Saturday, January 10, 2015

Indawgyi Lake: A Birds Paradiese in Northern Myanmar with a litte bit of Ecotourism

Picture by Matt Maessen
Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda

"Ranges of mountain embrace the lake on three sides, creating an illusion of the mist being hold in their arms. It slips away when the Sun gets higher in the sky. Then the largest lake of Myanmar reveals itself, stretching its 16 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west": Vasilisa introduces Indawgyi Lake (Great Royal Lake), the largest natural lake not only in Myanmar but also in Southeast Asia.

Not many foreigners have arrived until now at this nearly pristine area in Kachin State. It's a long and not an easy way - and this has protected the Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, a paradise for nature and bird lovers. In the semi-evergreen forests around the lake live wild elephants, leopards, bears, sambhur deer, serow, gaur, wild boar and more mammals. The lake with its wetland is also one of Myanmars important bird areas. 10 endangered species can be found. During the month of January Greylag Geese, Oriental Darter and Purple Swamphen are prominent. The lake is a major stop for migratory birds from Siberia and attracts thousands of them from December to March. Read more by birding expert Ngwe Lwin. See picture of Indawgyi wetland. A large group of rare sarus cranes has been seen here lately. See this Indawgyi picture gallery. Indawgyi Lake is accessible from the start of October until the end of May. ndawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary has been nominated for Unesco World Heritage

There is only one village, where you can stay: Indaw Ma Har Guesthouse in Lon Ton Village (see picture) is the only guesthouse, where foreigners get beds (around 7000 Kyats per night). Internet access ist not available, electricity you will get in the evening for 2 to 3 hours. Nearby you find a a few noodle shops. The guesthouse is the base of Inn Chit Thu (Lovers of Indawgyi) Tourism Group. This organisation made up of local people rents out kayaks, bicycles and motorbikes and can organise trekking and fishing trips. Young villagers were trained in ecotourism and provided with kayaks and mountain bikes (read more).

Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda is situated in the lake. It was built during Konebaung area. Every year during the ten days before the full moon in March a festival is held. When the time arrives, two sand pathways are ocurring, formed by waves - one for pilgrims and one for deities, as the legend says. After the festival time they disappear. People come from all over Kachin state to sell things and have fun. There are boat races, concerts and more attractions. See video. And there is also a legend, how Indawgyi Lake was created by a dragon queen, who was not amsued.

At the north of the lake you find Shwe Taung (Golden Mountain) with a monastery and pagoda on top, from where you enjoy great views of the lake. It’s only a 25 minute walk up from the lake.

Probably you can not move everywhere by bicycle: The access to some areas nearby is restricted. Foreigners are not allowed to go into the mountains on the west side of the lake due to the conflict between Myanmars army and the Kachin Independence Army. Also the access to the nearby jade mining area of Hpakant ist not allowed. This means that trekking routes start in some distance from Lon Ton. There are trekking routes in the south-eastern mountains and the eastern mountains (behind Hepa) you nead a guide for 10 000 kyats per day.

There are around 30 villages around the lake with predominantly Shan and Kachin people living here, who mainly practice agriculture. Perhaps the most picturesque village is Lwemun on a hillside up the western shore. You can discover two monasteries, a spirit shrine and a shrine which tells the story of Indawgyi Lake. On the east shore you find Hepa, where some houses are built on stilts above the lake. In Namde you turn off to Shwe Myitzu Pagoda. Nammilaung has high wooden fences around all the houses and a teak teak monastery.

The price of a one day’s motor boat hire at Indawgyi Lake is 50000 to 60000 Kyat.

The nearest train station is Hopin. You can either take a train north from Mandalay (around 20 hours) or south from Myitkyina (6 hours). But read this experience in Mandalay to Hupin train. From Hopin you can reach Lonton Village at Indawgyi Lake by shared pick-up truck (around 5000 Kyat, 3 hours) or by private taxi (from 80,000 Kyat; 2 hours). Read about this jeep ridev.

See Indawgyi Lake Gallery by erhardpeter.

