Category Archives: Asia

Thadingyut festival Inle Lake

Two festivals worth travelling to Myanmar for

Posted on October 6, 2016 by

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival – Inle Lake 

The excitement was palpable as we met up with a procession of 20 long boats each with 100 rowers for the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

This religious festival takes place around the villages of Inle Lake for 18 days leading up to the full moon in October and the lighting festival known as Thadingyut.

Four holy images of Buddha from the highly revered Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda travel on the Royal Karaweik (mythological bird) barge and are towed by rowers from village to village, spending a night or two in each village’s monastery. In October 2015, I had the opportunity to witness this unique festival.

After travelling by longtail boat for an hour from the jetty in Nyaung Shwe, we came upon several other teak wood boats waiting along the banks, each filled with Buddhist devotees with gifts of flowers and food for Buddha. It was 7:30 am, and we had made it to a smaller part of the lake. The people in the homes that lined the water’s edge watched from their windows, sat on the stairs that led to the water or on their small docks. They also had food and gifts, and many dressed in their best longyis.

Just after we arrived the first boat with 100 male Intha rowers appeared. Each boat had music, and the men wore the same colour of traditional Shan clothing. They rowed with their leg wrapped around their oar sometimes switching to row with their hands. Some stood on the upper part of the boat and danced.

It was a festive and happy celebration though the people waiting for the barge appeared solemn. They bowed as the Royal Golden Karaweik passed by.

Many boats joined the procession and followed as it made its way to the nearest monastery. We did too and soon found ourselves in the heart of it all, sandwiched between boats and at times we bumped.

We followed a few boats to a narrow channel just off the main traversing part of Inle Lake to watch as the procession passed through the small village. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and a wonderful way to bring in Thadingyut.

The lead boat in the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival procession on Inle Lake, October 2015

The lead boat in the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival procession on Inle Lake, October 2015

 

A boat of 100 Intha rowers at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival procession on Inle Lake, October 2015

A boat of 100 rowers at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival procession on Inle Lake, October 2015

 

Intha leg rowers at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

Intha leg rowers at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

 

The Karaweik barge carrying 4 images of Buddha during the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

The Karaweik barge carrying four images of Buddha during the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

 

Royal Karaweik barge

Royal Karaweik barge

 

Joining the procession at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

Joining the procession at the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival in Inle Lake, Myanmar

 

 

Thadingyut, the Festival of Lights – Inle Lake, Yangon & throughout the country

Thadingyut, the Festival of Lights is celebrated the day before, after and on the full moon day, usually in October, in Myanmar. It is in the seventh month of the Myanmar calendar, and the end of the Buddhist Lent. Do check for the exact dates if you plan to attend.

Young people pay respect to their parents and older relatives. My father, grandparents, great and great great grandparents are from Myanmar. For three years I had planned to visit Myanmar to coincide with Thadingyut as a way to honour my Burmese relatives and ancestors.

In October 2015, I finally got to visit the country for the first time with my dad and cousins. We celebrated Thadingyut in Naung Shwe (Inle Lake).

Homes, pagodas, monasteries and open market shops were lit with candles and a few paper lanterns dotted the sky. There was a constant sound of fireworks and fire crackers going off. My father bought some as well and had the shop owner send them into the sky. He also popped a few fire crackers off as he remembered doing as a teenager in Yangon.

I watched as two young men lit candles to put in the wall surrounding the Yadanar Manaung Pagoda and asked to take their photo. They agreed and gave me a candle to light too.

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More:

Watch my view of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival from inside a longtail boat.

Thadingyut in Yangon

A street fair takes place in downtown Yangon. I’ve seen photos of the event from relatives there. It seems like it’s a good time to be in the city. Unfortunately, it was raining when we arrived late from Inle Lake on the last night of the festival

The gateway to the Mergui Archipelago in South Myanmar

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Posted on April 18, 2016 by

Sunset in Kawthaung, the gateway to the Mergui Archipelago is in the Andaman Sea in south Myanmar and is about 30 minutes by long tail boat from Ranong, Thailand. In November 2015, I spent 3 nights & 4 days exploring this region of over 800 mostly uninhabited islands.

I travelled by liveaboard boat, snorkelled the clear blue waters, found Nemo, walked on powdery-soft sandy white beaches and hung out in places with no one else in sight.

Only 2612 tourists explored these islands in 2015, I am grateful to be one of them.

Road trip from Bagan to Inle Lake, Myanmar

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Posted on April 15, 2016 by

Somewhere in the lush rolling hills of Shan state in Myanmar between Bagan and Inle Lake. We travelled by private vehicle for about 12 hours past colourful fields and remote hill villages where Shan people still dress in traditional clothing.
It was one of the most scenic drives I’ve embarked on but it’s not for the faint of heart. The roads are very windy with narrow 2-lane roads and tight turns.
In Myanmar they drive on the right side of the road like in the North America but most of the vehicles are from Japan and the driver is also seated on the right. Not a good position to be in when trying to overtake a large truck or bus. Somehow they manage unfazed. Many of the truck and bus drivers give the “okay to pass” sign by flashing their left-hand turn signal. Fascinating. I handled it all well, the rest of my family not so much. There were a few nail-biting moments but I tried to live in a state of bliss and not pay attention to the road and the driving. I find it’s better that way ? 

Life in Orchha, India

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Posted on February 22, 2016 by

Inside the Fort complex in Orchha, India. This complex is on a hilltop overlooking the Betwa river. To access it you cross a multiple arched bridge with 14 arches built in granite stones. The fort houses several historical palaces and temples, one of which is the 17th century Raja Mahal palace. Orchha is a town in the Madhya Pradesh state of India and had the distinction of being the capital of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India.