October 15, 2017 Vientiane, Laos

Hor Pha Keo Museum

Wat Si Muang Buddhist Temple

Sisaket Museum and Temple

Some of the 8,600 Buddhas

Pha That Luang Stupa

Reclining Buddha

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos with a population of one million residents.

Our first stop was the Hor Pha Keo Museum and former Buddhist Temple built in 1565 to house an emerald Buddha. The Buddha stayed in the temple for over 200 years until 1779 when it was seized by the Siamese general Chao Phraya Chakri who founded the current Chakri Dynasty of Thailand. The Buddha now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Thailand. The structure today is used as a museum to house Laos religious art, particularly many Buddha’s in stone, bronze and wood. The museum is set in a beautiful park-like setting with many flowers, trees and grassy lawns.

Across the street was our next stop at the Sisaket Museum and Buddhist Temple built in 1818 where they display a collection of 6,800 Buddhas. Many of the Buddha images are seated in hundreds of small niches in the walls of the temple as well as in the large cloister walls surrounding the temple. The Buddhas mostly date from the 16th to 19th centuries and come in all sizes but the majority of them are less than six inches tall. The interior of the temple has very detailed murals on all of the interior walls depicting stories of the Buddha.

Our next stop was at Wat Si Muang Buddhist Temple originally built in 1563, but destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. This temple is unusual in that it is divided into two rooms. The front room was a quiet room with a monk giving blessings to the locals while the rear room included a main altar with many statues of Buddha. The grounds around this temple were extensive with many other brightly colored buildings, statues, gardens and burial shrines. This temple seems to be frequented by many locals who purchase flowers and fruits on the grounds to place on the altar of the Buddha. Many candles were being purchased as were marigold blossoms, popular with the locals for their golden orange color, the Buddha color.

Next we headed across town to see a very large gold colored, square shaped stupa called Pha That Luang and regarded as the most important national monument in Laos. The stupa is believed to have existed on this site since the 3rd century, although it has undergone multiple reconstructions over the years. It had been recently repainted and appears to be in excellent repair. The base of the Stupa is about 225 square and nearly 150 feet tall. Surrounding the stupa is grass and a covered portico where more historic artifacts are housed. In comparison to many of the stupa’s we have seen in Myanmar, this is built in a very simple style and lacks much ornamentation. Nearby the stupas there is another compound housing many more Buddhist temples including a large gold reclining Buddha.

We then proceeded to a local restaurant where we enjoyed the air conditioning, clean bathrooms and a Lao-style lunch. We had a soup with pork and cucumber, followed by rice, stir fried beef, stir fried vegetables, a pork stew with potatoes and fresh fruit for dessert.

After lunch we visited the Patuxai, Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph similar in style to the Arch d’ Triumph in Paris. The gate is a war monument built between 1957 and 1968 and dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. The monument has five towers that represent the five principles of coexistence among nations of the world. They are also representative of the five Buddhist principles of thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honor and prosperity. There are two interior stairways where we walked up to the observation deck on the top to overlook the city. There are also many large souvenir shops located inside the upper levels of the monument.

From the Victory Gate we headed to the local central market where they sell most everything you could imagine. This market consisted of a newer, air conditioned building with four floors next to an older multi-storied building filled with appliances, housewares, clothing, gold, souvenirs, menswear, ladies clothing, cosmetics and so much more. We spent about 30 minutes on our own looking around before meeting up and heading back to the hotel about 4:00pm.

For dinner we met up with Gloria, Aileen, Mary and Allyn for dinner in the hotels Chinese/Japanese restaurant. The staff did not speak good English and our Lao is non-existent so we had a little miscommunication. The waiter thought that two of us had ordered two plates of food because we told the waiter that he could put two of our orders on the same check. It worked out fine and he took the two extra orders off the bill without any trouble. The money here is the KIP which is exchanges at about 8,277 KIP to one US dollar making the calculation of items confusing.

October 14, 2017 Vientiane, Laos

Map of Laos

Manicures and Massage in the Park

Wires Everywhere

Dinner Entertainment

Kent and Mark at Dinner

We had a very early morning with a wake up call at 2:00am. We had to have our bags outside of our room at 2:45am ready for a 3:30am departure to the airport. The hotel provided boxed breakfast consisting of a mini croissant with a small piece of ham and cheese, a drinkable yoghurt, an apple, a hard boiled egg and a piece of cake.

