A Travellerspoint blog

Irrawaddy Cruise to Mandalay - Friday, 27 January 2017

Disembark the ship today.

sunny 30 °C

Up very early and down to breakfast at 6.30 am as our bags had to be out by 7.15 am. I had a pretty good night's sleep but my voice is just about gone and it hurts a lot when I cough. I am blaming the dreadful fine powdery dust that is everywhere. It hasn't rained since October and everything is covered in it. It's awful.

Bye bye Scenic Aura!

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We can't check in to our Mandalay hotel until 2.00 pm, so we are going on a sight seeing tour this morning.

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First stop is a gold leaf workshop and we watched a very fit young man bash a packet of gold that will eventually stretch and become gold leaf. It is very labour intensive work and I just can't imagine doing that very day. We went to look in the shop but it all seemed very expensive to me. All the prices were in American dollars.

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We continued on to the Mahamuni Pagoda, where the guys in our group were allowed to put gold leaf on one of the Buddah statues. None of them did. It is a huge complex and very, very busy. Lots of people from the villages come to visit it only once in their lifetime and it is a very special occasion for them.

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Our new tour guide! (Heaven help us!)

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These ladies had come from a village up north for a pilgrimage to the pagoda. They were causing a lot of attention in their unusual dress, especially the head dress and Susan spoke with them and they posed for photos for us. I think they were a bit bemused by all the attention they were receiving.

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All these candles were being laid out because the grandmother of the King of Buhtan was coming to visit the Pagoda.

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If you have an ailment, all you have to do is rub that part of your body on one of these bronze statues and you will be healed. So, I rubbed my very sore throat on it but I don't think it's working.

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We are getting very good at finding our Saturday corner and pouring water on Buddah's head.

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Driving along these streets is fascinating. It is the place where all the Buddahs are carved. They are EVERYWHERE, in all shapes and sizes.

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We visited Shwenandaw, a beautiful wooden monastery. It had a lot of gold leaf inside and the roof was lovely too.

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There was a sign at the foot of the steps telling people to put their shoes in the shoe rack. Ingrid, Elfie and I were the only ones who took any notice of the sign!

We went to Kuthodaw Pagoda where the World's Largest Book is housed. It has 729 pages, all inscribed on a tablet and each tablet is housed in it's own pagoda. Very fascinating. We were wandering around the area when a Middle Eastern man asked us where the largest book in the world was and we said "Here". "Oh", he said, "I thought this was a cemetery!"

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We then went to the Royal Palace for a quick visit.

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By this stage, we are getting pretty hungry as we had breakfast at 6.30 am so we met up with Team B and a nice lunch spot in down town Mandalay. It was a very wholesome meal of asparagus soup, and then steak, chicken or fish and vegies, followed by fruit. And a beer. Very nice. This tree is in the middle of the restaurant and during the old days, it was actually outside the restaurant, but times have changed and so has the road and the restaurant has been built around the tree.

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Then finally we arrived at the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel. It is very nice and we have been given a suite, with a separate lounge room and a balcony overlooking the mountain. It is very tastefully furnished.

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We had time for a quick nap before our taxi took us up Mandalay Hill so we could view the sunset. Up on top was a huge surprise. An enormous temple was up there and a lot of people, all with the same idea. It is very high up, shoes off again for the fourth time today (!) but thank goodness there were three escalators to take us up and the most amazing thing - when the sunset viewing was over, the escalators reversed themselves and took us down! Amazing technology for such a developing country as Myanmar.

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We had just enough time to dress for our farewell dinner. Us, the A Team, will be travelling to all corners of the globe tomorrow and the B Team is continuing on to Inle Lake for a few days and then home. It was sad to say goodbye to them as the whole group has been really nice and friendly with a lot of friendly banter between the A and the B team.

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Phil and Mike (from the UK - nice guy)

Buddhist saying for the day - "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth".

