The land of a thousand temples. Over 10,000 at the height of its power nearly 1,000 years ago, to be more precise. Exquisitely beautiful craftsmanship as far as the eye can see.
The scale is made even more amazing once you recall that what is standing today represents only a fraction of the temples that once dotted this plain. Over 2,000 pagodas and monasteries are standing today, which is down significantly from the 10,000 that could once be seen here.
Shin-byu is a religious ceremony considered the highest merit-earning act for the family. During the ceremony, young would-be monks are dressed in fine clothes (and yes, given makeup and look quite feminine) to imitate the Buddha's early life as a prince.
Another sun is setting as thousands of ancient temples fade from view. I can still make out a red-brick temple nestled in a grove of palm trees. Everywhere I look are traditional Buddhist structures with fine details and elaborate entrances. Over there is a five-sided monument topped by a white and gold dome and surrounded by a high wall. Oh, what stories could it tell?
Nga Hpe Kyaung
More than the beauty of Bagan, or the mystery of Inle Lake, it's the people who make this place magical.
Inle lake is a mysterious water world. A place where Intha fisherman row canoes with one leg, gardens float, and wooden homes stand on the water on rickety stilts. We took a few days to explore this amazing lake, and found there is even more to this place than meets the eye.
On the western bank of the mysterious water world that is Inle Lake, after a short walk through the heart of Myanmar's jungle, our guide led us to a small village known as Indein. With over a thousand ancient pagodas of many shapes and sizes and in various states of ruin, we couldn't believe our eyes. Some of them have been restored by wealthy locals, but most are in a crumbling state overgrown with bushes.
Contrasted against the red or orange robes of monks, nuns, in bright pink robes, are “keepers of morality” in Myanmar. Behind this veil they are still the same silly, shy, fun-loving little girls.
Above all of the mystery, adventure, and unique culture, we will remember the people of Myanmar the most. Their kind, generous, and welcoming hearts, maintained throughout their difficult history, gave us a new perspective on our own lives.