Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Playing Indiana Jones in Bagan

I love watching the Indiana Jones movies (Except that last abomination. Why, Harrison Ford, WHY??) When I was younger I used to pretend that I was an archeologist, digging up buried treasure in the back yard and exploring abandoned buildings. I just knew that I would find some evidence of an ancient civilization or extinct species that they would then name after me. Even though I never made that great discovery, to this day every time I hear the Indiana Jones theme song, it makes me want to go on an adventure!

When Sarah, Megan and I were in the planning stages of our trip to Myanmar, we knew the the one place we HAD to visit was Bagan. This area of Myanmar has over 2,000 ancient Buddhist temples all built between the 11th and 13th century. Most of the temples are original, although some have been rebuilt due to earthquakes. 

Our preferred way to see the temples of Bagan was to rent a bicycle and start before sunrise. This way we not only got to watch the sun rise over the vast fields full of temples, but it was also much cooler and there were fewer touts trying to sell us sand paintings. We would set off from our hotel and randomly choose a dirt path that connected to the main road. This dirt path would lead us through farm fields and past thatch huts to temples both small and large. 

The best part of the temples in Bagan is that we were free to explore and I could live out my dream of being Indiana Jones. We walked around inside and saw the beautiful paintings and we took a tour of the outside and saw the ornate carvings that are still there even after 1000 years! And some of the temples held a super secret surprise- narrow and dark stairs that led to the top of the temple and a birds eye view of the whole area. Stunning!

Temples surrounded by farm fields

Farmer using oxen and a wooden plow

Bagan at Sunset
A young woman selling her wares
Yes, yes we did climb all of those stairs

Many of the temples had similar corner carvings

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Burma- Stepping Back in Time

Knowing Burma's tumultuous past and uncertain present, I wasn't sure what to expect on our trip to Yangon and Bagan. Stepping out of the airport in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)  feels like stepping back in time. The city is a hodgepodge of crumbling buildings built when Myanmar was a British colony, golden Buddhist temples, and vendors selling everything from betel to Justin Bieber CDs. The streets are filled with bicycles, trishaws and taxi's that are held together with a wish and a prayer.

Since Myanmar doesn't have a lot of visitors (only 200,000 per year compared to 12 million visitors to Thailand every year) it is a perfect country to visit if you love attention. The people we passed on the street were very quick to say hello and ask us where we were from. By the end of the day, my cheeks were sore from returning all those smiles. 

Vendor selling books in front of a crumbling building
Walking the sidewalks of Yangon is a toe-stubbing, ankle turning adventure
Sule Paya
Drinking water station inside Sule Paya
Looks like something from a Jim Henson movie
Bananas waiting for offering at Sule Paya
Looking down Mahabandoola Rd. towards Sule Paya
Workers preparing dough for some deep fried goodness
Celebration at a Hindu temple
Burmese lion guarding the Shwedagon Paya
The Shwedagon Paya is the most important Buddhist temple in Myanmar
LED lights add a modern look to Buddha statues in many Burmese Buddhist temples
This statue depicts the Burmese defeating the British, because nothing says England like green dragons
My favorite statue. It's a Sphinx- like protective statue.
Shwedagon Paya at night ( and in the rain)
Cloths drying on the grass next to a busy road

Ice water station. You pour water over the ice and cold water comes out of the bottom
Street side telephone stations are everywhere. They are a perfect way to make a call on the go
Woman selling betel leaves and cigarettes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's Election Time!

It is election season here in Thailand as the country gears up for a general election on July 3rd. Unlike in the US, the amount of time between the announcement of elections and the actual elections is only a few months, so instead of being bombarded for a year with election ads, here in Thailand we only have to endure it for a couple of weeks. Luckily for me, since I am a) not a Thai citizen so I can't vote and b) I can't speak or read Thai, I am able to block it all out, with one exception...

It seems that the preferred method for the hundreds of candidates to get their message to the masses is to use huge posters that they attach to every tree, lamp post, powerline or flat surface available. Obviously this makes walking down the sidewalk even more of an adventure than normal.
It's a Thai version of Ross Perot!

While most of the political posters are boring head shots of the candidates, I actually came to an abrupt stop and had to do a double take when I spotted these posters. 

I have no idea what they are for, or which political party is responsible, but whoever created these posters definitely has a sense of humor.