>Day 40. Last day in Myanmar.

>(posted Day 44)
So…. After my shower yesterday afternoon, we walked up to see what it was we had gone to so much trouble for……Golden Rock….

This is a geological phenomenon. You can’t even see it that well in this photo, but only a very small portion of the rock is making contact with the rock it is sitting on. So why doesn’t it just roll off? No one knows…..and its been sitting like that for at least 2,000 years. Through rain, wind and earthquakes. Maybe this one gives you an idea of how precariously it sits…

It is really hard to understand how it sits there when you see it in person.

The myth is that a monk had a piece of Buddha’s hair and he needed someplace to save it (a lot of the temples claim to have relics from one of the buddhas….a hair, or a piece of cloth, or something). Anyway, he kept going down to the river and bringing up a rock on which he could build a stupa to house the Buddha’s hair. An angel (I think it was an angel, although that sounds too Christian?) kept rejecting the rocks he brought up and kept throwing them aside (there were other large rocks strewn around at the top of this hill which are considered to be the rejected rocks). Until this one, which was chosen, and placed on this ledge, and the stupa was built on top of it. Even though that is just a myth, still, noone has any idea how he got up to build the stupa on top of the rock. But they have since built bamboo scaffolding to go up to repair it, cover it with gold leaf and even rebuild the stupa (again, more later on this repair/maintain strategy).

We stayed long enough to see the sunset…

Again, it wasn’t a great sunset due to the haziness, but it was still awesome!

Then this morning, I got up to see the sunrise outside my window with a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains….again, through the haze…

…then after breakfast, it was the three kilometers walk back down to catch the truck…during which time we were water gunned from time to time with water….you’ll understand this as you read on. Anyway, they put me in the front cab with the driver this time, and I felt like quite a wimp, until I understood why….keep reading. Today is the first day of their water festival. I thought this was going to be about colorful parades. But, NOT….So, what does this mean? The water festival occurs during the four days preceding their new year. It is a time to clean….yourself, your vehicles, your mind, your house, etc. (kind of like the concept of spring cleaning). To celebrate this, they spray water on each other. Ok, not always spray……sometimes they throw buckets of water at you…As these boys were doing as the trucks proceeded down the hill.

If I had been in the open truck, I would have been soaked for the air conditioned ride back to Yangon! They even have staging areas set up everywhere where they stand and bombard you with water…

It’s quite a day for the kids….they love it! Although it made for a tedious drive back to town for the driver, as he had to watch out for all of the kids running onto the road in all of their excitement.

As we drove back, you saw entire families piled in their vehicle with all of their stuff, including filled water tanks, for their day of celebration in some village or town.

We did stop at a temple in Bago on the way back, where I cleansed the statue of the guinea pig (the guinea pig is at the front at the bottom), for people born on Friday, for good luck…(different animals for different days of the week)…

You pour 5 cups of water (I was born on the 23rd, so 2+3=5 cups of water) on the protector ( the one holding the umbrella), then 5 cups on the buddha, then 5 cups on the guinea pig.

When we got back to town, the water festival got even more serious, with staging areas more predominant. The music was blaring and people were standing in front of the stage dancing, and getting soaked by hoses…

They even had a stage where vehicles could go through…motorcycles, open trucks, open jeeps, etc. My driver thought I should experience it, but again, we wimped out, and went through it with our windows closed to the barrage of water…..

You can imagine from this how soaked I would be if the windows had been opened! It was quite a happy, festive day in Myanmar!

After dropping my stuff off at the hotel, we proceeded to schwedagon pagoda. That was the one I had seen from the airplane when I arrived in Myanmar…
It is the most famous one, although it’s not the highest one…

…yes, that speck in front of it is me.

Now for my thoughts, as promised, on the repairing/rebuilding of their monuments. The places I have been these last two days have involved stupas, monuments, temples that have all been refurbished, repainted, in some cases, torn down and rebuilt, covered in real gold bars and jewels (as this one is–it has a 76 carat diamond at the peak, with rubies, diamonds, etc surrounding the top, which you can’t even see). Way too much emphasis on a projection of wealth….which seems totally counter to the Buddhist religion. While all of this was quite impressive, I was disappointed that they are not instead restoring these to their original, more simplistic beauty. Many of the ones in Bagan are still more natural, and I hope they don’t expand their rebuilding efforts to that area (although I am afraid that’s what they are planning to do). UNESCO had wanted to put Bagan on its heritage list, which would include expert restoration efforts, but they rejected this offer, as they did not want foreigners interfering. And I assume they will proceed to do it their way. What a shame it would be if all of that history were lost.

I have had a wonderful time in Myanmar, and thank both of my guides for their great hospitality and friendship. I am so glad I added this excursion to Myanmar to my RTW trip!

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