Monday, October 6, 2014

Bagan - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of Burma. From the 9C to the 13C the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar.

Mya Thida Guest House
Arriving in Bagan we were met by the friend of our guide in Mandalay, taking us directly to our guest house 'Mya Thida', having paid our 15 USD tourist fee to enter Bagan.  The first sign that Bagan was going to be more touristy. Having settled into our room, we walked into the centre of  'New Bagan', for a meal. A bustling place due to the area being a very popular tourist region, evident by the number of restaurants there were here, great places to people watch, tourists and locals and watch the world go by. We selected 'Silver House' which met exceptions from our Lonely Planet Guide

The next day Christmas Eve we had a very busy day with our guide exploring the 'Bagan Archaeological  Zone' A temple packed day, the most amazing place it is no wonder that tourists from all over the world are now visiting this region. This was evident in the sheer numbers of people that were present on the terraces of the Shwesandaw Pagoda which provide an excellent viewpoint to watch the sunset from. A spectacular sight it is no surprise it attracts so many people, the place was swarming with people vying for places to take photos from! Luckily our guide got us there early enough to establish a good viewpoint. A Christmas Eve sunset I will never forget!

On Christmas Day our guide and his cousin drove us up into the hills to Mt Popa about 30 miles from Bagan and due to the condition of the local roads about a 90 minute drive. The main purpose of this half day trip was to visit the Nat Temple of Popa Taung Kalat. The Monastery is built on the top of the mountain at 1518 mt( 4981 feet),this period is also a holiday time in Myanmar with schools closed for ten days, it was particularly busy with many locals making the pilgrimage up to the temple. It took us a good twenty minutes to ascend the 777 steps up to the top, fortunately Ng Ng, agreed to accompany us. This made it more interesting as he was able to explain things and knew the easiest way to navigate ourselves around the vast complex especially as it was so busy. I did manage to get a few photos of the monkeys etc, despite the crowds, and of the view from the top.

On the way back to Bagan we stopped at a typical Myanmar restaurant for locals, I doubt many tourists stop here, certainly not foreigners! We were definitely a novelty but accepted as we had a local with us, Certainly the most bizarre Christmas Day lunch I have ever eaten, with no idea of what it actually was either, not particularly tasty but edible. A different and interesting experience.

Christmas Day Lunch!

Spent the latter part of the afternoon chilling out on our terrace back at the Guest House before Ng Ng, returned to take us out to another sunset viewing location in the Archaeological Zone, Pyathada Paya, another stunning unforgettable sunset. Although I have to say I will also remember the antics of the many tourist buses, trying to navigate around the temple area!

Christmas was indeed a very different experience and I made new memories to cherish. We could easily have spent much longer in Bagan, but it was time to move on and discover more of  this stunning country.

I hope you have enjoyed my words and photos about this still relatively unspoilt destination. Although the tourists are discovering Bagan and hawkers are present at the more popular temples, there are only a handful that are regularly visited. There is still much to offer the intrepid tourist in Bagan, with time to explore.

An amazing place and an experience that is difficult to put into words. This video I found on this Website will give you a great impression.

If you are interested in reading my earlier posts about Our Myanmar Trip here are the links.

With thanks to the following sites for some of the background information included in my Myanmar posts. The links will take you directly to the official websites if you are interested in learning more about the country. I also used my Insight Guide to Myanmar for reference.

All photos are my own taken in December 2013 unless otherwise mentioned.
More photos can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled  Bagan

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mandalay to Bagan - Ferry - Ayeyarwady River - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

On our last day in Mandalay we returned to our hotel for supper and an early night, after watching the sunset as our taxi driver was collecting us the next morning at 5.30am. We were catching a ferry to Bagan, a ten hour trip on the Ayeyarwady River, the subject of this post. 
The first photo above was taken soon after our journey started, a very misty sunrise and so atmospheric, it must have been a very special view from that balloon.

Thank goodness that we were not travelling on this ferry, which loomed up out of the mist!
I am not sure what I was expecting the ferry to be like, but somehow I had expected it to be a little larger than the boat we were shepherded onto when we arrived at Myanchan Jetty. With just twelve passengers though it was fine with enough comfort and space for the long day ahead. We left Manadalay at 7am with an an expected arrival time in Bagan of 5pm.  We had two breakfasts as the hotel had provided us with a packed one and we were also given one onboard.  Along with the coffee, cold drinks and noodle lunch that was provided we did not go hungry or thirsty.  When we first set sail it was extremely chilly and we were glad of the blanket and pashmina that we had with us! If not the most comfortable way to travel it was certainly one of the more fascinating ways as we were able to appreciate how the Burmese in this region live on the river and in the many villages along the banks.  I will let the photos do the rest, hope you enjoy the journey. 