Read more:
Community-based tourism: A responsible alternative at Indawgyi Lake?
He Pu Village and Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda, Northern Myanmar
A Primitive Paradise Awaits at Indawgyi Lake

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Yangon Restaurant Picks

See the locations on Yangon Restaurants Google Map

Acacia Tea Salon: 52 Saya San Road, Bahan. Brings together European breads and pastries and finest quality teas in an old colonial building with high ceilings. "Nice but expensive", says a comment on See pictures by Dararat Werapong.

Picture by kudumomo
High tea @ Acacia

Aung Thukha: 17 (A) Dhamazedi Road. Across from Savoy Hotel and down a small side street. Burmese restaurant filled with local people, who eat local Bamar food. You pick your curries from the counter at the back, which are then served with side dishes (soup, Sauces, vegetables). On not everybody was fond o it, but there are good reviews.

Picture by magical-world
Traditional curry set at Aung Thuka with soup (often with fermented fish sauce), rice, vegetables, fish sauce (heavenly salted) and the curries (fish, pork and mutton).

Bangkok Kitchen: Nat Mauk Road. Authentic Thai. With view to Kandawgyi lake. if you go in the afternoon, there are less mosquitoes. Very good reviews on

Feel Myanmar Food: 124 pyidaungsu Yeiktha Street. One of the top Bamar restaurants.Fish, chicken and vegetable curries. See video by jdbrook2010.

Green Elephant: 33 Thiri Mingalar Street. A two-storey open-sided wooden hall. This chain of restaurant is oriented to tourists. See their recipes for Burmese dishes. Good reviews on

Happy Café & Noodles: 62 Inya Road. Kachin noodles with chicken or pork, and a lot of other varieties of noodles, as Food for Life notes. "Happy noodles is probably one of the best places for one to have a taste of all the different noddles dishes in Myammar", writes doggyjames says.... Good reviews on Read also a good review on Mingalapar Forum.

Hello Maki and Sushi: Room 411, Level 4, Junction Centre. Anawrahta Road. Read the review by Moh Moh Thaw.

House of Memories: 290 U Wisara Road. Traditional Burmese dishes, Thai, Chinese and Indian. Set in an old colonial house that used to be General Aung San’s office. Good but not reviews on Read A Visit to Rangoon’s House of Memories and then read the experience and see photos by Jamie Pong.

Picture by Bernard Oh

Picture by House of Memories

Jing Hpaw Myay: 2B Kyun Taw Street. Yangons best Kachin food. Try Shat Jam, a type of Kachin steamed rice deliciously flavoured with chicken, vegetables and special herbs imported from Myanmar’s far north. Or steamed fish with banana leaves. Read the review by Douglas Long.

Karaweik: Restaurant on ship

Picture by Antoine 49

Kosan Cafe: 18 U Tun Lin Chan Street. Good reviews on

Le Planteur: 22, Kaba Aye Pagoda. By the side of Golden Hill. Modern European and Indochine Fine Dining. In 2011 Felix Eppisser, one of Switzerland’s top Michelin star chefs, and his wife Lucia Eppisser moved to Yangon. Here they follow the path of Boris Granges who made this place famous for its cuisine. The centenary red brick mansion with a picturesque garden, which dates from the beginning of the british periode, had been carefully restored to its original form; a blend of colonial design with charming Myanmar influences. "Excellent food and great hospitality", say the reviews on Some add: It's one of the most expensive restaurants in Yangon with prizes like Hongkong or Singapore. Read also the review on But they don't take credit cards. See pictures on

La Maison 20 Restaurant: 20 Kabar Aye Pagoda Road. An old colonial mansion outfitted with rattan and teak wood furniture. Myanmar, Thai and European cuisine, also Myanmar wine. Good reviews on

L'Opera: 62 D U Tunein Street. Italian. Set in an old colonial-era building amongst manicured gardens beside the Inya Lake. Top notch authentic Italian pasta, surprisingly good wines according to very good reviews on

Picture by L'Opera

Monsoon Restaurant: 85-87 Thinbyu Road. Eat food from Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. "Who can resist this bright, yellow-painted all-rounder serving great coffees, delicious ice-cream, satisfying snacks and yummy Asian-style meals?", asked

Picture by travfotos

Picture by travfotos

Off the Beaten Track: Off the Beaten Track (OTBT) travel café inside Kandawgyi Nature Park offers not only a wide selection of drinks and tasty snacks for reasonable prices, but also learning about Myanmar. Tour guide Ko Nay Lin Htike and his partner Bryan Berenguer are around after 5 pm to welcome and share their knowledge of the country. There’s a tiny kiosk with maps and a secondhand book exchange. Read more on Study the menu.

