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Coming to Mawlamyine was one of the best decisions we made on our trip. Not only did we spend a couple of great days here with Angel and Jeff (fellow travellers we met in Mongolia) we also had an awesome time riding our rental motorbike around and seeing some amazing sights. We arrived here on a bus from Bago where we took shelter in San Francisco guesthouse after our escape from the meditation centre. We walked into the Lonely Planet’s favoured Breeze guesthouse but decided we do not want to spend our 5 nights here in a boat cabin and so we ended up checking-in in Aurora guesthouse on the Lower Main Road.

Our plan was simple. Rent a motorbike, drive around the sights in and around the city and wait for Angel and Jeff to climb with them the less famous and touristy sister of the Golden Rock north of the city. Mawlamyine is a nice town with many run down colonial style buildings which gives it sort of a charm. There are a few interesting pagodas, colonial prison, a few hindu temples, some mosques and surprisingly quite a few churches in town. The city has also some other gems that we discovered. DSC_0484For example Cover Girl beauty parlour, where they have the best hair wash ever as well as some good foot spa. The restaurant at the riverbank called Grandpa’s and Grandma’s, profits of which go to a senior house. 1-2-3 Teahouse where we had our breakfast every single morning of our stay. And also worth mentioning is the ‘night market’ – a strip of restaurant stalls that arises every evening at the riverside and serves various kinds of fast asian dishes as well as cold beer.

DSC_0494DSC_0504As mentioned, our main plan was to explore the surroundings on a motorbike. We found an affordable semi-automatic bike near the Breeze guesthouse and after test driving it around a block, we were ready to go. Our first stop was the hill-top pagoda complex Mahamuni Paya in the city centre. It was busy with people picnicking on the floors of the temples, nuns posing for the camera and kids hitting the bells. After we tried a game of throwing coins into ‘good luck’ pots turning on a holy mountain, refreshments were being handed out to all visitors for free. We drank the orange juice we got and got on our bike again. Without a map we chose to go south and with some help of roadside shop-owners decided to visit the allegedly largest reclining Buddha in the world – Win Sein Taw Ya. We didn’t even leave the city when we found out our petrol indicator doesn’t work and had to push the bike a few hundred meters until we could buy some fuel from a plastic bottle. DSC_0520After an hour of driving, stopping, asking and refreshing there was the complex entrance gate on our left. From here oversized statues of monks with their typical bowls were lining our way. In the distance we spotted tens of white pagodas in the hills and a huge sitting Buddha. Soon after, the main attraction followed. Already from far the 500 feet structure looked massive. We parked at the head and took a staircase leading up to enter the giant. DSC_0533DSC_0546This ‘statue’ or rather building was finished in 2010 and, as it seemed inside, the construction is still ongoing, or it stopped. Inside there is a small temple and a labyrinth of colourful statues depicting various images from the scripts including ones vividly depicting many ways of torture in hell. Further into the ‘feet’ of the building, there are a few statues unfinished and an empty area with a few metal wires sticking out of concrete panels. Everybody is bare feet here… To be able to better imagine the size, take a look at the picture of Lucia posing at buddha’s ear. If you come to visit Myanmar a few years from now, there will be another lying statue right opposite this one, as the construction has already started. The new one is supposed to be built even larger.

DSC_0565As it was still early in the afternoon, we didn’t want to get back just yet and so we continued on the same road further south aiming towards Kandawgyi lake. After a 10-minute drive the road started to become crowded with people. We stopped to find out if we have reached the destination. The Pagoda on the lake was surrounded by festively dressed people, pick-up trucks full of people lounging and some others running around organising or giving away drinks to others. Politely refusing we made our way through the crowds when we came across an alley around which people started gathering. DSC_0576Everybody was giving us their broadest smiles, but nobody happened to speak English or to try to explain what is going on. We decided to wait for whatever is going to happen when after a while a young man on a bicycle stopped and started chatting with us – in English! We were about to witness a celebration of the pagoda’s anniversary and the alley was prepared for monks and nuns who later on walked with their bowls through it in lines and accepted various offers from the participants standing alongside. Rice, powdered drinks, candy, biscuits, candles and money were collected from the bowls into huge garbage bags, so monks and nuns can fit more offerings inside.

