Tag Archive: asian holidays



Five caves. Buddha images counting over 150. Standing. Reclining. Seated. Statues. Paintings. Buddha images everywhere. On the cave walls. On the cave ceiling. All over. As in all over. This is certainly the largest, and best-preserved cave temple complex cum Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. A pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries, the caves are NOT natural caves but actually caves CARVED out of rocks. Try imagining monks working and carving these cave shrines! Over the years, arched colonnades were carved out, ceilings painted with intricate images of Buddha, some cave entrances gilded. Much were developed in stages. And present-day Dambulla is just breath-taking. I meant that aesthetically, and physically, physiologically. 😥Gawd, it’s so hot and humid in here!

You need to take off your shoes going into the cluster of 5 cave shrines. You may wrap a skirt or shawl around your shorts too. But be sure you get a fair price for having your shoes stored. The guy manning the operation seems to be quoting a wide range of storage rates. It was a good day for business for him. Then there’s the story of a king who hid himself in this cave temple where some statues and paintings date back to the first century B.C. When King Valagamba returned to his throne in Anaradaphura after a 14-year exile, he had this rock temple complex built to thank the Buddhist monks who prayed, meditated and protected him from his enemies.

Walking barefoot, I felt some discomfort walking on this hot, humid day. True enough, I went back to our hotel with a blister on my sole. And I’m sure the blister had nothing to do with the uphill walk to reach the holy rock complex. The hot and uneven ground we walked on must have done it on my delicate soles. Oh well. Meanwhile, this UNESCO Heritage Site continues to draw in curious tourists. The Sri Lankans are deeply rooted in Buddhism and these cave shrines prove it. The statues have not lost their color, and the ceiling paintings and murals are very impressive.

We were soaking, dripping in sweat by the time we were done. The downhill exit was most welcome because of the afternoon breeze. Monkeys were all around. The crowds just enough — to show homage, but without bumping each sweaty bod against another sweaty bod. Just be sure you bring wet wipes or better, a wet face towel to wipe all that grime, dust and sweat off your face and limbs. And bring a bottle of water! Having said that, be sure to wear comfortable clothes intended for a real humid afternoon. Only the magnificent Buddha images kept me from bailing out of this cave complex!


Six plane rides. Long drives. A choice of horse or ox carts. Countless boat rides. Yes, it was tiring but the Bagan temples, gold-domed pagodas, innumerable Buddhas, skirted men, tribal women, placid lake of Inle and insights into a monk’s life kept us going.

 

 

 

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In Myanmar, it is a natural consequence to be awed and stupa-fied. Listed below are my blog entries on these adventures.

 

 

TEMPLES, MONASTERIES, PAGODAS AND STUPAS

Bagan: A Plethora of Stupas

More Temples, Pagodas and Monasteries

Yangon’s Shwedagon : All That Gold!

Bagan Thande Hotel

 

 

Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain

Photo Credit: Maricel Buhain

 

 

LAKE INLE ADVENTURES

Sun-Baked In Inle Lake

Happy Birds of Lake Inle

Indein Village

The Long-Necked Women From The Padaung Tribe

Shwe Inn Tha Floating Hotel Resort

 

 

Padaung Women

Padaung Women

 

 

THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

U Bein Bridge & Temples of Mandalay

The Monks of Myanmar

 

 

THERE’s MORE TO LIFE, INDEED!

A Whiff Of Mirth In Myanmar

Eating Around Myanmar

The Simple Life In Indein Village




Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

——-Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

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Out again on a wooden canoe towards one of the villages along Inle Lake. Just past noon after a lunch of pasta & pizza, we passed some Inle fishermen rowing their flat-bottomed boat standing by the stern with one leg wrapped around an oar. There’s more of them out in the open lake doing this tribal fishing technique but this group looked like they’re done fishing, their cone-shaped basket nets having served their purpose.

 

 

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I tried to suspend my thoughts on our way to Indein Village, not exactly knowing what to expect. Obviously this sidetrip to the southwestern bank of Inle is quite popular, seeing how many tourists there were in the jetty, ready for the half hour hike to Indein’s archeological site. The site is actually a cluster of 16th-18th century stupas and pagodas, many in utter disrepair if not largely ruined. Very atmospheric to find crumbling stupas and weather-beaten temples competing with Nature for space. The “jungle” threatens to take over this neglected archaeological site, as vegetation and banyan trees grow around many of the stupas, if not OUT of them. Many of the htis (top of stupas) are gone, and one can only imagine how this mass of hundred stupas must have looked then.

