A Travellerspoint blog

Myanmar

The Village People

Check out another installment of photos from Thaunggok, a tiny village in Western Myanmar and stay tuned for an entry about ending up in a cave with a naga baba aka naked guru.

(Don't worry, I kept my clothes on.)


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http://blog.micahbrubin.com/?p=436|Myanmar 5

Posted by bucketbath 07:12 Archived in Myanmar Tagged market shopping burma hat myanmar vendor wicker thaunggok taunggok Comments (0)

Shopping Fever

Photos from Thaunggok market, a tiny Burmese town with amazingly friendly smiles

Getting stuck in Thaunggok, a tiny town in Western Myanmar turned out to be some of the best days traveling through country.

With no foreigners around but me (and the people not yet jaded by tourism), I had amazing time exploring and meeting the locals.

Getting stranded couldn't have been more fun!

Follow the below link for more photos.


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http://blog.micahbrubin.com/?p=423

Posted by bucketbath 06:18 Archived in Myanmar Tagged market shopping burma hat myanmar vendor wicker thaunggok taunggok Comments (0)

The Faces of Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar's an amazing place where people's inquisitive personalities contrast the governments reclusive tendencies.

Things are changing there fast as the government peels open up the country to the west.

Check out a few photos - the first in a series I'll be adding - from Yangon, Myanmar's former capital and current economic hub.


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Posted by bucketbath 06:43 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma nut portrait face yangon myanmar rangoon betel Comments (0)

Myanmar Monks

Photos of Myanmar Monks at the Monestary

Nothing could have prepared me for meeting (and taking photos of) young monks in Thaunggok, Myanmar.

Check out the photo below (which is also a link) and the rest of the photos at blog.micahbrubin.com.


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Posted by bucketbath 09:15 Archived in Myanmar Tagged monk buddha buddhist myanmar thaunggok Comments (0)

Running for Ruin

A Run Through Mrauk U's Dusty Villages and 16th Century Temples

Monks, draped in saffron robes, with razor-shaved heads illumined liquid gold by the late afternoon’s honeydew beams, collected evening alms amidst clouds of woody, pungent smoke wafting from the village’s cooking fires.

Here in Mrauk U, a small town in western Myanmar, monks are as woven into the city’s fabric as the 16th century temples scattered amidst its rice fields and thatch-hut villages.

Arriving here requires patience and perseverance; and five days: a 15-hour overnight bus through jolting, roller-coaster mountain roads from Yangon to Thaunggok. An 11-hour high-speed ferry from Thaunggok to Sittwe - a fishing town on the Gulf of Bengal - after waiting 2 days for the ferry’s departure. Then a 5-hour slow ferry up the Kaladan River from Sittwe to Mrauk U, past parched fields of rice and breast-shaped mounds of rice straw capped with gleaming chrome nipples, that required a day’s wait to catch.

After disembarking from the jetty in Mrauk U, sorting out accommodations and a quick walk through the town, I needed a fix. So I threw on my running gear and headed out. Not before penning the path - on a hand drawn map given to tourists – of my planned run.

I ran south, feeling the energy build, my pace uncontrollable in sprinting fits, loping over bumpy, rocky roads. Groups of children in their green and white uniforms shouted “hello” as I raced by.

Villagers stood on the sides of the dirt road, betel-stained lips and teeth, some smoking long, green Burmese cigars, loitering, talking. Most stopped to stare as I passed, smiling: “minglah bah (hello)” and “tata (good bye)”.

I continued straight, looking for my turn but unsure where, so I pulled out the map and asked a villager, “Where is Laymyethna Paya (temple)?” But the map, only in English combined with my jumbled pronunciation, proved useless. The reply: a confused stare.

I cut right at the next intersection and continued, watching the afternoon’s shadows thicken like mascara on a lover’s eyelash.

Young girls smiled and darted their eyes away as I passed. Elderly monks walked by, barefoot and supported by canes, their faces carved with years of hardship yet buoyed by meditation’s peace.

Past stilted, low-slung huts with thatched roofs rustling in the breeze. At times I could see inside, a man or child sitting quietly.

Past the Dukkanthein Paya, an imposing, fortress-like temple built in 1571 and whose labyrinthine interior walls are carved with images of Buddha and farmers, merchants, athletes, from 16th century Mrauk U.

Nearby, young monks, shirtless and ribbed with sweat, lifted logs and sifted sand as they repaired the gravel road leading to their monastery.

Who would of thought: a meditative road crew?

Map in hand, I kept running, having no idea where the road led, but knew where I wanted to be. Like all travel: you’re never truly lost if you have a destination in mind.

Then I arrived at the Sakyamanaung Paya, whose 280-foot spire erupts from its octagonal base into the now, oceanic blue sky. I asked a young woman, standing in the temple’s shadow where was Shwetaung Paya, a golden temple perched high on a hill overlooking Mrauk U.

I followed her directions, unsure if I understood, down a narrow rocky dirt path, a bamboo fence on my right, on my left, a steep hill spilled into jungle. Three young monks played stick ball in the middle of the path and I hopped out of their way to avoid getting smacked. Ahead, the path dead-ended into a sunbaked field skirted by a dusty paved road.

Left or right?

Back to the map, now rumpled from sweat. I went left, past women with faces painted white, balancing mounds of cauliflower on their heads, passing men on bikes wearing lungees (a male skirt), toward the temple, but not the one I needed.

I was going the wrong way.

