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Published: December 21st 2018
A Monks Portrait
Credit Sue Roche
Flew to Yangon in Myanmar then on to Heho and the first thing that struck us was that the time difference was 30mins! Thought everywhere was whole hours from GMT!
First morning in Nyaung Shwe and off on a couple of rickety old bikes to check out the various monasteries, temples and vineyard in the locale.
Our first stop was the Ywa Thit monastery ( couldn’t find it on google maps but was on maps.me) which had the regular gold laden temple in slight disrepair. But behind it was a teak built building which turned out to be the monastery itself. As we were looking around a monk came out and invited us in.
He took us upstairs, offered us 3 oranges & started chatting with us. His name is U Kon Da La and at 79 is one of only 2 monks living there now. A lonely man he spoke about all things English, how the monks only eat between 6.00am and noon( except when ill) and allowed us to wander round freely, taking pictures of the monastery and with him. We promised to send some back to him so he could add them to his
As we started to go he wanted us to take the remaining oranges with us but we said we would only accept if we could offer something in exchange. I have never seen the gift of a bar of chocolate light up a face so much since I was a kid.
A great experience.
We cycled on then to another temple which had an unusual building filled with small alcoves housing little buddhas and donation plaques. While there we came across a group of Japanese photographers who were clicking away like mad. Clearly a photography tour, as they were photographing a young novice monk who was posing for them.
Sue of course couldn’t resist and got in amongst them to take some shots.
On the way back we dropped into another temple but this seemed to have more in common with a Chinese casino with the garish lights than a sacred temple so we didn’t stay.
That afternoon we cycled out to the red mountain vineyard to check out the local wine and watch the sun go down. Very pleasant way to end the afternoon chatting with a couple of girls from Amsterdam and
watching the sunset in front of the Japanese photographers who had turned up again.
For dinner that evening we had heard about this Indian restaurant the ‘Innlay Hut Indian food house’ where the owner is so into Eminem he tries to talk like him, imitate his mannerisms and plays his music. An odd combination but the food was good and he was definitely a character. A good choice.
Next day an all day trip out to Inle lake on a ‘fin’ boat. Great experience particularly as we came across fishermen on the water standing one legged on their boat and paddling with the other foot while looking for fish. The guys in orange were clearly looking to catch tourists, a tip for a photo opp, but the rest were fishing for real.
We also came across the floating gardens where they were growing rows of tomatoes on the lake.
Lunch was had at a friend of our boatman. The restaurant, The Lotus Garden, had just opened - great place, great scenery, great food and a lovely welcome from the owners.
On the way back we passed loads of boats heading for a Buddha festival to bless
the rice harvest - all had offerings of one form or another.
Final stop was at a series of stupas, the boatman said half an hour, when we came back he was having a bath in the river!
Next day off to Yangon where we stopped over for a couple of nights in a hotel overlooking the Shwedagon Temple & the lake, an amazing view. Yangon itself we didn’t find that interesting.
At Shula monastery a kindly monk stopped us and showed us round explaining all as we went. He then introduced us to a guy who lit 2 candles for us. Very nice. Until of course he asked us for cash for the orphans and once we obliged the monk then asked for cash for himself - first time I’ve felt mugged!
Most cars were right hand drive even though all were driving on the right.
Perhaps the only reason to spend any time in Yangon is Shwedagon pagoda. A truly wondrous space with too many temples and pagodas to mention - there was so much there it was impossible to get far enough away from it all to capture the totality of it.
Then on to Kuala Lumpur - we decided to book a hotel at the airport as we were only there 2 nights and we had an early flight to Bali.
Good idea. Only one thing wrong with it - we booked the hotel at the old airport not the one we were flying into or out of - Doh!
We had a day in KL itself and wandered around checking out the colonial way, the Sultan Abdul building then Petronus towers.
On the evening we went to the Heli lounge - a helipad on top of a building now laid out as a seating area for a bar - really good place to sit and watch the sun go down.
Dinner later at La Boa in one of their huge shopping malls than back to the not so convenient hotel before heading on to Bali and the kids coming out to meet us for Christmas.
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