We had to fly from Yangon to Bangkok, where we changed planes for a flight to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The connection time was very short between flights.  Bangkok Air had an excellent airport employee who escorted our group from one plane to the next and through the airport maze of security and immigration. For example, we disembarked the plane on the tarmac and were transported by bus to an international terminal where we had a good walk and had to go through another security check. They held the flight for us but when we arrived in Vientiane half of our luggage did not make the flight.

Laos is a landlocked country located between Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Its land area is slightly larger than the state of Utah. The population is about seven million, 65% of which are Buddhist. Laos has been independent since July 19th 1949 when it broke away from France. The national language is Lao.

Our hotel for the next two nights was the five-star Lao Plaza Hotel built in 1997 with 134 rooms. It is a simple, clean-lined hotel located in the business district and just a few blocks from the Mekong River and the border of Thailand.

Our local guide, Soane, took us for a walking tour around our hotel neighborhood to see the local businesses, restaurants, shops and the Mekong River. Most buildings are in poor repair and the sidewalks difficult to navigate. Traffic does not stop for pedestrians even though there are crosswalks so crossing the streets can be time consuming. While walking along the river there were several young ladies offering to give manicures, pedicures and back massages. A manicure was only $2 US, a price that is hard to beat anywhere in the world.

In the evening we walked to a local Lao restaurant where we had a traditional Lao dinner and were entertained by a five-member band and several dancers performing local dances in beautifully colorful outfits. The dinner started with a broth soup with onions, lemon grass, carrots and fresh ginger. The main courses included rice, chicken with herbs cooked in leaf wrappers, pork with an oyster sauce, stir fried vegetables, a ground chicken with spices and fresh herbs dish and deep fried chicken nuggets. For dessert we had fried bananas with honey and ice cream.

After dinner some folks went back to our hotel while some of us took tuck-tucks to the riverfront where there is a nightly market from about 5:00pm to 10:00pm every night. The market sold a lot of very inexpensive clothing well under $10 each, but you could also find electronics, souvenirs, and food. There were hundreds of stalls set up under red topped pop-up canopies with one light in each canopy.  Vendors disassemble their stands each night and put them up again the next night…..lots of work.

Our lost luggage arrived from the airport about 10:45pm which was a relief.

October 13, 2017 Yangon

Kent in the park in the rain

On this day there was an optional tour to the ancient town of Bago, but since Kent and I had been there when we were in Myanmar last year we skipped the excursion. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy, rainy and very humid so it was not a very nice day to do much exploring. We did take a walk across the street and around the lake in the rain. The park is very large and is located right in the middle of town surrounded by high rise buildings and high end neighborhoods because of the proximity to the lake.

In the afternoon we walked in a light rain and on very poor sidewalks to a neighborhood shopping mall a few blocks away. The mall was five stories tall and had a wide variety of merchandise like food, clothing, hair salons, appliances, housewares, jewelry, watches and more. It was very simple and not nearly as nice as any mall you might find in the states.

There was a plentiful farewell dinner in the hotel’s Chinese restaurant. We had egg rolls, barbecue pork and a fruit salad with shrimp. We then were served a corn soup. Main dishes included roast duck, sweet and sour fish, a beef dish, steamed vegetables, a fried noodle dish and white rice. Dessert was a custard dish and birthday cake from one of the guests who turned 75 years young. Wine, and tea were also served. It was a very nice celebration to complete our time in Myanmar before we headed to Laos the next day.

October 12, 2017 Yangon

Schwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Kent and Mark at one of the Temples at Shwedagon

Photo of the largest diamond at the top of the Shwedagon Pagoda

Colonial Courthouse in Downtown Yangon

Swimming Pool at the Chatrium Hotel in Yangon

Yangon was the capital city of Myanmar until 2006 when it was moved to a newly built city called Naypyidaw in central Myanmar. Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar with about seven million residents. It has the largest number of colonial era buildings in southeast Asia and the colonial-era urban core is mostly intact. The commercial core of the city is believed to date back some 2,000 years.

