preserved. Among the most? there are undoubtedly famous: the Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda, Htinlominlo, Wetkyi? In- Gubyiaukkyi, Thatbyinnyiu, Mingalazedi.
The first visit? for the Ananda Patho, the largest temple great site.
We saw the sunset at the top of Swesandaw Paya. Arrive in time to find a nice spot from which to admire the entire valley. Have we arrived there? at 6 and it was already? full of people. The sunset c ?? been around 6:30. Wonder!

6 day

The next day we dedicate it entirely to visiting Old Bagan.
Lunch along the highway towards New Bagan? Naung U.
Relax in the pool and at 17:00 we get back on our bikes and arrive in Htilominlo Patho and we get lost pedaling around.
This time we admire the sunset from the Pyathada Paya.

7 day

The next morning, we reluctantly leave Bagan and fly to Mandalay (flight duration 35 min.) As soon as we arrive, we reach the Maha Gana Yon Kyaung, a monastery that houses 1500 monks.
We arrived at 10:15 am to witness the lunch ceremony. Maybe a little bit? touristy, but it's worth it; ? really exciting to see cos? so many monks, from the most? small to the pi? great, participate together in this moment cos? important of their day.
Leaving the Monastery, we visit the Sagaing Hill.
Subsequently, we take a small boat (8 K each a / r) and reach Ava (Inwa), the ancient capital of Burma. We have lunch there, and then ride with the horse.
We pass in front of the Bagaya Kyaung monastery, completely in teak and visit the remains of stupas.
After, before returning to Mandalay, we take a beautiful walk on U Bein? S Bridge in Amarapura.
In Mandalay we sleep at the Peakok Lodge where we spend two nights ($ 55 per night with breakfast). In the evening we have dinner there both evenings, as there is a curfew from 22pm onwards.

8 day

The next day, we leave by boat (departure at 9 and return at 13) to Mingun (1 h), the ancient royal capital, known for its huge unfinished pagoda, the Mingun Paya. Commissioned by King Bodawpaya, its construction was interrupted after the death of the king. It should have reached 150 meters in height. Furthermore, terrible earthquakes damaged it over the years.
If you like,? possible to reach the top. We obviously went up. Do you have to take off your shoes? Be careful why? the ground burns!
Along the way, after leaving Mingun Paya, visit the largest bell. largest in the world still hanging and functioning: it has a diameter of 5 meters and weighs 90 tons.
Next, arrive at the beautiful, all white Hsinbyume Paya, worth a visit.
After lunch, before returning to the boat and returning to Mandalay, we stop to visit another stupa all white, right on the banks of the river and very fascinating.
In Mandalay, we visit Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple, really very beautiful with wonderful wood inlays.
Finally, we close the visit to Mandalay with the Mahamuni Paya, in the city center? and one main pilgrimage sites.
In the center of the building is a large statue of Buddha, entirely covered with gold leaves that the faithful continue to attack regularly.
The statue is said to have the exact likeness of Buddha.

9 day

The next day, we leave Mandalay with a flight to Heho. IS? early in the morning and as we prepare to leave, we meet a group of monks who are starting their day, going to ask for rice on offer.
Once we land, we reach the Pindaya Caves (2 hours by car).
Along the way we discover a very lush region, hills, cultivated fields, especially potatoes.
The entrance to the site? of $ 10 per person. The caves, made of limestone, are well known for hosting various statues of Buddha, about 8000, donated by many faithful, not only Burmese but from all over the world. This is obviously a sacred place.
Our final direction? was Inle Lake. Along the way, we stopped to see the Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, a monastery, also made of teak, located in Nyaungshwe. Beautiful and charming, with its characteristic oval windows. There? liked it very much.
From Nyaungshwe, we take a boat and, after 45 minutes of navigation, we arrive at our hotel, in the middle of Inle Lake, the Paramount Inle Resort (3 nights 171 $ with breakfast) totally suspended on the lake, built on stilts.
It is inevitable not to cross the typical fishermen of the place, with their characteristic nets.

10 day

In the morning rigorous tour of the lake with the little boat.
First stop Ywama, with its floating market.
After visiting Nampan, the fabric, cigar, and boat factories.
Lunch and then by boat we visit the tomato gardens and floating gardens.

11 day

We spend the second day on Inle Lake again by boat. This time, we visit Phaung Daw Oo Paya with its bustling market.
After ? the vault of Inthein and his Shwe Inn Thein Paya.
In the evening, despite having booked the night at the Paramount Inle Resort, we decide to change hotels and find one directly in Nyaungshwe.
This choice ? was due to the fact that the next day we would leave for a two-day trek, decided there? for there. Since the departure is at dawn, we preferred to avoid the time of navigation the same morning.
What? by doing, we chose the Inle Apex hotel (40 $ per night with breakfast).

12 day

In the morning, at 8:00, departure for the trekking. Led by Timo, we had a wonderful experience. About 6 hours of walking a day, in contact only with nature.
The goal? A monastery for novice monks, made up of children aged 7 to 11 years (each male child must spend this period in the monastery and decide whether to continue on the path of faith or not).
We cooked in their rooms and slept inside the monastery, on a bed made only of blankets, by candlelight, with the prayers of the little monks who kept us company. Spectacular!
We couldn't have ended our trip to Burma in a better way!

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