Posted by gaddingabout 08:00 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Mingun - Mandalay - Amarapura - Thursday, 26 January 2017

Australia Day!

sunny 33 °C

I had a dreadful night's sleep. Hardly slept at all with a raging sore throat and coughing and a temperature. So as we are going to the Teak Bridge at Amarapura this afternoon, I decided to forego the morning's walking tour of Mingun and rest in the cabin. It was a good decision but I missed out on a stunning white pagoda. Also, the group visited King Bodawpaya's monumental, uncompleted stupa. During construction, an astrologer to the King argued that the King would die upon completion of the temple and work was immediately halted. Had it been completed, it would have been the largest in the world. It has huge cracks in it as a result of the 23rd of March 1839 earthquake. By the way, the King died anyway!

They also visited the Mingun Bell, which was the heaviest working bell in the world until 2000 when the Bell of Good Luck was unveiled in Henan, China.

When Phil got back to the ship, we went to lunch and this was waiting for us.

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On the bus at 3.00 pm for an excursion to Amarapura, the penultimate Burmese royal capital. We stopped off at a silk workshop and were fascinated to watch the girls weaving the silk. It is such time consuming and intricate work. Susan says they make good money. I hope so. Then the shopping frenzy began! We haven't had many "shopping opportunities" along the way, which has been good, but the shops we have been to have had good quality merchandise.

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Then we drove to U Bein Bridge which is the world's longest and oldest teak wood bridge. There are no sides to the bridge but there are hundreds of people strolling across it. It is a very famous bridge and is always photographed at sunset. About half way across, we climbed down some stairs to our waiting sampans which took us out onto the lake for sundowners and sunset. The Scenic boats were the only ones with life jackets, but we didn't put them on, which really defeats the purpose. However, if the boat capsized, we would die from getting a mouthfull of the revolting water.

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Susan, our guide, came saling by from time to time to fill up our champagne glasses. It was very lovely sitting on the lake, waiting for the sunset.

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Tonight is our last night on board and it is longyi dress up night. Now that is fine, except we don't know how to tie it on us, so I went down to reception and Susan did mine.

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Phil came down and Mr Than, the Chef, tied Phil's for him. It was so funny. Mr Than could hardly get his arms around Phil to tie it up.

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Susan also painted some of the stuff on my face that all Burmese ladies and children wear (but I've forgotten its name).

After dinner, we packed our bags, ready to leave the Scenic Aura at 8.00am!!!! My throat is sore and I'm losing my voice and not feeling very happy.

Posted by gaddingabout 07:01 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Sagaing to Inwa (Ava) - Wednesday, 25 January 2017

In the ancient capitals of Sagaing and Inwa, spiritual enlightenment awaits.

sunny 31 °C

We docked in Sagaing this morning and it was truly a wonderful sight. Two bridges welcomed us and then rows and rows of pagodas and stupas, shining in the morning sun. This looks like quite a large town.

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Sagaing is an important religious and monastic centre, with numerous Buddhist monasteries. The pagodas and monasteries crowd the numerous hills along the ridge running parallel to the river. The sentry pagoda, Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, is connected by a set of covered staircases that run up the 240m hill. Sagain is another of Myanmar's ancient capitals, famous for its many hundreds of white, silver and gold pagodas and monasteries that dot its hilly landscape.

We went ashore, boarded the bus and our first stop was a silversmith's shop. We went to the workshop out the back and watched them make some silver bowls and saw how they imprint the pattern on the silver, then back into the shop for a shopping opportunity. I thought I might find an icon here but not so. Some people bought things.

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Next stop was a nunnery where we were handing out food to the nuns for their lunch. Originally we were going to share lunch with them, but Scenic couldn't be sure of the cleanliness of their cooking implements, so we just gave them food instead. More good karma. They chanted a nice tune as they filed by to receive their food. We then watched them recite some mantras before they ate.

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Next we visited a monastery school for monks and lay people. It was Wednesday and for some reason they were having a holiday. We kicked the football with them and took photos. Check out the glasses on this little guy. They were just wire bent into the shape of glasses - no lenses!

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This little kid was the youngest in the monastery. He was a bit of a monster and head butted us all in the backside, then wanted his photo taken, but wouldn't smile.

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Kids are the same the world round and love watching cartoons.

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The Ava Kingdom ruled upper Burma from 1364 to 1555. After lunch we used local horse carts to visit Ava/Inwa. Ava is an ancient imperial capital that was rebuilt numerous times. The capital city was abandoned after it was destroyed by a series of major earthquakes.

