Monday, February 10, 2014

FEBRUARY 15, 2014: BALLOONS OVER BAGAN, SIGHTSEEING TEMPLES WITH SUNSET


February 15, 2014

     Today we're up at 4:30 am for our balloon ride!!  This was something we arranged through ONE STOP.  We chose to do the premium service at $360 pp.  I know it's pricey but after it was over I didn't regret spending all that $$ and surprise-neither did my husband who is the frugal one and thought $360 was for both of us!  He almost had a heart attack when I put him straight.  Premium service means there will only be us, the pilot, and 4 others in the gondola basket.  We also get a champagne breakfast and  video/pictures of our flight.  And surprise-2 baseball type BOB hats!  A nice way to celebrate Valentine's Day albeit a day late.  BALLOONS OVER BAGAN picks us up at 5:30 am.  In our van is another couple and a single lady.  We pick up another couple at the Hotel @ Tharabar Gate and we're off to where we will lift off.  There's a crowd of people here.  Names are called as to who goes with which pilot, etc.  Our pilot is British and there are 6 of us.  He explains very thoroughly the procedure, safety rules, etc.  We have coffee and/or tea.  Our group is led around up close to the balloon area where we can watch them being inflated.  It was interesting.  Then it's time!  Up, up, and away we go soaring as the sun rises over the Bagan plain.  It is so cool!  I don't like heights but I don't feel afraid as I stare in wonder at dozens upon dozens of temples.  Some are large and imposing, others are tiny.  We  soar by the river.  It's magical, beautiful.  I really recommend this as words don't even describe the feelings I had.  Our flight lasts about 1 hr.  Opps-we land on the other side of the river on a sand bar.  Landing is very smooth but we had to remain inside the basket and wait for the ground crew to reach us via boat.  Some of the balloons land on this side of the river with us and others land on the other side of the river.  Soon we are out of the basket and it's time to break out several bottles of champagne!  There's also banana bread, croissants, lots of fruit.  It was delicious.  We have a nice short boat ride where the BOB buses are waiting to take us back to our hotels.  I leave a tip for the crew of 10000k.  We get back on the "bus" and are dropped off at our hotel.  It's now 10:00 am and we have to hurry as I arranged with a driver from the hotel area to take us sightseeing today.  I have a hard time choosing the pictures for this as I took so many.  I hope by seeing the pictures you can decide for yourself if this is worth the high price tag.  It was for us.
Our voucher letter for BOB

BOB bus
Getting started














Dawn and the rising mist


A few of us are up when the sun rises-beautiful sight!



Some on the ground still





























   












































Our shadow

Landing

Have to remain in the balloon until crew arrives



Our pilot





Boat pick up




Even the kids get in the action

Lots more people in the basket/gondola for regular service-about 12-15

Our crew



Our crew










Champagne breakfast


Can even make purchases after your balloon flight!

Folding up the balloon







Returning via boat


Road to Mandalay boat



BOB buses waiting
     We meet up with our driver and I apologize for being late.  It's 10:15 am and we had scheduled pick up for 10:00 am.  We have a long day today as we go straight through to sunset but boy, what a day!!  Our driver was great-good English, friendly, and a source of lots of info.  His name is Ko Htay Naing and can be reached:   phone: 09-259051893     e-mail: kthetpan@gmail.com           His cost for the day in a car was 35000k.  We left at 10:15 am and returned at 6:30 pm.  He took us to the well known "tourist" temples and some off the beaten path ones.    
     LAWKANANDA PAGODA A small, very pretty pagoda.  Built during the reign of King Anawrahta in 1059 and has a distinct, elongated zedi.  On the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River.  This pagoda marks the spot where traders from as far as Sri Lanka used to unload their goods.  It is still an active place of worship and has a lovely view over the river.
Sign board

The pagoda enshrines one of the tooth relics of Buddha.

















   





























     DAMMAYAZIKA  Built in 1196 during reign of King Narapati Sithu.  One of 16 pentagonal monuments, possibly the oldest surviving 5 sided building in the world.  Garden, 5 small temples housing images of the 4 last Buddhas and the future Buddha.  3 receding terraces ornamented with glazed Jataka plaques.  On each side of the pagoda there is a small temple housing an image of Buddha.  4 images facing directional points representing 4 Buddhas of the present world cycle who have already attained enlightenment.  But  here the 5th temple is for the future Buddha.  Names Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa, Gotma, and Metteyya.   Views from highest terrace.
Board sign



Sign says no climbing

Detail





Detail






Interior
   










     SEIN NYET  Temple and pagoda.  Square with 4 entrances through projecting porches-main one faces west.
Sign board

Detail








Detail






   















     NAGAYON PAYA Near Myinkaba, this elegant and well preserved temple was built by King Kyanzittha.  Legend says it was here that he was sheltered by a serpent while running from his angry brother Salu Min.  Name means sheltered by serpent.  Main Buddha image shelters under the hood of a huge naga/serpent.  Niches in the dark corridors.  Paintings on the walls  Central shrine has 2 small standing Buddhas and 1 large one.
Some areas off limits due to restoration work

Standing Buddha images with center one under the serpent's hood.











