Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shwezigon Paya at Dusk


Myanmar Day 3 (continued)


After my half-day temple tour, I was finally able to check-in and rest at the guest house. Maybe I was so sleep-deprived and exhausted that I overslept! My first reaction when I woke up was, "Crap!". It was almost 5:00 PM, there's no way I can still catch the sunset at the Sunset Pagoda. Yes, I missed that only chance I got, because I only have one full day in Bagan. I'm taking the night bus back to Yangon the next day.

Since I couldn't do anything about it anymore, I just decided to visit the nearby Shwezigon Paya. Maybe I can catch the sunset there. I just walked towards the Shwezigon because it is "quite" near the guest house. And yes, I don't ride bikes. Walking in a foreign town is always fun for me. You get to observe the locals' daily lives more closely. I actually got a few strange looks from them. Probably because I was the only tourist who made my way there on foot haha! Fellow tourists were either on a bus (groups) or a bike (individuals).


*****

So I was walking in this path way nobody uses, except the locals (all of them were entering from the parking area), when I noticed a familiar figure. Yes it was him, the guy I met at the Sunrise Temple earlier that day. He was talking to the local vendors near the temple entrance. I don't know who saw who first, but when our paths crossed we were like "Hey!". He said he was just leaving to head to the riverside. He asked me about my plans afterwards. I told him nothing, just dinner. Then he told me about this restaurant near the bus station with good food and fast wifi, and gave me the time he'll be there. I just said I'll try to catch him there then.

*****


I came exactly when the sun was setting. It may not be the best spot for it, but still it was lovely.



Shwezigon Sunset


It gave the paya a gloomy feel though. There are less tourist herds in the late afternoon which made it feel more like a desolate place. Or maybe it was just me - emo! Haha.



melancholic dusk


I found Shwezigon the second grandest next to the Shwedagon in Yangon.



stunning shrines


Although smaller, I found the architecture very nice too.



magnificent 


Bird watching here was so calming. It must be the spiritual air of this place. I felt a little sad yeah, but my soul was somehow at peace.



birds or pigeons?


One of my observations was that, people pray silently first before ringing these bells.







The picture below was the biggest temple I saw off the pathway on my way back to the guest house. I thought of checking it out but it seemed so deserted.






I will just tell you more about the Shwezigon Paya on my next post. The dreary mood on this day's photos didn't make me feel like describing it earnestly.


*****


I just had my dinner at a nearby place that night, at the Shwe Moe Restaurant. It turned out to be great! I had my tastiest dish in Bagan that night. Love love their Chicken with Cashew Nuts! However, I felt a bit guilty for not showing up in the "other" restaurant. It was quite distant to the guest house and I don't feel like looking for a nameless place (he can't remember the name, yeah). Tourists don't (or can't) use local cellular service in Myanmar so it's harder to get in touch with the people you meet. I just hoped he didn't wait for me there for so long.


“Coincidences mean you're on the right path.” ~Simon Van Booy, Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories



This is Part 7 of my Myanmar travel series.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Where to Eat in Bagan: The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant


It's impossible for you not to get famished after visiting a whole lot of temples in Bagan. Before heading back to the guesthouse, Mihn drove me around so I can choose where I want to eat. The first place he told me to try was serving buffet. But I'm all alone and it's not fun eating a lot when you have no one to share the experience with. I checked around 3-4 restaurants in the area (and their menu) before I found the "one".


I chose to eat at The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant. Nope, I'm not a vegetarian. I just found the food on their menu appealing to my taste. And the place itself looked perfect for me.



a very pleasant ambience


Al fresco dining, I loved it. The trees, the birds nests hanging on them, the flowers, the jars, the parasols. Totally exquisite. I was immediately greeted with a smile by one of the waiters.



i love the "Be Kind to Animals" tagline :)


Just as what I observed in the restaurants in Bagan, they will serve you with a bowl of roasted peanuts first. Eating them was nice while waiting for your main dish. I can't say that this is in all of Myanmar because I didn't experience it in Yangon.



my most unforgettable juice :)


They don't just have the usual beverages you'll find in a regular restaurant. The waiter noticed I was having a hard time selecting my drink, so he suggested that I try their Ginger and Lime Juice. I'm that person who always likes to try new things so I said "okay". Even though at the back of my mind, I was a bit writhing about the idea of drinking a ginger juice. But he said, it's very good for digestion (not that I have indigestion). But yeah, I made up my mind.

