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BY HOWARD AXELROD

BY HOWARD AXELROD

Daily News Correspondent

            Myanmar is at the top of the list in terms of amazing sights, stun­ning architecture, natural beauty, colorful tribal people, and pure unadulterated Buddhist culture

A visit to this Southeast Asian country is a step back in time; a “cash society” where the first few ATMs were only recently installed. Leave your credit cards and smart phones at home; they are useless oddities here. Having remained off-limits to Westerners and under military rule until recently, Myan­mar, formerly known as Burma, is a frozen in amber time capsule of history.

            As my wife and I discovered on our trip last November, although the small towns and villages are interesting, the larger and most spectacular sites are in or near the main population centers.

            In Yangon (also known as Rangoon), Myanmar’s largest city, Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda boasts ‘a magnificent 214-foot-long and 40-foot-tall golden robed reclining Buddha whose crown is encrusted with diamonds and precious gems and whose enormous rose- and gold-colored feet bear the 108 auspicious symbols of Buddha. We watched in awe as a group of red-robed monks carefully washed and tended to this massive religious statue in reverent silence.

            The spectacular 2,000-year-old, 12-acre hilltop Shwedagon Pagoda complex has a magnificent dome that rises 300 feet into the air from its base, and is considered the holi­est temple in the country. Its dome is clad in 60 tons of pure gold. Shwedagon towers over Yangon, and the sun glittering off the dome at sunset is a mesmerizing sight. Hundreds of Buddha statues reside within the complex.

            Our next major stop was Bagan, a place of temples, stupas, pago­das and monasteries ranging from small and simple to enormous and amazingly ornate. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, more than 10,000 Buddhist structures were constructed in the Bagan plains, of which 2,200 remain intact. Look­ing out over the horizon covered with these ancient religious struc­tures, with the mountains and the Irrawaddy River in the distance, is a breathtaking experience.

            In Mandalay we spent time at the Mahamuni Paya, home to a venerated 13-foot, 6.5-ton bronze seated Buddha, one of the most sacred in Myanmar. It is a solemn. Over the centuries, devout Bud­dhists have been applying gold leaf to the Buddha whose head, like that of the reclining Buddha in Yangon, is encrusted in gemstones. The Buddha’s gold surface is now estimated to be about 6 inches thick.

            More than 200 miles inland from the Bay of Bengal is Inle Lake, the most visually beautiful of all the areas we visited. From sunrise to sunset, small boats ply the wa­ters. They are manned by a single standing fisherman who uses one leg to paddle his boat and the other to balance himself, and his arms to manipulate a primitive net. Visitors can also see large ancient water-based “floating gardens” which today we call aquaculture.

REF : DAILY NEWS CORRESPONDENT

 Source : The traveller Vol 3, No.8  From August3 To August 9, 2015