Our first stop was at the Shwedagon Pagoda or Golden Pagoda. It is considered one of the wonders of the religious world. This spectacle is believed to be the earliest pagoda of the Gautama Buddha Era, built by King Okkalapa more than 2,500 years ago. Located on the top of Singuttara Hill, and visible from all over town, the gleaming golden stupa soars 326 feet tall. It is topped with more than 6,500 diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. In the tradition of the Buddhist faith, we walked clockwise around the stupa to admire not only the beauty of the golden stupa but the many shrines around it. At the base of the stupa there are hundreds of smaller shrines, some for each day of the week, where you can pray, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrines. Some of the shrines are small, while others are large enough to walk into and nearly all of them have Buddha statues standing, sitting or reclining. We had visited this site in 2016.

Next we visited the National Museum of Yangon, established in 1952. The current museum was opened in 1996 in an imposing five-story building with about 200,000 sq. ft. of display space. We saw all types of displays from Natural History and Prehistoric items to arts and crafts, performing arts items, jewelry, Buddhist art gallery and fine arts. It is a remarkable museum with a wide ranging collection from all over the country and we could have used more time than an hour to view the entire collection.

Next we stopped for a traditional Burmese lunch at a local restaurant called Padonmar. We enjoyed a watered down split pea soup starter, chicken curry, fish curry, beef curry, eggplant side dish with onions, stir fried vegetables and rice. Included were melon balls and fried banana with honey for dessert. It was a very nice meal and more than we could possibly eat.

Our next stop (photo stop) was at the Town Hall, built in 1905, across from the Sule Pagoda, at the center of town. There is a beautiful old colonial building that once housed the highest court in the nation, but is now abandoned since the court was moved to the new capital in 2006. At this stop is also the Queen Victoria garden with a large obelisk honoring the country’s independence. The city center is filled with many buildings remaining from the colonial period, although most of the buildings are in very poor condition and in need of repair and paint. Construction appears to be going on everywhere so they do seem to be improving parts of town. From here we proceeded to the 70-year-old Bogyoke Aung San Market, known as Scott’s Market, to stroll the more than 2,000 stalls. The market stalls are filled with masses of merchandise like jewelry, loose semi-precious stones, fabric, clothing, puppets, lacquer ware, woodcarvings, souvenirs and food stalls around the perimeter. Kent purchased a Marionette Puppet dressed in red that caught his eye.

For dinner we met several of the folks in our group to walk across the street to a very inexpensive Chinese restaurant.

October 11, 2017 Prome, Myanmar/Yangon, Myanmar

Irrawaddy Explorer

We disembarked our river boat at Prome at 7:30am and headed for the Chatrium Hotel in the heart of Yangon for the next three nights. The weather was gray and rainy along the way and the trip took us about eight hours to complete. The road from Prome to Yangon is a narrow two lane road with one lane in each direction with many motor bikes, trucks and busses competing for space on the road. We stopped at three roadside restaurants to use the facilities and pick up some drinks for lunch. The ship had packed us a box lunch with baguettes of ham and cheese, bananas, apples and cake for the bus ride.

The hotel is located next to a beautiful park and a lake they call the royal lake. The hotel is built in the colonial style and has 303 rooms decorated with local fabrics, furniture and tapestries. It looks very nice but our room was a smoking room so it had an odor of cigarettes that was less than pleasant.

We had dinner with several other guests:  Fred and Sharon, Collene and Gail, Mary and Allyn in the Bangkok Kitchen restaurant across the street from our hotel.  Food and prices were good.

October 10, 2017 Thayet Myo/Pyay

Our Tour Group at the Pagoda

Gilded Pagoda

Mark and Kent with the Standing Buddha

Pyay Museum Artifacts

Pyay Museum Children

Thayer Myo Child

Thayer Myo Market

Kent buying rice at the Thayet Myo Market

On this day we explored the colonial town of Thayet Myo, which once guarded the border between Royal Myanmar and British Myanmar. The population here is about 100,000 people. The town had many colonial style homes, some in good condition, while others in very poor condition are standing along side traditional bamboo-sided Burmese homes.

We took motorcycle carts to the market this morning to do some shopping directed by our guides. The guides gave each couple a sheet of paper with the name of a food item written on it in English along with a 1,000 kyat note (about .80 US). We were instructed to go shopping in the market to find and bargain for the item on our sheet of paper and to not spend more than 1,000 Kyats. Our sheet of paper had the name of San on it, which we found out was the name for rice. For 1,000 kyats we were able to buy about three pounds of white rice. Others purchased vegetables, chick peas, gourds, chili, etc.

