A Road Trip to Myanmar - the Land of Golden Pagodas
- Part 1 -

Maheshwar Gurumayum *

  A  Road Trip to Myanmar -  the Land of Golden Pagodas
A Road Trip to Myanmar - the Land of Golden Pagodas

As with every new journey, the trip to Myanmar was preceded by the excited preparations and anticipations of new discoveries of places, people and the opportunity to experience a glimpse of the life of a different culture, customs and region- a different country in this case. Often called the Land of Golden Pagodas or The Golden Land, this part of South East Asia has been a reclusive state for almost half a century ruled by Military Junta.

After its transition to Democracy, there has been an increase in footfall of tourists many are willing to visit and explore this once reclusive state. Myanmar is much more than a neighbour country and has been an integral part of our history since time immemorial. Stories of numerous wars between the Avas (Awas) and Manipur before the British era still lingers on in our minds.

Predictably, i did not hesitate even for a moment when a golden chance came up for me along with few other fellow journalists to visit this Golden Land by road organized by Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of Manipur.

The first-hand experience of trans-border formalities at the Integrated Check Post located at the Indian side of the border at Moreh leaves a lot to be desired and is evidently at a very nascent stage at least in terms of efficiency. The paperwork, immigration process and the whole lot was a mess and could have been managed in a more systematic manner. We were directed to run all over the place for getting our paperwork done. After stamping on our Passport, we crossed to border on Myanmar side and were made to enter our details at the Immigration office.

As compared to our side’s handling of Visas and all, I found theirs to be a lot more systematic and efficient. After finishing with our paperwork, we got the green signal to move ahead. We were equally excited to travel through the roads leading from Tamu towards Kalemyo which is about 133 Kms from Tamu. This stretch of Tamu-Kalemyo-Kalewa section is a part of the Trilateral Highway (India-Myanmar-Thailand) built by Border Roads Organisation. The road was noticeably smoother than the Imphal - Moreh stretch. The thought that if India can do so much for its neighbouring counterpart, why can’t it do the same for our two National Highways which are the lifelines of our landlocked state.

Many of the lifestyles and the landscapes as well are quite similar to ours. Although the Landscapes were beautiful, they were nothing new to me, for one raised in Manipur get to see such beautiful landscapes, if one wander away a little away from Imphal. So, no excitement till this point for me. One cannot forget the number of small bridges, that too one- way and I was told we will encounter a total of 52 bridges on this road stretch.

We stopped at some local eateries on our way and were greeted with “mingalaraba” with a friendly smile. We had a hard time trying to communicate and had to talk in sign language with the people out there as they had little or no knowledge of English. The menu was all written in Burmese and one cannot figure out what to order. All we had to do was talk in sign language or point to the items laid on other people’s table. I noticed that most of the food items are similar to ours although the cooking style is different. After dinner, we resumed our journey towards Mandalay along the same Tamu-Kalemyo-Kalewa road. All night we were on the vehicle, could not sleep a wink.

After a hectic ride for almost 14hrs we finally reached Mandalay the next morning. The landscape has changed to a completely new one and the weather was comparably hot and humid. After driving a couple of hours we came upon the mighty Irrawaddy River. This river which flows from North to South through Myanmar is the country’s largest river and one of the most important Commercial waterways. One can witness the various cargo ships, ferries and other small ships right from the road. Also, in the west bank backdrop one can view the various Pagodas of Mingun.

Mingun is a town in Sagaing Township of Sagaing Region, north-west Myanmar with the ruins of the incomplete Mingun Pahtodawgyi which was started by King Bodawpaya in 1790. Legend claims that the temple was not completed as an astrologer claim that the King would die once the construction of the temple is complete. If completed, it would have been the largest in the world at 150 meters. Now many cracks are visible on the structure from the earthquake of 23rd March 1839.

A couple of steps from the unfinished stupa, one can view the beautiful white Myatheindan Pagoda with a unique style said to be modeled after the mythical Mount Meru. The story behind this White Pagoda is reminiscent of the Taj Mahal of India. Built in 1816 by Bodawpaya’s grandson and successor Bagyidaw dedicating it in fond memory of his first spouse Princess Hsinbyume or Lady of the White Elephant who died during childbirth in 1812, the White Pagoda is also called as Hsinbyume Pagoda.

While in Mingun, one cannot miss the World’s second Largest Bell, put up by King Bodawpaya also known as the Mingun Bell, weighing a total of 90 tons.

Our next stop is the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda which was modeled after Ruwanwelisaya pagoda of Sri Lanka. It is an important pilgrimage and tourist hotspot in the region. Construction started during the reign of King Thalun on 25 April 1636 and was completed 12 years later. One cannot forget the story of Maharaj Garibniwaz aka Pamheiba entering the Pagoda and marking the eastern door with his sword as a mark of victory. The door is nowhere to be seen now and it is said to be kept away in some storeroom away from Public view. It would have been great if we were able to witness the door and the sword mark, maybe the Burmese Government didn’t want the world to witness it for reasons known best to them.

