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26 Tourist Attractions in Myanmar (part 2)

14. Kakku Pagodas

Given the number of temples and monasteries around the lake, it might seem strange to suggest a day trip to Kakku. But for anyone with an interest in Burmese temple architecture, this is a must. The drive takes two hours with a stop in Taunggyi to register with the tourism office and pay the entrance fee. The journey up to Kakku is through an almost Tuscan landscape, farmed by the industrious Pa-O tribe.

Relatively few tourists come to see this extraordinary forest of elegant, mostly 16th-century stupas decorated with well-preserved plaster figures of angels, musicians and guardian spirits. Golden Island Cottages can organise day trips to Kakku which include a four-hour walk, led by its Pa-O guides.

Few tourists come to see this forest of elegant, mostly 16th-century stupas decorated with well-preserved plaster figures of angels, musicians and guardian spirits.

Kakku Pagoda

-Address: South-west of Nyaungshwe

-Getting there: take a taxi from Nyaungshwe, around Ks 50,000

-Opening times: daily, dawn to dusk

-Price: $8 including guide

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

15. Boat Trip to Mingun

For a taster of river life, take the MGRG Express boat from Mandalay to the village of Mingun (departures 9am and 2.30pm). The journey upstream takes an hour and passes all kinds of rivercraft, mothers doing the family wash and farmers ploughing the land with oxen. The village can seem overloaded between November and February and I found the cute child hawkers annoying even on my first visit 20 years ago. Be firm with souvenir sellers - and don’t say you’ll buy later or they will follow you around all morning.

The most impressive sight is the Mingun Pagoda, the world’s largest stack of bricks, an unfinished stupa built by megalomaniac, King Bodawpaya. You can no longer climb up it but there are superb views from a neighbouring Hsinbyume Pagoda. A short stroll along the dusty street takes you to one of the world’s largest bronze bells.

The most impressive sight is the Mingun Pagoda, the world’s largest stack of bricks.

Boat Trip to Mingun

-Address: MGRG Jetty, Myo Patt (Strand) Road north of 35th Street, Mandalay

-Contact: 00 95 9 3135 9231

-Getting there: take a boat

-Opening times: Oct-Mar:daily, 9am-12.30pm; 2.30pm-5.30pm

-Price: boat trip:$8; entry Ks 3,000

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

16. E-bike Tour

The Chinese have found a ready market for electric bicycles in Bagan in the last year much to the alarm of the horse cart drivers. E-bikes are now widely available from hotels, guesthouses and village shops and take the sweat out of cycling to the temples which are spread across the hot dusty plain. The battery charge should last all day, if you do a bit of pedalling yourself. The top speed is 15mph but you won't reach that on the sand roads.

E-bikes are motorised bicycles rather than mopeds and it’s easy to get the hang of riding one. However, there have been some reliability issues so don’t go too far off the beaten track. Some e-bikes carry two passengers but, given the bumpy terrain, I would recommend riding solo.

E-bikes are motorised bicycles rather than mopeds and it’s easy to get the hang of riding one.

E-bike Tour

-Address: New Bagan and Nyaung-U

-Getting there: n/a

-Opening times: daily, 8am-6pm

-Price: Ks 8,000 a day

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

17. Myinkaba Kubyauk-gyi

The name translates as Great Variegated Temple. It is my favourite temple interior in Bagan. The murals date back to the early 12th century and were sensitively restored with UN money in the 1990s to recapture something of their original brilliance. Besides the usual renditions of scenes from the life of Buddha and his teachings, there are vivid red guardian figures and a fine cast of demonic beasts, grotesques and erotic couples. The star is a magnificent tiger that seems to be about to leap off the wall.

Unfortunately the lighting is very dim. The only electric light is attached to a wand used by the unofficial guide. If it’s quiet, he will let visitors borrow it for a small tip. To see the fine detail of the murals you need bring your own powerful torch. No photographs are allowed.

