Saturday, 3 October 2009

Yangon: Botataung (Botahtaung) Paya (Pagoda)

We arrived in Yangon at about 8am and boy, were we restless from having to wake up at 4am! Three Seasons Hotel had a driver installed to pick us up. Watching the streets of busy Yangon began to excite us. The city looked old like from the 1980s with its old-looking buildings (many looked like they're from the colonial times!) and old-vechicles-filled roads. R was getting so excited over the many old Japanese public buses which she used to go on when she was little. I am guessing that Japan may have donated some of these as Japan is also very much involved with funding in the restoration of Cambodia's ancient temples.

Indeed, we both felt like we've just entered into a place of a different time zone, almost in sepia colours. The morning air felt cool and refreshing as it gushed into the old, rickety van that we were in. Already, I could feel a great adventure brewing up for us ahead.

If you're doing your own tour, a Lonely Planet book is recommended. Also, if you are really serious about making your trip a contribution to the Myanmar people, get Lonely Planet. It tells you where to spend so that the money really goes to the people that need it. And, believe me, tourism is much needed for the survival of the people there. R brought along her Japanese guide book on Myanmar where we often seek affirmations for consistent information from both the books. I am so grateful for the maps and accuracy on LP! I got it for SGD64 from the Internet because I couldn't find the Myanmar edition in Booker and it seems nowhere else in Brunei sells Lonely Planet books except Booker!

I found Myanmar Today website to be extremely informative where traveling in Myanmar is concerned.

Earlier, I had applied for my visa at the Embassy of Myanmar (Address: Lot 2185/46292, Simpang 212, Jalan Kampong Rimba, BE 3119, Gadong, Brunei Darussalam; Phone: +673-2-450-506 and +673-2-450-507) and this cost SGD34. They can have the visa ready for you in three days.

Japanese bus

Other forms of public transportation: pickup trucks

The Three Seasons Hotel is located at the 52nd Street and is pretty centrally located. It took us about 10 to 15 minutes to walk to the Botataung Pagoda and maybe about 20 minutes to Sule Paya. You can get anywhere in the city from the hotel by taxi for a fare of 2 to 4 USD. They charged us 20USD a night for a spacious ensuite room and served us a hearty breakfast of payayas, pineapples, Myanmar pancakes, toasts and eggs everyday. And, just as Lonely Planet has stated, the block is peaceful and quiet at night. Yet, lively streets await us at both ends of the block. The most wonderful thing about this modest hotel is the staff members and the lady boss. They are such warm and helpful people, they felt like family while we were there and our amazing visit to Myanmar is largely attributed to them. Also, we met some interesting fellow lodgers while we were hanging out at its airy terrace.

Our hotel room with lacqured wooden walls and bright purple curtains

A very comfy room

The bathroom

Outside our room is the dining room where the Buddha altar lies at the end of the room.

Three Seasons Hotel

After a breakfast of payayas, pineapples and Myanmar pancakes, and some tea. We headed to our room to catch up on sleep. We woke up at about noon and headed out to our first place of visit, the Botataung Pagoda, with our stomachs still feeling full with breakfast. We walked along Bo Ta Htaung Pagoda Road and turned at Strand Road to get to the pagoda. All along the way, food stalls covered the pedesterian walk while still giving some allowance for walking. People sit on stools and low tables to eat their food in these stalls under canvas roofs.

A mosque in Merchant street

Old railway tracks right outside of Botataung Pagoda

Gate tower of Botataung Pagoda

The Botataung Paya (Pagoda) is hollow unlike Sule Paya (Pagoda) and Shwedagon Paya. This means we can go into the pagoda and I think my eyes had just turned from its dull brown to sparkly golden from the reflection coming from all that gold! And, there's some sort of a maze, with glittery stained-glass walls, that holds many figures, both big and tiny, of Buddha.

Botataung Pagoda

Man kneeling in prayer

Hall where there is a beautifully crafted, golden Buddha statue

Man doing the cleansing act

Inside the hall of glass-mirrored walls where they glitter

Iron grill door

People praying

Buddha statue

I love the sound of the bells from the hti (umbrella at the top of the pagoda) as they sway with the wind like a wind chime. It makes the visit feel spiritual and peaceful.

Botataung, according to the diagram, is Buddha's first sacred hair relic pagoda

Inside the pagoda where the sacred relic is kept. Ceilings and walls are all covered in gold with engraved designs.

The maze with glittery walls of glass mirrors, going around the vault where the sacred relic is kept.

The glass cylinder where the relic is kept. People would come and donate money by thrusting the money towards the cylinder. The vault is locked by a steel grill door.

Behind Botataung Pagoda is Yangon River

Botataung (Botahtaung) Jetty and boats in the Yangon River

Stalls lining up along the road just beside Botataung Pagoda

An old colonial building along Strand Road

Had to do a detour because the part of Strand Road where the court house is has been closed off by the police.

We were so tired from the walking and R's foot was aching. So, we took a rest at Mr. Brown cafe. Sule Paya is further than it looks on the map!

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