Botahtaung Pagoda is close to the Yangon Jetty (Botahtaung Jetty). Bo means leader and Tahtaung means one thousand in Burmese. Botahtaung means One Thousand Military Leaders/Officers of the king. They were drawn up as a guard of honor to welcome the landing in Burma of the relics of the Buddha brought over from India more than two thousand years ago. There is a sort of mirrored maze inside the stupa, with glass showcases containing many of the ancient relics. The pagoda is also a home to a nat, or spirit, shrine of Amadaw Mya Nan Nwe, and a guardian spirit, Bo Bo Gyi.
Amadaw Mya Nan Nwe
Botahtaung pagoda is also a home to a nat, or spirit, shrine of Amadaw Mya Nan Nwe, a devout Buddhist famous for her devotion to the pagoda, dedicated her life to making merit. Following her death in 1957, Amadaw Mya Nan Nwe became a revered figure in her own right. In 1990, a shrine containing a statue of her was erected inside Botataung Pagoda, and from that point on she was worshipped as Mya Nan Nwe Htayyi (Goddess), a nat with the power to grant the wishes of those who appealed to her for help.
Botahtaung Bo Bo Gyi
Bo Bo Gyi means great grandfather, traditionally refers to the name of a guardian spirit, nat, unique to each Burmese Buddhist temple or pagoda. Bo Bo Gyi is typically depicted as a nearly life-sized elderly man, dressed in a curved cap and sometimes carrying a cane, to signify old age. Offerings of scarves and paso are common by worshipers. There are many Bo Bo Gyi shrines throughout the country, and some are more widely respected than others. Botahtaung Bo Bo Gyi is more famous among the Thai tourists who repeatedly visit the Bo Bo Gyi shrine yearly as their wishes are said to be fulfilled. They would like their forehead to be touched by Bo Bo Gyi’s pointed figure and make a wish.
Bogyoke (Scott) Market
Bogyoke (Scott) Market (closed on every Mondays & Public Holidays) has the largest selection of Burmese handicrafts, antique, jewellery, clothing and arts. The market is a major tourist destination and known for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the ‘heart’ of Buddhists in Myanmar. The Pagoda is believed to be 2,600 years old and there are always full with many people praying and making offerings at Shwedagon and especially on Full Moon days and religious days.
Kyauk Tan Ye-Le Pagoda
About 7 miles southeast of Thanlyin, there is Kyauk Tan. The floating pagoda is adrift on the river and one of the highlights is people feeding the gigantic catfish appearing and emerging from the water at the edge of the pagoda platform (steps). Take one of the ferries boat from the riverbank.
Two things are noticed, the water level never rises to cover the pagoda, and there will always be enough room for everyone who come to visit the pagoda (meaning, even the pagoda has small room for visitors somehow it is always balanced out between those who is coming & leaving).
Bagan: situated in central Myanmar is one of the world’s richest archaeological and historical sites, featuring more than 2,000 pagodas and temples all set on a vast 26 square-mile plain beside the legendary Ayeyarwady River. The Bagan kingdom was swept away by earthquakes and the invasion by Mongols. Some 2,230 of an original 4,450 temples survive. Buddhist belief that to build a temple was to earn merit and that could be the reason there were so many pagodas throughout Bagan’s desert plain. Modern day Bagan now features a variety of good hotels and is also the starting and ending point for cruises on the Ayeyarwady River to and from Mandalay. A unique travel experience is a hot-air balloon ride over the archaeological zone, which is available during the winter months.
Thanlyin has the largest sea port of Myanmar, located across Bago River from the Yangon city. Thanlyin is an attractive site due to its village scenes and ways of life of people as well as its rich historical background of De Brito and Natshinnaung, a grandson of King Bayinnaung, who went over to ally himself with Filipe de Brito and was executed in Thanlyin.