DSC_0640The following day we took a trip eastbound to see 2 main attractions. The first one was Kyaikmaraw pagoda famous for it’s Buddha statue that unusually sits in a completely normal (western) pose with his feet down (instead of a common cross-legged or lotus position). The second attraction were Kha-Yon caves with many Buddha statues inside. Both were interesting and the ride itself was quite special too as the roads were picturesquely lined with sugar palms. However, the highlight of the day happened while taking a detour further into the rural areas. We stumbled across a small monastery and pagoda run by an old monk, who along with his companion – a nun, invited us over for some drinks. We were seated on the floor and offered variety of cold drinks on a tray. In broken English we chatted about our travel plans and about the monastery and its inhabitants. The hall where we were seated had 2 flat screen TVs and the monk was obviously a clock collector, as you could tell time by looking into any corner of the room. After a mutual photo session, the monk grabbed a table calendar that was standing on a coffee table next to him, wiped it from dust and gave it to us as a good-bye gift. The lovely promotional calendar with pictures from traditional burmese life has found it’s home with Marieke in Sydney :)DSC_0626

DSC_0679Finally this evening we met Jeff and Angel and their travel companion Johannes. It was an evening full of stories from the previous 5 months and at the end of it it felt like we have been travelling together all that time. The next morning we took them to our favourite breakfast place and afterwards caught a ride to take us to the Nwa-La-Bo pagoda – the ‘other’ golden rock. DSC_0694The road up the hill to the temple is closed for public and so we waited for a while for other people to arrive so we can share a ride on the top of a crazy truck. Around 40 of us became close to each other very soon after the departure. Because of the bumpy winding road, people held onto each other by T-shirts, hands or shoulders and together screamed and laughed. On the top, everybody took off their shoes and climbed a few stairs to pray to a pagoda built on top of a curious rock formation painted gold. Some said their prayers while pasting flakes of gold into on of the rocks, perhaps getting a better chance to be heard. Getting down was much easier as we already knew what to expect. We caught a bus back into town and while Angel went to see the reclining Buddha, the rest of us had a few beers to celebrate the survival of the trip.

DSC_0743Before returning to Yangon, we decided to also take a look at the more famous golden rock in town on Kyaiktiyo. We did not mention it before, but on each bus that we took in Myanmar, probably because they are not used to travel much, a few people were throwing up. So yes, 3 hrs from Mawlamyine to Kyaiktiyo saw a few of these too. After being taken to a couple of ‘upscale’ hotels, our taxi driver finally understood we are backpackers and took us to Sea Sar hotel which we recommend to stay at. After lunch, we spent the whole afternoon in their restaurant playing cards and drinking a cuba libres made of Mandalay rum, coke, soda and lime. In the morning we woke up very early to beat the crowds of pilgrims making their way up to the golden rock. We were not the only ones with this thinking. DSC_0730At the truck station we witnessed an amusing show of crowds of people throwing themselves into the cars as soon as they pulled-up. Some of the styles of getting in were better than others. The trip up the hill was quite similar to the one 2 days ago. Steep and sharp turns were turning it into roller-coaster ride. DSC_0768The views at the top were beautiful and well worth it. Only men can go all the way to the rock and paste a flake of gold on it, so we sent our men to pose for the pictures and feel the atmosphere from unclose. Pilgrims were lounging around the whole complex, sleeping, resting or having picnic. Having had a very early breakfast we had some shan noodles as a snack and made our way down again to play more cards and finish one more bottle of rum. Myanmar style.

Take a look at all the best pictured from this part of our trip in the album here.

