Passing Through Mandalay

Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar, located in a region known as Upper Burma. While I did not get a chance to explore much of the city, it was rather bland after the splendor of Bagan. In retrospect, perhaps it is prudent that one save the best for last!

Mandalay is home to a large number of monasteries, some of which are located around Mahamuni Pagoda south west of the city. One sees monks everywhere. Passing in and out of monasteries, tea houses, roads, open lorries and buses. I even saw a group of young monks buy beer cans and packs of cigarettes from a corner side mom and pop store!

Read More

Bagan, A Feast For The Soul

Bagan is a small town in the heart of Myanmar and used to be capital of the ancient Kingdom of Pagan. The most redeeming feature of Bagan is the thousands of pagodas and temples that dot the cityscape,  as far as the eye can see. While Bagan is not on the official list of UNESCO world heritage sites (thanks to ineptness of the former military junta) and is not considered a Wonder of the World, it deserves to be near the top of every such list ever conjured by mankind.

Since no amount of words can do justice to the sheer beauty of this place, let's try and let the photos speak for themselves. More information on my journey through this wondrous abode towards the end of the post. 

Read More

Yangon, Present Wrapped In The Past

Anyone toying with the idea of making a first trip to Myanmar will perhaps think of one of more of these – Aung San Suu Kyi, The Bridge Across River Kwai, civil unrest, excesses by the military junta , George Orwell, Strand Hotel, pagodas in Bagan, Road to Mandalay, and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown television series. Yet when one arrives here, all prior notions and initiations with Myanmar melt away into the background and a realization of witnessing a slow paced, yet transformative change takes center stage. It is hard to believe that Myanmar was one of the most isolated places on planet earth until a few years ago.

Its former capital Yangon, or Rangoon as it was called until the military junta government changed the name in 1989 is at the heart of all commercial activity. I spent 3 packed days in Yangon in mid-July, which is typically considered to be during the peak monsoon season here. It rained every day, which is what I expected but much to my surprise while the downpour was heavy, it did not last more than a few minutes. This time of the year is a great time to visit as not only do the rains make the city comparatively cooler, it also gets the least number of tourist footfalls. 

Read More