Thursday, 30 January 2014

Transport for travellers

You can hire bikes everywhere and they are great for exploring. ( this one is near Inle Lake in Myanmar)
I think buddha also wore Birkenstocks. Slip on slip off at the temple
Spot the odd one out 
Train station at kalaw in Myanmar.  5 mins before kids were playing soccer on the tracks
Me and about 50 people on my bus waited here ( near vang vieng, laos) incredulous when our bus driver pulled over and stopped for 15 minutes to admire his friend's lime green paint job. 
Taxis in Bangkok are cheap and safe
The mighty Mekong. Two days from Luang Prabang to Thai border with the amusingly named Shompoo Cruise

My favourite form of  transport
In Luang Prabang even the tuk tuks are beautiful
@travelinasiaWould like to apologise for the lengthy delay to your journey today. This was caused by unfeasibly large potholes, Chinese dams upriver, dodgy brakes and epic overcrowding. #arrivedalive

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Stupefying stupas

Pagodas are the Monros of Myanmar and bagging them in Bagan is on every traveller's list.

From 1044 to 1287, Bagan was the capital as well as the political, economic and cultural heart of the Empire that later became unified as Myanmar. Over the course of 250 years, Bagan's rulers and their wealthy subjects constructed over 10,000 religious monuments (approximately 1000 stupas, 10,000 small temples and 3000 monasteries)in an area of 104 square kilometres.

Over three days I zipped around sandy tracks on my Chinese-import e-bike bagging pagodas and chasing sunsets.  It is impossible to visit them all but the challenge is addictive.  Every stupa has its own personality. Some are surrounded by souvenir hawkers,  some contain huge glittering Buddhas. Others are eerily quiet and many are simple small personal shrines.

Wednesday wanderings

I was born at 5.47pm on a Wednesday.   I never liked being Wednesday's child because according to the poem I was supposed to be "full of woe".  I wanted to be Thursday's child who had far to go.  In Buddhist mythology each day of the week has a different meaning. When Buddhists visit a temple they first offer their respects to the shrine corresponding with their day of birth.  Buddha has a different posture for each day of the week.

At  Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon I removed my shoes, walked clockwise through the throngs of worshippers and arrived at Wednesday afternoon.  There are two images for Wednesday because in the morning buddha received alms and in the afternoon he retreated to the forest and wandered with a monkey and an elephant.  Apparently Wednesday afternoon's Buddhist children are trustworthy and hardworking and strong like elephants.

Crowds can be lonely places when travelling on your own but I joined my fellow Wednesdians at our shrine and got talking to a burmese sailor.  He spoke quite good English because he travels the world on cargo ships and had just returned from Ghana. He only had one night in Yangon so had come to Shwedegon to pay his respects.  We laughed about being stuck with a life time of hard work ( not like those lazy children from Tuesday.... ) and being blessed with the strength of elephants.  He shared his candles with me and I lit some incense.