January 2013 Archives
January 8 (part 5): Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, about 45 square miles in area. It's of interest particularly because of the way people live on the lake itself.
On our way on Inle Lake from Nyaung Shwe to Golden Island Cottages, our hotel - in the middle of the lake - for the next two days, we passed fishermen with their characteristic conical nets. Once they've located a school of fish, they beat the water to drive the fish into the nets. Here, they're still looking.
Click photos to enlarge them.
January 8 (part 4): A couple of shots on the way between Pindaya and Nyaung Shwe, the town that is the gateway to Inle Lake. Click photos to enlarge them.
As we were leaving the market, I noticed this scene: ox-cart in the foreground, stupas in the background. Could this be anyplace but Burma?
We made a pit stop at a cafe on the way from Pindaya to the dock for boats on Inle Lake. I was struck by the arrangement of the wait staff, each facing away from all the others.
January 8 (part 2): After breakfast we visited a nearby shop where they make paper out of mulberry tree fibers and use it to make artist paper, notebooks, and even umbrellas.
Click photos to enlarge them.
A bowl of petals at the entry to our hotel.
Umbrellas made of mulberry paper.
One of the workers in the shop, demonstrating an umbrella.
This young woman was our guide/interpreter at the mulberry paper shop. She's in the 11th grade, the top student in her class, and hopes to go to medical school.
January 8, 2013 Pindaya (part 1) We awoke early to a foggy, hazy morning that made for some great atmospherics. Click photos to enlarge them.
Farming village huts near our hotel.
Villager taking an early morning walk past a great banyan tree.
Villagers walking under a canopy formed by huge banyan trees.
The main reason for journeying to the town of Pindaya in Burma is to visit the Pindaya Caves. As Wikipedia tells us,
"The Pindaya Caves, located next to the town of Pindaya, Shan State, Burma (Myanmar) are a Buddhist pilgrimage site and a tourist attraction located on a limestone ridge in the Myelat region. There are three 'caves' on the ridge which runs north-south, but only the southern cave can be entered and explored. It is not known whether the other two penetrate for any extended distance into the hillside.
"The southernmost Pindaya cave can be entered and extends for about 490 feet along a well-worn path. It is known for its interior which contains over 8,000 images of Buddha. Some of the older statues and images in the cave have inscriptions dating to the late 18th century, or early Konbaung period, and the earliest one dates from 1773."
As one can see from these photos, the profusion and richness of the cave is truly amazing. Click the photos to enlarge them.
January 7 (part 2): Driving from the Helos airport to Pindaya. Click the photos to enlarge them.
We passed patchwork fields on the hillsides colored as if in an Impressionist painting. The cart in the foreground was a Van Gogh-ian bonus.
Walking on a dirt road up the hill, we found these farmers threshing their crop (millet?) the old-fashioned way.
Repairing the road, turning big ones into little ones.
Bamboo is a major construction material in Burma.
(click to enlarge) This is not another temple complex, but instead a restaurant and entertainment center - Karaweik Hall at Kandawgyi Lake - where we had dinner and a show before departing for the countryside. It's in the shape of a duck, to boot!
(click to enlarge) The show included this pas de deux between a papier-mache elephant and its trainer - a riff on the legend that an elephant bearing relics of the Buddha was allowed to roam until he settled naturally, choosing the place where the town of Kyaukse and its temple near Mandalay were established, and where an Elephant Festival is now held annually. I particularly like the row of photographers at the front of the stage.
The central monument of Shwedagon is made of gold and jewels worth perhaps $4 billion at current prices. (See post for January 13.) The rest is not quite so precious, but is still sumptuous beyond belief. Click photos to enlarge them.
January 6 (Part 5) in Yangon, Myanmar at the great Shwedagon Zedi Daw. Click images to enlarge them.
A crowd of worshipers facing a crowd of images.
Volunteers, formed into teams, accumulate merit by sweeping the temple grounds.
Merit is also achieved by washing the Buddha, splashing cups of water on his image.
January 6 (part 3): More from Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Click images to enlarge them.
In Shwedagon Pagoda, I photographed these young novice monks climbing a stairway to pray with an elder monk.
The image is reminiscent of this painting by Min Wae Aung, whose work we saw in a Yangon gallery and which is imitated widely.
The young monks at prayer under the gaze of watchful deities.
January 6 (part 2): A big day for Buddhist temples in Yangon.
Click the photos to enlarge them.
Reclining Buddha in the Chaukhtetgyi Pagoda. This enormous image is the one that President Obama was photographed in front of during his recent trip to Burma. This photo, however, is taken from a different vantage point, one that emphasizes the writing on the soles of the Buddha's feet.
There are often many sculptural images of the Buddha in a single room of a temple. Here they are life-sized, made of shiny plaster to emulate alabaster.
Schwedagon Pagoda is the biggest and most important Buddhist site in Burma. To an outsider, it seems to be a religious site, a community gathering place, and an amusement park.
January 6 (part 1): The first full day of our tour in Myanmar (Burma). This day and the following ones are full of images. Instead of putting them all into one posting, I'm going to be dividing them into more manageable groups.
Click the photos to enlarge them.
We started the day at the Sule Pagoda. After Buddhists perform some act of merit, they can announce it by ringing a bell. The temples have large, elaborate bells for the purpose. Parents often allow their kids to perform the task. Note the gilding everywhere, perhaps the most prominent feature - to Western eyes - of Buddhist temple architecture.