Besides the usual renditions of scenes from the life of Buddha and his teachings, there are vivid red guardian figures.

Kubyauk-gyi

-Address: Myinkaba Village, Bagan

-Getting there: cycle or a hire horse cart

-Opening times: daily, 7am-6pm or ask for keyholder

-Price: included in Bagan Archaeological Zone fee, $15

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

18. Ananda Temple

Built in 1100, this is my favourite temple in Bagan. Despite being on every visitor's itinerary, it has both a spirituality and an elegance of design that is lacking in many of the others. It is a building of perfect symmetry. Enter through the east porch to avoid the souvenir sellers on the west side. At its core are four, nine-metre high Buddha images made of wood.

The ones on the north and south sides are original, carved with greater skill than their 18th-century replacements. This is an active temple and it is interesting to sit on the floor in a quiet corner and watch it in action. This is an active temple and it is interesting to sit on the floor in a quiet corner and watch it in action.

Ananda Temple

-Address: Old Bagan

-Getting there: cycle or hire horse cart

-Opening times: daily, 4am-midnight

-Price: included in Bagan Archaeological Zone fee, $15

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

19. Sunset-watching at Bagan

Watching the sun set from on high for a view across the entire temple plain has become an institution in Bagan. The authorities have banned the climbing of many temples for safety reasons (guardians lock the grilles across access staircases). Most visitors climb up Shwesandaw Temple where there is much jostling for position to take selfies. Head instead for Pyathada which has a large flat roof and attracts fewer groups. Help the farming community by hiring a horse cart from main road villages (the farmers are losing out to e-bikes).

They will take you on a scenic 30-minute route on tracks through the cottonfields to the temple. If you want to find a sunset-watching spot without a crowd, head for an unused monastery. These are often left unlocked as they contain no valuables and there will be stairs to higher levels.

If you want to find a sunset-watching spot without a crowd, head for an unused monastery.

Sunset-watching at Bagan

-Address: Pyathada, near Old Bagan

-Getting there: hire a horse cart

-Opening times: n/a

-Price: around Ks 7,000

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not necessary

20. Yangon Circle Line

A fascinating chance to glimpse back-door Yangon on a three-hour ‘commuter’ train that chugs slowly through sleepy townships and out into farmland near the airport. Shoppers and traders hop on and off the airy, open carriages. You pass military barracks and parade grounds, the golf course, used-plastic sorters, and watercress harvesters who float through the beds on rubber tyres.

Buy tickets from the kiosk on Platform 7 itself. There’s also an air-conditioned service but it’s not as atmospheric. The 11.30am departure is less crowded and does the whole circuit clockwise. You can hop on and off trains at any station and get a taxi back to the centre when you've seen enough.

Shoppers and traders hop on and off the airy, open carriages on this 'commuter' train.

Yangon Circle Line

-Address: Yangon Central Railway Station, off Pansodan Road, Yangon Getting there: walk or take a taxi

-Opening times: daily, 6am-8pm

-Price: Ks 200 or Ks 600 for the air-conditioned service

-Payment type: credit cards not accepted

-Reservations: not possible

-Free things to do

21. Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda

The Burmese do like a big, blingy Buddha and this reclining image is one of the largest in the world: 65 metres long and beautifully sculpted with 108 sacred symbols delicately drawn on the soles of the feet (all explained in English). It’s a curiously feminine form with Barbie pink nails, blue eye shadow and long eyelashes made of steel wire. The glass eyes are magnificent.

The best way to photograph the whole image is to poke your camera through the end of the railings near the toes. There is an active monastery here and mid-morning you will see monks returning with food donated by local homeowners. Across the way is Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda which contains a particularly fine sitting Buddha constructed in 1900.