The local people we have seen so far have been delightful. They quickly wave back to us and respond with the “Mingalaba” or hello greeting when we greet them. They break into a big smile when we greet them and seem friendly. Very few are able to respond in English and we don’t speak much Burmese. However, we have felt very welcome here. Most of the women and some men wear the yellow paste on their cheeks (in a round circle) to protect them from the sun. There are many young sales people, (mostly girls) selling local products. “Maybe later, think about it, very good price, etc.,” are all phases we are used to hearing.

We then visited the countries oldest golf course founded in 1887 by the British. The nine-hole golf course was nothing spectacular by our standards but it is interesting that it still exists after all these years. While we were at the golf course we presented the items we had purchased at the market to our motorcycle cart drivers. Each cart carried four guests so each driver was given several grocery items.

After traveling about 40 miles down the river we arrived in the town of Pyay or Prome once controlled by the Mon tribe during the Bagan Era before being conquered by the Burmese King Alaungpaya in 1754. Prome or Pyay is a town of about 85,000 inhabitants today. It has a history that goes back to the 3rd century when the capital of the Tibeto-Burman groups here was called Sri Ksetra or City of Splendor. Today they grow rice, cotton, tobacco and the famous custard apples. These apples are often heart shaped, lopsided or irregular in shape with a yellow or brownish color to them. Beneath the skin is a granular custard like flesh surrounding the segments and 75 or more black glossy seeds. The flavor is sweet but not particularly anything like we think of an apple. Silk weaving, manufacturing of ornamental boxes and coarse brown sugar is also produced here.

Here we visited the archeological site of Thayekhittaya, the former center of the Pyu civilization from the 5th to the 9th century. This site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014 to protect the remains of the royal palace, pagodas and royal cemetery. We visited the Ksetra Museum where we saw maps of the area and many artifacts including Hindu deities, Pyu beads, silver coins and Buddha images in stone from as far back as the 6th century. Not much remains of the site today, but they hope to continue to excavate some areas of the site where they hope to find additional artifacts and information of this area.

We then visited the Shwesandaw Pagoda complex, believed to be one of the oldest and most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. The pagoda is surrounded by 83 smaller gilded temples and is believed to have been built by the Pyu queen of the founder of Pyay. This pagoda is quite spectacular as it is gilded in gold and there is a very large standing Buddha.

Dinner onboard the ship was to commemorate the end of our Irrawaddy cruise.

October 9, 2017 Magwe

Banana Shop

Street Vendor Selling Empanadas

Rice Shop

Street Vendor

Tri-Shaw Ride

Burmese Longyi

Magwe, a town of about 300,000 is known for growing sesame on something like one million acres of land. In addition to sesame they grow millet, maize, sunflower, beans tobacco, chili, onion, potato and tobacco and peanuts.

We took a walking tour from the ship through some of the local streets where they were selling produce, rice and local goods. We then stopped at the local market that sells all types of fruits, vegetables, clothing, jewelry, meats and more. This market was more organized than yesterday’s market and the stalls were more defined and spread out a bit more allowing you room to walk down the aisles with more ease. Mark purchased a blue plaid longyi for a party we had onboard the ship that night. The cost for the cylindrical strip of fabric in cotton was a whole 3,000 kyat or about $2.40.

We then took another mode of transportation. The trishaw is a three wheeled bicycle where one person sits alongside the driver in a side car. We took the trishaws on a tour of the city. We stopped at the central square and park and our trishaw drivers demonstrated the local ball game they play. They stand in a small circle and use a ball made of woven bamboo that is about six-inches in diameter. The object of the game is to use your feet, head or other body parts to keep the ball off the ground without using your hands. Every time you kick the ball in the air you score a point and the fancier the moves you use, the better score you can get. For every time you drop the ball a point is deducted from your team’s score.

We were taken on our trishaws to the Myat Lun Paya Pagoda where they were having a large annual festival. All around the area there was an enormous market set up with booths selling all types of goods from clothing to kids toys and baskets to all types of foods. The festival lasts about three weeks and then everyone will pack up their wares and head for home until next year.

