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Cruising along the East Coast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia

Flash back to April 2018 when we arrived back on the boat after visiting Australia, Vietnam and Myanmar. It felt good coming home to Sanuk.

French bread, croissants, good coffee and real butter, a perfect breakfast

It took us about 2 weeks to get Sanuk ready to go back in the water and off we were for our last cruising season in the Pacific. We checked out of Noumea, got tax free diesel and sailed towards the Isle of Pines.

Beautiful Gadji Bay where we snorkeled and saw some colourful coral
The clarity of the water was not top but still good enough to enjoy the red coral
A feather star, they can actually swim by flapping their feathery arms.
Blue Damsels everywhere.
And it looks even better in real life

From Gadji Bay we decided to continue sailing along the East Coast from Grande Terre until it was time to cross to Vanuatu. We took almost 3 weeks to sail up and come back and we hardly saw another boat. The weather was not perfect, rainy days but warm but the nature was beautiful and we managed to do some nice hikes.

A happy captain
Dramatic scenery seen from the back of Sanuk
On a sunny day the colours of the reef are so much nicer.
Enjoying our walk along Guara Bay
One of the spectaular sunsets in New Caledonia
A gorgeous walk in Yate
with plenty of flowers
in all shapes and colors
One of the many authentic churches in a small village. Religion is still very important for the Kanak people.
In a way unfortunate that the ground of Grande Terre is filled with “nickel”. Nature has to give way for the exploitation of this ore.
Nickel mining on the left, the boat is waiting to be filled. Nickel mining is a major sector in the economy of New Caledonia. The island contains about 7 Mio Tonnes of nickel which is about 10% of the world’s nickel reserves.
Canala canal our way into the town of Canala with Flipper.
“La poule de Hienghėne” or the brooding hen. It is a limestone rock formation and a symbol of generosity for the Kanak people.
The Lindéralique cliffs, made of black limestone and featured at one time on the 500 XPF bank notes.
Anchored near the dock at Guara Bay
The captain ready to move on to Vanuatu
We made a stop at Maré Island and went to see “the warrior’s leap”. Standing almost 30 meters above sea level, legend has it that the warrior, cornered by many enemies, leapt across the abyss which in fact measures almost 7 meters in width! As for the enemies, they broke their necks and ended up at the bottom of the ocean.
Sailing to Vanuatu proved to be a rocking fast sail. We got to Anatom in 22 hours
Sunset in Anatom. We are ready to discover Vanuatu.

Buddhas and temples galore in Myanmar.

Around the end of march 2018, we left Inle Lake by night bus to Mandalay. It was a bouncy ride and I did not get a lot of sleep so I was happy when we could check-in early and go to bed for a couple more hours of sleep. The reason for our stop in Mandalay was a visit to the U Bein bridge in closeby Amarapura, We rented a motorcycle from the hotel and were soon on our way to Amarapura.

The U Bein bridge is with its 120m long, the longest teak footbridge in the world.

It was the mayor of Amarapura, U Bein, who decided to create the bridge using the teak supports from the abandoned palace in 1859. There are just over a 1000 pillars along the bridge.

While in Mandalay we decided to visit the Kuthodaw pagoda and the monastery of Shwe In Bin Kyaung.

The “word’s biggest book”, 729 small stupas. Each of them protects a marble slab with writings of the 15 books of the Tripitaka.

King Mindon commissioned the work in 1857 and it took more than a decade to complete and check for errors!

In the late afternoon we took a local van to Monywa, packed with at least 12 other people, AC not always working. We arrived 4 hours later.

Thanboddhay Pagoda, feels like visiting a theme park. Lots of shrines and stupas in vivid colors.

A group of young buddha monks were also visiting.

Inside: Buddhas in every corner.

The walls are covered with more than 500.000 tiny Buddha statues.

Our next mopedstop is the site Maha Bodhi Tataung built in 1960 and dominated by two of the world’s biggest Buddha statues.

Arriving near the complex on our motorcycle was really impressive.

The standing Buddha was built between 1996 and 2008. It is the world’s second tallest statue, rising 116m high. The tallest one is in China. The statue is actually hollow with a 25 story building concealed inside, each floor decorated with vivid murals of Buddha’s life.

To grasp the size of these statues you need to look at the right hand corner where people are standing. Before the lying buddha of Mawlamyne  was made, this was the largest one in the world.

The reclining Buddha was finished in 1991 and is 95m long. Apparently there is a plan to construct a third sitting Buddha in the hills, but we did not see any construction of that. As if we did not see enough Buddhas, we decided to take a trip with the motorcycle (30km) to the caves of Pho Win Taung.