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda

-Address: Shwegondaing Road, Tamwe Township

-Getting there: take a taxi

-Opening times: daily, 6am-8pm

22. Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

This is my favourite monastery around Inle Lake. The teak Ordination Hall is around 200 years old and has unusual oval windows and a magnificent carved wood ceiling. It is often full of young monks keen to engage the few visitors willing to hang around after taking the obligatory monk-in-oval-window photograph. But most visitors miss the real highlight of this monastery which is contained in a white-washed building around to the right.

Its interior is covered with thousands of Buddha images, each in its own niche, leadng to rooms decorated with coloured glass mosaics illustrating Buddhist stories. The light is poor in some areas so visit mid-morning and bring a torch.

Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

-Address: North of Nyaungshwe

-Getting there: cycle or walk from Nyaungshwe

-Opening times: daily, 8am-6pm

23. Mahamuni Buddha Temple

The most revered image of the Buddha in Burma, it probably dates from the 14th-century even though legend has it as being a true likeness of Gautama Buddha cast in his lifetime. Since then it has been covered in tons of gold leaf, a practice which continues to this day. There is a constant stream of pilgrims who come to worship, gossip, dance and chant in the temple precincts.

It’s a good place to take children as there’s always something going on, especially in the hour before sunset. Don’t miss the fine 19th-century murals in the south and west corridors. Outside there are stalls selling souvenirs aimed at pilgrims including some wacky, Chinese-made mechanical toys.

Mahamuni Buddha Temple

-Address: 82nd Street, Mandalay

-Getting there: take a taxi

-Opening times: always open

24. U Bein Bridge

This is no ordinary bridge: it was built from over a thousand teak columns taken from the royal palace in nearby Ava in 1847. Some have been replaced by concrete posts but most are originals, though on my last visit a few appeared close to collapse at the water line. The footbridge winds for nearly a mile across a shallow lake to a small farming village with a monastery. The drive from Mandalay takes around 30 minutes.

Come for sunrise to have the place largely to yourself and witness the parade of monks, workers, and breakfast-snack sellers picking their way across the timbers. From 5pm the lake is deluged with tourists who take to boats (hired out for a few dollars) to capture the bridge against the setting sun - and escape the hawkers. I prefer to sit quietly on the top and watch the farmers herding ducks home using canoes.

U Bein Bridge

-Address: Thaung Tha Man Lake, Amarapura

-Getting there: take a taxi

25. Lintha Village Walk

Around the headland from the hotel strip on Ngapali Beach is the fishing village of Lintha. A British woman started a school here some years ago. It teaches English to a high standard and you can visit the classrooms and talk to the pupils. Along the main street is a library which welcomes book donations.

It's a friendly place and a child may take you home to meet his or her family. It's heart-warming to see a village like this find its place in the modern world. Visit just after dawn to see the fishermen unload their catch of sardines which are laid out to dry on the sand by their womenfolk.

Lintha Village Walk

-Address: Lintha Village, Ngapali

-Getting there: walk or cycle

26. Colonial Yangon Walk

Yangon's waterfront area is considered to be one of the finest remaining examples of a British colonial city in Asia laid out on an easy-to-navigate grid. Some of the former shipping offices and merchants' homes have been given over to the birds and the trees; others have been found new uses. The finest are located on the wide avenues leading to the waterfront between Sule Pagoda Road and Bo Aung Gyaw Road notably between Maha Bandoola Park and Pansodan Street.

This area includes the former High Court with its clocktower, the Port Authority and the Central Telegraph Office. The massive red-brick Secretariat from where the British ruled the country is a few blocks east on Maha Bandoola Road. Finish on Strand Road which runs along the waterfront past the British Embassy, a former shipping office, to the Strand Hotel built in 1901 by the owners of Raffles in Singapore. The handsome hotel lobby has very welcome air-conditioning and still serves a decent cup of tea.

Colonial Yangon Walk

-Address: Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon

-Getting there: taxi to Sule Pagoda

* Read more: 26 tourist attractions in Myanmar (Part 1)

(According to www.telegraph.co.uk)

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