The bus took us to a smaller river and we boarded a taxi for the 10 minute ride to the other side. Then our horse carts were waiting for us and Mike and I shared one and off we went, first to see the mini Angkor Wat. It was a lot more comfortable for me sitting up front with the driver, than for Mike, squashed in the back with his long legs. The road was very bumpy and dusty and for the first time I used my face mask and was very glad to have it.

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Before we started our journey on the horse carts, Mike asked a local girl selling jewellery, to take our photo. She did so willingly, then the big sell started. She was selling low grade jade necklaces. I felt really bad saying no, and as we took off in the horse cart, she followed along, peddaling furiously on her bicycle. When we stopped at mini Angkor Wat, I asked Susan to negotiate a price with her and then I bought a jade necklace (which I didn't really want) for $10. More good karma!

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Our next stop was Yadana Hsemee Pagoda Complex. This is a very old pagoda in ruins and is very similiar to ones we have seen in Indonesia, especially its location - among the rice paddies. In one section, there was no roof any more, but huge columns.

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Howard thought this looked like Phil!

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Then we visited the teak pagoda that once belonged to the Royal Family. It was very dark inside - not good for photography and the floor was creaky.

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Still more to see. This time the old Watch Tower or the Leaning Pagoda. It had been damaged in an earthquake and has quite a lean to it. Tourists have been allowed to climb it but the powers that be now consider it unsafe, so it is closed to climbers.

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Back to the boat and it is almost sunset. It has been a long afternoon, but totally enjoyable. Everything is different. The setting sun makes for some good photos.

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We are now crossing this bridge and it was the one that the British blew up the middle section when they were leaving Burma so the Japanese couldn't follow. They only destroyed a couple of the middle spans so when they returned to Burma, it was relatively easy to reconstruct.

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An anxious Phil wondering where on earth we have been!

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Starting to get a sore throat and by the time I left the dining room, it was on fire! Coco gave me some drink made of lime, ginger and honey to drink and it did help a bit but I was so full from dinner, I couldn't drink a lot of it. I had trouble going to sleep and had a dreadful night -awake most of the time, coughing, coughing, coughing.

Buddhist saying for the day - "As rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgements but rain your kindness equally on all"

Posted by gaddingabout 04:35 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bagan to Yandabo - Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Walking tour of Yandabo - Famous for pottery

sunny 30 °C

On 24 February 1826, the peace treaty of the first Anglo-Burmese War was signed at Yandabo. Today it is a picituresque village famous for its pottery. During our walking tour of the village, we had the opportunity to stop at various family homes and workshops, each with its own unique style and markings, to witness the making and firing of the Yandabo pottery, famous throughout Myanmar.

There may be up to three thousand pots in a single layer that is covered with a large pile of ash, straw and wood and then set on fire. The temperature in this kiln reaches 1200C and the heating process takes three or four days, including cooling. At the end of the process, the pots have changed from dull brown to a brilliant red colour. The pots are transported by boat all over the country.

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We scrambled ashore and up the river bank. We are getting very good at this now, but there are always Scenic staff at every turn to help.

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We wandered through the village and Susan explained about the pot making process. The children were a bit shy at first but then we held hands and they walked along with us, until Nana called them back.

This woman was making pots and I was amazed to hear that she has been to University and has a degree in History, but chose to come back to the village and make pots. I just don't understand that at all.

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This little boy was collecting food for the monks. We followed him along the lane for a while. His load was so heavy to carry.

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We arrived at the school and interacted with the kindergarten class. Some of the small children were only three. They sang the ABC song to us and in turn, we sang "I'm a Little Tea Pot" and did all the actions. Susan translated the words for us and then when we sang it again, the children copied our actions. It was fun.

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We actually remembered to take money ashore with us today as I was hoping to be able to buy a local pot, but unfortunately there were no shopping opportunities in the village.

