197 Photos - Apr 5, 2014
Photo: I arrived in Myanmar a day late because my flight was canceled.  The first stop in Yangon, Myanmar was at Kalaywa Tawya monastery where I met some of the female novices.Photo: The monastery had 1,465 residents: 73 monks, 867 novices, 373 nuns, and 132 students.Photo: The novices and monks had two meals a day; one in the morning around 6 AM and another at noon.  The noon meal was in the little 3-tiered metal container.Photo: Our group stopped at a small outdoor restaurant for lunch.  We all choose a main dish and the rest of the food was brought along to our table.  I had bottled water and the bill was $3.Photo: The Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the landmarks of Myanmar, is re-gilded every ten years.  There is more than three billion dollars worth of gold on and in this pagoda.Photo: It was truly a beautiful site!  It had 2,000 carats of diamonds with a 76 carat diamond at the top of the spire.   I was there on a Sunday while many local people were there to visit and pray.Photo: They believe that the day of the week you were born is very important.  I was born on Thursday, so I am here pouring water on Buddha.  They believe you purify yourself by doing so.Photo: There were groups of novice monks there.  This is the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar because it had remains from four past Buddhas.Photo: This is a common street scene.  You can buy food from a vendor nearby and sit at one of the small tables to eat.Photo: In Myanmar the women and children wear a kind of paste on their cheeks and nose.  It's their version of sunscreen.Photo: This happy lady is selling small tangerines and green plums.  This is in their version of "Chinatown".Photo: A wide variety of beautiful vegetables are sold here as well.Photo: This little street is famous for the satay and other barbeque treats offered to the locals.Photo: At a local bank I changed US$100 into Burmese Kyats at approximately 1,000 Kyats to a dollar.  This is all that was left after a day on the town.Photo: We had a 6 AM flight from Yangon to Bagan.  This area of Bagan was founded in the 9th century and was very important to the end of the 13th century.Photo: The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  I am at the Shwesandaw Pagoda, built by King Anawrahta in 1057.Photo: A wagon pulled by Brahma bulls is going by one of the pagodas.Photo: Our group had lunch next to the Irrawaddy River.  It is a beautiful setting.Photo: The servers carried food down to our table using this device.  When it started to rain lightly, we were the only ones who stayed outside.Photo: I saw this "crown of thorns" plant in several of the countries I visited.Photo: We visited a lacquer workshop where the owner showed us how bamboo is woven and shaped by a form prior to the application of the lacquer.Photo: This plate already has the black lacquer finish.  Now she is etching a design through the orange layer.Photo: Look how beautiful it is when it is done!Photo: This young man uses a hatchet to break a little piece of bamboo off.  He holds the thin end between his toes and then pulls the small strip off.  The finished pieces are to the left.Photo: This young lady is weaving horse hair around the bamboo strips which makes the finished lacquer product more flexible.Photo: I was impressed with this hanger that was in my hotel room.Photo: This is the pool area in the beautiful place where I stayed.Photo: The minimum wage is about $3 to $4 a day.  These people are using brooms to sweep up leaves.Photo: Tthe hotel's landscaping included many beautiful flowers.Photo: Here are some of the fruit juices that are offered for breakfast.  I tried the pennywort once and the avocado fruit juice several times.Photo: This temple was completed in 1091.  Known for it's beauty, it is the best preserved of the four main temples in Bagan.Photo: We went by horse cart to see more buildings.  The driver said that his horse cost him $1,000, and with the license and cart, it was a total of $3,000.Photo: Next we took a trip on the Irrawaddy River.   It is the country's largest river and their most important commercial waterway.   It flows from north to south.Photo: We visited the small Phawsaw village to see what their life is like.  The ladies are carrying heavy containers of water from the water pump to their homes.Photo: This beautiful 81 year old lady greeted our group.Photo: This is our guide Han with a small village girl.  Han is a very special young man.Photo: The construction of the houses and the cart is very interesting.Photo: During our dinner we saw a folk arts show as part of the evenings entertainment.Photo: We flew to Mandalay in the morning.  