This was my second visit to Myanmar. The first was in 2012 when we spent time mainly in Yangon. In eight days, we travelled to Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, and Bagan.
We packed in tour of four cities to visit pagodas and sights of these places.
- Yangon is famous for its Shwedagon Pagoda and Bogyoke Aung San Market.
- Mandalay is rich in history with cultural and artistic heritage.
- Sagaing is the place where we distributed stationery to students of schools.
- Bagan is an archaeological site and has the most number of pagodas and temples in the whole of Myanmar. As many as 2,500 of them dote the region.
If you want to travel to Myanmar for a visit, I would recommend inclusion of Mandalay and Bagan beside Yangon.
Day 1 at Yangon
Places visited were:
- Mahapasana Cave, Sacred Tooth Relic Pagoda, and Kaba Aye Pagoda (where the 6th Buddhist Council was held in 1954-56)
- Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda (house the 65 metres long reclining Buddha)
- Lucky Seven Tea Shop, common among locals for drinking milk tea and eating snacks such as prata, samosa, etc.
- Shwedagon Pagoda
Day 2 – Mandalay
We woke up early to set off at 4.30 am for the airport and to take a domestic flight to Mandalay. We were on the airport bus ready to get onto the airplane when we were told to disembark because the aircraft could not take off due to the fog. We managed to fly an hour later. The hotel we stayed in (Inya Lake Hotel) prepared us packet breakfast so that we could eat at the airport. I had no deep impression of this hotel since it was just to sleep in and get out very early in the morning the next day.
Places visited were:
- U Bein Bridge – the world’s longest teak footbridge linking one shore to the next across shallow Taungthaman Lake. Some people called it the Lovers’ Bridge. The bridge is about 165 years old.
- Visited Shwe Sin Tai Silkwear to see hand-weaving of fabric.
- Cruised across Irrawaddy River and later took a motor-bike powered three-wheelers riding through a rough terrain to see 1,000 Buddha statues at the end.
- Mya Thein Dan Pagoda – White pagoda with different architecture. 5. Mingun Pagoda – World’s second largest bell is kept here known as the Mingun Bell.
Day 3 – Mandalay
- Visited King Galon, a gold leaf workshop to see how beaters use sledgehammers to pound for hours at small amount of gold into wafer-thin gold leaf.
- Mahamuni Pagoda, where male devotees are only allowed to rub gold leaves onto the Buddha statue. Through years, the layer of gold added about 6 inches thickness to the Buddha statue.
- Mya Nan San Kyaw Mandalay Royal Palace
- Shwe Nandaw Kyaung (Golden Palace Monastery) built using original teak wood
- Kuthodaw Pagoda – UNESCO site that housed 729 white stupas, each one holding a marble slab inscribed with Tripitaka text
- Mandalay Hill – to watch beautiful sunset
Day 4 – Sagaing
- Visited first school and gave out exercise books and pens/pencils to children of the school.
- Took a short boat ride across a river, and at the other shore we had a horse-cart ride round the area.
- Visited two other orphanages/schools at night and gave out stationery and donations.
Day 5 – Bagan
Woke up about 3 am to catch a domestic flight at 6 am from Mandalay to Bagan. Because it was so early, our group was the only passengers on board.
Bagan is rich with pagodas and temples. The well-known ones include Shwezigon Pagoda, Ananda Phaya. We had a tour guide who was knowledgeable in Buddhist arts and history explaining the various carvings, statues of Buddhas, and paintings seen in these pagodas.
We visited a lacquer ware workshop to see the process of making lacquer ware.
During dinner, we were treated to a puppet show which was unique and common sight in Myanmar.
Day 6 – Bagan
In the morning, we took a long ride towards Mount Popa. Mount Popa is an extinct volcano. At the side of it was Taungkalat (which means “Table Mountain”). To reach this summit, one has to walk up 777 steps where the pagoda complex awaits one.
Day 7 – Yangon
Work up at 3.30 am to catch the 6.45 am domestic flight to Yangon. The airport was not even ready when reached it. So we ate our packed breakfast from the hotel at the Tea Shop beside the airport.
On reaching Yangon, we had time on our hands because most shops were still not opened. So we had another eating session at a Tea Shop. So we had three breakfasts in the morning (including the one on board the airplane)!
The day was spent on shopping at a shopping mall and an afternoon at Bogyoke Aung San Market. This day was meant to be free-and-easy before we depart for Singapore the following morning.
U Bein Bridge, 165 year-old teak wood bridge