After your visit of Bagan, the outstanding cultural heritage site covered with over 2,000 temples, pagodas and stupas, stay longer and explore the authentic rural surroundings villages to approach the living cultures of Myanmar.
What to experience?
Zee O Thit Hla Village is located on the Byat Ta Pan Sat Road, 10km from Bagan on the way to Popa Mountain. A Sacred Forest of 16 hectares covered with over 600 Ingyinn trees (Shorea Siamensis) offers a cool nature discovery, a welcome relief from the arid, cactus-dotted surrounding landscapes. The Ingyin trees are on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species; a valuable hardwood prized by many for its durability and beauty, those found here are exceptionally wide in diameter. Some 35 tree species have been catalogued in this old growth Protected Forest, with some experts believing that it is a rare example of a richer flora that existed prior to the deforestation that accompanied the 11th to 13th Century construction of the great temples of Bagan.
While the Forest is under the protection of the Forestry Department, it has been under the protection of a more ethereal nature. What has managed to preserve this old growth forest from destruction and degradation throughout centuries is the two guardian spirits, or nats, which inhabit the forest. The villagers do not dare to take out even one small branch from the forest for fear of offending the nats. At the entrance of the forest you will find a rudimentary shrine for the two nats, where villagers place offering of flowers, take off their footwear, and give a silent prayer before entering the forest.
The village landmark a 100-year-old Tamarind tree deserves a photo stop. You can also watch the traditional way of extracting oil from peanuts and sesame seeds, with cows turning a mortar and pestle, or the making process of palm sugar and taste Burmese candies. Take the time to visit to the monastery and exchange with the Venerable monk & villagers who are starting to develop community based tourism.
From there go visit Tuti village where numerous abandoned furnaces for smelting iron have been located or, north east of Bagan Letpanchibaw on the riverside where artifacts such as potsherds, domestic utensils, stone and bronze weapons, jewellery, where found.
How Does it Help?
Getting out of the main tourism circuits allows local communities around the main tourism sites to benefit from tourists’ flows, they usually only see passing by. In Zee oh village there are 187 houses for a total population of 997 people. The villagers are poor and mainly depend on palm trees plantation to extract sugar and cultivation of rice and beans. People are eager to meet foreigners and the purchase you make directly from their communities will greatly improve their daily lives, they’ll be most grateful if you tak the time to meet with them. Rent a pony cart, buy refreshing drinks from the local drink sellers, purchase a unique local souvenir, or some local fruit at one of the villages markets, contribute to a positive tourism impact on the local community.
Access to Zee Oh Village: 30 mn drive from Bagan, there is Tuywintaung (mountain range) range)/Myakan (reservoir). Proceed another ½ hr drive to Zee O Thit Hla Ingyinn Forest
Kyaw Swe (Tour guide)
Yone Nyaung Bin Quarter, Bagan
Marker indicates Byat Ta Pan Sat Road not the exact location of the village