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Published: November 21st 2013
4 Tooth Relic Pagodas
girl prays with her baby
Thanks to Mum and Ohnmar’s inside knowledge we timed our visit to Bagan to coincide with the full moon. The place was a buzz with festivities, weddings, and pilgrims paying homage at pagodas. The town of Nyuang U was alight with candles and lanterns, the sound of fire crackers could be heard everywhere.
The festivities would continue for the next 3 or 4 days, the children had school holidays and the workers also had time off to enjoy themselves as well. One thing we noticed was that anywhere a large crowd was gathered everyone was so peaceful and happy, in Sydney in any large crowd there are always problems fuelled by alcohol, but not here, there was a pervading air of loving-kindness everywhere we went.
We spent four nights here and had an interesting time enjoying the atmosphere and joy of the people around us. We ran into some old friends also, which was a big bonus for us. Day 1 - Four Tooth Relic Pagodas before Midday
Our first challenge in Bagan was to try and visit the four tooth relic pagodas to make food offerings and offer our prayers as each person desired. Each pagoda
lanterns for full moon
I think houses a replica of a tooth of the Buddha. We were told it was good luck to visit all four of these Pagodas before midday, so our challenge was set.
To reach the first Pagoda we set out well before dawn and took a boat ride, then a trip on the back of a small truck, followed by a hike up numerous stairs to reach the pagoda. As luck would have it rain was tumbling down and we were totally unprepared for this. We reached the first pagoda sopping wet, but happy to have made it. We made our offerings and offered our salutations to the Buddha and took some time to reflect on how lucky we were to be here.
Our trip back to the boat on the small truck proved eventful. The rain had continued to fall very heavily and the small streams we had crossed on our way were now swollen and impassable. There were a line of small trucks stopped at the first water crossing and an inspection of the water flow revealed that we would have to wait for the water to recede. So, we settled back in the rear of
lanterns for full moon
the truck and did our best to entertain ourselves.
The rain stopped as quickly as it had started and within about half an hour the water level of the stream had receded enough for us to cross. We made it back to the boat and had our breakfast on board.
We repeated the offerings and prayers at the second pagoda, which was much easier to get to. Then we proceeded to pagoda number three and did the same. Time was ticking and we still had to make it to the fourth and final tooth relic pagoda. We had about 30 minutes to get there before midday and we were making good time travelling in another small truck when – bang. The front tyre of the truck blew out.
The driver got his spare tyre out and found it was already flat. The driver of another small truck loaded with passengers, travelling in the opposite direction stopped to help. While the truck drivers did the repairs we spent our time laughing and joking with the passengers on the other truck. Some enterprising women that were selling nuts and sweets on the road side near the next pagoda saw
what was happening and rushed down to try and sell us some of their goods. I cannot resist a happy, smiling sweet seller and I purchased bags of peanuts and palm sugar sweets from them. I later gave these away to children at the pagoda.
After the tyre was successfully replaced we made it to the final tooth relic pagoda just after midday. This was no big disaster, it just meant we could not make the food offerings, but could still offer our prayers and contemplate our good fortune yet again. We tipped our truck driver because he had tried so hard to get us there before midday and on the way given us a lot of entertainment, so all was good.
That evening the hotel invited us to a complimentary dinner in their dining room as a gift for the full moon. This was such a nice gesture and we enjoyed the beautiful local dishes they offered us. We dressed in our finest outfits for the evening and had a lot of fun that evening. The good mood was obviously being fuelled by the full moon.
Afterward, Lorenza, Mal and I relaxed in the beer garden
with a few cold glasses of beer Myanmar.
Day 2 – Ancient Temples of the Golden Land
We spent the day visiting many beautiful temples around Bagan. Marco Polo coined the term “the Golden Land” when he saw all the gold temples of Myanmar and this is such an apt description – absolutely amazing to see.
Some of the highlights were the many fine murals depicting jakata scenes, which document the life of the Buddha. We took in the sunset at Shwesandaw Pagoda, which has amazing views around Bagan.
We also visited a lacquer wear workshop and got to observe the process of making these beautiful objects. It was a family business and the skills have been handed down through many generations. The process is so involved and the final product is the result of many months of skilful work. We bought some lovely items here, which will be treasured by us for many years.