Archaeological evidence shows humans were present in Myanmar approximately 400,000 years ago and were among the first to grow rice and domesticate poultry and pigs. City states appeared as early as the second century with the Pagan Empire uniting the Irrawaddy valley by 1050 AD and rivalling the Khmer Empire. Empires in Burma rose and fell over the centuries, until the British colonization at the end of the three Anglo-Burmese wars in the early 19th century. Resentment of the British was high, resulting in both peaceful protests and violent riots. A major battleground during World War II, Burma was devastated, with as many as 250,000 civilians killed. At the end of the war, General Aung San (Suu Kye's father) negotiated Burma's independence, creating a unified, independent state. Aung San was assassinated by a military coup in 1947, resulting in one of the world's most closed societies, with one of the worst human rights records. Since a 2010 free election, the government has embarked on a number of reforms to direct the country towards a liberal democracy.

On our return to the ship, our Captain was waiting at the foot of the gang plank to help us board.

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After lunch, while we were resting, there was a slight drama when we got momentarily stuck on a sand bar. This ship was too and we seemed to weave in and out of each other and then we were free and we sailed off one way and they, the other. It was pretty close to us for a while.

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I went to the dining room later in the afternoon for the bread and pizza making demo. It was a lot of fun. The pastry chef is so clever. He makes it look so easy and of course, it's not. I have been controlling my rhinitis - JUST - but all the flour flying around the bread and pizza making really set it off, so it will be time for a "bomb" tonight before I go to sleep. It is just a nuisance.

While I was at the bread and pizza making, Phil invited Reece and Bob from WA up to have a drink on our balcony as the wind has abated and it is very pleasant sailing along, with just a gentle breeze blowing.

Ingrid and Elfie came at 5.30pm as we have two bottles of champagne to drink and we just don't have the time after dinner because there is always something to do or we are so tired, we just want to go to bed. It was a very pleasant evening.

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We had dinner with Howard and Isla from Sydney and after dinner we went up to the lounge to watch Part 1 of the story of Buddha. To be continued tomorrow night.

Buddhist thought for the day - "We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves".

Posted by gaddingabout 06:43 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bagan to the middle of the Irrawaddy,Monday, 23 January 2017

Horse cart tour of Bagan's ruin temples and visit the Lacquareware Factory

sunny 32 °C

We had a later start to the day today with breakfast commencing at 7.30 am instead of 7. It was good to have a relaxed morning after yesterday's HUGE day.

At 9.30 am we went ashore for a horse cart ride through the ruined temples of Bagan.

There is a lot of activitiy on the waterfront where our boat is moored and these poor ladies have been working since day break, carrying rocks on their heads.

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We drove a short distance in the bus, then hopped onto our horse and cart and drove for about 40 minutes through Old Bagan and the ruined temples. There are over 4,000 temples. A lot of them were damaged in the 1973 earthquake and have been closed as they are too dangerous. But work is progressing on renovating and maintaining them. But, as you would expect, progress is slow.

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The horse cart ride was reasonably comfortable but very dusty.

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Back on the bus for a short ride to a lacquerwear factory. How enlightening this was. This was the real lacquerwear that is made from a base of bamboo strips, wound round and round and then the process begins of painting layers and layers of lacquer (from the rubber tree) on to it. It was fascinating. That of course, is the difference in price between lacquerwear. Some is quite expensive and the cheaper version is mass produced and has a base of plastic.

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Lacquerwear is a bit "busy" for my taste, but I did find a lovely square plate and two smaller ones that are now in my possession and will be travelling back to Australia with us. Phil didn't have any money with him and Ingrid came to my rescue!

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As soon as we came back on board, we set sail for Yandabo.

This afternoon has been spent SLEEPING (for about three hours after lunch). We are so lazy.

There was a galley tour this afternoon, but I didn't go to that. I will possibly have a look at the galley on the Scenic Spirit next week as the ships are very similar.

The sun has now set and we haven't docked yet so I'm not sure what is happening as we don't sail at night due to the sand bars in the river and the water level is getting low.

Just went out on the balcony as we were docking. We are somewhere in the middle of the Irrawaddy, tied up to a tree. How funny!

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Did you know? - Early every morning, Theravade Buddhist monks and novices pour into the streets silently, barefoot and single file with bowls. For over 2,500 years, since Buddha decided that the monks and nuns should not cook or store their own food, Buddhist monks have walked the alms rounds. The alms bowl is still an enduring symbol of the monastic order for all Buddhists. Monks and novices take no food after twelve noon.

Buddhist thought for the day - "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned"

Posted by gaddingabout 07:11 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

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