This is the Mahamuni pagoda, a major Buddhist temple and pilgrimage site in Mandalay.Photo: According to legend, Buddha visited near here in 554 BC.  King Thuriya requested that an image be cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness.  Men could achieve "merit" by adding gold leaf to Buddha.  With about two tons of gold leaf on it, the Buddha has lost its shape.Photo: This is part of the ceremony where some children are about to become novices. The parents, standing behind the chldren, are dressed in their best clothes.Photo: Surrounding the Pagoda are shops.  I was supprised to see Brasso among the things for sale.Photo: At a gold leaf workship we saw how an ingot of gold can be turned into 4,600 sheets of gold leaf (1 1/4" square).  The men are paid $10 a day, which they said was a good wage.Photo: The Shwenandaw monastery was originally part of the royal palace at Amarapuray.  The king gave it to a monastery in memory of his father. It is a UNESCO site.Photo: At the Kuthodaw Pagoda there are 729 white marble slabs with the teachings of Buddha on them.Photo: Here is one of the slabs.  They claim it is the world's largest book.Photo: A truck took us to the top of Mandalay Hill to view this lovely sunset.Photo: This lady entertained us at our hotel with a hand-held harp.Photo: I doubt the ladies are wearing seat belts!  Many of the signs are also in English.Photo: At the jade market the stones are displayed on the ground and often sprayed with water.  Buyers come with a flashlight to better see the stone's true colors.  One we saw was $2,500.Photo: When I went to the jade market I wore my jade flower necklace that I'd bought in China.  This lady complimented me on it in broken English and then talked to the men about it.Photo: Women do their laundry in the Irrawaddy River by our hotel. This is where we later left for a boat ride.Photo: The Mingun temple is a monumental stupa built by King Bodawpaya in 1790.  It was never finished because an astrologer claimed that when it was finished, the king would die.  He ended up living 29 more years!Photo: "Taxi, anyone?"Photo: King Bodawpaya also had a gigantic bell cast to go with his huge stupa. The Mingun bell weighs ninety tons and is the largest ringing bell in the world.Photo: A wide moat protects the front of Mandalay palace.   Constructed between 1857 and 1859, it was the royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy.   Mandalay Hill is at the end of the moat.Photo: Built in 1850, the three-quarter mile long U Bein bridge over Thaung Thaman lake is the longest teak bridge in the world.Photo: A local farmer lives in this home near the bridge.Photo: Our small boat went out into the lake for a picture at sunset.Photo: We flew from Mandalay to Bangkok, Thailand.  The Bangkok skyline looks amazing from our hotel.  Over six million people live here.Photo: We started with a city tour of Bangkok which included a visit to the Grand Palace.Photo: Built in 1782, the Royal Palace is home to the king of Thailand. It includes the sacred temple of the Emerald Buddha, throne halls, and government offices.Photo: Broken pottery in a floral design decorates the exterior of some of the buildings.Photo: Gold leaf is everywhere.  The amount of detail work is incredible.Photo: King Mongkut (made famous by "The King and I") was the fourth king of this dynasty.  The present 87 year old king is the ninth.Photo: A five-headed serpent guards the entrance to this building.Photo: The Chakri Maha Prasat Hall was designed by an English architect in 1882.  Kings once lived here, but it is now used for guests, and for its ceremonial halls.Photo: For lunch we had Spring rolls.  I loved how they were presented.Photo: Some of the tailors sit outside the buildings near the sidewalkPhoto: People and businesses put up large pictures of the king everywhere.  He is very well loved.  Our guide has many pictures of him in his house.Photo: The next day we drove over an hour from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.  It was the ancient capital of Siam from 1350-1767.  Their were thirty-three kings during this time.Photo: Ayutthaya was the major trading capital of Asia.  In 1700, it had the largest population of any city in the world.Photo: We went by boat up the Chao Praya River to Bang Pa-In, the summer palace of the kings.Photo: The palace was started in 1632, but most of the buildings, including Sage's Lookout, date from the mid-1800s.Photo: We flew to Luang Prabang, an old capital in Laos dating from the 1300's.  It is at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.Photo: Sticky rice is a staple in Laos. It is formed in the shape of a disk, dried, and then cooked to be sold at the night market.Photo: Luang Prabang is another World Heritage site.  