Bagan & Mandalay with OAT

By Margi Miller
This item appears on page 32 of the October 2015 issue.
This is subscriber only post.
Get one year of online-only access — only $15!
Below is a sample of the article.
Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

On the group tour “Burma: Land of Golden Temples & Floating Gardens” that my husband, Dusty, and I took with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/955-1925, www.oattravel.com), our guide Kyi Kyi (pronounced Chi Chi) was a gem. (For the tour, Aug. 4-19, 2014, the price for the two of us was $12,188, including both internal and international airfare.)

Early one afternoon in Bagan, Kyi Kyi took our group on an unscheduled visit to a Fullmoon Day festival. We saw people gathering excitedly, wearing their best traditional outfits. Groups of young men formed a procession with large papier-mâché animals, dragons and other mythical creatures. This event lasted through the night.

We also stopped at a small plantation where palm sugar was being made, much in the way maple sugar is produced by boiling the sap. 

We took advantage of an add-on for dinner and a classical Burmese marionette performance, where colorful papier-mâché marionettes were used to tell local fables. Later, we had a memorable walk through Bagan in the light of the full moon.

A short flight took us to Mandalay, where we visited the Myawaddy Nunnery. The 200 novice nuns we saw eating lunch all had shaved heads and wore pink robes. When they prayed, it sounded as though they were singing.

We discovered that monks and nuns in Myanmar are sponsored by family, friends and neighbors, who help cover the costs of their sequestered lives. Monks go out in the neighborhood each morning seeking donations of food. Nuns go twice a week. Except for some teaching at elementary schools, the monks and nuns tend not to work in the community.

Many of our meals were in open-air restaurants or even on lawns by the river. Having an elegant banquet table with tablecloth, china and wait staff made us feel like “colonials.” 

Soups, often served as appetizers, were particularly good, especially those made with vegetables, lentils, beans and glass noodles and those with a coconut-milk base.

Another day, we ascended Mandalay Hill for a sweeping view of the city, then explored Shwenandaw Kyaung, a traditional Burmese wooden monastery and the only surviving structure from the Mandalay Royal Palace.

Taking a boat upstream from Mandalay, in the village of Mingun we visited a massive, unfinished pagoda and one of the largest uncracked, fully functioning bells in the world.

We finished that day’s visit in Amarapura, the country’s former capital, with a walk on the ¾-mile-long U Bein Bridge across Taung­thaman Lake. At sunset, it was a lovely stroll. Nearby boatmen, with vessels rather like Venetian gondolas, were idling in the still waters as the sun sank colorfully.

MARGI MILLER

Worcester, MA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

On the group tour “Burma: Land of Golden Temples & Floating Gardens” that my husband, Dusty, and I took with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/955-1925, www.oattravel.com), our guide Kyi Kyi (pronounced Chi Chi) was a gem. (For the tour, Aug. 4-19, 2014, the price for the two of us was $12,188, including both internal and international airfare.)

Early one afternoon in Bagan, Kyi Kyi took our group on an unscheduled visit to a Fullmoon Day festival. We saw people gathering excitedly, wearing their best traditional outfits. Groups of young men formed a procession with large papier-mâché animals, dragons and other mythical creatures. This event lasted through the night.

We also stopped at a small plantation where palm sugar was being made, much in the way maple sugar is produced by boiling the sap. 

We took advantage of an add-on for dinner and a classical Burmese marionette performance, where colorful papier-mâché marionettes were used to tell local fables. Later, we had a memorable walk through Bagan in the light of the full moon.

A short flight took us to Mandalay, where we visited the Myawaddy Nunnery. The 200 novice nuns we saw eating lunch all had shaved heads and wore pink robes. When they prayed, it sounded as though they were singing.

We discovered that monks and nuns in Myanmar are sponsored by family, friends and neighbors, who help cover the costs of their sequestered lives. Monks go out in the neighborhood each morning seeking donations of food. Nuns go twice a week. Except for some teaching at elementary schools, the monks and nuns tend not to work in the community.

Many of our meals were in open-air restaurants or even on lawns by the river. Having an elegant banquet table with tablecloth, china and wait staff made us feel like “colonials.” 

Soups, often served as appetizers, were particularly good, especially those made with vegetables, lentils, beans and glass noodles and those with a coconut-milk base.

Another day, we ascended Mandalay Hill for a sweeping view of the city, then explored Shwenandaw Kyaung, a traditional Burmese wooden monastery and the only surviving structure from the Mandalay Royal Palace.

Taking a boat upstream from Mandalay, in the village of Mingun we visited a massive, unfinished pagoda and one of the largest uncracked, fully functioning bells in the world.

We finished that day’s visit in Amarapura, the country’s former capital, with a walk on the ¾-mile-long U Bein Bridge across Taung­thaman Lake. At sunset, it was a lovely stroll. Nearby boatmen, with vessels rather like Venetian gondolas, were idling in the still waters as the sun sank colorfully.

MARGI MILLER

Worcester, MA