According to historical records, Schwedagon Pagoda has existed for around 2,500 years, although some archeologists are now saying it was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries CE.
A long history of political turmoil and natural disasters have made their mark on the temple over time. Beginning in 1436 CE a series of repairs were made after a period of political violence. A series of earthquakes during the following centuries eventually caused the top of the stupa to come down in 1768. Afterwards the King of the Konbaung Dynasty raised the temple to its current state. Today it stands 112m (368ft) high at its tip, and has a very interesting design.
The structure is continuously plastered with gold leaflets to maintain its amazing appearance. 2012 was an important year for the pagoda because it was the first time the Schwedagon Pagoda Festival was allowed to be celebrated since the military junta banned it in 1988. This, the largest pagoda festival in Myanmar, was celebrated in February and March this past year.
Bagan, on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. Bagan became a central powerbase in the mid 9th century under King Anawratha, who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar. Approximately 2,200 remain today, in various states of disrepair. Some are large and well maintained, such as the Ananda Pahto, others are small tumbledown relics in the middle of overgrown grass. All sites are considered sacred, so when visiting, be respectful including removing shoes as well as socks before entering or stepping onto them. Bagan’s golden age ended in 1287 when the Kingdom and its capital city was invaded and sacked by the Mongols. Despite the majesty and importance of Bagan, UNESCO did not include it on its World Heritage Site, because it says some temples were rebuilt in an un-historic way. Nonetheless, the site is arguably as impressive as the Pyramids of Egypt: a dry, vast open landscape dominated entirely by votive architecture.
The best way to get around the temple area is to rent a bike for around 1,500 kyat for the day and cruise the sandy roads on your own. You can also hire a horse chariot to take you around for about 5,000 kyat.
To get to Bagan we took an overnight bus from Inle Lake to Bagan for 11,000 kyat. When we arrived at 3am, the Winner Inn let us stay the first night free in agreement to stay a second night. Breakfast was included and each night’s accommodation was $7.50 US.
One of the highlights of my trip to Myanmar was taking the 3 day trek between the city of Kalaw and Inle Lake.
Food and accommodation are all included in the total price of 40,000 kyat. Staying in a local village house one night and a Buddhist monastery the next provide plenty of opportunity to mingle with the village children.
To get to Kalaw from Yangon, take a taxi to the bus terminal (about 7,000 kyat). You can buy a ticket on an overnight bus for around 10 to 11,000 kyat. The bus arrives in Kalaw anytime between 2:30 and 4:30 am, but of course there are people waiting outside the bus to sell a bed to you.
You should be able to negotiate the first night’s stay for free if you stay a second night. We chose to stay one night, and paid $3 US for each bed. The next day we talked to the guides who work with the guest house from the company Jungle King. As mentioned everything is included in one price, and if you want you can arrange for your big bag to be carried to the final destination at Inle Lake for 4,000 kyat.
Everything changed for Myanmar in 1988 after the military deposed General NE Win and created a new ruling junta. The results of 1990’s multiparty legislative elections and subsequent landslide victory by the National League for Democracy were ignored by the regime, and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for most of the next 20 years. Myanmar was effectively sealed off from the world, especially the West. In 2011 the government finally began constitutional referendums and the gradual process of opening up. Aung San Suu Kyi is finally serving in government, and during my trip was meeting with Barack Obama to talk about the entrance of Western businesses back into Myanmar. Despite the political turmoil and alienation of their own government, Burmans remain some of the friendliest people in the world. Their hospitality and food are top-notch. The country itself is perhaps the most beautiful of all the South East Asian countries. Go now before McDonald’s and the rest of them show up!
Anthropology Biking China Cliff Jumping Colorado Conciousness Costa Rica Culture Shock Dave Day at the Office Ecuador Engineers Without Borders Food Hiking Hong Kong Indonesia living in america Macau Malaysia Music Myanmar New American Dream Photo Essays Photos Positive Vibrations Quotes SCUBA Diving Singapore Taiwan Teaching English Thailand The Good Life The Philippines The Trinity Tibet Transformational Festivals Travel Advice Travel Blogs Traveling to Live Travel Photo Roulette USA Useful Maps Videos Vietnam Volunteer Abroad