The first time I took a sip, I cursed. I really did. The taste was inexplicable. It was sweet, sour and spicy hot. It kind of burns in your throat! And it has of course the unmistakable taste of ginger. I thought I would just had that reaction on my first sip, but no. Every time I drink, I curse (in my mind). Whoah! That was one hell of a juice. ;)



my healthy fried noodles


I was craving for noodles that day. Not the usual noodle soup though, because the weather was so hot. I got the stir-fried one. It was freshly prepared and it didn't take too long for them to serve. It came with vinegar with green peppers and some chili for additional oomph. It tastes good although a bit too salty for me. Maybe it was just my saltiness level preference. The serving was generous. I actually didn't finish it, that I had to take the left over.



birds nests!


The price for me was affordable. It was more expensive than those you can find at the Main Road in Nyaung U, but considering the location and the very relaxing atmosphere, it was reasonable.



coconut monkey :)


They also sell cute handicraft souvenirs like that hanging monkey up there. I know it's so cute but very expensive at USD 40.

This restaurant is located just north of Ananda Phaya. So, if you're looking for a place where you can grab a bite, a healthy one at that - try The Moon. :)



Restaurant Information:

The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: North of Ananda Temple, Old Bagan, Myanmar
Phone No: 061-60481
Website: None
Email: None

Restaurant Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Temple Run in Bagan


Myanmar Day 3 (continued)


After the sunrise viewing, I proceeded for a half-day temple tour. I heeded the suggestion of my cart driver to make my waiting time worth it. So, with all the exhaustion and haggardness brought about by only a few hours of not-so-comfortable sleep from the night bus, I explored the temples of Bagan.




the lone horse cart passenger that was me :)


Walking around Myanmar's capital city of Yangon, already felt like you teleported somewhere decades ago. Well, wandering in Bagan, felt like you were lost in time. Here, people still use horse carts, many paths are still unpaved and locals live in traditional villages and houses. If you won't see the establishments in the Main Road, you would think that you're still in this ancient city that it was centuries ago.




Exploring Old Bagan


Htilominlo Temple

This was our first stop, named after the reigning King back in 1218. It was built in commemoration of the place where he was chosen as the Crown Prince. Htilominlo when translated means "king favored by the white umbrella and the father king".



Htilominlo Temple



This 150-feet structure is made up of red bricks which were laid excellently.



locals worshipping


This temple has three levels but only the first one is accessible to tourists. There are four Buddhas on the ground floor facing each directions.



one of them four


This temple has already undergone a repair after it has been destroyed by an earthquake in 1975.



dilapidated walls



We continued our journey. It was still very early that you'll only see a few people walking around.



very mellow



Chatu Mukha

We passed by the Chatu Mukha area. It's just a group of minor temples but it looked a bit interesting to me so I asked my driver to halt. I got off the cart with my tripod and click, click, click.


aren't they cute? :)


The orange glow of the sun rays looked magnificent on the ancient temples' red bricks.



one of the bigger temples


the road ahead


I would love to go on this narrow path and see more of the less explored temples but I didn't feel very adventurous that time. It must be the lack of sufficient sleep.



Ananda Temple

My next temple was the Ananda Phaya. Don't get confused, it is also spelled as "paya" sometimes. They have the same meaning. This is said to be the most important temple in all of Bagan. The Sanskit word Anand means "very beautiful".





It is highly revered and the most beautiful temple in Bagan. It is a fusion of Mon and Indian architecture. Mon is one the states in Myanmar. It is said to be, where the first identifiable human civilization of Burma came from.



the grandeur of Ananda


There are four Buddhas inside the temple facing the cardinal directions - east, west, north and south. Each represents the Buddhas that reached nirvana.



west-facing Buddha


The temple has five terraces and a pinnacle. It is mainly made up of bricks and plasters.


ananda facade


I've read an interesting trivia about this temple. According to the legends, when the construction of this temple was completed by the architect monks, the King ordered to kill them just to make sure that no other temple will be built like this - he wants this temple to be one of a kind. I seriously hope that isn't true.