Built in 1559 for royal use, Wat Xieng Thong is the best example of a Laotian monastery in the city.Photo: The monastery is beautiful inside and out.Photo: The monks pray twice a day in this chapel.  The roofs are very interesting.Photo: I visited the night market (one of my favorite places) as they were setting up.  It has two aisles and is about one and a half blocks long.  One US dollar buys about 8,000 kip.Photo: Laos is known for their hand loom weavers. A great variety of cotton and silk shawls are available.  Most of them cost $5-10!Photo: Beautiful intricate pictures are hand painted.Photo: The roosters start crowing around 4 AM, so I was out walking early when I found this modern building under construction.  All of the scaffolding is made of hand-tied bamboo.Photo: Laos is a poor country with major unemployment.  The average daily wage is about $4 US, so men go to Thailand where they can make $10.  This is a grocery store near our hotel.Photo: We rode around in "tuk-tuks" that seat six people plus the driver.  They cost $1 or $2 one-way.Photo: We went to a nice silk shop where we saw some of their weavers and admired their finished products.Photo: We went fifteen miles up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves.  It took two hours going upstream, but only one hour on our return to Luang Prabang.Photo: Our pilot sat this way, all the way to the caves.Photo: We stopped at a village that specialized in rice whiskey.  I was more interesting in the weaving.Photo: There were a lot of shawls available here!Photo: These were the only elephants that we saw away from a tourist site.Photo: We have arrived at our destination, the Pak Ou Caves!  They are thought to have been discovered by their king in the 16th centrury.Photo: Inside the two caves there are about four-thousand carved Buddhas.Photo: Water buffalo were seen frequently on our way back to Luang Prabang.Photo: When we had some free time, Kathie and I indulged in a "fish foot massage".  Small tiger fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  It tickled.Photo: It cost about $5 for them to munch for about 30 minutes.  You could really feel the difference when they were done.Photo: The next morning we got up early and took part in an ancient Buddhist tradition of the "alms-giving ceremony", offering food to the monks.Photo: I had a bamboo container filled with about three cups of sticky rice.  I put about a tablespoon of rice in each monk's container as they passed by.Photo: We were each assigned an item (written in Laotian) to pick up at the market for that day's lunch.  My item was cilantro, thank goodness!Photo: Little birds in small bamboo cages can be purchased, and then set free as a tribute to Buddha.Photo: As we left town, fresh vegetable stands were seen along the road.Photo: We visited a tenant farmer.  He worked very hard and said in a very, very good month he could earn $400.  This amount would give his family enough vegetables to eat but still live in poverty.Photo: Panya, our guide, showed how the irrigation system worked.Photo: This is one of many rice paddies I saw.Photo: OAT supports this small village.  The government of Laos pays for high school, but not elementary school.  OAT built the building and pays the teacher.Photo: OAT also brought in computers for the high school students.Photo: The village is made up of two smaller villages. The Laotians of the Mekong river and some Hmong from the highlands lived next to each other.  This shows a Hmong community.Photo: This seventeen year old mother explained why her small family had moved from their Hmong community in the high mountains.Photo: The Hmong are known for their outstanding sewing.  This lady is working on one of their reverse applique patterns.Photo: OAT provided the community with sixty looms so the women would have a way to earn some money.  We ate fried water buffalo hide as part of our lunch.Photo: Beautiful and scenic Kuang Si falls is about five miles from the village on a tributary of the Mekong River.Photo: I was suprised to see wild poinsettia at the falls.Photo: Our guide had mentioned the thermal water, but I thought it was pretty chilly.Photo: The water cascades over limestone formations.Photo: This beautiful two foot wide teak carving cost about $80.  There was no room left in my suitcase, but it sure was pretty!Photo: There was an unbelievable amount of above ground wires in all the countries I visited.Photo: There were many motorcycles in the city.  They don't have a helmet law for riders other than the driver.  Often I saw four or five people on one motorcycle.Photo: We started our city tour with the Great Sacred Buddha that was built in 1566.  It is a national symbol of Laos and the holiest Buddhist monument in the city.Photo: The Laotians are devout Buddhists.  