My paradise: A Journey to Myanmar, the Golden Land

Travel
Photos by Yasuhiro Muneno
Photos by Yasuhiro Muneno

My paradise: A Journey to Myanmar, the Golden Land

by: Yasuhiro Muneno | .
Stripes Japan | .
published: October 14, 2017

After an hour taxi ride from the airport brought me to Kalaw Town in Myanmar, I checked into my hotel and began searching for a good trekking tour to Inlay Lake. There are many local trekking guides in the town offering almost the same type of tours, so you have many options.

After reserving a tour, I soon took a motorcycle taxi to Myiyamahtit Cave Temple, located on the outskirts of the city. Although some locals said foreigners can’t leave the town on a motorcycle taxi, I was able to pass through the town gate without a problem.

The Myiyamahtit Cave Temple was built in a 656-foot long natural cave on a small mountain. Since it’s an hour outside of the town, very few tourists visit the temple. Admission was free, and I took my shoes off at the entrance and walked through under the dim light in the damp cave. I saw thousands of Buddha statues in the cave temple. It was a little spooky, but a great, unforgettable experience.

Afterwards, I returned back to town and toured various markets, as well as the Shweoomin Temple and an old train station.

The next morning, my journey took me to Inlay Lake, located 25 miles away. This two-day trekking tour with other five to eight tourists not only let me walk through the beautifully cultivated fields, rivers and forests on the highland (4,265-foot), but it also gave me a chance to get a close look at the life and traditions of the locals.

We walked six hours until we arrived at a large village of 1,000 locals. It was so quiet. I saw the traditional look of village meshed with the surrounding mountainous landscape. With a big radio tower on the mountain, I was even able to use my cell phone.

Interestingly, each of the local tribes has its own uniform. Women of Pao tribe, for example, wore a colorful turban-like cloth symbolizing a dragon on their heads, because they believe their ancestors were born from a dragon. 

We stayed overnight at a civil house of the Pao tribe. There were a few stores selling bottled mineral water, soap and snacks. The Pao use rain water for bathing and toilet. The temperature was not too hot, so I challenged myself to take a bath with the rain water and a small bucket before it got dark and col. The dinner was mostly made of vegetables, such as peanuts, ginger and cabbage, to go along with a little chicken. They were all delicious.

I left the village after breakfast the next day, and returned to Inlay Lake. From there, I crossed the lake by a boat for Nyaungshew Town, and was excited to finally arrive after the long journey. When I visited this town in 2002, it was just a small village that was easy to walk around. But it has grown as a really big town over the last 15 years. As I wasn’t sure how to catch a taxi in the town, I had to take a long walk to find a hotel for the night.

Like other towns in Myanmar, Nyaugnshew Town didn’t have many nighttime attractions. So, after having a traditional Myanmar massage and some tasty curry, I visited a traditional puppet show. Frankly speaking, the show was dull and boring. I realized there were any other audience but myself in the hall.

According to puppet master, the skills and expertise of traditional puppet show had been passed down from parents to children throughout the generations. With not a lot of interest in the traditional performing arts, and it being hard to make a living on, he was not sure if he’d be able to pass the art on to future generations. His words reminded me of the Pao who told me that young women in the village don’t want to weave traditional fabrics anymore, so the traditional weaving skills are on the way out.

Since the government lifted national isolation policy several years ago, various modern things have been imported from foreign countries and have changed the life and values of locals very rapidly.    

The next morning I met a line of Buddhist monks on the alms round.

I chartered a taxi to visit Kakku Remains. To get there, I had to hire a local guide and pay for the entry fee to the government in Taunggyi City, the capital city of Shan State, located two hours from the remains.

I remember that roads to the remains were mostly unpaved when I arrived there 15 years ago. This time I saw more than half were paved. According to my guide, earthquakes, typhoons and illegal digs destroyed many stupas at the remains. Locals decided to leave the destroyed stupas as is, although the completely damaged main stupa was in the process of being restored, according to the guide. Despite the miserable condition, I was able to see the beautiful stupas. Afterwards, I headed to the airport and flew back to Yangon.

At night, I visited Shwedagon Pagoda in the center of Yangon City. It was a huge place, like a baseball field, and its main, 328-foot tall golden stupa, was surrounded by beautifully lit temple buildings.

Myanmar is rapidly modernizing. But, as the government opens more rural regions for tourists, you still have a chance to observe traditional attractions in this Golden Land.

Visa policy of Myanmar
Americans must obtain a visa to enter the country and hold a passport that is a valid for at least six months. Myanmar has an eVisa system in place that allows you to get your visa within five working days.

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