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Myanmar

366--Myanmar: Young Princes and Old Nats
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 30 2006 - 09:37 PST
Cherie admires the intricate designs of the stairways leading to the top of Taung Kalat, a place where the Myanmar people worship both the Buddha and nats (spirts). *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie admires the intricate designs of the stairways leading to the top of Taung Kalat, a place where the Myanmar people worship both the Buddha and nats (spirts). *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie writes: While Jean, Lynda and I stumbled randomly upon a beautiful traditional ceremony called: “Shin-pyu” while traveling up the road to Mt. Popa. The villagers dressed up their male children to look like princes. The young boys, wearing make-up and elaborate costumes, were mounted on horses. Even the local Oxen were dressed up for the colorful parade. Mothers and sisters offered flowers and food, while fathers and brothers held umbrellas and fanned the young monks-to-be.

The ceremony is meant to mimic when Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Buddha, left his palace on horseback to meditate and attain Nirvana. After the procession, the young boys are sent to a local monastery to learn to be monks. Parents hope that their children will eventually choose to become a monk, which is considered a great honor in most Buddhist Myanmar families.

It’s common for rural villages in Myanmar combine nat worship, or “spirit worship”, with Buddhism. There are 37 “Great Nats” and many people have alters in their homes to worship specific nats. Because most of the nats were formerly humans who met horrible deaths, the nats have desires and attachments. Many traditional Buddhists denounce nat worship, but it is still typical for rural villages to have a patron nat.

The Myanmar villagers make pilgrimages to Mt. Popa to worship the nats. Popa Taung Kalat is a vertical dome of lava shaped like a massive thimble. When Mt. Popa blew her top 250,000 years ago, the resulting volcanic plug became known as Taung Kalat.

Jean and I were cautioned not to bring meat because it might offend the nats (as if I often carry a leg of pig with me when I begin a steep climb?) More likely, the smell of meat would attract the attention of the resident monkeys. On the steep (but shaded) climb to the top, out-of-breath visitors are greeted (and harassed) by numerous gangs of monkeys. Jean and I made it past the aggressive primates to the Buddhist shires perched on the summit like a volcanic crown.
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365--Myanmar: The Buddha wears glasses
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 27 2006 - 07:39 PST
Cherie and Jean in front of the Shwemyetman Paya.  It's the only Paya in the world where the Buddha wears a pair of gold glasses.

Cherie and Jean in front of the Shwemyetman Paya. It's the only Paya in the world where the Buddha wears a pair of gold glasses.

Cherie writes: Shwedaung, a town about 10-miles south of Pyay, is famous for having the only Buddha in the world with spectacles. The gold-plated lenses were given to Buddha by a townsman back in the Konbaung era. Now pilgrims with eye-ailments travel across the globe pay homage to the Buddha with glasses. By chance, Jean and I saw the Buddha during his eyeglass cleaning. Once a month the monks climb up a ladder with a cloth to make sure the Buddha has a clear view of his worshipers.

Myanmar is a country filled with every type of image of Buddha: gold Buddhas, tall Buddhas, reclining Buddhas. The only thing I haven’t seen is a Buddha with a beer! One of the most magnificent Buddhas was the Ten-Story Buddha or the Sehtatgyi Paya. The gold covered zedi glistened in the moonlight and turned even the most devout doubters into faithful believers.
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364--Myanmar: Golden Palaces and Dark Caves
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 26 2006 - 03:13 PST
We became a part of history dressed in traditional clothing at the Mya Nan San Kyaw Golden Palace, near Mandalay, Myanmar.

We became a part of history dressed in traditional clothing at the Mya Nan San Kyaw Golden Palace, near Mandalay, Myanmar.

Cherie writes: In the mountains near Mandalay rests a town called Pyin Oo Lwin. A short drive from the city is a cave called Peik Chin Myaung or Maha Nadamu Cave. Pilgrims and local villagers come to the caves to bottle up the healing water and take it home to their elders. The medicinal water is filtered through the holy ground which means it is believed to heal almost any ailment. Inside the cave, there are hundreds of Buddhas that are enshrined by stalactites and stalagmites. Out of respect, visitors remove their shoes before entering the cave. The rushing streams tickle your bare feet as you walk through the cave and admire the Buddhas that are tucked into almost every crack and crevasse.

