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Entries in Myanmar (139)


Picnic at Transect 3

We always took time out during the rattan inventory work (see Hukaung Valley Rattan Survey and Myanmar 2005) to have a nice lunch.  We ate a lot of spicy (really spicy) tofu and white rice. [NOTE: Transect 3 was particularly steep and loaded with rattans and everybody was happy to stop and eat the day that this was filmed (thx, Tun Shuang)]


Bayin Nyi Monastery and Caves

On the road between Hpa-an and Thaton on the western bank of the Thanlwin River in Kayin State, Myanmar is a beautiful monastery and a cave filled with statues of Buddha. To get to the monastery, a monk ferries you across the river in a large wooden boat. [NOTE: The boat is a little leaky and requires some occasional bailing.]

The monastery, marked by several golden pagodas, is built at the base of a 400 foot limestone cliff.

The upper level (where the monks live) offers a beautiful view of the surrounding area.  I visited Bayin Nyi during the rainy season and most of the Thanlwin River valley was flooded.

The cave contains a small limestone pool, a full complement of stalactites and stalagmites, and several dozen gilded, and incredibly refined, life-sized statues of Buddha. There is also a box containing the names of all the pilgrims who have visited and payed homage to the site.  My name is in this box now, too.


Tolagyi Tour of Tanai

On our first afternoon in Tanai, we took a tolagyi out to some patches of forest on the outskirts of town (see January 12, 2005 post in Myanmar 2005).  Great way to see the countryside, but kind of bumpy.


Shopping for Supplies

Early one morning we went to the central market in Tanai to buy supplies for our trip down the Ledo Road (see Hukaung Valley Rattan Survey). In spite of the remoteness and inaccessibility of this town, its market is surprisingly well stocked. Grains, dried fish, fresh vegetables, cheap Chinese tools, baskets, every type of plastic item imaginable, a dazzling variety of cigarette brands, bulk spices, batteries, and an endless supply of smiles.



The Golden Rock pagoda at Kyaiktiyo in Mon State is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Myanmar. The gold-leaf encrusted boulder balances precariously on the edge of a cliff at the top of Mt. Kyaikto and looks like it should start rolling off at any moment. It apparently doesn't, however, because of a single, precisely placed, strand of Buddha's hair enshrined in the stupa on top.

Hiking up the mountain to the pagoda, I stopped at a small roadside "pharmacy" to look at the medicinal plants and medical preparations.  My favorite item was the elephant's tooth. [NOTE: I had a full beard in those days].


Hukaung Gold Mines

There are several gold mines inside the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve in northern Myanmar (see Hukaung Valley Rattan Survey).  Aside from the questionable politics, shady partnerships, thorny social issues, and complex money trail involved, suffice it to say that ecologically this is a really bad idea.



Tanai is the last big town before entering the 630,000 hectare Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.  Sort of a "frontier" kind of place, but quite beautiful in the late afternoon as the sun goes down over the Tanai River (thx, Tun Shaung).


Naga Festival

The elephants hadn't arrived yet so we were forced to stay in Shimbweyang another day.  Fortuitous, actually.  There was a Naga festival that morning with gongs, and spears, and feathers, and dancing, and chanting, and flowers, and layers and layers of bracelets and necklaces.  All performed with the foothills of the Indian Himalayas in the backgorund.


More Myanmar

Kachin woman and child sorting rattan outside of Mytkyina in Kachin State, Myanmar.  Both of their faces are smeared with thanaka, a cosmetic paste made from the bark of Limonia acidissima.

Gung Aung and his elephant, Aung Bu, drag rattan out of the forest in northern Myanmar. [Note: The rattan is Plectocomia assamica Griff., an elusive, monocarpic, large-cane rattan that had never before been collected with flowers and fruits.]

And this is what rattan looks like before the leaf sheath is stripped off to extract the cane.  Well-protected and quite beautiful, actually. This species, known locally as "taung kyein", is Calamus cf. wailong.  It is an important commercial rattan in Myanmar.

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