Off to Syriam for a half-day

20th December

Though payment of $60 US for a room at the 30th Corner Boutique supposedly includes ‘breakfast’ there’s no sign of a kitchen, a table or a piece of toast, only something resembling an urn tucked away on a corner of a different desk near our room. I’m awfully glad (regardless of issues of global warming affording me feelings of guilt) we used a fair quota of electricity to balance out value for money!

It’s hard to pinpoint the highlight of Yangon so far.

Perhaps being free to wander through the Mahabandoola Garden with its impressive Independence Monument  honouring the site of prodemocracy skirmishes when occupied by soldiers (1998-90), on land opposite City Hall.

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Perhaps the cruise around a few of the minor side streets before our anticipated pick-up by Ms Naw Lily Htoo from Exo Travel for the day trip to Syriam, glimpsing five-star residences, or watching breakfast breads ‘set to rising’ on the inside walls of reconstituted concrete mixers .

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Maybe the cup of tea Ben enjoys at Thone Pan Hla made on condensed milk though I otherwise have no joy in getting it across to the young staff members I’d like ‘black tea’ and must therefore settle for a bottle of Alpine water and the redelivered cup of white tea that must sit on the table as a piece of mistaken identity until we’ve left the place …

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Not even our restaurant of choice is open for breakfast when we return so we settle for the bananas and a few nuts I’d packed in case there’s nothing else I want to eat.

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Following a querying phone call from the young guy at the Boutique desk, our guide, a beautifully presented Lily, arrives almost instantaneously,  ready to help with the transfer of our luggage into a black Toyota sedan with the aid of her betel/quid-chewing driver.

We settle into the back seat and Lily proves pleasant & affable, doling out information in a delicate feminine manner as we cross the Bago River, heading east towards Thanlyin (previously named Syriam), a major port city on the Irrawaddy Delta & once the base for the French East India Company,  but today a forgotten suburb of Yangon (though situated close to the ultimate reason for deciding to take this tour:   the Island Pagoda of Kyauktan, a religious highlight situated  in the middle of a murky tributary and built by King Zeyasana, the seventh king of the Pada Dynasty in the third century BC.  Now a soaring example of graceful architecture, apparently the first Pagoda was only 11 feet high.

On the way various sights (in random order) get captured by the lens of my trusty Olympus as we move towards the Thanylin Bridge: one of the longest bridges in Myanmar. With its single rail track in the middle and a motor roadway on each side, it’s worth noting the construction of a second bridge began in 1985 but was suspended for about eight months from August 1988 to April 1989 due to unstable political conditions following the 1988 uprising with the total cost of the bridge being 1.65 billion kyats, including a 207 million yuan interest free loan from China;

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the legendary marketplace of Thanylin township, home to Myanmar Maritime University, (one of the most selective universities in Myanmar) and also a vast collection of cats (& lactating dogs!):

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with everything leading to the much-anticipated Kyauktan Ye Le Pagoda (Island Pagoda),  situated in Hmaw Wun Creek, a tributary of the Yangon River:

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Glimpses along the way:

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Arriving at the marketplace, painted faced & longyis are on show everywhere.  Otherwise the place is ablaze with plastic, colour & smiles:

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while noticing the epitome of womanhood-  a demure &  focussed lady of style, so elegantly presented & positioned

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observing the essential & abundant ingredients of quid production so neatly arranged in typical style:

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… determining to make a quid

with dried fish of every imaginable variety on display within easy reach:

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Anyone wanting seafood?

even a huge tempting assortments of fresh vegetables & flowers:

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… almost too much choice for a bloke to endure …

but best of all an exquisitely photogenic Myanmar woman, so intensely proud of her banana, coconut & flower stall…

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… my favourite photograph of the moment …

 

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… getting ready to be off & away … 

After a further short drive we arrive at the Kyaik-Khauk Paya, a gilded Mon style stupa of historical significance; its history dating back ‘to the rule of Emperor Ashoka and when Gautama Buddha breathed his last.’

Kyaik-Khauk Paya is perched on the Shin Mwe Nun Kon ridge, and found when heading towards Kyauktan to the south of Thanlyin, a place harbouring some of the archaic colonial buildings that date back to the British Raj.

The paya comprises a beautiful impressive pagoda in the same style as the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. The pagoda is believed to have been built more than 2,000 years ago, after which it has been enlarged, revisioned and renovated many times following earthquake damage, lightning strikes and violent storms.

 

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We remove our shoes, Lily arranges payment on our behalf and we’re given our Foreigner Sticker and a brochure containing great information:

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Apparently Kyaik- Khauk  is revered because the brick zedi (pagoda) enshrines six strands of the Buddha’s hair (and perhaps forehead bones and sacred remains obtained from Ceylon).

In 927 the  hti, the gold & gem studded finial ornament that tops almost all pagodas in Myanmar as the umbrella,  was donated as a gift from King Bayinnaung. When this hti was destroyed by further earthquake damage in 952, King Nanda’s wife donated and reinstalled a new gold framed, gem studded hti.

in 1277 the daughter of Thanlyn Township Officer, U Tha Dun Aung, replaced her father’s donated hti with one that was nine-tiered and 4.27m high, only for it to be destroyed by a severe earthquake in 1292 after which the pagoda was rebuilt to a height of 56.24 metres.

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a proud moment for Ben

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retouched with a dab or two of paint …

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… levering a lunge in a longyi …

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a zillion and one decorative tiles to marvel at

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… and a little bit of quiet contemplation before we view some of the more ancient ruins, including Natshinnaung’s Tomb …

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A grandson of King Bayinnaung, even as a youngster of nine, the prince participated in King Nanda’s campaigns to reconquer Siam in the early 1590s. In November 1600, he killed the captive King Nanda without his father’s permission. Later,  as a mere viceroy of Toungoo, he became deeply dissatisfied with his reduced status and secretly made an alliance with Filipe de Brito e Nicote, a Portugese mercenary and the ruler of Thanlyin;  and to take revenge against King Innwa, invited de Brito to attack Toungoo. When de Brito’s attack failed, Natshinnaung accompanied his “blood brother” de Brito back to Thanlyin where he was pressured to switch to Catholicism.

Remaining as strange colleagues of power during a month-long siege, when refusing a pardon offered by King Anaukpetlun – “You prefer to be the slave of a foreigner than serve the king of your own race” – the pair were crucified and executed.

Natshinnaung was considered by many to be the greatest yadu (a classical genre) poet in Burmese history. The themes of his poetry were often of love, nature, and war. Natshinnaung employed the use of vocabulary and rhymes and, as a warrior, advanced many military strategies and tactics of Burma. Some of his yadu poems describe the infantry and the elephant troops. It has been claimed that Natshinnaung sent his poems to the love of his life, Princess Yaza Datu Kalyani (and intriguingly Natshinnaung was 18 years younger than Yaza Datu Kalayani who happened to be his uncle’s wife),  via a parrot! After 11 years of courtship he married to Datu Kalayani at the age of 25, but she died 7 months after the marriage.

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