Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Buddhas and Stupas: Day One in Yangon

The Cruise port for Yangon is part and parcel of the industrial Yangon Port about 45-90 minutes east of the city where the Rangoon River is deep enough to handle larger ships. For our first day in Yangon we rode the bumpy shuttle bus into town. We were dropped off in front of town hall in the midst of old colonial buildings, a park with Independence monument and a golden pagoda (Sule Paya) filling the traffic circle. After exchanging money we caught a cab to the must-see Shewdagon Pagoda complex. Very impressive and a bit overwhelming in terms of size and total numbers of Buddhas. Fun to watch were the small Buddha shrines—one for each day of the week—surrounding the large central stupa where believers (and others) can bathe the specific Buddha (representing the day of the week they were born on) once for each year of life. Doing so brings blessings. Everyone was barefoot and the tiled walk-ways were all most too hot in the late morning sun for our temperate climate feet. Unfortunately most of the pagoda was skirted in gold burlap as new gold leafing was applied underneath. Fortunately, there was free wifi in the enclosure so we could send out an instagram photo noting our arrival in Myanmar (my Sprint phone service did not work in Myanmar).

We then found a nice Burmese restaurant where we were able to select an assortment of vegetable and meat curries to eat.

After lunch we visit the large (65 meters) reclining Buddha—which we all liked. Of interest there were a collection of Buddhist tales/parables that all seem to highlight the troubles caused by despotic rulers. Reminded me a similar warnings in both the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament. I wonder what authoritarian leaders in Burma thought/think of such teachings? 

Our final Buddha was a large (46 ft tall) seated Buddha. It was less crowd so I sat down with the kids to rest and we ended up discussing the teachings of Buddhism. A nice moment. 

As we were about to leave a nice Burmese college student named Moe struck up a conversation with me. He spoke English very well. He told that he was an orphan who had been raised in the large monastery adjacent to the Big Buddha. He still lives in the monastery, but as a student not as a monk. He contributes to the commune by teaching the new crop of students English. He then offered to take us on a tour of the monastery. Much of it occupied large colonial era homes. We got to see the young men studying and where Moe and others rolled out mats at night to sleep. I gave Moe $20 for the tour, but he wanted more. I gave him another crisp new $20 bill and he asked for one more. I declined giving him a third. I would like to think it was a chance serendipitous encounter with a nice Burmese, but I also wonder if it was an intended encounter as a way of raising funds for the monastery. Nonetheless, it was a nice opportunity to see and learn more about Buddhism.

More photos added months later when internet was available:

 Dash of our taxi.

 Entry to Shwedagon Pagoda

 Looking at the jewels in the crown of the pagoda.

 Free internet and shade to cool our feet.

 Part of the monastery

Monks' kitchen

  Sleeping area.


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