Myanmar Meander (Part II: Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake)

Travel far enough,

you meet yourself.

David Mitchell

Too many fun things keep popping up that kept me from getting to this sequel sooner.  I’m off on another trip this week, always compelled to follow where joy leads me.  This summer has been particularly full of fun firsts. This year literally started on the right elephant’s foot!

P1191547-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Elephant-ride-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

In the mountains of Kalaw, all is green, peace and quiet except for my occasional shrieks while on a  bareback elephant ride at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. Green Hill is a sanctuary for retired elephants (even their vet is a retiree) that also promotes reforestation with its tourism program. You get to feed and pet the elephants at their hut then scrub their thick hide as they soak in the river. And don’t you worry, riding them bareback is optional–only for the brave or the reckless. 😉

Selfie or not? Even the monks do it. At the U-Bein Bridge, the longest teakwood bridge in the world built in 1850 and still holding up to foot traffic.

P1171396-Myanmar-Burma-U-Bein-Bridge-Mandalay-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Mandalay, the last royal capital of the former Burma, has a romantic name that sounds infinitely more beautiful than its downtown area. The best parts of it are the hills dotted with stupas and temples and the sight of monks–men in burgundy robes, women in pink, all with shaved heads.

Mandalay is known as Motorcycle City among locals. I’ll remember it more for vans with passenger doors that open to oncoming traffic.

P1151073-Myanmar-Burma-Bagan-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

The Shwenandaw Monastery, a glorious example of traditional 19th century wooden monasteries, is made of intricately carved teak.  Originally part of the Royal Palace in Amarapura, this building is also a fine example of recycling, dismantled and transported to Mandalay as the King’s living quarters when the capital city was moved in 1857, then moved a second time outside the Royal Palace grounds when his son succeeded the throne.

P1161196-Myanmar-Burma-Teak-Monastery-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

In remote villages, life seems to have gone on largely unchanged for the past 2,500 years: peasants, oxcarts, the same kinds of food and clothes. The same pagodas covered in gold in the richer towns or merely painted in the poor ones. Cellphones are quickly becoming ubiquitous though.

P1151063-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

I bought a farmer’s umbrella not quite the size of this red giant, but ingeniously made completely of handmade paper and bamboo moving parts.

P1181485-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

There are 500,000 monks and 150,000 nuns in Myanmar—which is to say that a significant percent of the country aspire to follow the Buddha’s path. Most boys spend some years as monks before returning to their families. I met a couple of women who chose to join an order after they had already finished college and had worked on a career.

Busloads of tourists certainly don’t make studying easy for this little monk.

P1201616-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

As a tourist, you pick up some Buddhism along the way, getting a better understanding of the variety in religious structures. The pagoda or stupa (or zedi) is a solid structure with no interior that often contains a relic. A temple is a hollow square building. A cave serves as a meditation center for monks. The ordination hall is for exactly that. The monastery is the monks’ residence. The library is where scriptures of the Buddha are kept.

P1130684-Myanmar-Burma-Shwedagon-Pagoda-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke-2

Mornings in Myanmar often find bewitching mists hovering in the valleys and lakes.

P1222071-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Inle Lake, in central Myanmar, is the region where locals  live on wooden houses on stilts, farm on floating patches of soil, bathe, brush their teeth,, do their laundry, commute, etc… all in the same water.  My fellow travelers asked our guide, “Where does the sewage go?” She doesn’t look us in the eye when she answered, “Septic tanks.”

P1212016-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Aside from farming on floating patches of muck that are held in place by bamboo poles, industry in the lake includes boat making, weaving silk and lotus fiber, tobacco rolling, silver making, iron work, religious traffic, etc. A big gash in the mountainsides for new hotels represents the government’s ambition for a stronger surge of tourism. How will the lake’s ecosystem support such deluge? Beats me!

P1212036-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

P1211926-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

P1211964-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Stay at a lake front room of the Inle Resort or catch the sunset from their boat landing. The spa is absolutely stunning here!

P1201687-Myanmar-Burma-Kalaw-Inle-Lake-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Inle Lake fishermen are an iconic sight standing at one end of their boats, gracefully paddling with just one leg to keep one hand free for the net and the other for the spear.

P1201708-Myanmar-Burma-Inle-Lake-Fisherman-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

The beauty of Myanmar is in considerable part a consequence of its inaccessibility. Get there before it becomes more mainstream and lose its unique charms. Best month to catch a tour group is February.

Moi in their traditional wrap.

P1130654-Myanmar-Burma-Shwedagon-Pagoda-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your exotic travel tips.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mountain
    Aug 15, 2015 @ 10:33:12

    I’ve been waiting impatiently—tap, tap, tap—finely! 🙂 There is no doubt what my favorite photo is this week. But I admit before even reading your commentary my first thought was; where is your riding helmet!?? Brave woman!!! First time on an elephant, Sharon? I’ll bet not, you look experienced and confident! 😉

    As I sat reading and enjoying your photos I was thinking more than just about this weeks blog. I was thinking about serendipity, again. And how fortunate I feel being here to appreciate your blog and you. I’m glad I’m here, the knowledge, the fun, the Goddesses and exciting places you go and enjoy to the fullest and care to share. It takes a special Goddess to do the things that you do. Being taken here may seem like an accidental path but it was meant to be just like many parts of our lives and reasons things happen as they do. Where else will we be led…?

    “It’s a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn’t even know you were aiming for.”
    Lois McMaster Bujold

    Love all the photos this week and my other favorite is the umbrellas. Watching people make something by hand, so colorful, so precisely un-precisely beautiful is a talent that is special.

    Thank you, Sharon!

    Mountain…

    Reply

  2. Mountain
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 08:45:49

    As I opened PG this morning to read your comment I discovered a new photo of the most beautiful Goddess. The one that wherever she travels she brings her lust for adventure and a smile that most certainly brings happiness to the people she has chosen to visit, enjoy and photograph.

    Beautiful, Sharon!

    M

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: