We went back to Myanmar for the third time and it was another very special experience. We have now spent over 70 days in this “land of Myth and Mystery” (we borrowed this term from a series of wonderful documentaries) and will go back when areas open for foreign visitors that are presently off limits. Our tour was arranged again by Myanmar Voyages and we had the same guide, Shwe.




We started our stay again with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda complex in Yangon. Words and even pictures can only give a hint of the beautiful atmosphere of grace, tranquility, beauty, and dignity that one finds in Myanmar.




This year, we made sure we wouldn’t miss one of the great festivals  by the Kachin (Jinghpaw) in  Myitkyina. The next four pictures are scenes of this colorful and lively event. On the right, the procession is lead by head men in bright outfits and peacock feather head dresses. The major ethnic group is the Kachin; 15 sub-groups also participated.









Some 1500 ethnic people from Myanmar participated with less than 20 foreign visitors present. The people were incredibly friendly and Yvonne was invited to join the line of Kachin ladies above. 



On the left is a tourist shot of the two of us with friendly and helpful locals. The fellow in the fancy outfit is a Ruwan.



From Myitkyina we traveled all day on bad roads to Myanmar’s largest lake, Lake Indawgyi. We stayed in simple accommodations (this area sees very few tourists). Here we have breakfast prepared by our guides: bananas, black sticky rice, brown sticky rice, tofu, chick peas and other delicious foods prepared the local way.







On of the main attractions of Indawgyi Lake is this pagoda complex which is a major pilgrimage site. We went there by boat and saw the pagoda first mysteriously through dense fog. When the fog burned off we had this splendid sight.





From Myitkyina, we took the public boat (the yellow boat on the right) to Bhamo. We were the only tourists on the boat and enjoyed the interactions with the other passengers.













In Bhamo we switched to this boat which was solely for us. We were joined by Lwin and Jackie Toh (co-owners of the Myanmar Voyages) on the left. Our guide Shwe is between us. We spent four days on the boat traveling on the Ayeyarwady River from Bhamo to Mandalay.






The boat had a crew of 9 people. The waiter dressed up like this when serving the fancy dinners the cook prepared for us.










We are anchored at sunset at Kyundaw with its 2700 pagodas.






Some of the pagodas at Kyundaw are restored or completely renovated.








The majority of the pagodas are untouched and are in various stages of dilapidation. Piles of old marble Buddha images are everywhere. It was great fun exploring and peeking in niches for images.






Near Tagaung, we stopped to see a famous 2000-year old image of a Boh Boh Gyi (one of the myriads of deities found in Myanmar). Interaction with the Boh Boh Gyi is done through a medium (see hands on the right).







The Padalin caves are famous for Neolithic pictographs (13000 years old) but also have wonderful little pagodas inside the many caves. A few caves receive natural light through openings at the surface. The title picture and the one on the left are taken without flash using the natural incoming light only.




From Pindaya, we trekked to and stayed in a monastery up in the mountains. It was pretty cold and the abbot in the center had a little charcoal stove brought in while we had interesting discussions.








On the hike back from the monastery, we passed by these tranquil Buddha images and pagodas.







An amazing site is Kekku (or Katku or Kam Ku) with an orchard of some 5200 pagodas dating from 1200-1500 C.E. It’s been open to foreign visitors only for a few years.









Most of the pagodas are still untouched (like the ones below) but some on the right have unfortunately been rebuilt without preserving their original appearance.











We were among the first 1000 tourists to see the beautiful site of Sakka (Samka, Sakar) located south of Inle Lake.









On the way to Sakar we passed a weekly market and watched a the locals selling their goods and meeting each other. These are two PaO girls checking out the boys.







Sakar is still totally unspoiled and there is some hope that it won’t be altered like so many other historical places.










Many beautiful buildings with intricate architectural details are still in pretty good shape.









There are many, many old Buddha images like this one.










We liked the elephant which plays an important role in Buddhism.







On the way to old Sakar, we found this lovely Buddha image in a sunflower field.









The left picture and the one below are pagodas in old Sakar. The boat was our transportation from Inle Lake.













We climbed Mt. Victoria (10000 ft) and had our favorite lunch   of sticky rice grilled in bamboo.





In Myanmar there are few “cows that do not work” as most “cows” are water buffalo or oxen. These cows are very attractive and are only found in these Chin Hills. They are used for sacrifices and then cooked for friends and for the village. While we were on the mountain top, we were lucky to see this one being walked on the trail from distant Chin Hills to be sold.







In the Chin Hills, we saw Chin women with their famous face tattoos. Yes, those are ear rings the pipe-smoking lady on the right wears. Her face is totally tattooed. Two other examples of tattoos are below.














For the last two trips, we wanted to see a Nat Pwe, and Shwe found us one.. Nats are (sometimes capricious) higher beings revered in Myanmar. A Pwe is a mixture of theatrical performance and worship honoring the Nats. The music played is both very loud and quite strange to our ears.







The young children watch spell-bound the performances, offerings and displays.









We visited Bagan again. Like in the Pindaya Caves, quite some damage has been done in the last two years by insensitive “restorations” and new construction.  However, this fades away at sunset and the myth and mystery of the land is alive as ever.







If you would like to have more detailed information for the above trip, Yvonne has fairly detailed notes which you can access by clicking on Myanmar 2004 Diary.