The Shwedagon Pagoda officially titled Shwedagon Zedi Daw , also known in English as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a 98 metres (322 ft) gilded pagoda and stupa located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within, namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Ko??gamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama, the historical Buddha.
According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2500 years old. Archaeologists believe the stupa was actually built sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries by the Mon, but this is a very controversial issue because according to the records by Buddhist monks it was built before Lord Buddha died in 486 BC. The legend of Shwedagon Pagoda begins with two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, meeting the Lord Gautama Buddha and receiving eight of the Buddha’s hairs to be enshrined in Burma. The two brothers made their way to Burma and with the help of the local king, King Okkalapa, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha had been enshrined.
The City of Yangon was once the cleanest city in Asia, some even exaggerated as the Queen of the Cities. Singapore, in fact, was designed after studying how Yangon was built. Yangon is the gateway to Myanmar. Ever green and cool with lush tropical trees, shady parks and lakes.
Yangon – Kandawgyi Lake
Yangon, the capital city and gateway to the Union of Myanmar, is one of the most attractive cities in the East. Its fringes are beautiful with pagodas, spacious parks gardens and its atmosphere cooled by the Kandawgyi Lake and Inya Lake. Most of the major Myanmar and foreign companies are located in Yangon. The city is the point of entry for visitors from abroad to Myanmar by air and sea.
About 2,500 years ago, there was probably a coastal fishing village or a trading colony called “Okkala”. After the construction of Shwedagon Pagoda, the settlement grew in fame as Dagon. King Alaungpaya of Konbaung Dynasty founded Yangon when he took the village of Dagon in 1755. He called the settlement as Yangon or “End of Strife”. It becomes a port city and a centre of commercial functions since pre-colonial and colonial days. The Yangon River or Hlaing River gives it color and peninsular look (from aerial view) touching the city in the east and south flanks and the Pazundaung Creek in the west.”
Mandalay (Yadanabon) is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located 445 miles (716 km) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of one million, and is the capital of Mandalay Region (formerly Mandalay Division).
Mandalay is the economic hub of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan Province, in the past twenty years, has reshaped the city’s ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. It is a common Burmese complaint that Mandalay is becoming little more than a satellite of China and that the romance of old Mandalay is long gone.” Despite Naypyidaw’s recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Burma’s main commercial, educational and health centre.
Mogok – The City – The Mines – The Rubies
Some two hundred kilometres north-east of Mandalay in Myanmar lays Mogok, for centuries the ruby capital of the world. It is by no means a simple place to reach. What would take less than 2 hours by car, on well paved country roads, easily takes 7 hours of exhausting driving. For foreigners it is further complicated. Except for some rare government organized group tours, foreigners are not allowed into Mogok at all. Military roadblocks along the way ensure nobody tries their luck.
It is not known exactly how many people live in this hilly city 1,500 meters above sea level. Some say 300,000 people, others 500,000. What is certain is that the inhabitants earn their living from rubies and other gemstones. The first rubies were probably discovered in the Stone Age by villagers in the area.
Rubies have been embedded in marble (crystalline limestone) in Mogok for millions of years. Over time, the fierce Burmese Monsoons have gradually loosened the rubies from their marble nests and carried them down from the surrounding hills into the Mogok valley. The heavy stones have settled at the bottom of the many streams in and around the city. These river beds have traditionally been the source of most of the rubies.
Over the Centuries the river sediment has grown thick with heavy mud and gravel. To reach the rubies, shafts had to be excavated, some many hundreds of meters deep. Gravel was brought to the surface in rattan baskets by means of primitive cords and winches, then panned for these precious gemstones in the river streams.
Mining in Mogok today takes several forms, all still based on intensive use of manual labor. As the river floors are mostly exhausted, mining is now concentrated on hill side deposits. It may be through open casts or trenches, deep pits, or through excavating tunnels directly into the limestone.
During the Bagan dynasty, nearly 1000 years ago, rubies were worn by the Burmese royalty. When European explorers discovered Burma they brought the gemstones back where they were sought after by the aristocracy and the well-to-do.
Later the Mogok ruby tracts became a royal monopoly. Valuable gemstones mined were considered Crown property.
After the British annexation of upper Burma in the late 19th Century the ruby concession in Mogok was awarded to the London based company, Burma Ruby Mines Ltd., which held a monopoly until well into the 1930′s. After Burma’s independence, in 1948, the mines were nationalized and are now to, a large extent, controlled by the government.
