Pindaya is well known for making decorative paper and umbrellas.
To make the paper, mulberry bark is first soaked for a day or so and then boiled for about eight hours. Then the process of pounding the fibres to a pulp begins. Mashing the boiled fibers is a long process of rhythmically pounding with two mallets.
When the pulp is soft enough, it’s rubbed into a small bowl of water and swished to mix.
A rectangular wooden frame with a stretched cotton base is placed into a bath of water. When the pulp in the bowl is liquid enough, it’s poured into the water. A good swishing spreads the pulp evenly in the water across the cotton base.
After the pulp has settled, petals and leaves are added to decorate the paper.
After a minute or two of settling, the frame is lifted from the water bath and put into the sun to dry.
The finished paper is then lifted from the cotton backing.
The Pindaya Caves date back to the late 1700’s and consist of many chambers filled with approximately 8,000 Buddha statues. Visitors can walk up steep covered pathways to get to the entrance or use a more modern method (car and elevator) to get to the top.
The Archer and Spider outside the caves represent the legend of a giant spider that captured seven princesses and imprisoned them in one of the caves. A prince from Inle Lake bravely battled the spider and shot it with a single deadly arrow.
I’ve never had the desire to ride in a hot air balloon and originally said no to the Ballons Over Bagan option during the planning of our trip. Debra and John opted out as well. Our travel agent highly recommended it so we reconsidered and signed on…….and I’m so glad we did!
We were picked up before sunrise at our hotel and taken to the launch site in a really cool refurbished antique bus.
After arriving at the launch site, we were briefed on passenger safety and then watched the crews inflate the balloons.Surprisingly to me, the baskets held seventeen people (16 passengers plus the pilot). Below, our pilot (Chris) blasts the burners and we climbed aboard soon after.And we’re off……The flight was very peaceful and quiet, with the exception of occasional blasts from the burners.Up next: Flying over the stupas and pagodas.
Myanmar has been producing lacquerware for over four century’s. Bagan became the industry’s hub in the 20th century, and in the 1920’s the British founded a lacquerware school in the city to foster the craft.
The lacquerware shop we visited had items for sale on the lower level. The second floor had about 15 people working on various pieces that would eventually end up for sale downstairs.
The first 2 photos below are panoramas of the 2nd floor. Workers can be seen engaged in various stages of lacquerware production.
The process of making lacquerware includes weaving of bamboo (like in the photo below), molding and drying of lacquer putty, engraving, and polishing. A small bowl can take a few months to complete while a large object with elaborate designs can take up to a year to finish.
Lacquerware goes up in price based on the finer the detail and the more colors and layers of lacquer applied to the piece (15 coats is the norm for a quality item).
Erich did some serious negotiating for the goods I wanted. He was so proud of himself that he had me take a picture of him and the salesgirl.
After three nights in Yangon we headed to Bagan. Not having had much down time, Erich and I snoozed during the 1 hour 20 minute flight.
The Bagan Archaeological Zone is a popular destination for Myanmar’s tourists. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in this area (formerly Pagan.) The remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive today.
We stayed at the Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort which has an open lobby and dining area.
The hotel villas exteriors resemble pagodas that surround the property. Villa interior photos are below.
Our guide (Ko) took us to a local restaurant for lunch.
Up next: Tour of a traditional lacquer ware workshop.
During our trishaw ride in Dhala we made stops to visit a few local businesses. The spring roll wrapper shop had two young men making the wrappers and two women doing the packaging.
Our next stop was at a candle factory.
This boy and cat were resting near the factory entrance.
On our way back to the ferry, our guide (Lily) noticed a wedding celebration taking place and arranged for us to check it out. We met the newlyweds and were then invited inside. He is 28 and she is 16.
Erich liked the drink we were offered. It was made with milk so I spared myself the digestive agony and did not partake.