After lunch we attended a cooking class where we learned to make two recipes’. The first was a recipe for a green tea salad and the second was for a ginger salad with fresh ginger. They said that most of the locals prefer their food very spicy with a large amount of red and jalapeno chili peppers used in their food. After the chef prepared the recipes for us they asked for volunteers to compete in a cooking competition to make the tea salad. Mark competed but the captain thought his salad had too much salt. Even though he did not win the competition he got another longyi in a green plaid color.

At tonight’s dinner we were encouraged to wear the longyi. Mark had two and decided to wear his favorite, the blue one. Kent declined as it made his hips look big! After figuring out how to tie or knot the longyi, Mark safely left the cabin with his longyi in perfect position. He wore a regular shirt along with the longi. Many other men and women also wore their local clothing. It was a festive group at drinks and dinner.

Before dinner the ship hosted a Burmese karaoke party in the lounge. The locals like karaoke and the crew sang a variety of songs for us. Some travelers also volunteered to sing karaoke.

October 8, 2017 Salay

Salay Colonial Architecture

Salay Mann Paya Buddha

New Monk at the Salay Mann Paya Temple

Salay Yoke Soun Kyaun Taw Gyi

In the small village of Salay we witnessed the British influence here as we explored an area of charming colonial style houses, remnants of the Burma Oil Company, which housed rig workers in the area starting in 1886. Men worked in Chauk about 9 miles upstream, but they settled in Salay. Today the village has a population of about 6,000 inhabitants.

We also visited the Mann Paya Buddha. Legend has it that local villagers spotted the hollow wooden statue floating downriver after heavy flooding in 1888. They rescued the 20-foot-tall statue from the waters, dragging it ashore and coated it with gold lacquer. No one knows who carved the statue but it is believed to date back to the 1300’s.

In the small village there is also an incredibly ornately carved monastery called Yoke Soun Kyaung Taw Gyi where monks were housed for a century before the structure was turned into a museum in 1996. The structure is raised off the ground about ten feet by 150 posts more than three feet in diameter each. At the entrance stairwell there are Magans, half-crocodile and half-lion mythological creatures to symbolize the connection between heaven and earth. The exterior of the building features ornate wood carvings depicting mythical stories. Inside there is an interesting collection of Buddha’s, old furnishings from British times, a carriage and vintage coins.

Back onboard we enjoyed a demonstration about how to wear the longyi and a lecture titled: Myanmar Then and Today. The lecture covered the period of time from pre World War I to the present day. They have had a difficult time trying to become a democratic society when individuals of the military are pushing the country to be controlled by the military. Today the country is growing and beginning to prosper but they are dealing with Muslim terrorists in the western part of the country that are from Bangladesh but as always it is difficult to find the truth.

It was our fourth wedding anniversary and the cruise director left some fresh flowers and a small carved wooden Buddha in our cabin as a gift. After dinner the entire crew brought a cake to our dining table and sang a happy anniversary song to us. Very nice celebration.

October 7, 2017 Bagan/Tan Kyi Taung Mountain

Gubyaukgyi Temple

Tan Kyi Stupa

Tan Kyi Stupa Elephant

View from Tan Kyi Stupa

We visited the local market where they were selling most everything from fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry to wood carvings, fabrics, longyis and rattan products. The longyi is a sheet of cloth or fabric widely worn in Burma as well as in other nearby countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. For men, the fabric is about 6.5 feet in length and 2.5 feet wide with the two ends sewn together to create a cylindrical shape. The fabric is worn around the waist, usually hanging down to the feet and held in place by folding the fabric and tucking it in, but without a knot. It can also be folded up to the knee in warm weather for comfort. The longyi came into fashion during British colonial rule replacing a much longer piece (about 30 feet) of fabric previously worn called a pasos. The amount of fabric you wore was a sign of your social status. Women wear something very similar but the fabric would be slightly larger and is folded differently. Men usually wear fabric with checks, stripes or plain colors while the women wear prints and floral patterns in more multicolored hues.

Next we visited the Gubyaukgyi Temple known for its richly colored paintings thought to date to the early 12th century. The temple is quite small and dark inside, but the brightly colored paintings are still in excellent shape. The paintings depict historical stories of Buddha, similar to what we might think of as biblical stories.