 

 

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Indein in Burmese translates to “shallow lake”. Shallow enough that the boatmen never ever reminded us to don our life vests. Instead, the vests were used as cushions for our tired backs for the 45-minute canoe ride. In a way, the “neglect” may have “saved” these ancient monuments. Compared with some of the heavy-handed “restoration” done on some Bagan temples, the complex of pagodas and stupas here in Indein charm you in the same breath as those found in Siem Reap. Immediately, Lara Croft came to mind, though a friend of mine thought it’s more like Avatar.

 

 

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Fisherfolks lead a very simple village life, perhaps completely oblivious to the value of the archaelogical finds here. Apart from the ruins, it was refreshing to see village folks doing their everyday business. Laundry and baths by the canals, where just across some enterprising village women sell fabrics, fruits and cracklings wok-fried in what looked like pebbles. The sprouting of al fresco beer gardens by the canals completely spoil the view, but what can I say? There’s also a vibrant market here but on the day we visited, the “5-day market” was elsewhere. As it was, the market moves from village to village. We caught the market elsewhere and I can only assume the same wares and producé are laid out for sale by the vendors.

 

 

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It was a good walk from and back to the jetty. The Indein ruins are worth the visit, plus this glimpse of village life by the lake. Frozen in time? I’m telling ‘ya……. It’s beginning to thaw. So pack your bags and go pronto!

 

 

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Piode! That means “I’m happy!” So are the birds and wild ducks in Lake Inle’s Bird Sanctuary. They fly and chase some passing boats and they happily stand still on fences along the banks. Water’s clean, there are flower and vegetable gardens floating atop dried weeds and fishermen with those unique nets must be their only competition for a good meal. 

 

 

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Look at those happy birds!

 

 

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Happy Birds? Or wild ducks taking a nap?

 

 

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Water is so still and calm. Reflection of an Inle Fisherman.

 

 

The placid waters make for a very nerve-soothing ride. No wonder these birds are kept happy. Not even the noise from the boat engines could take anything away from them. Hopefully, this bird sanctuary remains a haven for these birds.

 

 

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The agile fishermen of Inle — such a balancing act!

 

 

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See them birds guarding our hotel in Lake Inle.

 

 

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I stayed by the porch but none of them happy birds were eager for a “meet & greet”. There’s Tita Rose doing a “happy dance” 😄

 

 

Such simple lifestyles. But for how long? We passed many huts on stilts with signboards advertising their trade. From floating bars to restos to coffee shops to beauty parlors to laundry shops to handicraft stores. Single and three-storey structures welcome tourists out for a few nights stay. Thank God I didn’t hear any blaring sounds from any of the bars.

 

 

A fishing village  in Inle Lake.

A fishing village in Inle Lake.

 

 

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Fishermen getting ready with their unique nets.

 

 

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This traditional way of fishing is still practiced to this day.

 

 

The villagers here have “created” their own community. No islands, but they’ve created their own floating village in waters deep enough for fish to thrive, but shallow enough to build floating gardens. I wonder how they draw the property lines here, especially for the commercial structures.

 

 

 

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A typical day in the village.

 

 

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A happy duck foraging for food in the floating gardens of Lake Inle.

 

 

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The floating restos have no problems keeping off those happy birds — which confirms those birds are well-fed and errrr….. happy!

 

 

The influx of tourists may result in more structures being set up, leading to overcrowding. More luxury hotels may soon sprout along the water highways. More passing boats could mean noise pollution to this now tranquil lake. I dare not imagine.

 

 

 

 

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Myanmar. Not the country. But the beer.

 

 

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This scene is forever etched in my memory!

 

 

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All wrapped up for the ride!

 

 

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See you again in Inle!


As the youngest member of the group said (yes, Lauren, that’s YOU), ALL THAT GOLD! Our introduction to Myanmar is all glitter, literally and figuratively speaking. Multiple pagodas or temples of gold, silver, copper, marble, lead and tin in one sacred place. Just as many stupas of same shape but different sizes. Same, same but different. Some “just” golden, others embellished with gemstones of varied colors. You have to crane your neck to see the top of the tallest, golden stupa. Then peer inside some smaller shrines where Buddhas are encased. Here, I think they are also called “Nats” or spirits (pre-Buddha) where we found pilgrims including monks at prayer.

 

 

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Having first visited the Reclining Buddha, the Shwedagon Pagoda came next as our first-day introduction to Burma. It is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in present-day Myanmar. The most sacred place, if you will, since the octagonal pagoda with a diamond-studded spire houses relics of Gautama Buddha. It is an old pagoda but exactly how old, no one knows. I can only guess it started with a rather simple and single pagoda, then stupas were added through the years and centuries to compose this impressive temple complex.

 

 

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We spent an hour here. Feeling like zombies after a long flight, the incense, the crowds (both pilgrims and tourists), the constant shutter-click sound of a camera, all these only got us more excited, unmindful of our lack of sleep and the strange feeling of walking barefoot around the huge temple complex.