On our last day in Yangon we took the ferry across the Yangon River to Dhala. Before leaving the hotel to catch the ferry, our guide Lily applied thanaka paste to our faces. The paste is made by grinding the bark of the thanaka tree on a flat, smooth stone with water. The milky yellow liquid dries quickly once it’s applied. Thanaka is valued as a sunscreen and as a beauty product. In rural areas men and women apply it on their arms, legs and faces to prevent sunburn and sun damage. Urban female office workers who spend less time in the sun wear thanaka for its beauty and cosmetic purposes.
We walked past a street market on our way to the ferry.
I was in awe of this boy reading to other children in the ferry waiting area. They were engaged in the story and not running around. I kept thinking I’d never see this in the U.S.A.
The ferry arrived and the passengers were ready to depart.
The original giant Buddha was built from teak. It can be seen in the photo below but eroded over time from years of exposure to the elements. Look closely and you can see people seated on the Buddhas arm.
A giant 70-meter long reclining Buddha was built to replace the destroyed teak Buddha. A pagoda was also built to protct the new Buddha from the elements. Locals often gather to pay homage and pray to this giant Buddha.
Stray cats and dogs lounging inside and outside of the pagoda.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most popular and well-known pagoda in Yangon. The pagoda is one of the main tourist destinations in Myanmar. It is the most sacred and impressive Buddhist site for the people of the Union of Myanmar. Shwedagon Pagoda stands close to 110 meters and is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond. It is considered one of the wonders of the religious world.
Approximately 89 percent of the Myanmar people are Buddhist. Around half a million young Burmese men are members of a monastic order, and 75,000 women are nuns. The young girls below are orphans practicing to become nuns. They were singing and performing a Buddhist ritual.
Shwedagon Pagoda is always full of worshippers who pray and light candles. Our guide set up this row of candles which took us about 10-15 minutes to light.
All parts of items created in the chocolate factory are edible. The photos do not do the chocolates below justice.
The chocolatiers made two large pieces like the sword below (which we were not allowed to photograph). They were much more ornate and we think they were going to Madonna’s suite before her arrival later that day.
The rooms had Samsung tablets next to the bed so all lighting, room temperature, fan speed, and curtains could be controlled by using the tablet. Very convenient!
The indoor pool is very beautiful. If you’re not going to swim you might as well sit and drink a beer right?
The Peninsula Hotel has a room dedicated to history of the China Clipper. It was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific airmail service from San Francisco to Manila in November 1935.
On November 22, 1935, China Clipper took off from Alameda, California in an attempt to deliver the first airmail cargo across the Pacific Ocean. On November 29, the airplane reached its destination, Manila, after traveling via Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam, and delivered over 110,000 pieces of mail.
John’s grandfather Al Rabin and his well traveled brief case are pictured below. Mr. Rabin flew on the second China Clipper flight across the Pacific Ocean. His brief case and photo are displayed with other China Clipper items at the Peninsula Hotel.
Peking Duck dinner on our last night in Hong Kong.
Peninsula’s transportation fleet isn’t too shabby.
We started the day by taking the MTR (Hong Kong’s underground railway) from Kowloon to Hong Kong island to ride the Peak Tram. The MTR handles about three million people a day but you’d never guess that based on this pic.
The Peak Tram has had a faultless safety record since openning in 1888. A single steel cable hauls the tram up a long incredibly steep track ending at the Peak Tower.
The Peak Tower has the highest viewing platform in the city. The Sky Terrace platform is at 1,404 ft.
Erich’s photo op with Bruce Lee on our way up to the viewing gallery.
I’m ending this post with a few food photos from lunch. I don’t remember what they were…..but they were damn good.
Here’s another brief post. These photos were taken during a day we visited a street market and fish market. I love seafood and am always fascinated by the markets. The second photo is of bamboo scaffolding which I had never seen.
We have had very little down time so this post is going to be brief. Our trip will consist of 3 days in Hong Kong followed by 12 days in Myanmar. We’re traveling with our friends John and Debra who are very familiar with Hong Kong. John did a great job of showing us around and took us to some great restaurants.