In the afternoon we ascended the Tan Kyi mountain in vans to visit some man made caves carved into the hillsides and filled with Buddha statues and a reclining Buddha.  We then took an elevator up several stories to a very large stupa with views overlooking the river below and Bagan across the river. The Buddhists here practice Mahabote and believe that there is an animal protector based on the day of the week that you were born. There are eight animals representing the days of the weeks, with Wednesday having two elephants, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The morning elephant for Wednesday has tusks and the afternoon version has no tusks. The Mahabote is an ancient branch of astrology developed by the Burmese monks and believed to be a branch of the massive Hindu astrological system. Mahabote is based on the number 8 because it is believed that this number reflects harmony in energy, deflecting imbalance and perpetuating congruence.

October 6, 2017 Tan Kyi/Bagan

Ananda Temple Buddha

Bagan Temple

Bagan Lacquerware

Bagan Ox Cart Ride

Bagan Ox Carts

We docked in Bagan where we spent the day exploring this site of the more than 3,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas. Between the 9th and 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, believed to be the first kingdom to unify the regions that would become modern Myanmar.  During its height between the 10th and 13th centuries more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone. It is believed that as many as 200,000 people once lived in this area. Unfortunately, this area is prone to earthquakes; as recently as August 2016 an earthquake destroyed some 400 temples.

In Myanmar it is the end of lent and they have not been able to marry or have any celebrations for the last three months. Now that the full moon has arrived and lent is over, many of the Burmese people are making pilgrimages to the area of Bagan to visit some of the local temples. They are coming from all over the country in busses, in the back of pick-up trucks and on all forms of transportation. Many of the local nunneries and monasteries allow the pilgrims to stay on their grounds. There are many food stands along the roads and people are selling souvenirs on the roadsides. Traffic in some areas is very congested and the most popular temples are extremely crowded.

First, we took a ride on an open air oxcart where we meandered along a dirt path to admire a large number of temples. Most of these temples were built of red clay brick and then covered in a plaster with additional ornamentation. Today most of the temples have weathered enough so that all that remains are the brick structures and a few remnants of the plaster outer layer.

We visited Htilominlo temple that is decorated with the finest plaster carvings and murals which remain. Most of the remaining murals are on the ceilings where they were better protected over time. All of the temples are unique in their architecture and size, but they all are similar in that they contain at least one large Buddha statue. Most of the Buddha statues are made of brick and plastered over to create a smooth surface which can then be painted or gold leafed. Most of the Buddha statues are painted white and the facial features are enhanced with red lips and black paint to define the hair and to outline the eyes and eye brows. The Buddhas are the main interior decoration of the temples in most cases.

We then visited a temple by the name of Ananda built in the year 1102. This temple was built with four main entrances, one each facing north, east, south and west. At each entrance there is an enormous standing Buddha and this is one of only four remaining temples from this time period. The Buddhas are all covered in gold leaf although each of them is unique to itself in facial expressions, position of the hands and ornamentation.

In the afternoon we stopped at a workshop where we learned about the ancient Burmese lacquer ware techniques. The lacquer ware technique is believed to have come to Burma from China in the first century. Traditionally fine lacquer ware bowls were produced using a combination of horsehair and bamboo to make them very flexible. Lacquer ware is crafted from a mixture of the juice from the Thitsi tree and ash applied to the surface of the object made of woven bamboo or wood. There are more than a dozen steps in the process so it often takes six months or more to complete the items. Successive layers of lacquer are applied to the object to eliminate any irregularities and then dried several days. When fully dry, the surface is polished to a smooth finish and ornamental and figurative designs are added to enhance the object. The most popular color of lacquer ware is black but you do see some in red, green, yellow and even some with multiple colors.

We then visited another area with a cluster of smaller pagodas, typically with just one small inner room housing one Buddha. Many of these were built by local families that lived in the area. They would have needed permission of the King and would have been told how large of a pagoda that they were allowed to build. Those who were more affluent and wealthy were allowed to build larger and more elaborate pagodas.

Just before sunset we headed for a temple with four levels of terraces called Shwe San Daw where we climbed the steep stairs to the third level to enjoy the sunset. The temple was extremely busy with pilgrims and tourists who all converged here to enjoy the views from the terraces over the flat plains of pagodas and temples. Unfortunately, the sunset was not that spectacular due to clouds, but the views were very nice.