The last sovereign King of Myanmar, King Mindon, made Mandalay the capital city of his country and built what is now known as Mya Nan San Kyaw Golden Palace. Constructed of teak on brick, much of the palace is covered in a thin skin of gold. Former home to King Thibaw and Chief Queen Supayalatt, the palace was destroyed by fire in WWII. The government finished reconstruction in 1995, and the buildings are now open to the public.
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363--Myanmar: Do you know the way to Mandalay?
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 25 2006 - 12:03 PST
Cherie talking to a monk at sunset on Mandalay Hill. *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie talking to a monk at sunset on Mandalay Hill. *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie writes: A few thousand years ago, the Buddha climbed Mandalay Hill, looked down, and proclaimed that a great and religious city would be born below. The Buddha was right about a lot of things. Today, tourists and believers alike climb the 1,729 steps to the top.

At the summit rests the Su Taung Pyi Pagoda (or “wish granting” pagoda) that was built by King Anawratha in the year 414 (by the Myanmar Calendar.) At 790-ft above the city, you can gaze down at the old Royal Palace and the Ayeryarwaddy River.

Mandalay Hill is the perfect place to watch a romantic sunset, especially if you have a monk standing next to you. I thought I was cool chatting with the monk, but Jean one-upped me and gave the monk her number! The monk asked me: “Why do westerners always climb this hill to watch the sunset?”
--“Because the sunset is beautiful,” I answered.
--“Why do westerners think the sunset is more beautiful than the daylight?” the monk questioned further. I didn’t have an answer. Maybe I like the sunset because the sky is more colorful and therefore seems special. But isn’t every moment in life colorful and special?

When Jean and I weren’t walking in the Buddha’s footsteps, we visited the local massage parlor and cheroot factory. (I don’t think the Buddha was in either of those locations!)
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362--Myanmar: Monks at Ngwe Saung Beach
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 21 2006 - 07:45 PST
Is Cherie being lazy or is she helping the local economy.  You decide.

Is Cherie being lazy or is she helping the local economy. You decide.

Cherie writes: Ngwe Saung Beach is a 15-kilometer stretch of sand on the Bay of Bengal. It’s the home to hardworking fishermen and peaceful monks. During the day you are plagued with difficult choices such as: should I swim in the pool or the bay? Or should I meander into town in search of a snack?

Come view the photos of the colorful and cheerful people of Myanmar. The are traditional local restaurants in the village near the beach. It was here that we ate lunch and had a waiter assigned to fan us the entire time we ate. Only in Myanmar! Jean and I had an incredible time at the Sunny Paradise Resort.

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361--Myanmar: The Floating World of Inle Lake
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 19 2006 - 09:54 PST
Cherie explores the floating world of Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma.) *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie explores the floating world of Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma.) *Photo by Jean Leitner.

Cherie writes: The sons of Inle Lake are the “Intha” people, which literally means “sons of the lake.” It’s in this lake where you can watch: children take their water buffalo for a swim on a leash, daughters harvest dinner from the village floating garden, wives weave cloth into prized longyi and husbands paddle home their canoes with their legs—not their arms.

Inle Lake, Myanmar is a floating world of still waters and endless tranquility. Most Intha go to the weekly Kyauk Taing Market by canoe or water buffalo…but you can arrive in a click.
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284--Myanmar (Burma): Thibaw, Water-Buffalo & Ox-Carts
@ CherieSpotting     Mar 29 2005 - 11:26 PST
A Shan farmer lets me ride his water-buffalo bareback in a village near Thibaw, Myanmar. *Photo by Aunt Lynda.

A Shan farmer lets me ride his water-buffalo bareback in a village near Thibaw, Myanmar. *Photo by Aunt Lynda.

cherie writes: Flashback: I'm not sure how these ideas creep into my head, but it seemed like fun. "I want to ride a water-buffalo," I informed my Aunt Lynda one morning. That very same afternoon we walked to a Shan village (near Thibaw, Shan State, Myanmar) in search of a water-buffalo.

Of course, the first water-buffalo my joking Aunt picked had just rolled in the mud. I requested a less dirty water-buffalo and my Aunt gave me a look that said I should stop being so picky. Then my Aunt suggested a much cleaner water-buffalo (that was actually submerged in water.) I politely requested a non-wet, non-muddy water-buffalo to mount.

We finally found a water-buffalo and my Aunt said something to the Shan farmer who led the water-buffalo by a leash. Aunt Lynda spoke in Burmese and the farmer’s face contorted like someone just asked him to explain the Coriolis Effect. My Aunt probably said something like: "Can this girl sit on your water-buffalo, please?" The farmer’s eyebrows did a native Shan-dance while he considered the offer. Finally the farmer agreed, but I’m not sure if the water-buffalo was ever officially consulted.
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