Incredible view from the helipad on the roof of our hotel:
All good things must come to an end…..well, kind of. While Lauri, Charley, and Bruce headed back to Bend, the remaining five of us extended our stay and went to Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T.) Gili T is about an hour boat ride from Jemuluk Bay in Amed. While the price of our boat tickets included transportation from Villa Paradiso to the bay, we didn’t envision it would be in the back of a truck. I sat in the front with the driver, everyone else and our luggage were piled in the back. We even stopped to pick up another passenger who threw her bag in the back and climbed in. It’s unexpected things like this that add to my love of international travel.
On our way to Jemeluk Bay I shot some video. Click on the link below to see what the majority of the roads we traveled were like:
All seats were well equipped with water and plenty of barf bags!
Erich, Mary, and Kirk sat in the back of the boat where they proceeded to get wet from water spraying over the side.
After arriving on Gili T, we got our luggage and went in search of transportation to our hotel.
Gili T, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, are very small islands located northwest of Lombok. There’s no motorized transportation allowed on the Gilis. Cidomos (horse carts) operate as taxis and because our hotel was on the other side of the Gili T boat harbor, Erich, Rochelle, and I squeezed into a cidomo with all our luggage for the 15 minute ride to our hotel. Kirk and Mary opted to walk rather than hire another cidomo.
Click the link below for video of our ride to the hotel:
But, we did get rooms with private pools which was very convenient and well worth the extra cost. No walking in the humid heat to use the main hotel pool. Just step outside our room and jump in.
We got settled into our rooms and relaxed a bit then went to dinner. Gili T is known for its’ bar and party scene. The east side of the island is more developed than the west so we opted to stay on the west side away from the loud late night party scene (I guess that means we’re old!) Upon returning from dinner Mary had a little surprise on her doorstep………
We thought we were on the mellow side of the island and some drunk guy passed out near Mary’s door.
Mary did call security to have them check on this guy in case he was suffering from a medical problem. They laughed and assured her he was just drunk. They also got him up and told him to go to his own room. I’m not sure how that turned out.
After spending a week at Villa Paradiso, here are some observations of Bali in comparison to our travels in Thailand and Vietnam as noted by Erich:
Temples- in every village, there is one temple for each of the three major gods. And often times there are temples for the lesser gods. Most residences have a temple as well. So Bali has temples everywhere. But, they are pretty pedestrian compared to those in Thailand and those that still remain in Vietnam. Balinese temples seem to be more use oriented (practical?) and less ornamental.
Celebrations- the Balinese (and perhaps all Hindu people) have many, many of these. It seems like there is no invitation. The whole village just shows up.
People- they were all very warm and kind. Good senses of humor. But, the caste system that exists is a drag. It is hard to get too close to them as a result.
Transportation- a big bummer. I don’t feel like we saw a lot of Bali and I wouldn’t want to try. The roads are too narrow, windy, steep, etc. And the traffic, roughly 2/3s scooters and 1/3 cars, is too congested. Even a short excursion can take 30-45 minutes. A 30 mile trip, at least where we were, took 90 -120 minutes. So, being stationed in one great place, which we were, is critical to a relaxing vacation on Bali.
The last night at Villa Paradiso we ate a special meal prepared by the staff and then watched some local kids perform traditional Balinese dances.
The centerpiece and all the hanging decorations were hand made by the staff.
We took a lot of time to admire the decorations and food in spite of Kirk’s encouragement for us to “dig in.”Presentation is everything……..or so they say. None of us had ever seen a whole chicken presented with a flower in its’ mouth, or with its’ head still attached for that matter.
As mentioned in the last post, Erich, Charley, Kirk, Mary, and Bruce hiked to the Pura Lempuyang Luhur temple. My travel book states that reaching the temple involves a two hour climb up 1700 stone steps. Below are links to video shot by Erich with our GoPro (now referred to as our “finger cam”).