Pandonmar: 105/107, Kha-Yae-Bin Road. Burmese and Thai Kitchen. Good reviews on and on Mingalapar.

Phar Kant: Shan restaurant. Near the intersection of Yaw Min Gyi Lan and Bo Yar Nyunt. Malahin, a spicy shan noodle dish, "is not to be missed", writes The Kachin chicken is for those who can handle the chilli. If you cannot you are advised to try the cashew chicken.

Rangoon Tea House: 77 Pansodan Road, on the first floor of a colonial building. "A delicious fusion of Yangon’s rich street food tradition and the city’s more recent trend towards boutique dining", writes Myanmar Times. Owner Htet Myet Oo grow up in England. On the menu: organic mohinga, samosas, lahpet thoke (tealeaf salad), nan gyi thoke (sometimes described as the Burmese equivalent to spaghetti), ono kaew soi (coconut milk noodles), steamed buns stuffed with butterfish and curry platters. Read more on "Run there now", recommends mylifesavour.

Picture by Rangoon Tea House
In a colonial building at 77 Pansodan Road

Picture by Rangoon Tea House

Sabai@DMZ: 162, Dhama Zedi Road 162. Thai. Impressive range of salads according to Lonely Planet. Good reviews on See pictures by

999 Shan Noodle House: No. 130 B 34th Street. A noodle house since two generations. Gyone thote (yellow noodles) are recommended. Very good reviews on

Picture by rjhintz

Sharky's: 117, Dhamazedi Road. Homemade ice creams, excellent local beef, great pizzas and salads made with organic products, artisan breads, a wide variety of cheeses, cold cuts, yogurts, eggs, fruit, and vegetables. A trending eatery with very good reviews, an expat place, too expensive for locals according to reviews on After decades working in restaurants and cocktail bars in Geneva in Switzerlannd owner Ye Htut Win returned to Yangon. He first did a retraining als farmer according to, "focusing on the raw ingredients that would then later be the focus of dishes served at his restaurant. That’s quite different from the usual fried and super oily local food". The nickname Sharky he got in Switzerland. His restaurant and delicatessen shop is now four years old. Read also the review by An Edible Woman.

Shwe Sa Bwe Training Center: 20, Malikha Street, Mayangone. French restaurant, run by young Myanmar nationals, who get a 9 months culinary and service training free of charge. The school was founded by Francois Stoupan. "Excellent food in an extremely pleasant outside and inside ambiance" according to reviews on "This spot is a delight", writes The Globetrotting Gourmet. Lunch time: 12.00 pm - 2.00 pm (Monday - Saturday), Dinner time: 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm (daily). You can also stay in one of two suites above the restaurant, described by

Picture by Shwe Sa Bwe
Student in Shwe Sa Bwe

Picture by Shwe Sa Bwe
Roasted pineapple with meringue and shortbread biscuit

Picture by Shwe Sa Bwe

For good noodles you can head to the Night Markes:

Picture by kozeyar
Myeik style noodles at Kyi Myint Daing Night Market

Read more: Ma Thanegi hungers for ethnic noodles around Yangon

Read more:
The Yangon Heritage Walking Tour: See old Rangoon before too much ist lost
Shwedagon Pagoda Impressions
Yangon Hotel Picks
Chinatown in Yangon: Temples and a Nightmarket full of flavours
Myanmars ex Spy Chief opens an Art Gallery
From Yangon a Sunset Cruise or by ferry to Twante

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mandalay Impressions: Between Pilgrims to a very holy Buddha Image and the unholy Chinese Hunger for Jade

See the locations on Mandalay Myanmar Google Map

Picture by Roger Price
Morning on Mandalay street in 2004

If you would have come to Mandalay ten years ago, you would have discovered a quiet town: very few outdated cars on the streets, some bicycles, many people walking. If you arrive in Mandalay today, you find yourself in a bustling city full of motorbikes, many new cars, crowded streets and advertisements everywhere - and trishaws have become a rare view.