Thatbyinnyu Temple


Just adjacent to the Ananda Phaya, is Thatbyinnyu. The name literally means "omniscience". It is also one of the famous ones in Bagan.


Thatbyinnyu Phaya


It is the tallest one, towering over all the other temples. This is built approximately 45 years after Ananda Phaya.






The temple has two storeys. The second storey houses a big sitting Buddha in a lotus throne.



the sitting Buddha



Awesome views can be seen from the outer terrace. You'll see all the other temples scattered around Bagan.



what a lovely sight



Gaw Daw Palin Temple

This was my fourth temple. It is the second highest in Bagan, completed during the reign of Htilominlo. The temple name means "the throne which was worshipped".










It was built close to the Ayeyarwady River (Irrawaddy). You will notice its similiarity to Thatbyinnyu Temple in structure. This temple also has two storeys.


Gaw Daw Palin extetior




It has four upper terraces and three lower terraces.






There's also a large sitting Buddha inside this temple, along with the other 10 Buddha images in the ground floor.






This temple is also one of the examples of Bagan's great ancient architecture.



Bupaya Pagoda

Located at the bank of Ayeyarwady River, is the Bupaya. This was my next stop. It was built by the third King of Pagan (Bagan's ancient name).





Bu in Burmese means "pumpkin" or "gourd" and paya of course means "pagoda". It is also said that this location was infested with a gourd-like plants back then. This was probably the reason why they made the pagoda in shape of a gourd and named it after that.



the Bupaya


This is one of the most remarkable shrines in Bagan. The original structure was completely destroyed by the 1975 earthquake. It was rebuilt in a totally modern way and design.



novice monks


Being on the edge of the Ayeyarwady, you'll see the fantastic view of the mighty river. This is Myanmar's largest river and biggest commercial waterway.



Ayeyarwady River


Bupaya had become a very distinct landmark in the shores of Ayeyarwady River.



Mahabodhi Temple

This was my last temple on this tour.  This is a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India. It was also built during King Htilominlo's reign.


Mahabodhi from the outside



This temple has two levels. Just like the one in Bodhgaya, it also has a large sitting Buddha with its right hand touching the Earth located at the ground floor level.





The corridor walls were decorated with artworks of Buddha statues in different positions.





The pyramidal tower on top has niches which contains 450 Buddha images. Hopefully, I'll also be able to visit the original one in India so I can compare them well.








I met Phyu Phyu at this temple. I knew her from a fellow travel blogger friend, Nath. She applied thanaka on my face and taught me how to wear the longyi. Thanaka is a yellowish make-up like paste made from ground bark. They say it is the beauty secret of Myanmar women hehe.  Longyi is this sheet of cloth widely worn in Burma, just like a long skirt.



with my new Burmese friend, Phyu Phyu :)


What do you say? Did I look like a Burmese woman? :)



As the day went by, I was starting to feel cranky. I asked my driver to take me to the guesthouse by 11:30. Lack of rest and sleep was starting to take its toll.



my horse that day, Rambo


We passed by a small village before he took me to my hostel. He bought sacks of hay for his horse. There, I observed how simple the lives of the locals were. Burmese are happy people. They seemed content on the very basic and simple things that they have.

Life is obviously hard in Bagan but it didn't seem like it. Unlike in let's say Cambodia, you will be pestered by a lot of vendors in every temple you visit. They will even follow you around even if you already said no several times. In Bagan, I did not have that trouble. Maybe the worst thing you can experience are horse cart drivers over-pricing their rate. But once you see how they live day to day, you wouldn't feel so bad for giving them that extra money.

Realizations. Maybe that's one reason why I wouldn't stop traveling. Sometimes your destination is actually somewhere within you.


“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~Martin Buber




This is Part 6 of my Myanmar travel series.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

That Magical Bagan Sunrise


Myanmar Day 3


I arrived in Bagan at 3:00 AM, too early to do anything. I was approached by a horse cart driver and asked where am I heading. I told him the name of the guesthouse and asked for the price. He quoted me 5000 kyats, I said no and told him I'll just pay 2000 kyats (because I know that's the standard rate from the bus station). I even joked around and told him "I'm from the Philippines. I don't have that much money." He laughed and said "Okay, let's go." :)

I was not able to check-in right away because the guesthouse we found was full (just click on the link for the full story). Some guests will be checking out by 8:00, so I had to wait. He offered me to go straight to a Sunrise Tour. After some negotiations, we agreed. He took me back to the bus station to pass time in the tea house there, because it was only 3:45. My cart driver Mihn, insisted to pay for my tea. It was so nice of him. By the way, it was one of the best milk tea I've ever tasted.

