30 July 2013

bago, part 2

i check off a task on maddy's scavenger hunt of sorts. after all, yoga comes from buddhist practice!

the most impressive, or at least my favorite, site we visited in bago was probably shwemawdaw pagoda.

inside the covered temples for prayer - there are four, at the north, south, east, and west of the pagoda.

ringing the bell is supposed to signify that you've done a good deed. we donated money in a couple of the many giving boxes... generosity is the simplest of the three pillars of dhamma in buddhism. the other two are morality and meditation.

the best translation phraseology ever: if you happen upon a "spontaneous outcome of giving donation"....

this little boy got really excited, but i'm not sure why.

the center of the pagoda is actually a stupa, which means that it is permanently sealed off. apparently shwemawdaw, originally built over 1,000 years ago, houses two hairs and some teeth of the buddha, among other precious objects.

my mom and dad are just adorable.

the pagoda has been damaged by several major earthquakes. this piece fell off the top in 1917. it's impossible to imagine the scale of this cross-section just from the photo!

our guide explained to us that depending on the day of the week you are born, you are spiritually represented by one animal and one planet. each of eight points of the compass around the stupa has its own small buddha and a specific animal. the day of the week of birth is very significant in myanmar tradition, even dictating the first syllable of one of your names!

at shwemawdaw, once you find the shrine that represents your animal, you make a wish as you pour a little cup of water three times on the head of the gold buddha and three times on the head of the gold animal statue. of course, we all had to do this ritual.

i was born on a friday, so my planet is venus and my spirit animal is a guinea pig. my name would start with "ti," like "tida," meaning "cool water."

tiger and mimi were both born on saturday.

this buddha is like, "let me out!!"

grandad converts to buddhism.

having a laugh.

near bago is kanbawzathadi palace, a large gold-gilded residence built for the king of the second burmese empire in 1553... and burned down fifty years later. now you can see the teak logs excavated from the site in the 1990s, and a replica palace built at the same time. no one knows whether the reproduction, based on 16th-century drawings, follows the original building closely. it's still massive, though. walking around, you have to squint to imagine that the gold paint is gold gild and that stenciled drawings on the pillars are actually intricate original designs.

teak logs recovered from the ruins of the original palace.

a few meters away is the bee throne hall, which houses a smaller and less elaborate throne than the lion throne hall in the main palace.

we made a quick stop at kyaik pun pagoda, a sculpture from 1476 of four back-to-back buddhas, each 98 feet tall.

imitating the "four sisters."

if you need refreshments outside the pagoda...

our last temple for the day was the hintha gon, a pagoda on a tall hill that supposedly was once an island where two mythological birds landed and where bago was founded. now, it's a temple with a great view, a couple buddhas... and tons of plastic decorations and led lights. it just screams "tacky!" according to our guides, all western tourists hate those made-in-china-type ornaments at buddhas and temples.

last yoga photo! tiger thinks i'm a freak.

long, slippery steps.

making fun of my favorite photo pose.

they're alright.

on the way home, we stopped at a sacred banyan tree outside yangon that, according to tradition, watches over vehicles and highways. locals back up their new cars three times in front of the tree in order to receive divine protection from accidents.

lastly, we requested to just see aung san suu kyi's house, and i'm so glad we did. it was just the gate - but even that gate is famous, and it was incredible to be there.

bago, part 1

i am embarrassed by how many photos i took yesterday.

we drove about two hours outside the city to bago, another city known for its gilded temples and huge buddha statues (like every other city in myanmar that's known for anything, actually). we did so much in one day, so i'm splitting this into two posts just so i can show every stop on our extensive tour.

another reason we picked bago was because apparently the road is relatively good. well, it was paved... but possibly the bumpiest ride of my life.

first up, the taukkyan war cemetery, the site of thousands of graves of soldiers who fought for the british crown during world war ii, including some burmese and indian people. i love how instead of cut flowers on each grave, there are flowers and flowering bushes growing between each grave in neat rows.

grandad found some flowers on the ground and gave them to mimi.

once again, we were stopped to take a photo with locals who find our very presence in myanmar amusing. not many westerners visit here, especially kids.

i learned from our guide that mingalaba is not traditionally used by myanmar people, who don't tend to greet each other; they simply launch into conversation. the all-purpose greeting was invented in the '90s for something to say to foreign visitors.

can't resist more market-fruit photos.

along the drive right after the cemetery, we stopped at a big local market where again people were taking pictures of us. this really wasn't a tourist destination at all. it felt like we got the real market experience - getting shoved along by passersby, learning about everything from sticky rice cakes to betel nuts, experiencing some pretty overpowering (sometimes revolting) smells.

rices and other dry goods.

quail eggs!

oh hey it's me.


a couple of flower vendors loved tiger; he got two free roses and loved the attention.

the shwethalyaung buddha was built in 994  and is considered the most beautiful reclining buddha in myanmar. at 180 feet long, it's slightly smaller than the reclining buddha we visited in yangon, but the yangon one was built in the 20th century.

(and no, i don't remember the names of each temple; that's what the guidebook is for!)

these enormous buddhas are built of bricks then covered with mortar and painted. this one had cool glasswork on the boxes near its head, and the back was a series of three-dimensional panels outlining the legend around why it was constructed.

every pagoda has a legend.

records of donations as well as offerings and decoration line the fence around the buddha.

never wont for opportunities to donate!

the buddha was left to decay for hundreds of years before being completely restored in the last fifty years. a corrugated tin roof was erected to protect the statue from this extreme climate, but unfortunately it detracts from the beauty of the buddha itself.

this adorable little monk was clearly instructed to stay put in the temple, but he was so restless and constantly wandering around.

beyond the steps is a bazaar of handicrafts and tourist souvenirs.

i also loved driving around bago and the outlining areas. it was great to finally get outside yangon and see the classic landscape of southeast asia. rice paddies, thatch-roofed houses on stilts across marshes, locals in canoes, huge oxen pulling carts, rickshaws transporting people and groceries, monasteries, teak distribution yards, and a national league for democracy office in every village.