Picture by marhas
78th street seen from Diamond Plaza in 2014

But Mandalay remains a town, where traditional beliefs and modern life are joining in a melting pot of flavours, colors and cultures, of Chinese, Indian, and Burmese influences. Get a first impression by Aung Myats video 48 hours in Mandalay.

The most famous Buddha Image, temples and monasteries

Mahamuni Paya: Maha Myat Muni Paya is Myanmar's second holiest pilgrimage site. It is a 4-metre high Buddha statue, made of bronze, covered with gold and decorated with jewels. According to ancient tradition there are only five likenesses of the Buddha, made during his lifetime; two were in India, two in paradise, and the fifth is the Mahamuni Buddha image in Myanmar. The legend says the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 before Christ. Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. For this the Buddha sat under a Bodhi tree for a week of meditation. After the Great Image had been casted, the Buddha breathed on it. After this the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni. Read more. Tipp: See the monks washing the Mahamuni Buddha and brushing his teeth every morning at 4 am.

Picture by antwerpenR
Early morning at Maha Muni Pagoda

Picture by AntwerpeneR

Picture by brianholsclaw

Picture by 10b traveling

Picture by Antoine 49

Picture by Prasit_Chansareekorn
Facewashing ritual every morning at four o'clock

Picture by marhas
Bronze figure

In a side building you see people touching bronze statues: Khmer bronze statues in Bayon style. According to legend rubbing a part of the images will cure a malady at the corresponding part of the own body. There is a Dvarapala (guardian) in royal outfit. It shows features of Shiva, like the frontal eye. It is, beyond the fragment of a reclining Vishnu in the National Museum Phnom Penh, the second-biggest known Khmer bronze. Then there are two lion rumps and a statue of Airavan, the three-headed elephant. How did these statues arrive in Mandalay? It is a war history. In 1431 the Siamese sacked Angkor and took thirty statues to their capital Ayutthaya. In 1564 the Mons sacked Ayutthaya and took the statues to their capital Pegu (Bago). In 1663 The Rakhaing (Arakan) sacked Pegu and took the statues to their capital Mrauk U (Myohang). In 1785 the Burmese conquered Mrauk U and brought the statues, together wirth the Mahamuni Buddha image, to their capital Amarapura. In 1884 some statues were damaged by fire. And King Thihaw had most of them melted to cannons. So today there are only six statues left.

Kyauktawgyi Paya: The pagoda of the Great Marble Image can be found near the southern entry to Mandalay Hill. It was constructed between 1853 and 1878. Here you discover a huge seated Buddha image sculpted from a single block of pale green marble. As notes it took 10'000 to 12'000 men thirteen days to transport the stone block from the Ayeyarwady to the site of the pagoda where it was carved. A covered corridor leads to the structure housing the Buddha. On each of the four sides there are twenty shrines with figures representing the arhats, the eighty Great Disciples of the Buddha. Each October one of the largest festivals is held at the Kyauktawgyi Paya.

Picture by Mat Maessen

Sandamuni Paya: At the southeast foot of Mandalay Hill it contains Sandamani, the world's largest iron Buddha image, cast by King Bodawpay in 1802 and brought by King Mindon from Amarapura to Sandamuni pagoda in 1874. The iron has been covered with gold foil attached by believers over the decades. Then you find here a large number of whitewashed stupas. They contain 1774 marble slabs inscribed with the Tripitaka, the Buddhist scriptures. Each is 5.5 feet high and 3.5 feett wide and 5 feet thick, as orientalarchitecture notes. You may call these the worlds largest book.

Picture by gorbulas_sandybanks

Picture by gorbulas_sandybanks
Atthakatha Chedis

Picture by Anandajoti
Ceiling at Sandamuni Pagoda.

