Monday, November 25

Angkor Wat

I have many more Myanmar stories and photos, but I decided to fast-forward to Cambodia. Cambodia was a real treat compared to Myanmar. If you know about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, plus the Vietnam War, you know that Cambodia has had a difficult history. If you don’t know about these things, I invite you to look into them. Or watch The Killing Fields.

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So, above, we have the iconic view of the temple at Angkor Wat. The five spires of the temple are shaped like lotus buds. Here’s something else I did not know about Angkor Wat: It’s Hindu! Yes, it’s Buddhist, but it’s Hindu-Buddhist. Below we see Vishnu, the supreme superhero of the day. 

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Any Krishna devotees will recognize these Hindu deities.

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Beautiful bas-reliefs have survived a thousand years. They go completely around the walls and tell the history.

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Below is Angkor Thom, another temple…there are quite a few temples in the area. The faces of Bodhisattva on these spires are wonderful.

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Next we have Jungle Temple, which they have, for the most part, left as-is. This is a very popular (i.e. crowded) temple because of Lara Croft Tomb Rader. Trees and roots have just about taken over the structures.

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Aren’t these figures wonderful? Do you see Ganesha?

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One last photo. IMG_1027

Over and out!

Sunday, November 24

Myanmar #4

And still a lot more to come!

We flew to Shan State, an area rich in agriculture. I barely got my camera out of my bag in time for this shot out of the plane window as we landed.

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Tomorrow would be market day and we saw many people bringing in their goods to sell. Some of these photos were shot through the windshield of the bus.

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As we threaded our way through the street market, the photo ops were beyond belief. So were the smells.

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Thanks for coming!

Saturday, November 23

Myanmar #3

After we left Yangon (Rangoon), we flew to an area called Bagan. We had to fly everywhere because there are no highways, just one-and-a-half lane dirt roads and no facilities. Myanmar has little to no infrastructure. Now that they have begun to import cars, they will have to build some roads, but they have no earth-moving equipment, only hand tools like picks and shovels and wheelbarrows.

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Bagan has a thousand or maybe two thousand ancient temples. But I didn’t see them because I fell sick about an hour after checking in to the hotel. One by one, we all got violently ill. We had a gastroenterologist and an internist traveling with us, and their consensus was Norovirus. It was awful. Guides were sick also. I managed to climb this tower and snap off a photo of the landscape before I hurled and dragged my sorry ass to bed. IMG_0245b

Some days later—I lost track of time—we were taken to a market. Only the die-hard photo hounds went. But the smells were ghastly and sent us all running back to the bus before our time was up.IMG_0251

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High-occupancy vehicles.IMG_0340

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You are supposed to rub these statues where you have pain or ills and you will be healed. This woman made sure her baby rubbed every statue (ick). The stuff on their faces is Thanaka, a cosmetic paste made from bark.IMG_0364

This woman was selling something akin to Crepes Suzette by the side of the road. They looked good, but we didn’t dare. We only ate steamed rice if we ate anything at all.IMG_0399

Taxi anyone?IMG_0405

Friday, November 22

Myanmar #2

Yesterday I showed you photos of young monks, novices, and nuns. I am pretty sure that, in Myanmar, Buddhism IS the welfare system. I’m also pretty sure the youngsters that shave their heads not only dream of attaining enlightenment, but joining a monastery provides them with structure, a sense of purpose, a roof over their heads, a bed (more like a woven mat), regular meals, and maybe a sense of belonging. Myanmar lacks the social structure to take care of its poor any other way. The government is run by thugs and there are very few police, and those are mostly traffic cops. Religion keeps the masses in check.

The people have little to spare but they shower their Buddhas with gold. Below is a prime example: Shwedagon Pagoda, 2,500 years old and several TONS of solid gold, with over a hundred solid gold pagodas and Buddha figures. I included a link if you want to dig deeper. This incredible pagoda dominates the landscape of Yangon (Rangoon) and it completely BLEW my mind. Just keep in mind that anything in the pictures that LOOKS like gold IS real gold.

The entrance to Shwedagon.IMG_0200

There were so many Buddha figures in this room my camera couldn’t capture them. Maybe 50 or 60.IMG_0208

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The central stupa, which I haven’t shown you yet, is surrounded by hundreds of smaller pagodas.

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It goes on and on, in a circle. IMG_0216

Here is the central tower. A monk walks in meditation, giving you a sense of the size of this thing. My camera couldn’t capture it all. IMG_0217

As the sun set, the light became ethereal. IMG_0228

This Buddha (below) was in another part of the country. There must be thousands of solid gold Buddhas in Myanmar. IMG_0294

Here’s another one. IMG_0451

And another one.IMG_0446

In this chamber, men put gold leaf onto the Buddha. Women are forbidden. Note the red sign in the lower right. IMG_0350

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Myanmar #1

First, a tiny history of Myanmar: There were Mongol invasions, civil wars, British colonization followed by independence in 1948 followed by military dictatorship until 2011, when Burma finally became its own nation. Suffice to say Myanmar has a whole lot of catching up to do to get in step with the rest of the world.

Buddhist monks are everywhere—we saw hundreds, perhaps thousands. Twice a day they march barefoot to the monastery with their meal, which has been cooked and given to them by people in the village. IMG_0164

The black bowls contain rice. Sometimes a piece of fruit is given, or a sweet treat. IMG_0185

After the prayer, it’s time to dig in. IMG_0182

We saw this play out in cities and in tiny villages every day.IMG_0319

The kids in white are novices. IMG_0324

The ones in pink are nuns. Girls.

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These two nuns are collecting food donations from the market vendors. IMG_0257

These nuns are given a meal at a sidewalk restaurant. IMG_0603

The monasteries and convents are completely supported by the people. These gifts will be donated at the next full moon festival, which takes place every month. IMG_0423

Come back soon because I have much more to show you!