Lorenza and I had a really interesting discussion with the owner of the business about their hopes for the future. She told us that until recently they had only been busy with the tourist trade for a few
months of the year and what they made in those short months had to stretch for the rest of the year. Since the political scene had slowly changed the tourist trade was strengthening and the busy period was now extending to about six months of the year. She said this meant her family could now afford to invest a bit more in their business and also ensure their kids were given a better education than was previously possible. We wished her good luck and hoped her optimism proves to be well founded.
We finished our day with dinner and a puppet show. It was fun sharing a meal with the “OK Team” and the puppet show was full of humour, although I did not get the full story. A traditional Burmese music group accompanied the puppet show and it added a great ambience to our meal. Old friends number 1
Back at our hotel we bumped into the hotel Manager, Khine and we realised she had spent time studying in Sydney a few years ago and had attended the Panditarama centre when she was there. As a result she knew our travel companions very well. It was
nice to catch up with her and to see that she was making a great career of managing the hotel here. Day 3 – Mount Popa and old friends number 2
On the drive to Mount Popa we took a look at how peanut oil is made, plus tried some palm sugar spirit. This was not a bad drop, smooth and without any harsh after burn that a lot of country spirits can have. The distilling method is pretty simple and if you wanted you could replicate it easily in you’re your back garden if you are game. Although, as a precaution I would make sure you had a fire extinguisher handy!
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano and like many mountaintops in Myanmar it is topped by a beautiful pagoda. This one is reached by climbing 777 stairs and once at the top you can take in the local culture of Nat worship at the many shrines. Nats are the local spirits and are represented here in many statues. From what I understand there are 37 Nats in total and all were once human but met sudden and often violent deaths in various ways.
of our companions, Yong, misplaced her phone at Mount Popa and was concerned because it had all her photos on it. She tried to be very Buddhist about her misfortune but you could tell by her eyes that she was upset. Ohnmar talked to some of the staff at the Pagoda and they did what they could to try and locate her phone. There was also a group of students visiting the site who had a megaphone, when they heard what had happened they began announcing in Burmese that a tourist had lost their phone and if anyone finds it please had it to an official. Within about 30 minutes the phone had been located and returned to a very thankful Yong. We were all so pleased for her and could not help but marvel at the honesty of the people who had found it. Saddhu, Saddhu, Saddhu.
After spending some time looking at the various shrines we visited Popa village and took a look at some of the market stalls. Following this we went to Mount Popa Resort for lunch. The views from the resort back to Mount Popa and the surrounding area are breathtaking. Hey Bonjour
4 Tooth Relic Pagodas
breakfast on the boat
I had just taken photos of the view and went to join our group for lunch when I heard a familiar voice greet me in French, “Bonjour Robert”. I turned around and to my surprise was greeted by the sight of my cousins from Alsace, France standing before me with open arms. I was pleasantly shocked to say the least; here was Jean, Beatrice and two of their friends at the exact time and exact place we were at – it was a joyful moment for us all.
Early in our trip planning Jean and Beatrice had considered joining us for our tour in Myanmar but the timing was not quiet right for us all to travel together. So, they had organised their own tour and we had hoped we could meet at some stage on our journeys. So, for us to just happen to be at the same place at the same time was so perfect, perhaps it was the full moon feeling drawing us all together.
We made plans to meet that night and shared some experiences of our travels so far. Later, we picked them up from their hotel in our bus and
4 Tooth Relic Pagodas
after the boat, a muddy walk to the truck
had dinner with the “OK Team “ at a restaurant by the river. We were so happy to introduce them to our travel group and we shared a great night together conversing in a mixture of French and English. What a great world we live in! Weddings
Each morning we stayed in Nyuang U there were wedding celebrations at our hotel. It is very lucky to be married around the time of the full moon. The wedding receptions started very early in the morning and were over by about 9am. The guests who attended were numerous and were relatives of the bride and groom plus virtually the whole village that they came from. I only took a few photos of the weddings from a distance, as I did not want to stick my western nose into their celebrations and be too obtrusive. Day 4 - The cave the man and dog appeared from
On our final morning in Bagan, Lorenza, Mum, Ohnmar and I took a ride on one of the horse drawn taxis to see the cave where the man and dog had appeared from when they had travelled from the cave at Pandaya, which
I mentioned in an earlier blog. There is now a pagoda erected on the site and a young boy gave us a tour of the area. His English impressed me and he recited the history of the pagoda and the story of the man and dog for us. This was a good way to end our time at Bagan.
(thanks to Ohnmar for her editing of the info about pagodas, etc.)
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