When the Communists took over in the 70's they banned religion. After the break up of the Soviet Union in the early 90's, they allowed religion again.Photo: The Victory Monument is Vientiane's best-known landmark.Photo: After climbing over 250 steps to the top, I had this view of the city.Photo: Wat Sisaket is the oldest building and monastery in Vientiane.  Built in 1818, it is the only monastery not destroyed by the Thais when they sacked the town in 1827.Photo: Wat Sisaket houses over 7,000 images of Buddha.  There are two more in each of the little alcoves.Photo: This is the House of the Emerald Buddha, built in 1565.  The Emerald Buddha is now in Bangkok.Photo: After our tour we were dropped off at Carol Cassidy's Lao Textile to see master weavers in action.  This is an extremely complicated design that would take at least a month to complete.Photo: This difficult one shows all the various threads that are woven in at times in the design.  I bought a little 3" x 5" weaving for $30.Photo: This lady's job is to wind the silk threads to be used later.Photo: We went to a very nice restaurant, had an excellent meal, and saw some traditional Thai dancing.  The bill was $11 each and included us treating our Laotian guide!Photo: Next we flew to Vietnam.  I thought that what you couldn't take on board was very interesting. In the US we worry about scissors!Photo: We started off with a city tour of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City.  This is where the last airlifts out of Saigon took place before the US left.Photo: This is a bad picture, but you can see the actual evacuation.Photo: Their post office was designed by the French architect Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and completed in 1891.Photo: The largest and busiest post office in the country is one of the main buildings that tourists come to see.Photo: There were quite a few gardens and flowers in the city.  This is a form of desert rose.Photo: We stopped at Bien Thanh market where silks and cottons are on display.  I was the only one on the tour who enjoyed it.Photo: This is a young teak forest.  The wood takes about twenty-five years to mature and be harvested.Photo: Can you find the cashew nut?  The nut grows beneath the fruit.  They were cheap here - two and a half pounds cost $5.Photo: We went to the Cu Chi tunnels.  During the Vietnam war there were 125 miles of tunnels used by the Vietcong.   You need to bend your knees some and then fully bend at the waist to get through them.  I was happy to just get in and back out again about ten yards further on!Photo: Tunnel trekking is dirty work.  There is water running through a piece of bamboo with holes in it to wash up.Photo: This is the city of the motorcycle.  The homes in the background are narrow and have many floors.Photo: I went to see a water puppet show.  This type of show is only done in Vietnam.Photo: The puppeteers stay in the back and move the puppets by wires.  The story is about two phoenixes that fall in love. At the end there is a puppet phoenix egg that joins them.Photo: This was one of the local plants.  I asked what it was and was told that it was a form of apricot.Photo: We drove away from Saigon towards the Cambodian border.  A "hammock cafe" is where people can stop their drive, rest, and have something to eat.Photo: I am cutting bricks apart at a brick making factory.Photo: 800,000 bricks can be put into each of these kilns.  The husks of rice are used for fuel.Photo: The bricks are put inside the kiln and the opening is mudded up for the heating process which takes five days.Photo: A ferry takes people to the other side of the river.Photo: There is a lot of transportation on the river.  This person is bringing small boats to town to sell.Photo: We visited with a man who was making incense.  He showed us how it was done.Photo: There were many forms of transportation in these countries.Photo: This young boy was selling assorted eggs on our ferry ride across the delta to Long Xuyen.Photo: There is a French influence in most of these countries.  Baguette are sold here for twenty-five cents.Photo: Our hotel for the night was in Chau Doc, Vietnam, within one mile of Cambodia on the other side of the trees.Photo: This lady would row people across the water for less than a dime.  Many of the floating houses in the back have cages beneath for a fish farms.Photo: I went to a fish farm and saw how the cages work.  The owner put in a little fish food and the fish got very excited.  There can be thousands of fish grown this way in each cage.Photo: Many people live along the river.  Since the river rises during the rainy season, dwellings are built on stilts.Photo: We rode an hour in a motor boat to get to the border of Vietnam and Cambodia.  