The Pagoda is different from other traditional Burmese style. Some local lore has it that the relic chamber of the pagoda contains the lower left tooth relic of the Lord Buddha, 11 hair relics, an alms bowl, statues, pagodas and other relics. After strolling through the various shop stalls selling worship materials like incense sticks, sandalwood, flowers and numerous photo sessions, we bid adieu to Kaunghmudaw Pagoda.

 Kaunghmudaw Pagoda :: A  Road Trip to Myanmar -  the Land of Golden Pagodas
Kaunghmudaw Pagoda :: A Road Trip to Myanmar - the Land of Golden Pagodas

While sitting on the bus during our journey, I saw something on the road which captured my attention. A vivid picture of our Traffic system flashed into my mind when I saw the way Traffic rules are being followed out there. In my entire journey, I did not see a single commuter breaking Traffic rules. We Manipuris have a long way to go and can learn a lot from the Burmese at least when it comes to matters of civic sense. They don’t have any road dividers/medians but they never cross other lanes or overtake like we do out here.

Also, roads are narrow or not so big as compared to ours. Our Government expanding roads in the name of Traffic management seems like a big joke to me after seeing all these. What we need is Proper Traffic management and proper awareness of traffic rules among Commuters.

Now it is time for us to start our journey to Yangon, which is an overnight drive from Mandalay via Yangon-Mandalay Expressway. After seeing the Bus we are going to travel, a faint hope came into mind- a hope that I will be able to sleep, as the Bus is quite spacious and comfortable as compared to the one we travelled in from Tamu to Mandalay.

After an overnight drive, we finally reached Yangon Bus Terminus early in the morning. After checking in at Hotel 63 and having brief rest (for me it was 2 hrs sleep), we started out for National Races Village which is located near Thanlyin Bridge, Thaketa Township. In National Races Village, one can have a sneak peek of the lifestyle of the various races of Myanmar namely Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Bamar. Oh yes, another thought came into my mind and this time it is about our Heritage Park at Hatta Kangjeibung. Ours is in a very pitiful condition and I would say the structures at Hatta are just for namesake after seeing the National Races Village.

1. Kachin: Traditional house of Kachin nationals are mostly made of Bamboo, thatch and wood. At the rear of the house, mortar, pestle and firewood are kept. One can see many paintings and pictures depicting Traditional utensils on the wall. Also Horn of Mython, Ceremonial Spear, Guar’s Horn, Quiver, Tumee Guns and Deer’s Horn are displayed on the wall. Very similar to a traditional Meitei house.

2. Kayah: A traditional house of Kaya Nationals does not have any windows and roofing goes past the floor and almost touches the ground. Processing of Cotton textile materials are shown step by step. One cannot miss the Bamboo mugs for serving brew.

3. Kayin: The first thing to be noticed about a Kayin traditional house is the Bronze Frog drum and Buffalo horn, the former is said to be a symbol of Kayin National races. A total of four rooms comprise a traditional Kayin house.

4. Chin: The most significant symbol of a Chin house is the Hornbill. Hornbill Bird, Bear Skull, Barking Dear Skull, Guar Skull, Mythun Skull are put up above the main door. The Blacksmith’s workplace is one of the attractive aspects of a traditional Chin house.

5. Mon: In the Mon traditional house, one can witness the Mon traditional Crocodile Musical Instrument, Mon Crescent Moon-Shaped Gong and Mon traditional utensils. Also, a traditional Mon Cart and Mon Boat are placed on the yard.

6. Shan : Two ladders are kept at a Shan traditional, one is said to be for use by Guest and the other for the owner/family members of the house. Fishing equipments, traditional musical instruments are displayed. There is also a replica of Inle Lake outside the house.

7. Rakhine : One can observe the customs and the way the houses are built in accordance with the tradition of Rakhine. A Weaving model and a traditional boat are displayed on the ground of the house and on the house yards respectively. The traditional longyi worn by many is said to be woven by the Rakhine women using the Rakhine Weaving Model.

8. Bamar : The traditional house of Bamar nationals are said to be designed from an ancient form of a rich man’s house from Shwe Bo City. Also traditional musical instruments are displayed on a Bamar national house. One can observe the customary ways of living, handicrafts and style of dress.

I definitely recommend visiting this place, if you want to learn more about the lifestyles and custom of the various races of Burma from this National Races village.

To be continued.....