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Ist do Mawlamyine bolo jedno z najlepsich rozhodnuti, ktore sme na tomto vylete urobili. Nielenze sme mohli stravit niekolko fajn dni s Angel a Jeffom (s korymi sme cestovali v Mongolsku), ale uzili sme si aj paradne vylety do okolia na motorke. Prisli sme sem po jednej noci stravenej v mestecku Bago, kde sme byvali v hosteli San Francisco, do ktoreho sme ‘usli’ priamo z meditacneho centra Panditarama. Najprv sme sa boli pozriet Breeze guesthouse, ktory velmi doporucuje Lonely Planet, ale zhodli sme sa, ze sa nam nechce travit 5 noci v izbe podobnej lodnej kajute a tak sme sa ubytovali v hosteli Aurora na ulici Lower Main Road.

Nas plan bol jednoduchy. Pozicat si motorku, pochodit si po meste a po okoli a ked pridu, tak vyliezt s Angel a Jeffom na kopec s menej turistickou sestrou znamej Zlatej skaly par kilometrov na sever mesta. Mawlamyine je celkom prijemne mesto s mnozstvom polorozpadnutych kolonialnych domov, ktore mu dodavaju svojsky sarm. V meste je niekolko zaujimavych pagod, vaznica z kolonialnych dob, niekolko hinduistickych chramov, par mesit a prekvapivo slusny pocet kostolov. Ako sme ale zistili, mesto ma niekolko dalsich skrytych pokladov. Napriklad Cover Girl salon, v ktorom vam skvele umyju vlasy a pridaju polhodinovu masaz hlavy a slusnu pedikuru. Dalej restauraciu Grandpa’s a Grandma’s (U starych rodicov), zisk ktorej ide priamo do domu dochodcov. Takisto kaviaren 1-2-3 Teahouse, kde sme si davali ranajky kazde jedno rano nasho pobytu. A za zmienku stoji aj ‘nocny trh’ – pas restauracii na promenade pri rieke, ktore sa tu objavia kazdy vecer a ponukaju rozne druhy rychlych azijskych jedal a ladovo vychladene pivo.

Ako spominame, nas plan bol hlavne o spoznavani okolia na motorke. Nasli sme polo-automaticku za slusnu cenu pobliz hostelu Breeze a po kratkej testovacej jazde okolo bloku sme boli pripraveni na vylet. Prvou zastavkou bol chramovy komplex na kopci strede mesta Mahamuni Paya. Mnoho rodin tu len tak posedavalo na dlazke chramov a piknikovalo, mnisky nam pozovali pred fotoaparatom a deti zvonili na chramove zvony. Potom, co sme vyskusali chramovu hru – trafit mincami do tociacich sa misiek, z ktorych kazda prinasala iny druh stastia, zany zacali rozdavat zdarma obcerstvenie pre chramovych navstevnikov. Vypili sme pomarancovy dzus, ktory nam dali do ruk a nasadli sme znova na motorku. I ked bez mapy, rozhodli sme sa ist najprv na juh a za pomoci pocestnych predavacov najst vraj najvacsiu leziacu sochu Budhu na svete – Win Sein Taw Ya. Ani sme este nevysli z mesta, ked sme neprijemne zistili, ze venzinova rucicka nam nefunguje. Motorka zastala a my sme museli tlacit niekolko sto metrov, az kym sme nenatrafili na jeden z obchodikov, ktory predava benzin v plastovych flasiach. Po hodinke jazdy, zastavovania, spytovania a obcerstvovania sa kde-tu sme uvideli branu komplexu po lavej strane. Za branou lemoval cestu k soche rad soch mnichov nesucich svoje misky v nadzivotnej velkosti. V dialke sme najprv uvideli kopec z desiatkami bielych pagod a velikanskeho sediaceho Budhu. Coskoro, hlavna atrakcia sa objavila na horizonte. Uz z dialky vyzerala vyse 150 metrova struktura ohromne. Zaparkovali sme pri hlave a vyslapali schody k vchodu do tohoto obra. Socha alebo radsej stavba bola otvorena v roku 2010 ale podla toho, ako to vyzeralo vo vnutri, este nebola uplne dokoncena, alebo sa na nej prestalo pracovat. Vnutri sa nachadza maly chram a labyrint sieni so sochami znazornujucimi obrazy z nabozenskych textov, z ktorych vacsina je o pekle a roznych sposoboch mucenia, ktore na hriesnikov cakaju. Ako sme postupovali dalej smerom do ‘noh’ budovy, minali sme nedokoncene sochy a skoncili v prazdnej miestnosti s holym betonom a zeleznymi tycami trciacimi z konstrukcie. Vsetci ludia tu musia byt vyzuti… Aby sme lepsie vysvetlili aka velka cela struktura je, odfotili sme Luciu pri Budhovom uchu. Ak pridete do Myanmaru za par rokov, oproti tejto soche bude uz stat (alebo skor lezat) aj dalsia, ktorej zaklady su uz dnes polozene. A vraj ma byt este vacsia.