Yangon :is the old capital of Myanmar and still the busiest city in the country. It is also the largest city in the country and is the first city to arrive to Myanmar for most travelers. It is a city of style and old-worldly dilapidated majesty. Left like nowhere else on earth following decades of isolation after independence, huge swathes of the city are peppered with some of the region’s most stunning colonial architecture. Find vast teak wood mansions in the traditional style hidden away amongst shady side streets and broad leafy boulevards flanked by towering old-commercial grandeur. The unique fusion of local and Indian tradesmen with the influences of Victorian and Edwardian Britain have resulted in some of the era’s most extraordinary and most ostentatious architecture. And it’s not just architecture where Yangon retains its colonial feel, strolling through its large parks and around its lakes offers a welcome respite from the heat, bustle and noise. It also plays host to perhaps the most stunning religious monument in the region, the 2500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, the city’s towering golden masterpiece. Yangon, as a gateway into the country, may also be visitors’ first chance to try the local cuisine. And the choices are endless, with every street littered with little market stalls and food stalls bursting with exotic and exciting fare. The city’s other notable religious sites are the Botahtaung and Sule pagodas, both housing Buddhist relics.
Popa: In the middle of the scorched plain 50 kilometres (30miles) from Bagan rises Mount Popa, an extinct volcano set in a national reserve whose slopes are covered in lush greenery. Beautiful as it is the primary draw is a smaller rocky outcrop rising steeply out of its slopes atop which perches Popa Taungkalat monastery known as the “Olympus of the Nats” as it is home to Myanmar’s legendary 37 “Nats”(animist spirits). With over 700 steps the dramatic ascent to the clifftop monastery is best done slowly but the views from the summit over the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself are spectacular. Of note are two important ‘Nat Pwes’ or festivals that are held each year, one in May/June and the other November/December where worshippers come from all over the country to make offerings and appease the Nats. Although now dominated by Buddhism, Nats do still play a prominent role in the lives of many people in Myanmar. Other than a visit to the monastery a trek up to the summit of Mount Popa itself is well worth it. There are many species of bird and butterfly to find and the view from the top is fantastic, affording on clear days, a view all the way to Bagan, the Ayeyarwaddy River and beyond. If you’re visiting from Bagan you’ll pass through toddy palm groves where long bamboo ladders are tied to tree trunks allowing locals to clamber up and collect the pots that fill with toddy juice. The sheds along the road are a great stop to have a taste of toddy wine.
Mandalay: Preceded by associations of a rich and exotic past, Mandalay’s name resonates well beyond the borders of the country. The last royal capital of Burma and the country’s second largest city, Mandalay is considered the main economic hub of Upper Burma and is rich in Burmese culture, arts, artisans and architecture, as well as a cultural and religious centre for Buddhism in the country. Mandalay Hill, from which the city takes its name, is considered a holy mount as Lord Buddha, on his visit, made a prophecy that a great city would be formed at its foot, a prophecy fulfilled by King Mindon. At 230 metres high, the hill is a great spot for sun set, affording fantastic views over the city, Shan mountains and the Ayeyarwaddy River. The city also has one of Myanmar’s most revered depictions of the Buddha, the Mahamuni image. The Buddha himself is said to have breathed on to the just-finished image, giving it some of the Buddha’s power. The highly revered image’s face is lovingly washed every morning and offerings water, food, flowers, candles and incense are presented. Elsewhere, within Kuthodaw Pagoda can be found what is known as the ‘World’s Largest Book’, 729 upright marble slabs containing the complete Buddhist Scriptures on them. The vast Mandalay Palace was destroyed by allied bombing during WWII but has been rebuilt in recent years and visitors can now visit its grounds. Mandalay’s positioning also means it’s a great base for sightseeing trips to other ancient royal capitals, including Sagaing, Ava (Inwa) and Amarapura.
Amarapura: Once a city of some 170,000 inhabitants, Amarapura (‘City of Immortals’), is now just a quiet southern suburb of Mandalay. The town is well known for its numerous workshops where bronze foundries and woodcarvers creating devotional objects for the markets of Mandalay, and the looms of cotton and silk weavers produce fine longyis. Nearby U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world is perhaps the most unique attraction. The bridge, constructed using 1700 vast teak pillars, stretches 1.2 kilometre over fertile fields and is still, over two centuries after it was built, an integral part of the community with hundreds of locals and monks making their way back and forth across it daily. The bridge is particularly popular at sunset as it provides a famous photo opportunity as the sun sinks behind the chunky pillars of the bridge.
Hsipaw: The Sawbwas of Hsipaw were well known and powerful and played fluctuating roles in regional Shan and national Burmese politics from the 11th century all the way until the 1962 military coup by General Ne Win. The Sawbwas of Hsipaw lived in the Shan Palace at the northern end of the town. The last Sawbwa (Sao Kya Seng) disappeared during the military coup in 1962 and the palace is cared for by his nephew and his nephew’s wife.
