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Nasreen Ghani
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My travel to Myanmar and Thailand

Writer: Nasreen Ghani Category: ভ্রমণ (Travel) Edition: Dhaboman - Eid 2017






Traveling is my passion and whenever I get the opportunity I go out to see the world. The more you see, the more you want to see. I have ticked off most of the things that I wanted to see in my life. I still have a few things on the list to see and I would like to do it in the next couple of years, In Sha Allah. This holiday I travelled for ten weeks and have seen a few things from my list. Two of the places I travelled to were Myanmar and Thailand.









Traveling in Myanmar was on my wish list for quite some time but due to its political situation I kept deferring it. Recently a friend travelled there and after talking to her I planned my trip. I took a package tour with Go Myanmar Tour group. Within 8 days I had the opportunity to be in four different places, Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle lake. I was traveling from one city to another in domestic flights. It was amazing to see our flights were full of tourists from overseas.

 Myanmar is bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east, China to its north and northeast. To its south Myanmar has uninterrupted coastline of 1930 km along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Its area is 676, 578 square kilometres compared to the area of Bangladesh which is 147, 570 square kilometres. It is almost five times bigger than Bangladesh with a population of 51 million compared to 161 million in Bangladesh! Myanmar is a country rich in jade and gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources.

 I was received by my tour guide at Yangon airport and I was taken to my hotel.

 In Yangon, I had the opportunity to visit the world famous Shwedagon Pagoda. It is difficult to express my feeling when I saw it. I have seen the seven wonders of the world, when I saw Terracotta Warriors, which is called the 8th wonders of the world I was spell bound and now when I came to see the Shwedagon pagoda I thought of calling it another wonder of the world. The night before I had a look from my hotel room (I think I was on 12th floor) and it was just like a dream. I took another

photo of the pagoda from my hotel room in the morning.



This pagoda which is 2500 years old enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. It is located in Singuttara Hill over 114 acres of land. It is 110 meters in height, covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4531 diamonds, the largest of which is 72 carats! I was told by my tour guide that the pagoda contains 60 tonnes of gold! I was impressed with its architecture, sculpture and arts. Some of the artwork was so intricate! Shwedagon Pagoda is the focus of religious as well as community activities. The place was bustling with many different activities- the devotees and monks washing the statues, offering flowers, worshiping and meditating. I took many photos, however, the place was so large that my photos wouldn’t show the full beauty of it. To me it was just mind boggling!

 Somerset Maugham wrote about this pagoda in 1930, “The Shedagon rose superb, glistening with gold, like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul.”

 In Yangon, I took the opportunity to visit the Tomb of the last Emperor of India. This was not in my tour itinerary but when I requested my tour guide to visit the tomb, my tour guide agreed straight away saying that it is on our way to Shwedagon pagoda and we can stop in there without any problem.

 Bahadur Shah, the last Emperor of India was exiled in Yangon in 1858 after Sipoy Mutiny in 1857. With the arrest of Bahadur Shah, the four centuries of Mughal rule in India came to an end. Bahadur Shah was accompanied by his wife Zinat Mahal and 2 sons and daughter-in-law. They were brought from Delhi to Calcutta and placed in a warship called Magara and taken to Yangon. In Yangon, they were kept in a four-bed room house. Pen, ink and paper was completely forbidden! Bahadur Shah was a great poet and writer of many beautiful ghazals. My favourite one is his last ghazal, “Lagta nehi hain dil mera…” I loved the one sung by Shahnaj and used to listen to it regularly. Standing there was a great moment for me. So much history is there, associated with so much sadness. I am glad that I could make this visit.

 From Yangon, I flew to Bagan. My tour guide took me through a village in a horse driven cart. I enjoyed it so much! I was taken to several different pagodas which were beautiful. The highlight of the Bagan tour was the sunset cruise along Irrawaddy river. It was so beautiful and relaxing. I enjoyed the beautiful sunset watching it from my private boat. It was a heavenly experience.




 From Bagan, I flew to Mandalay. It is the second largest city in Myanmar after Yangon.

 In Mandalay, I had the opportunity to visit a few places. The most important one was Kuthdow pagoda.

