Don’t forget Myanmar

January 31, 2014

I am fortunate to end our incredible SE Asia trip in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, our winter home.  I don’t believe that I would so easily reconstruct the magic of Myanmar from the US.  My dear country is far separated from incense smoke and the soft smile of the Buddha, from subsistence farming and small houses made of natural materials, from small wooden fishing boats gathering crew in the morning and returning with what could be gathered in nets thrown out by hand and hauled in by muscle.

We spent two nights in Yangon, met with our travel agent to pick up plane tickets that could not be purchased on line.  Our boarding passes were hand written.  Our airline identified us by a small sticker that differed from the small sticker that the other airlines used.  Nora, our travel agent, had a copy of “The Glass Palace” on her desk.  Her boss had recommended that she read it.  I found a copy at a book seller on the tiny street where we followed Lonely Planet for a cup of tea, Myanmar style, with interesting fried goodies and sticky rice.  The first chapter of that book dropped me into Burma as England was removing the last King and Queen to exile in India.

We were walking distance to the Swedagon Pagoda.  In the morning, my camera decided not to work by some cosmic intervention, so that I could just walk and look and kneel and pray.  I met a Myanmarese who spoke English and would have probably liked a donation for answering my question:  What is the Sunday Corner was all about?  He pulled out a reference book from his hip pack and verified that I was indeed a Sunday Child and, surprisingly, so is my husband.  We needed to take the flowers that I was carrying to the Sunday Corner and poor water over the Buddhas.  Only later did I discover why it took so long to get a cup to accomplish the homage:  I was supposed to scoop a cup of water over the Buddha’s head for each year since my birth!  I had only dipped 3 times, the Trinity is deep in my consciousness, even surrounded by Buddhas.

The Sunday Corner.

The Sunday Corner.

We returned at night and the temples were still full of families, praying and meditating.  The moon was half full over the pagoda.

Swedagon Pagoda

Swedagon Pagoda

We flew to Bagan and spent two days on E bikes, the latest rage from China, exploring the seemingly infinite pagodas and shrines.  The weather was comfortable compared to Accuweather’s predictions, which was a blessing.  The Kumudara Hotel, which I enjoyed immensely, had a fixed Myanmar menu so I had an opportunity to explore local tastes of curries, stews, and crispy appetizers.  The flavors reminded me more of Indian food than anything we had eaten on the trip.  “The Glass Palace” explained why.

The last night in Bagan we ventured into the landscape around the hotel: dirt roads, bamboo houses, welcoming residents.  Chris saw a ruin that looked tall enough for a scenic sunset photo.  When we got there we found a ruined monastery occupied by two monks and their cook, living in a bamboo house within the jumble of 11th century construction. When we approached, we were welcomed, escorted to the highest point of the monastery, ruined in a 1975 earthquake and served tea as the sun set over Bagan.  We Were Served Tea!  The young man who cooked for the monks spoke surprisingly good English, enough to tell me that his very petite mother had died giving birth to him.  He toured us through the monastery, showing us what was new and what was old.  Our donation earned us rich prayers and blessings of luck and health for all of our family from one of the monks.   Every time I look at this photos, my heart sings.

Our host at Bagan's sunset.

Our host at Bagan’s sunset.

Buy a little gold leaf and stick it on the Buddha, for luck, for health.

Buy a little gold leaf and stick it on the Buddha, for luck, for health.

The face clay is worn by many in Myanmar, sun protection.  I was not buying what this girl was selling, so she took one of my Ankgor temple bracelets as a toll.

The face clay is worn by many in Myanmar, sun protection. I was not buying what this girl was selling, so she took one of my Ankgor temple bracelets as a toll.

Imagining the detail of these temples 1000 years ago.

Imagining the detail of these temples 1000 years ago.

Our trip was ending and our final destination was rest and relaxation in Thanwe on Ngapali Beach.  Again Chris found spectacular accommodations, Yoma Cherry Lodge:  unspoiled, rich with local life and we even found a boat to go out to snorkel with the fishes.

Ngapali Beach.

Ngapali Beach.

Some Trip Advisor remarks mentioned the smell of fish in the comments for the Yoma Cherry.  There is a reason for this.  Each evening the men gathered to wade into the sea, climb onto the boats and spend the night out on the sea.  In the morning, sometimes before dawn, women were waiting around small fires, keeping warm, for the boats to return.  I am imaging that cell phones helped coordinate the rendezvous.   Everyone has them.  Baskets of fish were unloaded and carried, hanging from long sticks, two by two, to the blue mesh tarps where they will dry on the beach.  Some were taken away to the dry rice fields inland.  Small boys, 5 or 6 years old had the job of picking up left over fish on the beach.  Some of these were recipients of leftover Mekong River coconut candy.  In the afternoon as the men gathered for the next night’s fishing, women gathered the dried fish.  Yes, it smelled like fish.  It was marvelous.

Headed out.

Headed out.

tarps of fish

tarps of fish

All the guys want to see the photo.

All the guys want to see the photo.

Myanmar remains on our Bucket List.

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4 Responses to “Don’t forget Myanmar”

  1. Kathy Paul Says:

    Oh, Kimberly, how fortunate you are in this trip and these memories, and how fortunate I am to know you so that I can share in these memories, too!

  2. jaihn Says:

    Yes, Beauty-full reporting, recording, reflecting, Kimberly. Thank you – lovely to share from overhere, too. xxxj


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