23 July 2013

'the beginning of buddhist lent'

the entrance to the shwe dagon pagoda.

d.c. on inauguration day. times square on new year's eve. all things that sounds like a good idea until... you're staring at the back of someone's head, being shoved through a dense crowd, too squished to even take out your camera and too stressed about getting lost to notice anything else.

that was pretty much the feeling yesterday, july 22, when we decided to visit shwe dagon pagoda, the most sacred site in the country, on full moon day of waso, the biggest buddhist holiday of the year, sort of the beginning of buddhism's version of lent. it was a great idea in theory, and seeing the scene was fascinating: huge stampedes crossing the street in front of the pagoda; umbrellas everywhere to guard from monsoon rains, bright sun (somehow there are both of these), and even oncoming pedestrians; people dangling out of jam-packed buses filling the gridlocked streets. but it was also stressful and agoraphobia-inducing. we decided not to even go in the pagoda because we had little chance of seeing anything.

at least we saw the festive atmosphere - and we'll get to actually visit the pagoda another day, when it's quieter. i hardly took any photos, both because the crowd was pressing and because my dslr is not doing well in this insane (worse-than-d.c.) humidity. all my photos look like they were taken in a thick fog.

also, friday, july 19, was martyrs' day, the anniversary of the 1947 assassination of general aung san. so today (tuesday) is the first normal workday since we arrived in yangon. now we get to really see how the city works.

i know i included a very similar photo in my last post, but i couldn't help myself - this view is so beautiful, and i'm stoked that tomorrow we're moving to the hotel where this was taken.

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