 My visit to Kuthdaw Pagoda was an eye opener. Here I saw the biggest book in the world, a place which is every educator’s dream and it is very different from any traditional book we see in these days. Kuthdaw pagoda literally means Royal Merit. It lies at the foot of Mandalay Hill and was built during the reign of King Mindon. It was a part of Mazarein Stupa. King Mindon wanted to leave a great work of merit by having the Tripitaka set in stone for posterity supposed to last five millenia after Buddha. Its construction began in 1860, its crown mounted on 19th July 1862, and the inscriptions were laid open to the public on 4th May 1868. These crowns or shrines were arranged in three rows within three enclosures, 42 in the first, 168 in the middle and 519 in the third. One more stands at the Southeast corner of the first enclosure making it 730. The book covers the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. The book is so big that if someone starts reading it 8 hours a day it will take 450 days to finish the book!


 In Mandalay, I also had the opportunity to see the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world, which I called the scariest bridge in the world. U Bein Bridge is 1.2 kilometer long and was built around 1850. It is a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura. Tourist are taken there to see the beautiful sunset. My tour guide took me there and I started walking along the bridge. The bridge has no railing and it is open on both sides. I tried to stay at the centre but found it impossible as people were walking from both sides. I found it extremely dangerous! I told my tour guide that I didn’t want to continue. So we came back, sat in a beautiful cafe overlooking the bridge and sipped coconut water from green coconut. My tour guide persuaded me to go back to the bridge before sunset and I went back. The sunset from the bridge was really beautiful. I stood next to a pole clutching it. People must have found this hilarious but the bottom line is I didn’t want fall and break my bones! Later I told my tour guide that a construction like this won’t be allowed to be open to public in Australia. It was an experience of a life time!


My visit to Inle lake was another memorable experience. From Mandalay, I flew to Heho. My tour guide received me from the airport and I was driven to my hotel in Inle lake which was about 150 km from Heho. It was a beautiful drive. Heho is a hilly town. I enjoyed the beautiful trip with winding roads along the hills. At one stage we stopped to take some photos. The British built the railway in this remote part. They took away all the wealth of the colony but left behind the infrastructure they built to transport the wealth!


I found Inle a very fascinating place. The lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide. For the first time, I saw these floating gardens which were really impressive. All the stilt house villages and Buddhist temples rise above the water. I toured Inle lake in my private speed boat which was very thrilling. I enjoyed the trip along the lake, through the floating gardens. There were mountains at a distance, it was glorious day with blue sky and patches of white cloud. The trip was heavenly. We stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant surrounded by water. It was beautiful. The food was very good. After lunch we visited several places, watched the art of cheroot making. In another place, I saw how people were extracting silver from rocks and making Jewellery. Being a Chemist by profession, I was quite interested to see how they were using their age old skills and knowledge in the modern day. After extraction jewellery were made from the silver. We were traveling in the village in our speed boat. All the houses were built on poles in the lake. Every house had a canoe and their mode of transport was by using the canoe. It was a great experience.


From Yangon, I flew to Bangkok. I have traveled in Thailand before but never had the time to visit the bridge on the river Kwai. This time I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.



We all have seen that famous 1957 movie, “The bridge on the river Kwai”. It won several Oscars and we all loved the movie, at the same time felt sad to see what those soldiers had to go through. Part of the movie was real and part was fictional. The real story of how the railway and the bridge was built is a horrific one.

 The British originally planned to build the railway but abandoned the idea because of the high cost it would involve. During World War II theJapanese took on the project but expected to finish it in 5 years. Then they got the idea of using the free labour of the prisoners of the war. Using the POWs, they finished the project in 16 months! Soldiers worked from 12 to 18 hours a day. During this period many soldiers died of malnutrition, illnesses ( dysentery, malaria, cholera, beriberi) and brutality. 69 soldiers were beaten to death!

  During this holiday I took the opportunity to visit this historic place. I took a hired car from my hotel in Bangkok. From my hotel it was 300 km. On my way I enjoyed the drive. The highway was beautiful. I could see so much of the country. The driver was a nice person and spoke a little bit of English. In the middle of our journey we stopped for coffee. It took us nearly 3 hours to reach our destination. The name of the place was Kanchanaburi. I was just overwhelmed with emotion when I reached the place. They have built a museum next to the bridge. I visited the museum. I walked along the bridge, from one end to the other. The place was full of tourists and everyone was taking photos. Towards the very end of the bridge it was a lot less crowded and I could take more photos.

 At the end of my travel I always sing my favourite song, “Biswaye tai jagey amar praan…”. This world is full of wonders.