Photo taken in Burma.
Photo taken in Mandalay, Burma.
Check out an old related post: Mingalabar Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)
Calling the Earth to Witness the Truth – Bhumisparsa Mudra
We met the most lovely women on the bus ride into town from the airport. I believe she was from England. She offered us a few pointers.
I whispered to Bill “I bet she’s a nun.” Sure enough.
We tried to track her down where she volunteers/works and was unable to connect with her.
This stunning beautiful open air place of worship greeted us after we walked through the gates of the Catholic church property.
Ah…Burma….Rangoon (we need to use the names I read about growing up) eastern and hot and mysterious……not Myanmar and Yangon. After all, how scary is a 20 ft. Myanmarese python, compared to a Burmese python?
Bagan, on the Ayeyarwaddy, later Irrawaddy River must have hundreds of stupas and temples on a hill. The ancient city of Innwa, seen by horse cart after fording the river, must have a thousand.
They are all different… no frenzied crowds of pilgrims..nearly deserted… they are white with gold spires, or ancient brick with gold spires. They are simple and clean, unadorned with little buddhas, food, water, flowers, incense, smoke or sweat. They simply have a buddha (or a few) with mirrored and tiles walls. We were nearly alone everywhere.
We have also found the monsoons. At 5:45 this morning it was 74 degrees and 100% humidity, but yet is just raining, torrentially, for about 8 minutes, 5 to 10 times a day. It puddles up immediately, but we have seen no flooding. I did not like the feeling of hydroplaning in a large bus going too fast one afternoon-but here we are.
Locals say all prices have doubled in the last year, and tourist options increase weekly. But that said, the edges of the country are still un-permitted, and like the Wild West.
In the northwest, the buddhist monks are killing muslims – “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog” a local monk was quoted in the paper this week. He denies inciting lynch mobs which have killed 200 muslims recently, and displaced 150,000.00 But perhaps he believes the Jihadists who say they want to kill all infidels? Perhaps he is saying they don’t have visas to Myanmar?
The northeast goes up to touch China, and the Himalayas. Once the heroin capital of the world as a portion of the Golden Triangle, it now is the metha-amphetamine and amphetamine manufacturing center for all of Asia, and along with smuggling everything dead or alive to and from China, remain
under the rule of anarchy.
The southeast (Burma stretches almost to Singapore in the south-hello Phuket) alongside Thailand.
Here, the indigenous people are still just trying to enforce the agreements under which they agreed
to become part of the nation – and with little success.
The refuge problem, with the locals being driven into Thailand and beyond for the past 20 some years, is reflective of the boat people coming out of Vietnam for years. So they are oppressed, and pissed, but not giving up on their claims.
The ghosts of Orwell and Kipling (and Mark Twain from Virginia City and Carson City and Lake Tahoe and Roaring Camp!) are alive and well – street names, quotable quotes, pirated novels for sale by cute women outside temples. But after a 10 hour boat ride down the river, and traveling through dusty 400 year old villages, and brick temples, we came to a sign at our hotel in Bagan,
which said the Duke of Windsor, later King Edward VII, stayed there in 1922.
Well, further to this issue in a moment. Bagan is entirely reminiscent of Angkor – discovered at about the same time, but now developmentally far behind. (Parenthetically, Preston just sent us info. on the discovery of a new winter/summer palace about 100 miles from Angkor – we all knew it had to be there–and days later we hear of a new discovery in Mexico. It has to be between Tulum and Palenque-closer to Palenque I hope-for the natural beauty). Anyway, all these lost civilizations ought to give the politicians pause–of course history repeats itself.
We took a small boat to Bagan-along with the surprise of 2 Swiss girls on extended holiday – just sitting on the shaded top of a cargo boat which can run in the pre-monsoon low river. Disembarking in Bagan consisted of the boat turning into the current and throwing a 2 in. x12 in. board onto a rat-hole filled muddy bank and a hearty “hi-ho” from the crew as they handed us our packs.
So – we stayed where the Prince/King stayed 9 years ago.
Typically we stay where our people stay. One can’t feel a country from the castle, So we stay at a level which is uncomfortable without making Paige squirm. And we walk and talk and eat among the people who might vote if there are elections, but they are not in charge. They are existing and making the most of things as modern-day victims.
However, true to our motto (everything in moderation – including moderation!) we also try to stay with the 1%’ers once in a while because they live here too – and might reveal a little about life here.
Consequently, after our 12 hour bus ride to Rangoon with the people, we checked into the Orient Express hotel, on old Embassy Row – the home of the British Colonial Governor.
