Saturday, 31 October 2009

Thanlyin & Kyauktan: Portuguese church ruins

By now, the pain on R's foot had almost disappeared. It had gotten a lot better since our trip to Bago. She took her medication on time and was sure to take the Vitamin C tablets to flush out the uric acid deposits in her toe joints.

Alas, our last day in Yangon and this time round, we did another day trip but to Thanlyin (known as Syriam when Myanmar was a British colony) and Kyauktan which are located close to each other. Our first stop was at the 18th-century old Portuguese church ruins. It was just beside road and impossible to miss. The walls were covered with creepers, weed and mould. We walked along a tiny trail as the surroundings were covered with lushful weed bushes. Upon seeing us, a pig scrambled away and disappeared into the bushes. There was a tomb inside the surrounding walls. I stood inside what was once a hall to admire the archaic walls and letting the faint presence of its history take over. The view was so picturesque that it had me mesmerised. Little did I realise that ants were crawling on my legs. It was R's protests to these insects that jolted me to make a head start back to the car. It was a pretty little place, like a place where fairies could have appeared if back in Scotland.

An old car with Burmese numerals

A monk going about to collect alms and food

Crossing the Yangon-Thanlyin bridge over Yangon River

A field of feather plants

Portuguese church ruin

A tomb in a small building surrounded by the ruined church walls

Circular wall covered in weed and mould

British colonial house now inhabited by Burmese

People working on the dusty road

A monk carrying a food basket

A horse carriage

Bago (Pegu): Snake Monastery & Sule Moni Paya

We could see that dusk was approaching and heading back to Bago before it got dark would be wise as the streets were poorly lit. Min-U would have none of that. Instead, he insisted that we visit the Snake Monastery. We turned into a small dirt road where a village is found amongst the trees. A child, who was sorting out a basket of vegetables by his woven house, was surprised by our presence and ran into the house immediately with shock pasted all over his face.

The fear of visiting a large python snake immediately paralysed my legs. I was fretting about it after Min-U announced our next place of visit. I bombarded him with questions about the snake, its dimensions, if it was in cage, etc but nothing kept my fear in. When we got out of the car, I clung onto R who was also clinging onto me! At the compound where we stood, clueless as to where the snake was, my eyes became watchful of the slithering creature that may come lurking out of somewhere unexpected. Seeing our stiffness, Min-U got out of the car and directed us to the building in question. There, a monk sat next to the giant snake. I was too afraid to take photos! My mind was conjuring all sorts of stupid images of the python flying at us and snaring us with its unforgivable fangs. A man stood by one corner of the room and he too seemed stiffened by his fear of the humongous reptile. Still clinging onto R, we entered the hall slowly while my eyes darted from one place to another in search of the snake. There was a small cement pool by one side of the room. "Is it in the pool?! Where is it?!", my mind screamed. There, a big black coil accumulated on a counter. I did not see its head for the coil, looking somewhat like a 18-inch car tyre, with yellow markings had blocked my view. That was enough view for me. I left after that since my fear has had me frozen from going closer to the creature.

The first step outside was such a relief. According to Lonely Planet, the Burmese python is about 120 years old and is believed to be the reincarnation of a monk. It is at least 17ft long and a foot wide. This species of snake is considered to be one of the largest in the world.

On our way out, we saw the Sule Moni Paya situated on a hill beside the monastery and there were some livestocks feeding in the grass while children were playing about by the well.

Surprised child who got frightened by us

A village

Shops in the village

Cows and a herder

Wooden long house on stilts

A temple beside the Snake Monastery

Compound of the Snake Monastery

Poster of the Snake Monastery in Burmese

Sule Moni Paya

One of the stairways to Sule Moni Paya

A pinkish pig

A herd of pigs caked with mud

Children by the well

A mosque

Young men playing sepak takraw by the road side


A main street almost in darkness

On the 51st street, the same block as where Lashio Lay Shan Restaurant was (It is closed now), is this new restaurant Cherry something. I can't remember the name and its signboard is in Burmese. They serve really good fried noodles. The cooking is rather Chinese than Burmese. This dish here that I've ordered is chicken noodle soup.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bago (Pegu): Shwemawdaw Paya

We were driven to the main town area in Pegu for lunch where we had it at Kyaw Swa Restaurant. The pavement where the restaurant is located is narrow but busy. People were channeling along with places to go. There was a crowd around the kun-ya (areca nut and betel leaf) stall where a merchant would wrap the nuts with the leaf which goes with some whitish stuff. Betel chewing is a common practice in Yangon. You can usually see the reddish spit stains on the floor everywhere.

We were glad to be having lunch as we were also taking the opportunity to rest as we've been tirelessly moving from one place to another. I often wondered if Min-U, our driver, was resting and taking lunch too. Not once throughout our time in Yangon had we seen him take his meals. How he had managed to do this so secretly is a mystery to me. He was always there with a smile, ready to bring us to the next destination, driving us around for hours that could stretch up to 10 hours or more. His patience is another great mystery for he never rush us, not a single instance.

When we entered the restaurant, the lights and fans were just switched on. It seemed as though they have just opened for us. There were no other customers but the two of us. The staff members are friendly and the soup noodles are good! I had chicken noodle soup and thoroughly enjoyed it. The can of coke tasted so delicious on a hot day. We were enjoying the coolness in the restaurant and had the opportunity to see how the food supplies were delivered to the restaurant. A pickup truck carrying fresh produce of vegetables, fruits and other food products arrived. Workers at the restaurant formed a line to carry the items into the restaurant.

We passed by a village which reminded me of my eldest aunt place which I often visited when I was little. I cannot say life in a village is comfortable but, I was definitely happy with those simplicities.

Already the magnetic power of the magnificent, faded gold Shwemawdaw Paya was calling out to us from afar. Its grandeur, though aged, was difficult to ignore. With grey clouds gathering behind it, its mystery magnified and alluring. This is like the Shwedagon of Bago. It is 46ft taller than Shwedagon. It has suffered many earthquakes in the last 600 years and at one point, was completely beaten to the ground.

On a closer look, moulds have grown on its surfaces and some weed have decided to join the company. The temple is said to have enshrined hairs of Gautama Buddha and some sacred tooth collection.

A village

Shwemawdaw Paya in the distance

A buddha statue

Adoration hall and pavilion

Persimmon tree

Engraved designs surrounding the stupa

Big stupa and tiny stupas

Metal staircase leading to a door to enter into the stupa

Adoration hall

Peering at a buddha statue

School children playing football with a persimmon while an elderly man walked down the steps of an adoration hall

Figurine on a bell

Water reflection of the stupa

A cute trashbin that looked completely out of place

A unique looking stupa

Giant bell

A weed growing on the stupa

Bago (Pegu): Maha Kalyani Sima (Maha Kalyani Thein)

Originally constructed in 1476 by the alchemist king and son of Queen Shinsawpu, Dhammazedi, the Maha Kalyani Sima is also known as the Sacred Hall of Ordination. It was built to resemble Kalyani Sima of Sri Langka. It is in Bago that the first of the 397 similar simas built by the same king around the country. The building today is a reconstruction of the original building which didn't survive the many fires and, earthquakes including the one in 1930.

When we were crusing along the sheltered driveway leading to the temple, we saw many nuns with their heads shaved and dressed in pink, cotton robes. There were some nuns who looked as young as ten years old. Most, if not all, were looking at us as we passed by.

Maha Kalyani Sima

Mouldy ceiling and a device or lamb with beautifully designed border

Carved paintings on the cement beams that support the building

A stupa beside Maha Kalyani Sima

Sacred Ordination Hall

Stained glass of the deity's attire