Inwa, Sagang, Amarpura, Mingun: "Ancient Cities"

January 22, 2005

Back to Mandalay for two day's visit to the Ancient Cities. Day one - Inwa, Sagang, Amarpura. Day Two - Mingun.

Inwa. Nanmyin - a 27m high masonry watchtower. This one I climbed. Bagaya Kyaung - the entire monastery is built of teak and supported by 267 teak posts, the largest measures 18m in height and 2.7m in circumference.

Sagang. Colorful temples. Colorful market.

Amarpura. U Bein's Bridge - 1.2km footbridge, for two centuries now, the longest teak span in the world.

Mingun. "If we had to choose just one of the four ancient cities around Mandalay to visit, it would be Mingun."

Nyaung Shwe: Bike Ride to the Hot Spring

Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar


January 8, 2004


Nyaung Shwe Dear Family and Friends,

Yes. You read the title of this piece correctly. A Bike - as in Bicycle - Ride. I was persuaded by the hotel staff that a trip to the Hot Spring would be a pleasant activity for the day. Since I was planning a rest today anyway, as I anticipated a travel day tomorrow, I agreed to a test drive.

Given my recent history, I approached this event with reluctance and apprehension.

Inle Lake: White Socks, Jumping Cats

January  15, 2005


From Yangon I flew north to Heho, purportedly the smallest commercial landing strip in the world; taxi to Nyaungshwe to visit Inle Lake.

Nyaungshwe. A busy little town with several shrines, monasteries and stupas to climb. I chanced upon a workshop - women weaving bamboo mats. And the staff at my hotel were the most hospitable, generous, gentle: "More tea, sir? More tea, sir?" And local food specialties so delicious I dare not describe.

Impressions: "A Bouquet in My Boat"

January 14, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

"Min gala ba" . . . Hello, I could begin my long letter

THIS WAY: "Jan, an American man, is sitting with Nori, his wife, Nana, and their friend Yumi, all from Japan; and Lorenzo, from Switzerland. We are watching a young waitress debone a Peking Duck in the Western Park Chinese Restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar."

OR THIS WAY: "I am sitting at a small café at a busy intersection of downtown Yangon (Rangoon), dizzy from the dust and the teeming traffic, munching on breaded, deep-fried greens (don't ask) and washing down my oily snack with an energy-boosting glass of juice, freshly squeezed from a stick of sugar cane. Add a splash of fresh lime."


"I am eating an Indian dinner across the street from The Unity Hotel in Mandalay: Chapati, freshly kneaded, rolled, and grilled by an assembly line of men and women, chicken curry, potato curry and Chinese tea."


Pyin U Lwin: Riding Shotgun

Pyin U Lwin, Shan State


Sunday January 16, 2005


Dear Family and Friends,

This morning I am having a hot cup of real coffee.

Most of the coffee in Myanmar has been "Coffee Mix." A packet of instant coffee, sugar and powdered milk. Just add hot water.

Thankfully, coffee is grown in the hills nearby. Pyin U Lwin, an old British "hill station" in the mountains is just 67 kilometers east of Mandalay.

And hot is what I need. This morning I could see my breath! Man, it's cold. Osama was good enough to make some vegetable soup for breakfast. I dined out in the sun, with several layers of clothing. I remembered to bring along my scarf and hat, but I neglected to bring my woolen gloves. Why in the world did I pack them if not for mornings like this?


Pyin U Lwin: "Botanical Garden"

January 22, 2005

After two days in Mandalay, I headed for the hills and Pyin U Lwin, the stage coach ride (see "Transportation Edition") and the Botanical Garden.

"Colonel May used Turkish prisoners of war to develop this 96-hectare Botanical Garden during WW I. This garden features wide expanses of manicured grass, large flower beds 20 hectares of natural forest with walking trails, a rose garden, an orchid house, a small stupa on an islet in a pond and several other ponds."