Where is John Lama? travel blog

Even the airports in Burma look like Buddhist temples!

This retired teacher showed me around Mandalay in his trishaw. I felt...

These guys are making gold leaf the old fashioned way, and they...

These women sort the gold leaf into packets for sale. Most of...

I also checked out a weaving mill. There were dozens of women...

I was able to see the famous (at least in Burma) performance...

This is one of the brothers' wives performing a traditional Burmese dance....

This is one of the brothers who was jailed for five years...

Taking a boat down the Ayeyarwady River from Mandalay to Bagan was...

We stopped along the way to pick up some more people.

Women waded out waist deep to the boat trying to sell food...

My hotel, the Bagan Thande, was right on the river in Old...

Bagan is packed with temples. Here is one next to the hotel...

More ancient temples around the swimming pool !

Horse cart is the best way to get around Bagan to see...

It is hard to show in a photo just how many temples...

 

You can explore the inside of many temples as well.

 

 

Regular Burmese life is happening all around the sites. There are many...

 

Most of the temples are several centuries old, but many are in...

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped by a shop making traditional Burmese lacquerware.

It takes many craftspeople several weeks to complete these intricate works of...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I mention there are thousands of temples here?

 

There was a big earthquake in 1975 that caused some of the...

Here I am relaxing in the back of my horst cart.

 

 

 

This is an old monestary in Bagan.

I found the Ark of the Covenant in a side room at...

 

Many of the temple stupas are covered in gold leaf.

We saw some great sunsets from the hotel restaurant.

 

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

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The wife of one of the Moustache Brothers performed a number of...

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Your humble correspondent showing you how most people explore the temples of...


I took a quick flight from Inle Lake to Mandalay which avoided a long bumpy bus ride. Mandalay is the second largest city in Burma, and the last royal capital in the country. I planned to walk around my first day, but I ran into a nice bicycle trishaw driver who showed me the city. The driver was a retired teacher and around 65 years old. He knew all about Mandalay, but I felt a little funny sitting in my padded seat while this older man broke a sweat peddling me around the city.

During the day I was able to see traditional gold leaf, laquerware, and textile factories. Then after dinner (see below) I went to see a show by the Moustache Brothers. This troupe performs traditional a-nyeint pwe shows which include folk opera, dance, music, and jokes. Unfortunately, the generals running Burma don't have much of a sense of humor. In 1996, two of the brothers were arrested for making political jokes, and they spent five years in prison. Amazingly, they are back together and doing shows for tourists out of their home which (they hope) avoids the government ban on their performances.

Here is a good article on Burma from the NY Times travel section: Treading Lightly on the Road to Mandalay This piece gives a good overview of traveling in Burma, including a paragraph on the Moustache Brothers, and the underlying issues that make the country unique.

After checking out Mandalay for a day, I took a suggestion from my travel guide and tried a roadside barbeque restaurant. By midnight I knew something was wrong, and a couple hours later I had chills and felt terrible, so I asked the hotel to call a doctor for me.

Dr. Muang Muang Gyi showed up at 3am. He was fluent in English, and I got the impression these middle of the night calls were the majority of his practice. He examined me patiently, diagnosed gastroenteritis (aka food poisoning), and gave me five (5) different medicines! One for my fever, one viral antibiotic, one bacterial antibiotic, one medicine for diarrhea, and one more for something else! The total doctor bill was only $60.

I spent the next 36 hours in bed, and then it was time to depart. Since my stomach was still not fully settled, I was glad to have booked a river boat to take me down the Ayeyarwady to Bagan.

Bagan sits East of the Ayeyarwady River, and is dotted with around 3,000 remaining temples. Many of the temples were built during the period from around 1050 to 1300 AD. While the ancient architecture is impressive, the draw of Bagan is not any particular site or building. What hits you is the sheer volume of temples, so that when you look in any direction, you see hundreds of stone, brick and gold peaks trailing off to the horizon. I tried to capture that view in a couple photos, and while I don't think I was successful, I hope you get a sense of what I mean.

Next stop is Chin State, and I will be traveling back in time another century or two!



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