Kuthodaw Paya:

Picture by dany13
The main entrance

Picture by dany13

Picture by dany13

Picture by roaming-the-planet

Picture by Allan Grey
Wall mosaic

Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple: Shwenandaw Monastery (built 1880) is made entire out of teak wood with beautiful carvings of Buddhist myths on walls and roofs. It was originally part of the royal palace built by King Mingdon in Amarapura and moved to its current location by his son, King Thibaw, in the late 19th century. It is the only major building from the original wooden royal palace, that has survived the bombing during World War II. Read more on

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by brussels 100

Picture by marhas

Picture by brussels100

Picture by brussels100

Picture by marhas

Atumashi Monastery: Formally Maha Atulawaiyan Kyaungdawgyi. It was built in 1857 by King Mindon, but burned down in 1890 after a fire. In 1996 the Burmese archaeological department reconstructed it with prison labor.

Picture by gorbulas_sandybanks

Shwe In Bin Kyaung: A monastery built in 1895 by Chinese jade merchants. Its tiered roof is covered with exquisite carvings.

Picture by Matt Werner

Picture by Matt Werner

Picture by Matt Werner

Picture by Guillén Pérez

West Kone Yoe Central Mosque:

Picture by faisal70

Melting Gold in Mandalay

In all the temples you see the Buddhist people putting gold leaves - called Shwe Cha in Burmese - to the Buddha images to make merits. At Mahamuni Paya only men are allowed to do this. The gold leaves are sold at the temples. The making of gold leaves used to be concentrated in the Myatpa Yat quarter of Mandalay. And it was restricted to a few families. Several households were involed in the process of melting gold blocks, as Leo Paul Dana describes in his book "When Economies Change Paths". The melted gold is poured into a vessel. Then bullions are produced and flattened. Then craftsmen beat them to sheets of gold. "Men hit the blocks of wood where the gold is embedded and that original, small, thin piece of gold yields thousands of sheets of gold foil. I think I’d have the energy to sledge-hammer it about 3 times, I don’t know how they do it for hours every day", narrates From A to Zim. See this video.

Picture by Travelaficionado
Gold pounding

Picture by Kirk Siang

Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill: 230 meters high. Along its paths and at its top you find several monasteries and temples.

Picture by isriya

Picture by jzielcke

Picture by Thomas Z H Zhu

The Royal Palace that was bombed and reconstruted with Forced Labour

Mandalay Royal Palace (Mya Nan San Kyaw): A reconstruction. The palace was a walled city inside Mandalay. It was built in 1861 by King Mindon, but later destroyed in World War II. It was renovated with forced labour. The materials used were not faithful to the original (metal was use instead of teak wood).

Picture by marhas

Picture by Szaller

Picture by marhas

Picture by isriya

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by isriya
Mandalay Palace Moat

The big Jade and Gem Business

Jade Market / Mahar Aung Myay Gems Dealer's Market: Between 39th Street and 40th Street, between 87th Street and 88th Street. The place to go for jade, rubies and other gemstones, Myanmars biggest jade and gem market. Many buyers are Chinese. "And almost all of the gemstones would end up smuggled to China", reports South China Morning Post. Myanmar exported jade worth US$6 to US$9 billion in 2011 – more than twice the country’s reported exports to China in 2013, according to a study released by the Harvard University Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation in the United States. Read more background about the jade business in Myanmar on Myanmar Insider News.

Read: Mandalay's gem, jade traders fight market move. Plans for a gem market being constructed around Sinywa Myinmhu village in Amarapura township are forced by the regional governemtn, read here. There is a jade pagoda unter construction (see video). But the opposition by the gem traders is strong (read here). End of December 2014 tens of thousands of jade workers and dealers took to the streets on Tuesday to protest, as The Nation reported.
See videos by Federico Barlocher 1 and 2. Read more on

Picture by marhas

Picture by Binder.donedat

Picture by marhas

Picture by CCFoodTravel
Clear jade or green jade? Both extremely expensive.

