Carlos Melia – Transitioning from Yangon to Bagan

Published Date Author: , December 2nd, 2015

Bagan, Myanmar - Carlos Melia

My day began very early at Belmond Governors Residence, my hotel in Yangon. 5AM our bags should be at the door of our rooms to be collected. Was time to say goodbye to Yangon and move to our next destination, Bagan where we would boar our luxury boat Belmond Road to Mandalay, our home for the next 5 days, on our voyage along the Ayeyarwady River, to our final destination Mandalay. But before that could happen, lots of things were planned for our day transitioning from Yangon to Bagan.

Early morning began with coffee at my room at Belmond Governors Residence, and ready I was to head back to Yangon International Airport to take our flight to our next destination in Myanmar. The fantastic team of Belmond Myanmar, made all so seamless and effortless. As we arrived to the airport, each of us was handed its ticket, and off we were whisked to the VIP Lounge. My luggage, was being escorted and guarded by their professional team, and the next time I saw it was at my cabin, onboard the Belmond Road to Mandalay luxury river cruise, in Bagan.

Right on time, we boarded our one hour and twenty minutes flight up north, onboard a 70 seater ATR 72-500 by Asian Wings Airways. I must say I was quite impressed with their service. Comfortable seats, a basic meal and we were landing in Bagan.

Mingalaba and welcome to Bagan, said the stewardess. Bagan, an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of Burma, today known as Myanmar. Capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar.

Bagan, Myanmar - Carlos MeliaAs we landed in Bagan, our private transportation was waiting for us, to take us to our first stop of the day, Bagans open market. A local fruit, vegetables and crafts market. It was love at first sight, mingling with the locals, and getting lost for almost an hour, exploring the narrow alleys, and seeing the life of Bagan passing and happening right in front of me. Quite a a colorful, bustling and raw introduction.

You will notice on my photos, women with faces whitened by a powder/cream. This is called Thanaka, a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinctive feature of the culture. Mainly used by women, apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn.

Next stop, and the one I was expecting with great anticipation, was the Archeological Zone of Bagan. During the Pagan kingdoms height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

One the main attractions of Myanmar, it is seen by many as equal in attraction to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I mean, it is one pagoda after the other and on, and on, and on. This was just a brief introduction, since we would spend the next day and a half exploring the site, which is defined as the 13 x 8 km area centered around Old Bagan.

Bagan, Myanmar - Carlos MeliaSomething I learnt very quickly, was that Pagoda is a generic word, that can describe both a Stupa massive structure, typically with a relic chamber inside and a Temple hollow gu-style temple is a structure used for meditation, devotional worship of the Buddha and other Buddhist rituals.

Surrounded by the local people of Bagan, we did a technical stop to enjoy some refreshments, prepared by the staff of Belmond Road to Mandalay literally my third breakfast of the day. And next we carried on to Bagan House, a lacquerware workshop. In the meantime, the excitement of boarding the Road to Mandalay, kept building and growing bigger and bigger.

Lacquerware craftsmanship originally came from China in the 1st century AD. Traditionally extraordinary fine lacquerware bowls were produced with a combination of horsehair and bamboo to make them very flexible. Lacquerware is crafted from a mixture of the juice of the Thitsi tree and ash applied on the surface of objects such as woven bamboo or wood.

Lacquerware is found in Thailand and Laos, but the best examples are crafted in the villages around Bagan. So we visited Bagan House, and artistic lacquerware work shop, were we learn and witness, the process step-by-step. And of course, I did some shopping, getting the piece you will see further below, an unfinished yellow plate, which caught my eyes, and I took from the hands of the craftsman .

It was now almost noon, and we were ready to head on to the pier to meet our floating luxury hotel, for the next five days while sailing along the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, visiting remote villages and temples. And there she was, the mighty Belmond Road to Mandalay, waiting for us, and all I was able to say was SHE IS A TRUE BEAUTY .

Belmond Road to Mandalay, cruises along the mighty Ayeyarwady River, taking in the countrys most mesmerising landscapes from the deck of this luxurious river cruiser. Stop off to explore rural villages from a bygone era, see saffron-robed monks go about their daily rituals, and marvel at the golden spires of pagodas which soar out of the lush jungle. I was prepare for the journey of a lifetime, and I will soon share it with you, on my next posts lunch was served and ready for us. So time for a break.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog

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