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From the Ground: Asia Elephant Coach

There is a new transportation option in Bagan and Yangon, and we simply love it! For guests looking for the feeling of ‘Old World Luxury’, Elephant Coach offers either a six-seat or an eight-seat coach to transport you around these historic cities as you take in the sights. A hostess will be on hand to offer you refreshments in between your destinations. There are both old Chevrolet passenger buses that have been restored to modern comforts, and two replica coaches, modeled after post-colonial Chevrolet buses with modern silent motors, air-conditioning and plush comfortable armchair seats. Chat with us, if you’d like to upgrade your city tours or your airport transfers with Elephant Coach!

Ballooning in Bagan

Bagan hot air ballooning

Edna and Steve Kornberg traveled with Journeys Within for a month-long tour through Myanmar, taking in many different destinations in this remarkable country. In this blog post, we’ll share some of Edna’s beautiful photos from their experience hot air ballooning over the temples at Bagan.

“We feel this was one of the so many highlights of our trip.  It was one thing to go inside each of these temples, or stupas, one at a time, but to get an overview of them like this was breathtaking. As you’ll notice, there are three different colored balloons – red, yellow and green. These represent the colors of Myanmar and each color is from a different company. We were in the green ones. You’ll see how high we were able to get as well as how low. In one photo you’ll see our basket very close to the top of another balloon. It was not scary at all. The company was very safety conscious and our pilot was such a pro. I even stood on the seat (with Steve holding onto my pants!) to get better shots… Up, up and away.”

 All photos by Edna Kornberg.

Click here to see the slideshow if it does not appear embedded below.

Through the eyes of our guests: Myanmar

Active traveler, Lee Ann Brookes recently returned from her trip to Myanmar with Journeys Within and shared these photos. We couldn’t be more envious …

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There is little we like more than when guests share photos of their trip with us after they return home. They serve as a beautiful reminder of why we do what we do while inspiring us to continue sharing some of the most stunning sights in the world.

So thank you Lee Ann for the beautiful reminders from Myanmar!

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A woman fishing on Inle Lake.
Lee Anne Brooke
The cozy couple in Yangon.
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Temples in Bangan.
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View over Yangon’s Kandawgyi Lake.
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Local wildlife struts its stuff.
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The sun sets over Inle Lake.
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The plains in Bagan.
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Another beautiful sunset in Myanmar.

In Burma, before Buddhism there were Nats

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and like its neighbours Laos, Cambodia and Thailand is synonymous with robe-clad Buddhist monks. Despite this entrenched belief system, Myanmar has another, older religion …

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Before Buddhism arrived in Myanmar an animistic belief system was practiced centered around the worship of nats or spirits. There are two types of nats: the 37 Great Nats, almost all of whom were human beings who met with violent deaths and have been elevated to a form of sainthood, and common nats, often unnamed beings who are the spirits of things like trees, rivers 0r mountains.

Nats have human characteristics, wants, and needs. They are flawed beings, having desires considered petty and immoral in mainstream Buddhism. “If you don’t like me, avoid me, I am a drunkard” are the words that greet you at the entrance to the shrine dedicated to Lord Kyawswa, one of the nats revered in the Bagan region.

Many modern Burmese would say that nat worship is merely superstition and tend to downplay its role in society; nevertheless there is evidence to suggest that the belief in these spirits acts to some extent as a deterrent against environmental destruction.

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Taung Kalat, Mount Popa. Image by Richard Saward

Sometimes described as the ‘Mount Olympus of Myanmar’, Mount Popa, an extinct volcano which hosts numerous nat temples and shrines on its slopes, is the most important nat pilgrimage site in Myanmar.  Near its base can be found Taung Kalat, a volcanic plug topped by a Buddhist monastery and nat shrine. Visitors can climb the 777 steps to its summit, but beware of the many feisty monkeys en route and remember to follow the local edicts whilst on the mountain: do not wear red, black or green, do not carry meat with you (especially pork) and try hard not to think bad thoughts about others!

Mount Popa can be visited as a day trip from Bagan, but an overnight stay at the Popa Mountain Resort is highly recommended if you wish to really get a feel for this magical and uniquely Burmese place.

Non-ordained, hermit monks dressed in tall, peaked hats, called yetis can occasionally be seen around Mount Popa. Yetis use walking as a meditational tool and are usually observed sauntering slowly and thoughtfully.  If you are lucky you may even run into a yeti during your visit!