 

 

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All’s well. The Reclining Buddha and the Shwedagon Pagoda on our first day before hitting the sack prepared us for the next few days of adventure in Myanmar. This intro also prepared us for many barefoot experiences here. No shoes, no sandals, not even socks. That’s how they do it here in Myanmar. A good tip is for you to buy those cheap flipflops here to wear. Getting in and out of those rubber shoes or strapped sandals can be a chore. Plus, you can simply discard those flipflops as soon as they’ve served their purpose. So there…….

 

 

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I love my family. We all live in a condominium building where space is gold and where we feel cramped as the kids grow taller and the adults grow wider 😦

Over time, we spilled over 2 more units in the same condo building but share THE SAME SQUARE dining table I bought when I was still living alone. How we fit or take turns at the dining table is a practiced skill!

And so family playcations is a tradition in this family. Summers and Christmas breaks are popular holiday dates for us, but we’re one family who also make good use of long weekends.

We took a vote and came up with this list of top playcations for us. Thought I’d share it with you as suggestions for your next family adventure.

 

#1 CRUISING TOPS THE LIST

 

To this day, our 3day, 2 night cruise sailing out of Singapore for Melaka (Malacca, Malaysia) holds truly fond memories for adults and elves. Royal Carribean’s Legend of the Seas had this $306 per pax, twin-sharing promo rate which we grabbed. All 5 meals and snacks included!

 

READY TO SAIL! Kids board Royal Carribean's Legend of the Seas

#2 HONGKONG DISNEYLAND AND MACAU

 

The FIRST family playcation out of the country is of course nothing less than memorable. When the elves were 5 and 2 visiting Disneyland (Los Angeles, USA) for the first time, they were too young to appreciate it. This time around, they knew exactly what they wanted, and how many “teacup spins” they needed!

From HK Disneyland to Macau. What a horrible ferry ride!

#3 NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS IN HONGKONG

We were back the year after. The fireworks at the Avenue of the Stars fronting the lovely HK Harbour is the highlight of the New Year’s Eve revelry, but the dinner prelude was just as exciting. No mercy was our mantra, as we stuffed ourselves with Peking Duck and other Chinese dishes at the Star Cafe. Just as memorable was walking with the thick Chinese crowd in the middle of the road at 2am to reach our hotel.

HONGKONG DISNEYLAND

#4  SSSSHHHH…..KIDS GO AWOL IN SHANGHAI

 

Shelly and I flying in to Shanghai from a month-long trip in Turkey and Greece.  The rest of fam flying in from Manila.  What a reunion!

 

The Bund. Shanghai, China

#5  WORLD EXPO IN SHANGHAI

 

Can’t resist this. It’s the closest we can get to a world tour.  Very educational for the children.  Very satisfying for the adult gluttons. 🙂

World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China

#6 BUTANDING ADVENTURE

 

It was a weeklong holiday. A road trip. We booked only for our first 2 nights in Donsol, Sorsogon where I brought the family to experience this awesome animal encounter. After that, we sort of felt our way through looking for places to stay in Legazpi City and Naga.

 

ONE BIG HURRAH AFTER THE FIRST BUTANDING ENCOUNTER! YEHEY!

#7 ALL 12 ABOARD FOR A JOURNEY THROUGH ILOCANDIA

 

Yes, 12. My family and my friend’s family. We flew to Laoag, then cramped ourselves into a van, and then a jeepney around Laoag and Vigan. Food Trip to the max.  Gee, now I miss their Pinakbet Pizza

 

Walking out of Malacanang of the North. And yes, we were 12 in the group!

#8 ROADTRIP TO BAGUIO

Not our “usual” Baguio trip. This time around, we explored the lesser-known destinations and relished the surprisingly enjoyable vegetarian joints in this city. Even the elves loved their “kamatis (tomato) pasta” in Oh My Gulay Resto!

Taken at Bencab Museum Garden.

#9  NEW YEAR IN BORACAY. WHY NOT?

Who’d dare argue against spending New Year’s in the lovely island of Boracay?  We spent all of 5 days here. What a great relaxing way to welcome and start the new year!

SUN AND SAND TO WELCOME AND START THE NEW YEAR IN BORACAY

#10 A NEW DISCOVERY: CLUB BALAI ISABEL

 

Again, we were lured by the promo package offered by this lovely resort along the shores of Taal Lake in Talisay, Batangas. A weekend that’s really value-for-money. The rooms have 2 big-sized beds, the resort has 3 swimming pools, a fish spa, food is good, service is excellent, and THE VIEWS! C’est magnifique!

GOOD FOOD, GOOD SERVICE, MAGNIFICENT VIEWS!