Legend 






 
     NAPAYA TEMPLE  Close to Manuha Paoda.  Made of sandstone masonry block facings integrated over a brick core.  Perforated stone windows and interesting arches over the windows.  In the central sanctuary 4 stone pillars have fine carved bas relief figures of four-faced Brahma.  Holding lotus flowers.  Sides of pillars-ogre like heads with open mouths with flowers.



Detail


Ogre with flowers coming from mouth

4 faced Brahma


Holding lotus flowers

Stone pillar

     MANUHA Named after captive Mon King from Thaton held prisoner in Bagan by King Anawrahta.  Legend-constructed to represent Manuha's anger.  Inside 3 seated Buddhas and 1 huge reclining Buddha.  Cramped to represent the stress and lack of comfort Manuha had to endure.  Reclining Buddha entering nibbana has a smile signifying death will release the King from further suffering.








King Manuha and his wife Queen Ningala Devi to Nagayone

























     Shopping stop JASMINE FAMILY LACQUERWARE   Located in Myin Kaba Village.  A family run business as almost all are family members working to make a quality product.    Win explained the process of making lacquerware.  It was very interesting and informative.  In the small shop there was so much beautiful ware on display.  Wish I had room in my luggage for more.  I buy a plate for $45 and a stacking container that I will use for earrings or rings for $28.  Thanks to Maneki-neko for posting  about this place.  The quality is beyond compare.


Win in the shop













Win's mom

It really is a family run business
   










     Lunch-BE KIND TO ANIMALS, THE MOON.  Lots eating here so it must be good.  We have papaya salad, gazpacho soup.  It's all excellent.  Cost 4500k.

Gazpacho soup

Papaya salad




     PYATHAGYI Double cave type with vaults and broad corridors.  This monastery contains a hall of ordination and a small palate.  Last great construction of the dynasty of Bagan.  Built by King Kyaswa in the 12th century.



Entrance

Sitting Buddha image and inner passages leading around the whole temple

Standing Buddha image


View



View

View

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Small Buddha images embedded on the walls

     SULAMANI A majestic red brick temple built during the reign of King N. Sithu around 1181.  Crowning jewel.  Receding terraces pyramid effect topped by a gilded sikhara.  Fine brickwork and ornamentation.  Even a needle can't penetrate between 2 bricks.  Buddha images located at each cardinal point and the base interior is painted with frescoes dating from 18th century.


Magnificent!


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Sitting golden Buddha image











































     DAMMANYANGYI  Huge temple built during reign of King Narathu.  Legend-King instructed it be built to atone for his sins of assassinating his father, brother, and wife.  Finely set brickwork.  If the masonry gaps were too wide the bricklayer would be punished-hand cut off and supposedly a story has the King executing one bricklayer for his masonry gaps being too wide.  Wouldn't like to work for this King!  It's unfinished as the King himself was assassinated. and the temple was believed to be haunted by ghosts!






Entrance gate

Buddha image inside










     LAKAOUSHAUNG Sunset spot chosen by our driver.  He says this is just as good as the popular Shwesandaw.  As we head up we see scores of people at Shwesandaw-very crowded.  This temple is right next to the other.  There are just a handful up here including us.  It's very peaceful as everyone is quietly waiting for the sun to set.  Sunset is very nice-not the best I've seen nor the worse.
We return to our hotel at 6:30 pm.  It's been a very long day but I don't feel tired!  We decide to venture out for dinner.

Crowded Shwesandaw

Just a few people here for the sunset

     Dinner-SARABHA II in the Hotel @ Tharabar Gate.  Taxi there and back and waiting for us is 6000k.  We have vegetarian curry with rice.  I want something light so I get a boring ham/lettuce/tomato sandwich with fries.  Coke and Tiger beer.  My husband has discovered some beers come in "big" bottles and he will order the "big" bottle if available!  Bill 13000k.

Ham sandwich and fries

Vegetarian curry











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