* Maheshwar Gurumayum wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on October 01, 2018.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #2 : Gallery
  • Mera Houchongba : Unity - hill & valley
  • Khong: significance in Zeliangrong culture-1
  • Woes of farmers & measures to mitigate
  • A Scarecrow :: Poem
  • New Executive Body of DAMMS
  • National Integration Tour flagged in
  • Benevolence behind the iron fortress
  • Parties to watch in LS polls : Cong Vs BJP
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download
  • Lamyanba Irabot- Floral Tribute #2: Gallery
  • A scientific view to uniqueness of Kangla
  • Citizenship Bill 2016: An unjust Bill
  • Developing a database on bio-resource #1
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Flight at the land of clouds :: Poem
  • Stop occupation at Moreh Chikim village
  • Contribution of Rani Gaidinliu
  • Police Day Marathon #2: Gallery
  • Kayada Ningthijaba Eseino :: Review
  • Stop religious encroachment of Kangla
  • Cry of a Dying River - 50 :: Poem
  • Money- laundering and juveniles
  • To drive or to be driven
  • The barricade cordoning CMO
  • October 31 rally : Manipur is a reality !
  • Mera Chaorel Houba #2 : Gallery
  • Anglo-Kuki War 1917-19 : Gallery
  • Tribes, Castes & Development :: Book
  • Durga Puja celebration in Manipur
  • Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis
  • Life did put me into darkness :: Poem
  • Matrimonial sites: Dangerous proposals
  • Absentee in history
  • Of KTC and demand of UMLA
  • Pari Imom (Film Scenes) #1 :: eRang
  • Chunglenyanba, Awa Leima :: eMing
  • Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 #1
  • 7th anniversary of PCRM
  • Funding TB response is smart investment
  • The Broken Stone:: Poem
  • 15 Ceremonial Horses handed to Myanmar
  • Needs for realizing the truth
  • Time to put education on track
  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #1 : Gallery
  • Kuki Black Day: desperation to Nagas #2
  • Finance knowledge to make better decision
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Bunglawn Remembers Dr Kalam's Visit
  • No baab tree :: Poem
  • Official website of Sangai Photo Festival
  • Beauty care with natural ingredients
  • Deportation of Rohingya against intl law
  • Noting efforts to put MU on track
  • MU: Teachers/students released : Gallery
  • Death Anniv - Bhagyachandra #3 : Gallery
  • Ithai Barrage Impact on Environment
  • Rural development as career option
  • Put the kibosh on ochlocracy
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in women
  • India International Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Marketing Assistant @ PiCiDi, Canchipur
  • 'Ram Madhav is wrongly briefed' : NPF
  • Uniforms for school teacher: What purpose?
  • Marangwon at @Mt Khorung #3 : Gallery
  • Police Day Marathon #1: Gallery
  • I call it life :: Poem
  • International day for Disaster reduction
  • Contested territorial demands in Manipur
  • WhatsApp & mobile usage study results
  • Physics Programme in Nowgong College
  • Rejoinder to NDPP [15 October]
  • Stop bluffing Nagas
  • The state of the states
  • Gearing up for Oct 31 rally
  • Historical Evaluation of Puya Meithaba #4
  • MU: Student/police clash -10 Oct #2: Gallery
  • X-Jam -Extreme Sports & Music festival
  • Urban Local Govt in Mizoram :: Book
  • 3 perspectives in context of present Manipur
  • Figures in the Shadows :: Poem
  • To UNC, Zomi Council, Hmar Inpui on ST
  • HC acted in good faith for MU
  • Jarnail Singh @ MU : Gallery
  • Heikru Hidongba #3 : Gallery
  • The undeniable subtlety of Atingkok
  • Kuki Black Day: desperation to Nagas #1
  • Let me shower moonlight :: Poem
  • On allegations issued by NPF : NDPP
  • Challenges to the digital dreams
  • Eyes now on K Yugindro
  • Lamyanba Irabot- March Past #3: Gallery
  • Death Anniv - Bhagyachandra #2 : Gallery
  • Meetei Tribe wont grab land of Hill Tribes
  • Making a tangible difference
  • Contradicted journey of IPC Section 377
  • Free open defecation & open pee
  • Act East & Importance of Myanmar & NE
  • Vacancies at Multimind Software
  • Waiting for "Sorry"
  • Out Yugindro in Jarnail Singh
  • Mera Chaorel Houba #1 : Gallery
  • AMAND Pune: Cultural evening : Gallery
  • Management Convergence at Mizoram Univ
  • Observation of World Mental Health Day
  • Cry of a Dying River - 49 :: Poem
  • Buddhism is free from compulsion...
  • 7th AGM / Cultural evening of AMAND, Pune
  • Forsaken farmers - food for thought
  • Second police raid at MU
  • NESO opposes Indo-Nepal Treaty in NE
  • British Council, NEC sign MoU
