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.
While in Mandalay we decided to visit the Kuthodaw pagoda and the monastery of Shwe In Bin Kyaung.
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.
Our next mopedstop is the site Maha Bodhi Tataung built in 1960 and dominated by two of the world’s biggest Buddha statues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.