In the recent years, many foreign visitors are travelling to Hsipaw. Many are interested both in the intriguing history of Sawbwas and the town relaxing vibe. Hsipaw is famous for the Bowgoy Pagoda, situated in Bowgoy Village about 6 miles far from Hsipaw as well as the trekking routes, waterfalls and Shan villages.
Mingun: With a short and scenic trip up the Ayeyarwaddy from Mandalay you find Mingun, best known for the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a huge, unfinished pagoda, which, if completed, would have stood at over 150 metres and been the largest monument in the world. At 50 metres high, what remains of the pagoda is still spectacular, and climbing up its ruin’s barefoot rewards explorers with a fantastic view of the Ayeyarwady. Mingun is also home to the world’s largest working bell. Weighing 90 tons, the Mingun Bell is actually second in size to one in the Kremlin in Moscow but the Russian bell is cracked and therefore not in service. A trip from Mandalay takes around one hour upriver and 40 minutes to return, a perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Innwa: With a few interruptions Innwa (formerly known as Ava) was the capital of the Myanmar Kingdom for nearly 400 years, making it the longest running centre of government in the nation’s history. The city was finally abandoned in 1839 after a series of devastating earthquakes and the majority of intact buildings were transferred first to Amarapura and then to Mandalay. What remains is the exquisite Bargaya Monastery, famous for its 267 teak posts, the largest of which is 9 feet in circumference, and covered in elaborate wood carvings and embellishments. The Nan Myint watchtower, which stands slightly tilted, is also popular as an interesting example of Myanmar architectural style in the early 19th century.
Inle Lake: Set in the heart of the vast Shan State and ringed by hazy mountain ranges, the shallow waters of Inle Lake are one of Myanmar’s most stunning scenic and cultural attractions. Its position 900 metres above sea level rewards visitors with pleasant temperatures throughout the day and can call for a jumper in the evening. The hills surrounding the lake are a melting pot of culture and are inhabited by over 30 ethnic groups. Of these, the Inthar, are perhaps the best known. Their houses built on stilts above the water and their iconic style of leg rowing, as well as their ingenious floating gardens using hyacinth bound together to grow their food, are marvels of any trip to Inle. Travelling by long tail boat visit the villages of the lake, the morning floating market and a variety of cottage industries including weaving, silversmith and Myanmar cigar rolling. The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is widely regarded as one of the most important shrines in the country and every year at the September full moon plays host to festival during which the pagoda’s images of the Buddha are rowed around the lake on a golden Karaweik, visiting pagodas around its waters. A trip to the Red Mountain Vineyard is the perfect place to try some local wines and its terrace overlooking the valley is spectacular.
Indein is one of the small villages of Inlay Lake located on the western bank of the lake. A Buddha Image has been enshrined at a whitewashed stupa, which is on the summit of a hill. Below the stupa around the hill are cluster of hundreds of ancient stupas. The walkway of Shwe Indein Pagoda is one of the longest. The walkway itself is the market area lined with endless souvenir stalls.
The 5-day Markets rotate among the villages in regular order – one village becomes the host of the market every 5th day. Exploring these markets will highlight the insight into the daily life of the ethnic Pa-O, Danu and Inthar inhabitants, who come to these markets to sell their local produce and goods. The ways of life and traditional dresses of the different tribes are such a sight to behold.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival – Every year, on the eve of the full moon day in October, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is held, which sees the pagoda’s revered Buddha images displayed on the golden Karaweik – a replica of the ancient royal barge – and taken to villages around the lake. Unlike most other pagoda festivals in Myanmar, which typically run for about three days, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival goes for 18 days, and also includes boat races that attract spectators near and far. The races provide exciting additional entertainment and are well worth watching, with separate events held for men and women.
Kalaw: The small pretty town of Kalaw sitting at 1300 metres above sea level on the western edge of the Shan Hills was a popular hill station during British colonial rule. Today it’s a popular place for those looking to hike through the scenic surrounding hills along trails that pass through hill tribe villages. In the town itself many of the colonial houses remain, surrounded by their pretty gardens. There’s a vibrant market rotating on a five-day cycle that is awash with colours as members of the Palaung hill tribe flock to the town from their surrounding villages.