I was getting so bored that at around 4:30, I asked Mihn if we can already go.  I just changed my clothes and then we went. I only saw 2 other carts on the road while we were on our way to the sunrise temple. I guess I was really too prompt.


Bagan at 5:09 AM


We reached the sunrise temple by 5:00 AM. There's already one cart parked when we arrived. I was the second earliest there. I was a little hesitant at first, because the temple isn't that high. I was wondering if it is the best vantage point to see the sunrise. I made a deal with my driver that if I don't like it up there, I'll go back down and we'll proceed to another temple.


When I made it to the top, I was surprised that there's just one person there. Hmmm, a fellow solo traveler. I can hardly see him because it was still very dark (see the photo above). Only the moonshine lit up the stairs as I climbed up.


Bagan twilight


I haven't been talking to anyone since I boarded the night bus, not until I met my cart driver. I really felt like I wanted to talk to someone. Yeah, solo traveler problems. :) I greeted the lone stranger with my friendliest smile and started a conversation.

He was a little condescending at first, very formal and he hardly smiles. He was like gauging me. Well, like what I said, I really wanted to chat with someone so I never stopped bothering him haha. I mean, c'mon there's just the two of us on top of that temple. Until finally, I made him laugh and he then started to open up. :)


breaking dawn


Our conversation went on and on as the sun started to rise. Other people were starting to arrive too. By 6:30 AM, we got some company. I already forgot about what I told my cart driver. Needless to say, I never descended the temple anymore. We hit it off. It feels great meeting someone who thinks and likes the same things as you do. It never felt like talking to a stranger despite the cultural difference. I never felt intimidated.

It took a while for the sun to come out. It was already 7:00 AM and it was just barely peeking out from the clouds. I think we enjoyed talking so much that we didn't go to the east point of the temple when it was still early. By the time the sun was out, the good spots were already taken. Bummer. I know.


that elusive sunrise


Finally, the sun came out. Our gabfest was interrupted. Time to take some photos.


sun shower


The sunrise that day was actually not as lovely as those I've seen in the photos on the net. But I was still in awe. Just seeing those pagodas in different shapes and sizes in as far as your eyes can see, while the sun was slowly shedding light gave me goosebumps. It was just, wow.


good morning Bagan


Solo travelers took turns taking photos of each other, that includes me haha.


Thanks for this not so good shot, Alex! ;)


It was already 8:00 AM when the sun totally came out. Imagine, we waited for 3 hours! Well, there was nothing much I can do because I don't have a place to stay yet. And it's not everyday that I can spend time at the top of a pagoda under the moon till daybreak. I also enjoyed the company of a kindred spirit, so it was all good.


thousands of Bagan temples 


We decided to leave at around 8:40 AM. I was surprised when he asked me how can we see each other again. Of course I answered, I don't know. Simply because I really don't and I don't even know if there's a need to. He then asked where I was staying. Again, I said I don't know because I can't remember its name. My driver just took me there. I can see that he was really serious about it so, I just described the location. Then he pulled out his room key and showed it to me. We have the same guesthouse! Then he went ahead smiling, saying "I'll see you around then".


our horse carts under the tree :)


We both hired our carts that morning so, we went around Bagan on our own. I decided to continue with a Half-Day Tour and see as much temple as I could, since I'm already out there. It will also be better to temple run in the morning while the sun is not yet on its hottest.

This post (and the following ones) might seem to be a bit more personal than my usual. But I think I have to write about every travel experiences I had. For me, traveling is not just about arriving at a certain place or the seeing of beautiful sights. I also look forward to distinct and enriching experiences, something that changes me and my perspective on things. :)


Serendipity (n) - finding something good without looking for it.

“...sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?” “Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.” ~Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n, The Shadow of the Wind




This is Part 5 of my Myanmar travel series.