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Sun 21 Dec 2014

Inlay Lake.

Inlay Lake.

My original plan was to spend at least a few days in the Inlay Lake area. However I needed to make an unexpected trip back to the USA, so I spent the morning at an internet cafe booking flights online and buying a ticket for the night bus back to Rangoon.

I did not think I would have enough time to do any sightseeing today. When I explained to the proprietress of the hotel that I was planning to leave in the evening, she encouraged me to find a boatman near the river and do a quick tour of the sights on and around the lake. I took her advice and was speeding down the canal toward the lake not more than 20 minutes later.

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Crusing on the canal.

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Intha Fisherman.

Intha Fisherman.

Traditional House, Inlay Lake.

Traditional House, Inlay Lake.

Kayan women weaving their traditional textiles.

Kayan women weaving their traditional textiles.

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Nga Hpe Kyaung monastery.

The boatman took me to the usual touristy sights, including stopping at a silver shop, the Nga Hpe Kyaung monastery, and a local restaurant, where I had a pickled green tea salad. This salad, called laphet, is a famous Burmese specialty, and is made from fermented green tea leaves mixed with sesame seeds, fried peas, fried garlic, and peanuts, among other things. It was fantastic! 

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Sat 20 Dec 2014

The hills of eastern Myanmar.

The hills of eastern Myanmar.

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I traveled most of the day, going from Bagan to Nyaungshwe, by minivan. The journey of twisting turns and rapidly rising and falling terrain offered many scenic views but was not very easy on the stomach. I was relieved when we reached Nyaungshwe just before sunset.

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Nyaungshwe is a small town in eastern Burma whose main draw is its proximity to the beautiful Inlay Lake. I had booked a hotel online a few days prior to my arrival, and with a few glances at the map in my guidebook I was able to find my way to “The Little Inn.” On the walk there I met a curious beast (see photo).

Greetings!

Greetings!

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Fri 19 Dec 2014

Htilominlo Pahto in the background.

Htilominlo Pahto in the background.

Sulamani Pahto.

Sulamani Pahto.

I decided to spend a final day in Bagan since there were still areas full of temples that I had not yet visited. After breakfast I cycled away from Nyaung U armed with my guidebook and a bottle of water. This time I headed out in the direction of some of the more remote temples.

Gubyauknge Temple.

Gubyauknge Temple.

Selfie.

Selfie.

Yes. Another one.

Yes. Another one.

Not sure which temple this is!

Not sure which temple this is!

Ditto.

Ditto.

Dhammayangyi Pahto.

Dhammayangyi Pahto.

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There were many thorns on the trail waiting to ambush my well-worn bicycle tires (one of which eventually suffered the indignity of another puncture). Otherwise it was a pleasant day. Some of the temples were completely deserted, except for the occasional security guard or small group of local artisans displaying their wares. Near the end of the afternoon I crossed paths with a goat herder shepherding her crew along the trail.

Goats.

Goats.

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Thu 18 Dec 2014

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Ananda Pahto, Bagan.

Another day cycling around the Bagan temples. The area was so big that it was easy to wander from one seemingly obscure small temple to the next one while avoiding the areas crowded with people. However, in the spirit of being a good tourist I tried to make sure to see at least some of the major temples listed in my guidebook.

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Thatbiyinnyu Pahto.

Thatbiyinnyu Pahto.

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Buddha in Thatbiyinnyu Pahto.

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I was glad that the weather was very pleasant, with mostly clear skies and the temperature around 30 degrees celsius. I biked through the countryside along the dry dirt roads that carved paths through the underbrush.

Toward the end of the morning I realized that my front tire seemed to be very squishy. In fact, it seemed to have no air pressure at all! Apparently one of the many thorns strewn across the path had decided to impinge on the integrity of the aforementioned tire. I called my bike shop back in Nyaung U, and they directed me to a nearby bike repair shop next to the Tharabar gate in the wall to Old Bagan. While my tire was being repaired I had lunch across the street at a local tea shop.

A bit of surgery by the Tire Doctor and we're back in business!

A bit of surgery by the Tire Doctor and we’re back in business!

The bike repair shop even offers an outlet to recharge your smartphone!

The bike repair shop even offers an outlet to recharge your smartphone!

During the day I also took a detour towards the river and had a cup of tea at a shop overlooking the Ayeyarwaddy, which was looking a bit low on water. 

Ayeyarwaddy River, near Bagan.

Ayeyarwaddy River, near Bagan.

Another view of the thirsty Ayeyarwaddy.

Another view of the thirsty Ayeyarwaddy.

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Wed 17 Dec 2014

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Random Temple in Bagan.

It seemed that the easiest way to see the Bagan temples (while getting some exercise) was to rent a bicycle and meander around the ruins at my leisure. I rode from Nyaung U, where my hotel was located, towards the town of Old Bagan, stopping along the way at any temple that looked interesting.

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Random Temple in Bagan

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Random Temple in Bagan

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As I was cycling along the road I noticed a sign for the National League for Democracy, the previously banned party whose leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was under house arrest for many years (she now has a seat in the parliament). I took a moment to dismount from my bicycle to take a photo and wave to the NLD members working inside.

Local Headquarters of the National League for Democracy, in Nyaung U.

Local Headquarters of the previously banned National League for Democracy, in Nyaung U.

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Tue 16 Dec 2014

Bagan at Sunrise

Bagan at Sunrise

Yesterday I took a bus from Pyin Oo Lwin to Bagan. Also on the bus were two fellow travelers from my Pyin Oo Lwin hotel: Nicole, from Italy, and Marc, from Australia. Marc took the initiative to get us to commit to meeting early this morning so we could bike to the temples to see the sunrise.

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Bagan is an immense site of archeological ruins consisting of over 2000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas spread over a wide plain. Most of the temples date from the 11th to 13th centuries. In terms of size and historical importance, it is comparable to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Balloons in the Distance!

Balloons in the Distance!

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My companions and I decided to view the sunrise from the heights of the Shwesandaw Pagoda. We climbed up as high as we were allowed and waited for the sun’s first rays to begin creeping over the horizon. The sky soon filled with hot air balloons carrying tourists viewing the plain from an even higher vantage point.

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After a few hours of admiring the views and taking photos, we biked off to the nearby town of Old Bagan, where we had breakfast.

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Sun 14 Dec 2014

Myanmar Survey Training Center

Myanmar Survey Training Center

Today I again rented a bicycle and rode off in the direction of the botanical garden, but veered off onto Circular Road prior to reaching the grounds of the garden.

Along Circular Road and its side streets were the colonial structures built during the British Raj, including administrative office buildings, homes, schools and churches. Exploring the area by bike was easy. Pyin Oo Lwin was considered a hill station because of its altitude, but the city itself is relatively flat with only an occasional gently sloping hill to give it some character.

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All Saints Church

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Pyin Oo Lwin was full of ancient horse-drawn carriages that mainly congregated near the market but could be seen just about anywhere on the main thoroughfares and side streets, transporting their fares (mostly tourists) around town.

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At one point I found my way blocked by a crowded and lively fruit and vegetable market. I dismounted the bike and explored the market on foot for a while. Back on the main road I found a couple of old barber shops, quaint in appearance but otherwise not very useful to me.

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Market

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Must be lunchtime.

Barbershop. Must be lunchtime.

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