Myanmar part 1: Yangon and Mandalay

We spent a week in Myanmar, an Asian country stuck between the buzzing Thailand and the swarming Pakistan/India.

Every country in SEA (South-East Asia) has its own more or less dramatic historical background. Myanmar is since 1962 under a military government and opened itself pretty recently to tourism: the country is beautiful, the people welcoming, but a big black spot remained during our trip: a huge part of your expenses go directly into the government’s pocket and not to the inhabitants of the country, one of the poorest in the world (149th/185).

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The Buddhism, main religion in Myanmar (and many other SEA countries), is omnipresent and every monuments/touristic attractions are more or less related to it. Therefore we saw a lot of pagodas, stupas and temples!

Yangon

Welcome to biggest city, Yangon (but not the capital anymore since the government moved inland a few years ago). Let’s keep it simple, you come to Yangon for only one thing: the Great Shwedagon pagoda! The biggest in Myanmar, this pagoda is supposedly to be 600 years old and protects eight strands of hair from Gautama, the historical Buddha. Culminating at 99 meters  and covered in gold, Swedagon pagoda is especially amazing at night, dominating the city’s skyline.

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A replica of one of Buddha’s tooth 

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Arthur’s initiation to Buddhism

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Mandalay inner city

Our next stop was Mandalay, second biggest city of Myanmar, and home of the ancient Burmese empire. We spent our first day wandering in the city: the royal palace has burnt down, and its emplacement is now more of an empty place with walls around (used by the army as an HQ). The Shwenandaw monastery however, which is entirely made in wood (no smoking!), is a real masterpiece and was a part of the palace that got moved away by one of the king. There is also Kuthodaw Pagoda (The World’s Biggest Book), surrounded by 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scripture. We finished our day at Mandalay hill, enjoying the sunset lighting the city with a orange glow…

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The stupas protecting the Buddhist Scripture

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Mandalay Hill

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The Three cities

The next day was dedicated to the three cities, every one of them being an ancient Burmese capital (from 1600 to 1860). We rented a bike and drove along the river, discovering the cities one by one:

–       Amarapura, and the U Bein Bridge, a 1.2 km long wooden path crossing the river and joining the city to the Kyauktawgyi pagoda (perfect for a pronunciation training!).

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2014.03.23 - U Bein bridge (7)

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People trying to catch flying bills in the middle of the road (coming from nowhere!)

–       Inwa, its monastery and ancient palace (there is just one tower left, everything else have been destroyed by an earthquake in 1838).

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2014.03.23 - Inwa (3)

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Crossing the river with our bike!

–       Sagain and the view from the hill, overlooking a hundred of golden pagodas and temples.

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Mandalay-Bagan by boat

We took a boat from Mandalay pier to Bagan our next stop: the ride along the Irrawaddy river was a little bit boring (10 hours) but the sunset on Bagan from the boat was definitely worth the trip!

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