Before entering the caves, a Thanaka treatment for my face.

Hundreds of cave shrines were cut in the hillside between the 14th and 18th century.

The Buddhas and mural paintings are really beautiful.

There are about 500 caves all with at least one Buddha inside.

On our way we stopped to watched the road being repaired the Burmese way. Mostly women doing the heavy work.

Tar is being poured on manually. In Stefan’s video you can clearly see how this is done.

Our heads were saturated with images of Buddha and we were ready for some lazy days at the pool! We travelled with another local van to Bagan, the main tourist attraction of Myanmar and our last stop on our journey before returning to Yangon to take the plane back to New Caledonia. We really enjoyed the 2 days at the pool of our beautiful resort hotel in Bagan (Bagan Heritage) but we still had lots of temples to visit and shopping to do in Bagan town.

After some discussion of going on a balloon trip because it was very expensive (450USD), Stefan decided not to go and I would enjoy the experience of being in a hot air balloon over Bagan. I left at 6 AM in the morning with a group of Spanish tourists.

I was in the balloon with 10 people from Barcalona, who did not speak one word of english and had their translator with them. It was really great fun.

Balloons over Bagan.

The Mingalazedi pagoda seen from the air.

From 1044 to 1287, Bagan was the capital as well as the political, economic and cultural nerve center of the Pagan Empire. Over the course of 250 years more than 10.000 temples were built from which today there are about 2000 left. The Pagan Empire collapsed in 1287 due to repeated Mongol invasions. The old capital became a pilgrimage destination and the capital was moved to Pinle.

We had 5 days to visit the temples but with the heat – 36 Celsius around noon – we were “pooped” by 3 PM and ended our visits then with a cold beer (or two). I do not recall the names of all the temples but we were amazed at the variety of the Buddha statues and the very beautiful temples. Sometimes  there would be no other visitors but the famous ones  were always crowded with Burmese visitors. Myanmar tourism was very low while we were there. It was the low season but on top of that tourism is suffering because of the negative press with the Rohynia. Nevertheless, we always felt very safe in Myanmar.

One of the many beautiful and yet deserted temples.

A simple Buddha. It was nice to stay inside for awhile and recover from the heat.

Everywhere at the entrance you need to take off your shoes and make sure your knees are covered. It was sometimes impossible to walk barefoot on the burning hot stones or sand and you had to run from one shaded area to the next.

At the end of the day we were covered in dust. It was good we had a swimming pool at the hotel.

Being alone in a temple was really a great way to relax and enjoy the peaceful quiet.

Children trying to convince Stefan to buy one of their self made postcards. Tourists in Bagan are not allowed to ride a motorcycle but luckily you can rent electrical bikes which come close to a motorcycle.

In the end we bought all the cards for a discounted price.

Bagan lies in an earthquake zone. Many temples were damaged during the earthquakes of 1975 and more recently 2016. Luckily, the damage was mostly minor.

Even in the small stupas there are sometimes huge Buddha statues which fill the room completely.

Stefan looked for a temple which you could still climb the stairs but we only found one. Because of the earthquake and a tourist falling to her death, they closed off the roofs in all the temples in 2016.

The Ayeryarwaddy river is a much needed refreshing and washing place in this dry area.

A detail of one of the gold crown that goes on top of the stupa. It is decorated with real diamonds, saffires, ruby, emerald etc. It is incredible how much money is spent on Buddhism in Myanmar.

The Ananda Paya, completed in 1090 is one of the most beautiful in Bagan.

There are is a 9m high standing Buddha in each corner of the temple. They are made from teak wood (one piece)and covered with goldleaf.

Nice and cool inside.

In many temples local people will hide from the heat, catch some sleep or sell handicraft items.

Typical smily Burmese children with their faces covered in thanaka to protect their delicate skin.

Stefan in admiration for yet another Buddha.

Bagan is famous for its lacquerware so we had to visit one of the local factories.

Lacquerware is made from bamboo with many layers of lacquer carefully dried and applied all by hand

The more lacquer used the better the quality. The designs are all done by hand.

All colors are natural except for the blue and the purple.

People are so friendly and never pushy to buy a souvenir but for many we were the only tourists that bought a souvenir in days. Sandpaintings are beautifully done.

One of my favourtie Buddhas found in a small deserted stupa.

Stefan and I were happily surprised by Myanmar and its friendly people. I could go a second time but during the month of November or December after the rainy season when the countryside is not so dry. Our heads full of memories of places and beautiful people, our bags filled with souvenirs we were ready to go back home to Sanuk.