Picture by Binder.donedat

Picture by abrinsky

Picture by Kirk Siang

Picture by marhas

Traditional and modern Shopping

Zay Cho Market: Also Zegyo Market. Between 84th Street and 86th Street and between 26th Street and 28th Street. The market consists of many street shops and retail stores with handicrafts (silver ware, marble anf wood carvings), furniture, garments and jewelry.

Picture by Thomas Z H Zhu

Picture by phobus

Picture by -AX-

Dry fish market:

Picture by Sandro_Lacarbona

Kai Tan Market: 28th Street, between 86th Street and 87th Street. The five-storey market built in 1997 sells food-related items, from vegetable and fruits on the ground floor to fish on the second floor.

Thiri Mandalar Market: Between 22th and 23th streets ten buildings house more than 2300 shops. "Everything you can think of that is grown, sewn, or crafted in the rural regions straddling the Irrawaddy River ends up on the shelves of this trade hotspot", notes

Diamond Plaza: 34th street, between 77th and 78th street. The shopping mall with Ocean supermarket in the basement and a cinema has opened in Dezember 2012 on the site of the old Yadanarpon Market, which was destroyed by a fire in February 2008. Myanmar Book Centre is here. American, European, Chinese, Korean and Japanese food can be found on the top floor.

Picture by mangostani

78 Shopping Mall: On 78th street. Opened in 2007. One of the first shopping malls in Mandalay. Longtime popular with young people because of the Happy World Amusement Centre on the fourth floor and the retail outlets with branded clothes and also more reasonably priced gear. Open from 9am to 9pm. Read about the construction.

Gem Palace: No. 376, Corner of 33th Street and 83th Street. Precious stones, timepieces, eyewear and sterling silver pieces.

Mandalay Riverside
Picture by Heribert Duling
Washing day at Ayeyarwaddy River

Good to know when in Mandalay

Credit Cards: Commercial Bank on 78th Street will issue cash against credit cards. One credit card can withdraw three hundred thousands kyats per time, up to three times a day = 900,000 kyats per day.
ATM of KBZ Bank now accept international Credit Cards (Mastercard, Visa, Maestro, Cirrus). ATM inside Hotel Yadanarbon accepts Visa card.

The Chinese Influence in Mandalay

Chinese in Mandalay: Here you will meet much less Western tourists than in Yangon. Read: A trickle of foreigners follow the road to Mandalay. In Mandalay you can discover a lot of Chinese influence. The so called Burma Road from the China border city Muse ends in Mandalay. In the markets of Mandalay many goods from China are sold. Some statistics indicate, that 30 to 40 percent of the population of Mandalay is of Chinese origin. These statistics could be right, if you include a Sino-Myanmar population that has been living in Myanmar for generations and has intermarried with local ethnic groups. Read more: From Kunming to Mandalay: The New "Burma Road". You find many shop signs and advertisements in Chinese, as has been desribed here: China's sway runs deep in Myanmar's ancient capital

Hall of Yunnan Association: See picture by jlguo. There is also the Yunnan Hall Gymnasium Association – the official title of an group of dancing aunties. These mostly middle-aged and senior women meet regularly to dance for two hours and they often perform for events such as weddings and business openings in the city’s Chinese community (read more).

Picture by Wagaung
The Yunnanese Buddhist Temple and Association

Mandalay in literature: Read "The Glass Palace" by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. The novel, that starts in Mandalay, is set in Burma, Bengal, India, and Malaya. It spans a century from the fall of the Konbaung Dynasty in Mandalay through the Second World War to modern times.

See this video:
taikwongmor or Travelogue of 3 days in Mandalay and all the fascinating wonders of that fabled city!

Read more:
Mandalay Hotel Picks: Reviews by guests
Mandalay Restaurant Picks
Get around in Mandalay by Taxi
Amarapura - the City of Immortality and U Bein Bridge: A day trip from Mandalay
River Cruises from Mandalay to Bagan and Mingun
From Mandalay by train to Gokteik and one of the longest viaducts of the world across a canyon
Everyday Mandalay: Guide Khaing Gyi walks with you along the riverbanks and through small lanes or through the Gold District. Khaing Gyi is recommended here.