Pyin Oo Lwin (May Myo)
Pyin Oo Lwin offers visitors cool days and nights, peaceful rural roads and tracks for walkers and cyclists, trekking in the fruit and flower producing countryside, and interesting shopping. Old times can be re-lived with coach rides, and many historical and beautiful places are within easy reach. Just over an hour’s drive from Mandalay, and with spectacular views from the road up the escarpment, Pyin Oo Lwin is an ideal and refreshing destination for visitors to Upper Myanmar.
Kyite Htee Yoe (Golden Rock)
Kyite Htee Yoe Pagoda also known as Golden Rock is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar. It is a small pagoda (7.3 metres (24 ft)) built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair. The rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse of the “gravity defying” Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism
Bagan (Ancient City)
Bagan formerly Pagan, is an ancient city in the Mandalay Region of Burma. Formally titled Arimaddanapura or Arimaddana (the City of the Enemy Crusher) and also known as Tambadipa (the Land of Copper) or Tassadessa (the Parched Land), it was the capital of several ancient kingdoms in Burma. It is located in the dry central plains of the country, on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River, 90 miles (140 km) southwest of Mandalay.
Inle Lake is a freshwater lake located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District of Shan State, part of Shan Hills in Myanmar (Burma). It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles (116 km2), and one of the highest at an altitude of 2,900 feet (880 m). During the dry season, the average water depth is 7 feet (2.1 m), with the deepest point being 12 feet (3.7 m), but during the rainy season this can increase by 5 feet (1.5 m).
The watershed area for the lake lies to a large extent to the north and west of the lake. The lake drains through the Nam Pilu or Balu Chaung on its southern end. There is a hot spring on its northwestern shore.
Although not a large lake, there are a number of endemic species. Over twenty species of snails and nine species of fish are found nowhere else in the world. Some of these, like the silver-blue scaleless Sawbwa barb (Sawbwa resplendens), the Crossbanded dwarf danio (Microrasbora erythromicron), and Inle danio (Inlecypris auropurpurea), are of minor commercial importance for the aquarium trade. It hosts the 20,000 brown and black head migratory seagulls in November, December and January.
Ngwesaung is a beach resort located 48 km west of Pathein, Ayeyarwady Division, Myanmar. The beach is 5 hours’ drive away from the principal city of Yangon, and an airport is in the works. Opened in March 2000, Ngwe Saung is newer than nearby and more popular Chaungtha Beach, and is designed to attract people with larger holiday budgets.
An unspoilt 15-km stretch of silvery sand and modern amenities have made Ngwesaung a popular destination for less budget conscious tourists from Lower Myanmar. Still Ngwesaung has much to develop. Its choices for nightlife activities remain paltry, even by local standards. Chaungtha and Ngapali beaches have greater choices of nighttime activities. At this point, a nearby elephant training camp is a main daytime attraction at Ngwesaung. [from Wiki]
Chaungtha is a village and beach resort located in Ayeyarwady Division, Myanmar. Chaungtha Beach, as it is more commonly known, is about 5 hours’ drive away from Yangon, and is a popular resort with Yangonites from October to April.As it is relatively more affordable than the nearby Ngwesaung and Ngapali beaches, Chaungtha is also more crowded and less cleanly than the two more expensive and better maintained beaches.
Mrauk U, an ancient capital city dates back in the 15th century. A five hour trip up-river from Sittwe to Mrauk U starts at dawn. You can enjoy beautiful landscapes along the river. Mrauk U was a thriving city in the 12th and 16 centuries with a complex network of canals. The people are very warm and amicable. Sebastian Martinique was a Portuguese missionary of the Augustinian Order, who went to Rakhine in 1630 and stayed there for about five years. Rakhine it that time was virtually an independent Kingdom with King Thirithudammaraza on the throne. Manique described the then Mrauk U as follows: This great city is built in a beautiful valley about fifteen Leagues in circuit and entirely surrounded by high rough mountains, walls of nature’s make and dispending with artificial ones. On the inside these mountains have been leveled in necessary parts with rammers and where they have been cut through from top to bottom, gates have been erected for going in and out whilst above them are some bulwarks provided with artillery, so that the city would naturally be impregnable as if it belonged to another warlike nation.”