Kedze este bolo len skore odpoludnie, nechcelo sa nam ist rovno naspat a tak sme pokracovali dalej po tek istej ceste s cielom najst jazero Kandawgyi. Po 10 minutach sa cesta akosi zaludnila. Zastavili sme pozriet sa co sa deje a zistili sme, ze uz sme na mieste. Okolo pagody na brehu jazera sa zhromazdovali ludia v slavnostnom obleceni, popri ceste postavali pick-upy s posedavajucimi ludmi a niektori pobehovali okolo a organizovali alebo rozlievali ostatnym studene napoje. Slusne odmietajuc sme sa cez davy dostali k ulicke, okolo ktorej sa zacali ludia stavat. Vsetci sa na nas siroko usmievali, ale niekto na nemoholo po anglicky vysvetlit, co sa tu deje. Tak sme sa rozhodli si pockat co sa bude diat ked po par minutach sa u nas pristavil chlapec a takmer plynulou anglictinou sa dal s nami do reci. Dozvedeli sme sa, ze pagoda oslavuje vyrocia a ulickou budu prechadzat za chvilu mnisi a mnisky. Ked vsetko zacalo, ludia lemujuci alej vkladali mnichom do misiek dary: ryzu, napoje v prasku, keksiky, sviecky a i peniaze. Mnisi misky priebezne vyprazdnovali do obrovskych sackov aby sa im zmestili dary od vsetkych.

Dalsi den sme sa vybrali na vychod od mesta, kde sme mali dva ciele. Prva zastavka bola pri Kyaikmaraw pagode, ktora je znama kvoli svojmu Budhovi, ktory neobycajne sedi v normalnom ‘zapadniarskom’ posede (s nohami dolu) namiesto tradicneho ‘tureckeho sedu’ alebo lotosovej pozicie. Druha atrakcia dna boli Kha-Yon jaskyne s mnozstvom soch Budhu. Obe zastavky boli zaujimave, no uz len samotna cesta, lemovana cukrovymi palmami stala za to. Vrcholom dna vsak bolo nieco uplne ine. Na ceste sme niekolkokrat odbocili len tak zo zvedavosti, aby sme videli, co sa skryva mimo hlavne trasy. Na jednej odbocke sme natrafili na malu pagodu s klastorom, ktore mal na starosti mnich, ktory nas – spolu s jeho partnerkou mniskou – pozval dnu sa obcerstvit. Posadili sme sa na drevenu podlahu a pred nas polozili tacku s roznymi chladenymi napojmi. Lamanou anglictinou sme debatovali o nasich planoch na dalsie dni a o klastore a jeho obyvateloch. Sien, v ktorej sme sedeli mala 2 sirokouhle televizie a mnich musel byt zberatel hodin, kedze v kazdom kute boli minimalne jedni. Po vzajomnom fotografovani sa, mnich vzal do ruk stolny kalendar, ktory stal vedla neho, oprasil ho rukou a dal nam ho ako dar na rozlucku. Krasny reklamny kalendar s obrazmi zo zivota myanmarkseho vidieku si nasiel svoje miesto v Sydney u Marieke :)