So I turned around, the waning sun blindingly ahead until I reached a road I’d explored earlier in the day. I wasn’t ready to finish running so continued straight, up crumbling stone steps and through the ruins of a 15th century palace, its floors overgrown with grass and dimpled from incomplete excavations.

Up ahead my guesthouse loomed so I turned left, passing loitering trishaw (bicycle taxi) and motorbike drivers arguing, smoking, spitting. Through a street with clouds of smoke and dust mangling the air, over two arched, rickety bridges made of salvaged 4x8s.

Cutting right at the next intersection, smiles and young children yelling “bye bye,” the only English words they seem to know here. Right through the heart of Mrauk U, its bustling thoroughfare with merchants, jewelers (who also serve as the town banks), mechanics, beer gardens (they love their beer in Myanmar). Past the town market, over a bridge whose span covers a dead, trash-strewn river.

A bit further and I was finished, panting outside my guest house with the sun quickly fading, tired and sweaty, from blazing through Mrauk U’s dusty streets.

Check out the run stats here!

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And don't forget to pre-book your authentic Thai massage for April!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 07:27 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple ruins u myanmar stupa running sweat jogging mrauk paya Comments (2)

Burmese Sweat

Staying out of trouble while jogging in Yangon, Myanmar

Crumbling buildings, stained with ages of soot and mold, sag under the weight of their colonial past and the present’s dictatorial rule.

The Burmese walk the streets with deathly-pallid faces, painted with a powdered sun block to fend off the scorching sun. Their teeth and lips often stained blood red from chewing betel nut, a mild stimulant.

I arrived in Myanmar’s capital Yangon on Saturday to explore this misunderstood and demonized country, expecting to feel like I’m in the North Korea of SE Asia. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the people warm, inquisitive and friendly. I cannot walk down a street without receiving a “hi” or smile.

At times it feels like life here is freer than in China since the Burmese government has less resources to truly constrict its people. With that said though, the government continues to subjugate the minority populations and enslave people in forced labor camps.

Everything I read said photography taking photos is risky – you can’t photograph government or military buildings (I wish I could have photographed the baby-faced soldier guarding a hotel armed with a bazooka), any infrastructure (train stations, bridges, etc.) and who knows what else.

Huge swaths of the country remain off limits to foreigners and even parts Yangon (Rangoon of old), the reason I was afraid I’d run into trouble during yesterday’s morning jog.

I stepped onto the betel-spit stained street, busses and taxis belching fumes into the morning’s chilly air. No motorbikes ply Yangon’s bumpy roads since a government ban went into effect a few years ago.

I headed south, then onto Strand Road, full of forlorn buildings, which parallels the murky Yangon River and hidden from view by the port’s towering, chalky white perimeter wall.

Past the bustling ferry jetty with vendors hawking fruit, razors, and vegetables. Crowds of loiterers crouched, drinking tea or eating breakfasts of noodles or rice.

Further down, men and women stood in lines, awaiting admission to the port and begin their workday.

I ran until the port ended and low-slung government buildings crouched behind barbed wire fences.

Nearby a line of parked gasoline tankers, some vehicles from the 60s or 70s with chunky front grills, waited outside a fuel depot.

People crooked their necks, scowled, smiled, laughed, pointed as I ran by. But fear curdled my gut: would I end up where I shouldn’t be?

I always carry a passport photocopy when running just in case of injury – but here in Myanmar it was my insurance card Uncle Sam’s got my back should something bad happen.

I kept running along the river, patches of shadows cooled the blazing sun until a man waved his hand in warning to turn around – up ahead was a barbed wire gate with soldiers patrolling.

I backtracked, ran down a dusty street, past a few police posts, ignoring them (and they ignored me) and found the bridge I’d earlier missed.

You’ve seen Boston or Tampa’s iconic suspension bridges, the ones that look like tipped modernist harps. Yangon has it’s own, the Pazundaung Mahabandoola Bridge, except it’s squatter and painted camouflage green. I bolted across, past 2 military garrisons surrounded by sand bags and barbed wire, over the Pazundaung Canal’s churning current into Dawbon, a suburb of Yangon.

Saffron robed monks walked down the street collecting alms and offering blessings.

I continued on the busy road with pickup trucks full of passengers crammed onto their beds and hanging off the back, to the Thaketa Bridge and back into Yangon. As I ran, I hopped around on the sidewalk, as if playing four square, to avoid the cracks and gaping holes.

The streets were dusty, red earth blew through the air. At times I pulled my shirt over my nose to avoid the grit and scrum of Yangon life. Past the police station, a red-bricked colonial-era building with dark windows and surrounded by two barbed and electrified fences.

Past Sule Paya, a 2000 year golden temple in the middle of a clogged traffic circle whose name means “the stupa where a Sacred Hair Relic is enshrined” and that might house one of Buddha’s hairs.

Past streets buzzing with vendors selling watches, tools. sweets. Past men wearing plaid lungees (a male dress), women in colorful hijabs.

Overhead the colonnaded buildings stood stoically, a silent witness to the travails that have befallen this country: war, oppression, dictatorship, poverty.

Maybe after Hillary Clinton’s visit here last month, things will change and life will improve. Maybe the fear I felt exploring the city’s streets, that the Burmese must feel and at times roils in protest (that the government violently suppresses) will ebb, leaving behind a people, a country, a nation ready for a better future.

Check out the map of the run below (and don’t forget to click satellite view).

Click here!

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And don't forget to pre-book your authentic Thai massage for April!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 07:03 Archived in Myanmar Tagged street travel square burma dirt smile asia myanmar running four betel jogging lungeel Comments (6)

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