All posts by Reijo

The Golden Rock, Death Railroad, Buddha Caves

The Golden Rock – Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

The legend is that this rock is held in place  balancing on a single hair of Buddha.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Golden Rock

A very popular pilgrimage site for the buddhists, many coming from Thailand. Golden Rock is located in the Mon State at Mount Kyaiktiyo (Kyite Htee Yoe). 

As in most holy places, it is strictly no shoes and as my shorts were just about knee length, I had to wear a local skirt-type cloth that is common for the Burmese men.

A pilgrimage day out

People  spend a day praying, eating and wondering the marvel.  The place is also very busy and takes a little time to get to.

First you will be taken half way up the mountain on a tightly squeezed lorry ride 6 aside on each bench.

Half-way up you can opt for a Kyaiktiyo Cable-car (like a ski-gondola) at a slightly higher cost – recommend the investment.

Waiting for the truck to take people down

If you choose the truck ride, it is adrenaline filled on the steep climb up.

Death Railroad

Thanbyuzayat Death Railroad Museum

This Burma-Siam railroad was built by the Japanese during their conquest of Thailand and Burma in 1942-43. Well, actually the Japanese did not build the railroad but their war prisoners and imported Asian labourers from Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia workers did. The building of the railroad took a toll of some 100.000 lives, again mainly Asian.

Also Australian, Dutch, British and American POWs were used to build the railroad.

Thanbyuzayat museum

Thanbyuzayat museum marks the start / end of the railroad in current Myanmar

Notably the film Bridge over the River Kwai tells about the railroad and there are several museums along the railroad line.

The Bridge on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Pindaya Caves

These very large caves contain some 9000 Buddha statues, earliest possibly from 1750’s. Many of the statues have the donor’s name on them. The statues are all different and interestingly, represent the time when they were donated.

The caves are another popular tourist and pilgrimage attraction. Access to the caves is through a line of stalls selling food and memorabilia and on a lift taking you to a very nice view across the town of Pindaya. The actual caves available for a visit are some 150m long. Some areas you need to crawl to. 

The other Caves, Stupas and Bagotas

There are thousands of Buddhist sites around the country everywhere you go. They are in small towns, some in caves and some in magnificent natural formations. When you go to Myanmar, you will see them. Perhaps it is a good idea to include only some of the main sites in your itinerary and just see the rest as they appear along the route.

Typical statue
Buddha Cave
White Stupas
Red toenails of a Buddha

 

 

 

 

 

Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar

Long Neck People

Indigenous Artisans, Floating Gardens, Long Neck People

Lake Inle (or how the Burmese say, Inle Lake) in the Shan state is the second largest lake in Myanmar, largest being Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State.

We started our trip from the town of Nyaungshwe on a  narrow-boat, which is a long-tail-boat, passengers sitting in single file, all facing front. The sound of the old motors on these boats is deafening  even for the loudest biker, with hardly anything to dampen the noise of the engine.

The scenery however is serene as soon as you exit the long canal leading to the lake. The first things you see are the fishermen, who show off their skills in the hope of a tip from the tourists passing.  These fishermen paddle in a unique way, standing on one foot and using the other foot to paddle. They keep one end of the oar under one arm and use one leg to paddle.

Houses are on bamboo stilts

There are some 70.000 Intha-people of different origins and tribes living on the lake. All tribes have different skills – fishermen, blacksmiths, silversmiths, boat makers, silk weavers, cigarrette rollers,…

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda Golden Buddha Statues

Naturally there is a very large Hpaung Daw U Pagoda with golden buddha statues, which today are just lumps of gold as people have for years attached leaf-gold on the statues. These statues a paraded on a special boat each October around the lake in huge festivities. Even boat engines are not allowed to be used that time.

Floating gardens produce 90% tomatoe, the rest being beans, cucumbers, flowers, and gourds. According to our guide, Inle Lake gardens produce some 60% of the tomatoe used in Myanmar.

The sticks in the floating gardens hold tomatoes upright and also keep the gardens from floating away!

It was a busy market day when we visited the lake.
Me and the Long Neck Girls

The Long Neck decoration has also a history from the time when the people were not at Inle Lake – they are not indigenous for the area. The decoration was protection agains tigers! Tigers attack legs and neck – hence protection around the neck and legs/knees!

Inle lake should not be missed if you head this way. A wonderful day out!

Save the beer!

Time for a swim at the end of the day

Myanmar (Burma) – Take Two 2018

My second epic tour in Burma / Myanmar will be in early December 2018. This time we will be heading south from Mandalay through the central areas of the country, down the coast of the pan-handle and finally end up at the Thai border. Our previous trip took us west to the jungle, mountains and beaches, ending up in Rangoon / Yangon.

Route South from Mandalay

Our route will take us to lake Inle with Intha-people and floating gardens and the new capital Naypyidaw and further down along the narrow pan-handle. Not forgetting some quiet beaches on the way. Finally we cross the Thai border west of Bangkok and continue to Kanchanabur and to Bangkok.

The new capital Naypyidaw has a very interesting history – a very short one as well. The construction of the city started only 2002 on a greenfield site, 320 km (200 mi) north of the old capital, Yangon. On 6 November 2005, the administrative capital was moved to this new city. It is not known why the capital was moved. Speculations range from more rational reasons to a “vanity project”.

The heading image of my Facebook pages is from Myanmar 2015

The trip is, again, made possible by a bored expat ex-chicken farmer Zach (www.mandalaymotorbike.com) and an adventure seeking  architect Severi (www.Mad.bike). Our bikes will be Honda CRF 250L dirt bikes.

Zach and Severi in Mandalay 2015

Myanmar or Burma?

Just WHY is the country caller Burma or Myanmar and which is correct?

Some background first. The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising and one year before Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide electoral victory that the junta simply ignored. Rangoon also became Yangon.

Flag of Burma until October 21, 2010

The change was recognised by the United Nations, and by countries such as France and Japan, but not by the US and the UK. American embassy address still is “Rangoon, Burma”

In a Lonely Planet guidebook to Asia, the country can be found listed after Mongolia, not Brunei. The Rough Guide does not cover Burma at all, because the pro-democracy movement has called for a tourism boycott.

There does not however seem to be any strong feelings about the use of either name. The two words mean the same thing and one is derived from the other. Burmah, as it was spelt in the 19th Century, is a local corruption of the word Myanmar. If Burmese people are writing for publication, they use ‘Myanmar’, but speaking they use ’Burma’

According to BBC, Mark Farmener, of Burma Campaign UK, says:  “There’s not a really strong call from the democracy movement saying you should not call it Myanmar, they just challenge the legitimacy of the regime. It’s probable it will carry on being called Myanmar after the regime is gone.”

For those, more interested in the two seemingly very different names, The Economist gives an explanation: Though the words look radically different in Roman scripts, in Burmese they are pronounced almost identically: with a quick, unstressed first syllable, either “buh” or something like “munn”, followed by a longer “MA”. In neither name is there a hard “r” sound anywhere. It is never pronounced “MAI-an-marr”. Gustaaf Houtman, an anthropologist who specialises in the country, explains that native speakers use both words: Myanmar is the formal, literary form and Burma an everyday term. Burma has the advantages of ease of pronunciation (for foreigners), and visual consistency: the adjectival form is Burmese, not Myanmarese (still less Myanmese, ugh!).

Locals are always happy to join foreigners in pictures. The Burmese are very nice people altogether.

Other countries to rename themselves like this include Iran (formerly Persia), Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) and Cambodia (Kampuchea).