A couple of street scenes in Yangon (Rangoon), showing the Burmese devotion to reading.
This is the first day in a week that we've had adequate internet connections in Burma. So there is a lot of catching up to do.
January 5: Today was a heavy travel day, so there was time for photography only in the early morning and late evening.
Click images to enlarge them.
Monks with their begging bowls receiving their food for the day from Buddhists and tourists in Luang Prabang.
Monks waiting outside their monastery to go out on the street, about 6:30 AM.
After flying from Luang Prabang back to Bangkok and then to Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma), and checking into our hotel, I took this photo of the central pagoda of the splendid Shwendagon Pagoda complex from the walkway to our room. More about Shwendagon in subsequent posts.
January 4: Our last full day in Luang Prabang.
A woman inspected her garden plot by the river below our hotel.
One of the demons guarding the temple at Vat Aham
The main Buddha statue behind many smaller statues and a table laden with gifts at Vat Aham.
The walls of the temple are covered with scenes from the Buddhist theology, somewhat reminiscent of Giotto's murals in Padua - though of course not in the same league artistically.
A young novice monk hanging up the laundry behind the Vat Aham temple. Monks are educated not just in Buddhism, but in a standard range of academic subjects. They may end up among the best educated of Laotians. They often join a monastery very young, to save their families from having to feed them.
Next door to Vat Aham is Vat Visounnarath. Here the austere main Buddha is flanked by some smaller images.
Here and in the two photos below are some of the many objects in the Vat Visounnarath temple.
A Buddhist face flanked by two Khmer faces.
All of the statues have the hands-down, pray for rain stance.
The Vat Visounnarath complex has an unusual stupa, notable for the watermelon-shaped dome.
We had lunch at a hippie-era restaurant, Utopia. The facade of this nearby building was an attractive reminder of the ethos of that era, which fits well with the Luang Prabang atmosphere.
A tradition in Luang Prabang is to watch the sunset by climbing the 328 steps of Phusi Hill. People are waiting, seated against a white wall.
The sunset itself, seen through the Olympus sunset scene filter.
Today (January 5) we fly from Luang Prabang to Bangkok and then on to Yangon, beginning the Myanmar/Burma part of our trip. Internet access is not likely to be as good there as it has been so far, so posting on this blog may be sporadic.
January 3: A day to explore Luang Prabang, the former capitol of Laos. The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Click the photos to enlarge them.
From our hotel's breakfast area overlooking the Nam Khan River, we looked down on a little farm and a spindly wooden bridge to the other side of the river. We're told that this bridge, and others like it, regularly are washed away in the rainy season floods and have to be rebuilt.
Laos is a rather mountainous country, and Luang Prabang is in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong (Nam Khong) and Nam Khan rivers. The water level gets much higher in the rainy season.
There are supposedly 33 Buddhist temples (Wats) in Luang Prabang, and Wat Xieng Thong, right near our hotel, is the star - at least aesthetically. Its many fine Buddha statues, wonderful carved doorways, richly painted surfaces, and charming glass mosaic folk art make it the most enjoyable we've visited so far on this trip. The next seven photos are from Wat Xieng Thong.
This vivid gem is a moderate-size Buddha in a small side chapel.
Carving to rival that on the doors of Renaissance churches
The glass mosaics in folk art style were the most surprising and delightful of all.
Many more statues, in various styles and poses, along the walls in the Funeral Chariot Hall that holds the ashes of old Laotian kings.
At lunch we had a good view of young monks in their colorful robes walking by on the street. Since hats are forbidden, umbrellas are used to shield from the sun.
I particularly like the colors in this photo with the yellow umbrella.
The colors were also vivid in this outdoor restaurant overlooking the river.
It's called "The Great Tree". It's certainly unusual.
After dinner we walked through the Night Bazaar and then back along the main street. This shopkeeper was relaxing with his family at the end of a long day.
January 2 (part 2): In the afternoon we flew from Chiang Mai in Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos. After getting settled in our (really elegant) hotel, we walked into town for dinner.
Click photos to enlarge them.
There are several impressive temples with associated monasteries along the way. We passed a monk at his studies on the porch of his temple.
Lanterns hanging from the coconut palm tree in the courtyard of the Coconut Garden Restaurant at which we ate dinner.
After dinner we walked through the VERY extensive Night Market, which mainly features indigenous peoples selling their crafts. We saw a variety of expressions on the faces of the vendors, including hopefulness,
concentration on making new work.
January 2: We spent the morning in Chiang Mai, walking and window-shopping in the area of the Night Market. It's a madhouse at night, much calmer and less crowded early in the day ...
... with breakfasters at tables along the street.
Still, a certain amount of garishness persists.
Around the corner in an antique store on a higher-class shopping street, however,
one can find some whimsey and poignancy
and some old-fashioned elegance.
January 1, 2013: Happy New Year! We spent a few hours walking around Chiang Mai's Old City with a friend. Here are some photos on the street and in two important temples.
(click to enlarge)
Entrance to a restaurant
The massive Wat Chedi Luang, partly destroyed in an earthquake many years agp
Reclining Buddha in Wat Chedi Luang
This picture and the next three are in the Wat Phra Singh temple complex. The colorful paper banners are put up by people to gain merit.
I'm posting these on January 2. This afternoon we're flying to Luang Prabang in Laos, and on January 5 to Burma. The internet in these places may not be as good as in Thailand, so please understand if I can't post every day.