Then it was another three hours on the river to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.Photo: Our boat arrived in Phnom Penh a little before noon.  This is the beautiful park that greeted us.Photo: In the afternoon we visited the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, built mainly by the French in 1866.  There are many beautiful gardens here.Photo: This is a spirit house. We saw many of them on this trip.Photo: The Silver Pagoda has more than 5,000 solid silver block tiles on the floor weighing nearly six tons.Photo: We had a tour of the town in a "remok" before dinner.  It is a three-wheeled motor rickshaw with a seat for two.  Each remok was unique and many had a theme.Photo: I went to the killing fields of Choeung Ek.  There are about 388 such fields in Cambodia.  Pol Pot exterminated 1.7 million people during the four years he ruled from 1975-1979.Photo: I avoided the tour and spent most of my time taking pictures of flowers.Photo: Tuol Sleng prison is where some of the victims were tortured before they were executed.  It used to be a high school.Photo: More flower pictures.  These were really large plumeria.Photo: This is a typical street scene with lots of vehicles and wires overhead.Photo: A school by my hotel was closing for the day when I walked by.  I loved how they were all holding hands.Photo: On our drive from Phnom Penh to the ancient capital of Siem Reap, we stopped along the way to give toiletries and medicine to some poor families.Photo: This was the local "gas station" - a way they had to earn some money.Photo: We stop at a roadside stand to see what they had to sell.  We tried a few kinds of fruit that we hadn't tried before.Photo: They had fried grasshoppers, water beetles, and crickets.  These are delicacies in Cambodia.Photo: Another option was fried tarantulas!  I was offered all of these, but I didn't try any.Photo: Part of our road was not paved and was very dusty and bumpy.  The hotel had wrapped our suitcases in plastic for the trip.  This is a typical home along the road.Photo: Kathie and I pose by the ancient bridge of Kampong Kdei.  Built in the 12th century, it used to be the longest corbeled stone-arch bridge in the world.Photo: The moat that surrounds Angkor Wat temple is 570 feet wide.  Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire.  It is considered to be the largest religious monument in the world.Photo: There are many temples in this area.  Angkor Wat is the greatest temple in the complex.  The empire was very powerful from the 9th-13th centuries and controlled half of Southeast Asia.Photo: There were about 750,000 people living here at the height of the Khmer power.  The next temple can be seen in the distance.Photo: To see the view, you had to climb these temporary steep steps.  Thank goodness for the rails!Photo: So much detail is still easy to see in this bas-relief that was made from 1113 and 1150.  There is more than 3,000 feet of this carving!  It is the longest in the world.Photo: The temple started as Hindu and later became Buddhist.Photo: Abandoned for 400 years, Ta Prohm temple was found by the French in the mid-1800s and left mostly as they found it.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed here.Photo: Completed in 1186, Ta Prohm was built to house the remains of the king's mother.  The trees are silk cotton trees.  This was also in the movie.Photo: Angkor Thom was built about 100 years after Angkor Wat.Photo: This is Angkor Wat from the other gate right before sunset.Photo: We had entetainment during our dinner.  These are shadow puppets.Photo: We also were entertained by some Cambodian dancers.Photo: This is a water taxi on Tonle Sap lake. During the rainy season when water backs up into it from the Mekong River the lake is four times larger.Photo: This is a community of floating houses and stores for the locals.  During the dry season these buldings are on the lake.Photo: This is a typical floating home with fishing nets being repaired and lotus growing out back.  When the rainy season comes, they move their home up the inlet, where our tour began.Photo: This is one of several large duck farms that we passed.Photo: When we returned to land, we had a water buffalo cart ride back to our bus.Photo: I am not sure what this is, but I thought it was really interesting.Photo: During our last morning in Cambodia, I visited the Artisan Angkor School that provides art vocational training for 18-25 year olds.Photo: We flew back to Thailand.  Our last event was a sunset dinner on an old rice barge in Bangkok.Photo: Early the next morning we left Thailand for the fourteen hour flight back to San Francisco and eventually home to Chula Vista.