  • MU: Student/police clash -10 Oct #1: Gallery
  • Death Anniv - Bhagyachandra #1 : Gallery
  • Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919
  • University :: Poem
  • Remembering class boycott 2009-2010
  • Hair stylist as career option #2
  • Training of Trainers on Gender Justice
  • Manipur University fresh violence by police
  • MU Crisis- admissions and omissions
  • Issues besetting State before LS polls
  • Langban Heitha Leithaba #2 : Gallery
  • Sizo Festival @Saikot : Gallery
  • Opening of Moreh-Tamu Border Gate
  • Forest Cover of Nagaland :: Book Review
  • Ingocha Chingtham: Cycling from Mumbai ..
  • Blood Transfusion service- future in Manipur
  • IT Enabled Employment Generating Course
  • NDPP condemns statement of NPF
  • Beyond the reality
  • Need for MUTA to approach Court
  • Kang Tournament @Kongba #2: Gallery
  • Elangbam Sonamani : Sahityaratna 2017
  • Celebrating the rights of wildlife- Are we
  • The sky's gone wonderful :: Poem
  • Communal Harmony and Integration
  • Opportunity for India in Indo-Pacific Region
  • To be a good man
  • Education : Why no private players here ?
  • Tarpon Sonba : Gallery
  • mtM :: Seireng
  • MN Singh promoted as IG of CBI felicitated
  • Loktak from different perspectives #2
  • The Journey of Happiness :: Poem
  • A personal discourse of Manipuri people
  • Improper use of loud speakers in Manipur
  • Art Exhibition @Art College #3: Gallery
  • Sudip Kongbrailatpam -recording engineer
  • Dismantled 9th times & safer in 10th times
  • Remembering Irawat: Are we following ..
  • State Level Archery Championship 2018
  • Stop religious encroachment at Kangla
  • Navratri (festival) make up
  • khongjang changsinnaba sem sarey : ST
  • MU crisis: Emerging questions
  • Lining up five days blockade
  • Dhol Chollom @Sangai Fest: Gallery
  • A Road Trip to Myanmar #2
  • Maroi napakpi in Manipuri dishes
  • National Integration Tour Team
  • Cry of a Dying River - 48 :: Poem
  • Ending antimicobial resistance to #endTB
  • Condoles death of Pu Kaikhokam Kipgen
  • Rejoinder to NDPP (5th Oct) : NPF
  • Responsibility required - not restriction
  • After Thuingaleng Muivah who ?
  • Paddy dry up due to deficit rainfall
  • Lamyanba Irabot- March Past #2: Gallery
  • Binalakshmi Nepram : RAW in WAR Award
  • Agribusiness & Carbon Management : Book
  • Is Gandhi (ian) relevant today ?
  • Guidelines for Hostels for Children
  • ATM based frauds : Router compromise
  • 'Rio's announcement as just mockery'
  • Training Program on Mushroom Cultivation
  • 'Chadong' - the victim of development
  • Poles apart : Pandey and Singh
  • Manipuri Diaspora in Myanmar #2
  • Why has Egg become Danger for Manipur?
  • Speech by Atif Anik on Irabot Day 2018
  • Wounded tree :: Poem
  • Hair stylist as career option
  • Synopsis of Sizo Festival 2018
  • Traffic regulation still a Flop show
  • In the evening of his life : Th Muivah
  • Langban Heitha Leithaba : Gallery
  • World Bamboo Day #2: Gallery
  • Where have all the lights gone ?
  • Mahatma and non-violence
  • Detention of students/professors of MU
  • Gandhi Jayenti at Itanagar
  • IBSD cleans Imphal City
  • MU: Abide by wisdom of Sr citizens
  • Power of humility
  • Ghost of Pandey : Four teachers suspended
  • Lamyanba Irabot- March Past #1: Gallery
  • October Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Looking at Loktak from perspectives #1
  • Morning - a Haiku :: Poem
  • R&V Art House curates 'Land of Polo'
  • Show for football fans at NEUFC Fan Park
  • Indigenous People: Stand against Fascist
  • Clarification on Tamei Residential School
  • Organic Farming Tour to Sikkim
  • System error- or is this real democracy
  • Autonomy for Naga- Stakeholders on board
  • Th. Muivah hospitalized
  • Choidev Chongba @Kang Fest : Gallery
  • A Road Trip to Myanmar #1
  • The day after Sahnit-Ni
  • ..but Irabot may still shed tears in heaven
  • Heikru Hidongba #2 : Gallery
  • Lamyanba Hijam Irabot :: Read all about
  • Tingmila Doungel : Manipuri Boxer
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to dead by living
  • Historical Evaluation of Puya Meithaba #3
  • MU: General Srtike [27 Sep] #2 :: Gallery
  • Irabot's letter to Assembly :: 18 Oct 1948
  • Ringui Village, Ukhrul :: Gallery: Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #4: Gallery
  • Tuilha Kol waterfall #2: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Sit-In: Naga Peace Talk #2 : Gallery
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Jangou Rah : eRang Classic
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic