9 Feb

Our first day: Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda

After a long but smooth flight we arrived in Yangon, the capital av Myanmar. Yangon greeted us with a some clouded skies, with temperatures somewhere over the 30 C. After having some sleep in the comfortable ‘Loft’ hotel our guide Tin picked us up for the first day of sightseeing: a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. 

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a is a gilded stupa, 99 metres tall and the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar.

The 150 year old Bodhi tree. 

Each day volunteers come to the Pagoda to contribute in some way. Here is team of volunteers busy sweeping the floors of the Pagoda, and I might add, with quite some speed! And they come in large numbers! In the picture you can only see a limited amount of the row of volunteers. So the best to do was jump to the side and give clear way.

During the evening we would see one of the traditions at the Pagoda, the lighting of the candles. The number of candles can vary from evening to evening, depending on the ‘contributors’. This evening we were in luck with a large number of candles to be lit, over 10.000 at least. And such large numbers require a lot of preparation, so already hours in advance there was busy activity filling the cups with oil and threads to the candles.

Wednesday Morning corner

Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda gave us a first insight of Myanmar Bhuddism and traditions. And I have the admit the more I learn of their traditions, the more I realize how complicated it is. 

The people in Myanmar for example name the seven days of their week after the seven planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), but Burmese astrology recognizes an eight day week, with Wednesday being divided into two days; until 6 p.m. it is Wednesday, but after 6.pm. until midnight it is Rahu’s day.

Each of the 8 days has its own ‘corner’ (the base of the stupa is octagonal), which often are worshiped by people born on that particular day. Each day is marked by animals that represent the day.  Above you can see the Wednesday Morning corner, represented by the tusked elephant.

Each day (corner) has a Buddha image and the Myanmar people offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish. And many people actively participate; the photo above was taken when for a short minute was clear of devotees.  

At the base of the post behind the image is a guardian angel, and underneath the image is the animal representing that particular day.

A group of woman wearing traditional clothes from the Pa’O people in the Shan state. Not a usual sight to see in Yangon, so we were in luck. After Yangon, we will visit the Shan State and visit some of the Pa’O minority tribe villages. 
The Pa’O traditional dress is black or navy blue, with a turban, often orange or red coloured.

Simone & Åke
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