Konecne sme sa dockali a Angel a Jeff dorazili spolu s ich spolucestujucim Johanesom. Stravili sme vecer vymenou prihod z poslednych 5 mesiacov na cestach a na zaver sme mali pocit, akokeby sme sa na konci oktobra v Ulanbaatare ani nerozlucili. Rano sme ich vzali do nasho obluneho podniku na ranajky a potom nasli odvoz k Nwa-La-Bo pagode, ktora ma byt Zlatou skalou cislo 2. Cesta na samy vrchol je zatvorena pre verejnost a tak sme chvilu museli pockat kym sa nahromadilo dost ludi, aby sme sa mohli vyviezt hore specialnym sialenym nakladakom. Vsetkych 40 cestujucich sa na tejto ceste velmi zblizilo. Vdaka vlnitej a hompalajucej ceste sa za zvuku vykrikov a smiechu kazdy drzal coho mohol – tricka pred sebou, ruky vedla seba ci ramena na druhej strane. Na vrchu si vsetci vyzuli topanky a vyslapali par schodov k pagode postavenej na kamennej formacii natretej nazlato. Niektori vyriekli svoje motlitby sediac, ini pocas lepenia zlatych kuskov na kamen; snad sa im zvysuje sanca na vyslysanie. Cesta dole bola o nieco prijemnejsia, mozno preto, ze sme uz vedeli co nas caka. Stopli sme si autobus naspat do mesta a Angel potom pokracovala na juh pozriet sa na leziaceho Budhu, zatialco my ostatni sme si dopriali pivko na oslavu zdraveho prezitia vyletu.

Pred navratom do Yangonu sme sa rozhodli navstivit aj Zlatu skalu cislo 1, ktora sa nachadza pobliz mestecka Kyaiktiyo. Este sme to nespominali, ale na kazdom autobuse v Myanmare, asi preto, ze nie su zvyknuti cestovat, sa najde niekolko zvracajucich ludi. A tak samozrejme, 3-hodinova cesta z Mawlamyine do Kyaiktiyo si vyziadala tiez svoje obete. Potom, co nas z autobusovej zastavky vzal taxikar do niekolko luxusnych hotelov, konence pochopil, ze to nie je to, co hladame, a vzal na do hotelu Sea Sar, ktory vrelo odporucame. Prvy den po obede sme stravili v ich restauracii, hrali karty a popijali cuba libre z rumu Mandalay, koly, sody a limetky. Rano sme vstavali velmi skoro aby sme sa vyhli navalu putnikov. Neboli sme vsak jedini. Na stanici nakladakov, ktore ludi vozili hore a dole, sme boli svedkami show, v ktorej sa ludia hadzali na na auta v snahe uchytit si miesto a byt hore prvi. Niektore techniky boi zaujimavejsie nez ostatne. Cesta hore nebola o nic lepsia nez ta pred dvoma dnami. Strme cesty a ostre zakruty zmenili cestu na jazdu na kolotoci. Pohlady z vrchu vsak stali za to. Len muzi mozu ist az ku zlatej skale a prilepit na nu kus zlateho platku, a tak sme poslali nasich muzov, aby nam zapozovali a nasali atmosferu zblizka. Po celom komplexe posedavali a polehuvali putnici, niektori ranajkovali. Kedze my sme mali ranajky prilis skoro, tiez sme si dali nieco na zub a potom sa vydali naspat dolu aby sme mohli stravit dalsie odpoludnie pri kartach a flaske rumu. V myanmarskom style.

Pozrite si vsetky najlepsie fotky z tejto casti vyletu tu.

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4 thoughts on “Rocks and Buddhas

  1. Pingback: KWEG’s ladies | Take it and go

  2. Pingback: 11 months in a single post | Take it and go

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