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Phaung-Daw U Festival, Myanmar

The Phaung Daw U Pagoda is the most famous lake on the Inle Lake. The Pagoda contains five small gilded images of Buddha covered with in gold leaf. In fact the images where originally made from Sandal wood, but have been covered so many times with gold leaf, they now appear rather shapeless objects of pure gold. The images represent Kakkusandra, Kaunagamana, Kasatpa, Gautama and Arainmareya Buddhas of this world.

Every year when the rainy season ends around September time boat races are held on the rivers and lakes throughout Myanmar. The most spectacular festival takes place in October at the Phaung-Daw U Pagoda on Inle Lake near Taunggyi.

During the event, four of the five Buddha images are placed on the Royal Barge. The fifth Buddha image is left to take care of the monastery. The barge takes the shape of a bird, the Karaweik (‘a mythical bird with a sweet voice’), and a procession takes place around the lake, stopping at each large monastery and village to spend the night before moving on the following morning to the next village in a clockwise direction. These visits represent those made by King Alaungsithu several centuries ago. The decorated royal barge is towed by several boats moving by leg-rowers of Inle Lake. The high point of the festival is on the day when the images arrive at the main town of Nyaung Shwe, where most pilgrims from the surrounding region come to pay their respects and veneration by boats. There are hundreds of floating boats from near and far. At Nyaung Shwe they spend three nights and then they return to the Pagoda via the right- hand side of the river.

The festival lasts 18 days and is held according to the Lunar Calendar of Myanmar. It begins on the first Waxing Moon day of Thadingyut and ends a couple of days after the Full Moon.

On the final day of the festival there is a boat race. Each race is between three boats each containing around 100 people each. The actual Inle Lake is located in the heart of the Shan Plateau 900 metres above sea level. It is 22 km long and 10 km wide. Even if not heading to the Inle Lake for the festival, visiting the lake on your travel s to Myanmar is definitely worth it. Spending a day on a scenic boat trip along the lake you will discover many different ethnic people and experience their daily life.

In 2013 the festival takes place between the 05th and 22nd October. So if you are travelling to Myanmar during this period it would definitely be worth trying to co-ordinate your tour to Myanmar to include a stop at the Inle Lake. There is plenty of accommodation to meet a range of budgets but booking early is advised due to the high demand in of Myanmar and the new destination to visit.

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