A few of my loves in life - food, conservation work, travel
Published July 12th 2012
Land of the Golden Pagodas
Land of the Golden Pagodas. Burma. Two of Myanmar's well known names. What does one know about Myanmar, really? Besides its political condition that is. A country that is still undergoing major development, one takes hours by road just to travel a few kilometres. However, domestic flights are offered every morning and evening all around the country - a visitor's main mode of quick transport. A good understanding by the Tourism Board has seen local guides flourish, each guide speaking a different second language fluently, from English to Japanese to Spanish.
A province known as Bagan lies on the outskirts of the busy cities, preserved as an archaeological site. It is the epitome of Myanmar's nickname. Barely developed, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit. Stupas and pagodas as far as the eye can see. A picture perfect place from many angles. Sandals or slippers are recommended when visiting as shoes or any feet coverings are not allowed on holy grounds.
A good stop would be at the Shwe Zi Gan Temple. A giant gold temple filled with sacred figurines of Buddha and the Burmese zodiac animals. Antique and unique wall carvings telling the story of Buddha have also been preserved in this temple, like in many others.
Not far from Shwe Zi Gan Temple is Shwe Leik Tue, literally meaning Golden Turtle Dig. It is a stupa big enough to have steps to climb up and see for miles. However, the steps and passageways were built with the size of the Burmese in mind and foreigners may have a little difficulty going up. Nevertheless, the slight hardship is well worth the trouble.
Next on the list would be the Hti Lo Min Lo Temple. Another temple, yes. But that IS what Myanmar is mostly about. This temple differs from the others slightly as there is a small market on the temple grounds. One very interesting Myanmar traditional work of art is sand painting and a stall can be found here, selling as well as showing visitors how it is done. Glue, sand and paint, traditionally made from nature by the artists themselves.
Dhamma Ya Zi Ka Pagoda Another interesting visit would be to the Dhamma Ya Zi Ka Pagoda. This pagoda is famous for the legend of one of it's past warriors who protects the temple to this day. This legend is brought to life by a picture of the spirit of the warrior. This picture, taken by a visitor years ago, is on display at the temple.
Yet another temple would be the Ananda Temple. Here rests 4 giant gold statues of Buddha in different positions. A truly ancient monument itself, the temple boasts gigantic solid wooden doors and 'holes' in the walls that reach the ceiling that hold a miniature Buddha statue each.
A must see when in Bagan is the 'Sunset Stupa' as it is commonly known. Taking the scenic route, on a horse cart to the stupa is an experience not to be missed. By taking this route, one is able to view the smaller and more hidden stupas. The flying dust is inevitable. Aptly named, Sunset Stupa is usually crowded by locals and visitors alike who revel in watching the sun set. An interesting feature of this stupa are the steep steps one has to take to reach the higher levels in order to get a picturesque view of Bagan during sunset.