Photo Monday: Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar

I just spent a week in Myanmar, my second trip there in less than a year. This time around I was on assignment and was fortunate to take a luxurious ride through the country with Road to Mandalay, a river cruise by Orient Express. As my first trip last May was about as “backpacker” as it gets, I’d say I’ve seen both extremes of the difficult to easy travel scale there. As I play catch up on work, I post these two photos from a couple of excursions. [See the story of my Myanmar river cruise at The Mad Traveler home site.]

The first is from Bagan. Last year I spent three days here in 111 F/44 C heat, pedaling a dollar-a-day bicycle through the sun-baked plain in Bagan where there are over 3,000 temples and pagodas spread throughout. It’s a lot easier with a guide, an air-conditioned van and a cooler of bottled water. However, some things may be worth struggling for. Either way, the place is one of my favorites of the archaeological types, right up there with Tikal in Guatemala. (Despite being hundreds of years old and crumbling in some instances, many of these temples are still active, so it might not be your typical archaeological site.) Sunset from one of the temple heights is a must.

It’s startling to see little boys taking on the Buddhist monastic life, though not all of them do so for life necessarily. But though fewer in numbers, the girls get in on the practice as well. These young Buddhist nuns are studying in a convent near Mandalay. Life is strict, to say the least. But after getting over my presence, one of the girls asked me some cautious questions. “Where are you from? Do you like Myanmar?” Yes, I like it very much. The people are wonderful. Giggles all around for a moment, then back to studying Buddhist teachings.

8 thoughts on “Photo Monday: Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar

  • February 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm
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    The top photograph is absolutely stunning. There is a song by Midnight Oil called “Mountains of Burma,” and there is a line in the song that refers to the Road to Mandalay. I wonder if the river cruise owner is a Midnight Oil fan.

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  • February 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm
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    Agree with Ted. The first photography is stunning-! Were you on assignment even in Myanmar? Well, worth it 🙂 Oriental express…mmm..

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  • February 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm
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    Thanks, Ted and Juno! Too kind. 🙂 And Ted, I get to school you the way a Brit schooled me on the cruise. I said, “Funny that Orient Express, a company known best probably for the train, has a RIVER cruise called ROAD to Mandalay.” At which point she said, “Well, you know about the poem, right?” Um… I could have guessed who the poet was and wished I had spouted that guess before she said it. Rudyard Kipling. So now we can both pull on our pipes, thumb hitched in our vest pocket with the pocket watch and say, Well, actually, my good man, ’tis a famous poem by Kipling. Surely you know it? I was going to counter with a Burma quote from Monty Python but I figured she wouldn’t get the reference. I’ll have to check out the Midnight Oil song. Apparently they read Kipling too. Whatever. 😉

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  • February 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm
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    Ah, Tikal! These photographs are beautiful, though. The first is gorgeous, but I love the second – it’s so peaceful and contemplative, perfectly monastic, but so ordinary at the same time, with the furniture and the street. Really lovely.

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    • February 22, 2011 at 12:08 am
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      Thank you, Tikal buddy! No howler monkeys there, so definitely peaceful. 😉

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  • March 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm
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    Fantastic photos, loved the sunset but I do agree with Erica regarding the second photo which is very contemplative. Burma is one of the places I’d like to visit one day, but unfortunately I’m not sure how safe it is to travel solo. Anyway, can we expect the Road to Mandalay article soon?

    Reply
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