Finally we approached Bagan just before 5pm and as arranged by our guide in Mandalay we were met by a friend of his at the dock who took us to our Guest House in Bagan. 

If you have missed my earlier posts about Our Myanmar Trip and would like to catch up, here are the links.

Yangon - First Impressions of Myanmar

Yangon - Further First Impressions of Myanmar
Mandalay - Part One - Impressions of Myanmar
Mandalay - Part Two - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

Mandalay - Part Three - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

With thanks to the following sites for some of the background information included in my Myanmar posts. The links will take you directly to the official websites if you are interested in learning more about the country. I also used my Insight Guide to Myanmar for reference.

Myanmar Travel Information   
Facebook - Ilikemyanmar - Information Channel    
Ayeyarwady River    Bagan - Wikipedia

All photos are my own taken in December 2013 unless otherwise mentioned.

More photos can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled   Ayeyarwady River Trip. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flower Festival - St Peter Ad Vincula Church - Pennal - Gwynedd - Wales

From July 31st until August 5th St Peter Ad Vincula Church in Pennal, Gywnedd, Wales held a Flower Festival.  On the Saturday afternoon I paid a visit to the event with my sister and a cousin who was staying the weekend with me. There has been a place of worship on this site at Pennal since the 6C when the church was founded by Celtic missionaries from Brittany. The current church  is a Victorian restoration with many of its 16C characteristics retained.

Of course I took my camera along so that I am now able to share some photos here with you on Travel Tales, I hope you will find them of interest. By the way the church clock is showing the wrong time, it was actually early in the afternoon when I took these photos!

Interesting Facts about the church with thanks to the website - Castles of Wales

1. It is the only church in Wales dedicated to the memory of Saint Peter in Chains ("ad Vincula" is Latin for "in bonds"). The story is to be found in Acts of the Apostles XII.

2. The Chapel Royal in the Tower of London is a sister church, as well as the Church in Rome that houses Michaelangelo's statue of Moses.

3. Stones and bricks (reddish pieces embedded in a whitish cement) from the first century Roman Fort nearby Cefn Caer, were used to rebuild the church over the centuries.

4. Lleucy Llwyd (Lucy Lloyd), the Welsh "Juliet", was buried in the church in 1390, under the altar.

5. Pennal became a parish church in its own right in 1683, the first rector was Maurice Jones. The longest surviving incumbent was Lewis Thomas, scholar, 1726-1780.

6. In its 300 years as a parish, the church has been rebuilt four times. In 1700, 1761, 1810 and 1873. The cost of rebuilding in 1761 was £1,270.

7. One person buried in the Oval Churchyard is a gentleman of Warwick, William Shakespeare!

8. The church retains much of its sixteenth century character, including some of its original roof timbers, the oak pews and handsome carved pulpit.

9. Thirteen years after the death of Llewelyn the Great whose wife Joan was daughter of King John, Pennal church was mentioned in the 1253 TAXATIO along with eight other Merionethshire churches.

10. During Lent 1406 Pennal Church was Prince Owain Glyndwr's Chapel Royal. The Pennal Letter was probably signed in the church.

11. Throughout the Middle Ages, Pennal was one of three chapels-of-ease that came under the care of Tywyn Church, the other two being Llanfihangel-y-Pennant and Llanfair (Tal-y-Llyn).

12. The Green Man in the East Window is the only stained glass version of this ancient figure in any church or chapel in Wales, and probably also in England.

13.The church also has links with the Syrian Oriental Orthodox Church and monastery of St Mark's in Jerusalem (site of the "Upper Room"), the house that St Peter went to after being liberated from his chains.

The Floral Displays were provided by local groups and Ysgol Pennal, with the theme of St Peter.

The church has an unusual and I think attractive feature in that it has a Gallery, which was being used for Refreshments. Of course my sister, cousin and I had some!

    The final interior photo is taken from the Gallery.

We then went outside to visit The Heritage Garden, also known as The Princes' Garden, which is based on a medieval monastic garden. A place of peace and tranquility which also acknowledges the role of the princes and clerics of Gwynedd and Owain Glyndwrs family in its history. 

It had been raining but somehow I think it adds to the beauty of slate when it is wet, don't you?

With thanks to the following sites and the Festival Leaflet for the background information included in this post.

Wikipedia - Pennal    St Peter Ad Vincula Church (Featured on Castles of Wales)
 All photos are my own taken on August 2nd 2014

More photos of the event and Pennal Village can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled Weekend Visit - August 2014