No need to go into detail, 48 rooms, European staff, bakery, huge local staff, half a dozen snooty guests.
Rangoon, and frankly the entire country we saw, remind us of Viet Nam, now and 50 years ago.
The people seem to be happy by nature, certainly not by their lot. The riverside in Rangoon looks like Singapore 50 years ago. British, colonial, busy, dirty, colorful, hustling (and hustled!) loud, rowdy, and the master plan says it will look like the current Singapore in 30 years – cold, sterile, no spitting, no gum chewing. 10% richer, 90% not – I’m just sayin…
We took Orient Express bikes and rode around to see the colonial part of town, the Red Cross offices, and the Shwedagon Pagoda. Quite beyond the pale. There must be 20 temples and 400 stupas on this 14 acres.
Begun 2500 years ago, the center stupa contains four hairs from the head of Buddha – he having given them to traveling Burmese holy men just after reaching his enlightenment – which they returned to their king and Buddhism has reigned here since.
We like it. Paige likes it. The country is alive, sad, poor, happy beautiful and optimistic. If it only knew what was in store………..
** I will try and put comments with each photo after I post the blog. The computer is giving me grief now.
** The yellow on the women’s faces is made with the bark of a sandal wood tree. They rub (sand) the wood on a flat stone slate and then add a tiny bit of water to make a paste which is then applied to their cheeks and nose with their index finger. It is used as a sunblock – however, their cheeks are not lighter than the rest of their face. We wonder if it has become a thing of beauty. I tried it and it feels like a mud mask.
We are finally finished with our guided tour of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan (a requirement for Tibet and Bhutan). As wonderful as our guides were – being told when, where and how goes against our rebellious little selves.
We flew from Bangkok on Air Asia. Only 25 of the 180 seats were full, 15 of them were foreigners. Mandalay International Airport was crowded with 2 planes, a 30 seat twin and a 35 year old fixed gear Piper single engine.
Outside the terminal there was another surprise. They drive on the right from the right. Now that’s confusing.
Burma opened up to foreign travelers just last year after decades of sanctioned tourism after nations pulled out and/or closed their Embassies due to Burma’s human rights violations. It is now ripe for the picking – virgin grounds – not yet ruined by the tourism trade.
Our comfortable hotel is located just off the busy main road filled with street front shops cars, motorcycles, bicycles, broken chunks of cement sidewalks and open sewer lines with blackened water.
The urban city feels like a suburban neighborhood 2 blocks removed from the main road. Although garbage is spread as far as the eye can see it is overshadowed by the simplicity of daily life unfolding before our eyes.
Newer concrete homes tower over the traditional wooden or woven bamboo homes. Each block has a public well resting on a concrete platform where buckets of water are pulled up for bathing and clothes washing. This morning the wells were in full use.
The traditional dress worn by 95% of the people consists of a large piece of fabric, ankle length and wrapped at the waist with Western shirts. Bathing, swimming and fishing are done fully dressed by women while the men enjoy the luxury of removing their tops.
We stumbled upon a group of men playing a rudimentary board game with colored shells, bottle caps and a checkered homemade wooden board on the street corner – turning the shells like dice.
A man drove up with a 12′ bamboo ladder on his motorcycle – stepped on the kick stand, removed the ladder and climbed up the street pole to make a repair with his rusted wrench.
The construction of a new building included women carrying cement on their heads to the 4th floor. Just think Dad – women hod carriers!! You wouldn’t get any work done.
Every 20 yards or so are one man motorcycle and bicycle shops.
Men and women sort through trash at what Bill likes to call a refuse transfer station. Not sure where it is transferred to!
Men, women and children’s faces are painted with light yellow mixture of sap from a local tree and water used to prevent sunburn. Of course, we thought it had some religious significance.
Unlike the rest of the world, only a handful of people have cell phones. What a welcomed sight! People actually engaged with each other. If they want to make a phone call they can utilize one of street side phone stations, like a lemonade stand, complete with a corded desktop house phone.
We even stopped by the Catholic – that’s right a Catholic Church in the heart of Buddhism – to see a nun we met on the bus. The gentleman there said the only time they get new members is when a Buddhist marries a Catholic.
We have talked about how friendly everyone in each country is but Mandalay might win the gold medal. Everyone is quick to say “hello” and down right surprised when we say “mingalabar” resulting in huge grins and stares of wonderment.
I often think how we, in our own country, are so calloused. We pay zero attention to foreigners. Is it because we are already multinational? Too busy? What do you say?
The chicken in my club sandwich has feathers!!!