Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Myanmar Part 2 - Shwedagon (it rhymes with way-to-go) Pagoda

Tuesday afternoon we went to Shwedagon Pagoda, which is the largest Pagoda in Yangon (Yan-go). It was a very pretty place with hundreds of smaller Pagodas. The whole Pagoda compound is on the top of a hill and there is an entrance at each of the compass points. Each entrance is guarded by 40 foot tall lions and is covered all the way up the hill to the top. Natives can go to worship at any time, and the tourist entrance fee is $5 a person. (Unfolded dollars only because any bill with a fold is considered counterfeit, we found that out here.) You leave your shoes at the door and then go up to the Pagoda compound where we wondered around for 2.5 hours. It was really cool to see the Pagodas as the sun went down and the lights came on. It is hard to describe so enough of the words, on with the pictures.

View from Sakura Residence

Lions guarding the entrance to a Pagoda

Welcome to the compound, all the pillars were painted gold and the upper levels were all gold leafed

This is an offshoot of the tree under which Budda was enlightened.

If it wasn't gold or white it was mirrors.

This is the Victory Square where if you look up to the Pagoda and make a wish it will come true. If you look close you can see some bamboo scafolding on the Pagoda, it was being taken down but had extended all the way to the top, it is put up every 10 years so that the main part of the Pagoda can be regold leafed. The top of the pagoda has bells and jewels on it, it was cool to hear the bells blowing in the wind at the top. The very top contains a 70 karat diamond as a good deed offering.

Ringing the bell 3 times is a sign you have done a good deed.

If you want to see hundreds more pictures and see what Shwedagon looks like from space, paste "16.7983, 96.1496" into google earth or google maps. It looks pretty sweet.

Next up, what would you do with hundreds of huge trees that blew down in cyclone Nargis last year, and the Nar Jar glass factory.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Myanmar Part 1

We have been home for a week now, and although I still don't know how we are going to describe our trip, we need to try. I guess we just start at the beginning. After one 1.5 hour flight, one 5 hour layover, a second 14.5 hour flight, a second 1.5 hour layover and third 4.5 hour flight we landed in Yangon. We think it is hot in St. George, but it was hot and humid in Yangon. Grandma and Grandpa Merkley were there to pick us up and we were off and running. Angela and I both have been to third world countries before, but it is still a little bit of a shock to see the rundown cars and buses the truck buses with people hanging on wherever they can to get from place to place, and oh yeah, there might as well not be lane lines on the roads, everyone ignores them anyways. It's kind of fun.

In our time there we got to see the tourist sights, but because Grandma and Grandpa are serving a mission there, they teach English and have many, many friends. Getting to meet these friends was probably the best part of the trip. I wish we could describe how happy and welcoming the people were to us. We were only there a week but we were treated like family. We were just so amazed at how little the people had, but yet how happy they were. It was a lesson to us that no matter what our circumstances, we can find the bright side and be happy. More on this later.

Monday we went to an English class and then just tried to stay awake as long as we could, 12.5 hours difference from home and all those flights and layovers will do a number on you.
In Myanmar there are many different ethnic groups and there were people from all of the ethnic groups in Yangon.

Tuesday we went to a Preschool for 3-4 year olds. The kids were so cute and happy as could be. The white stuff on their faces is called thanica, they rub the bark of the thanica tree on a wet stone and then rub the paste on their faces. It is a sunscreen and helps keep them cool. This is the hottest part of the year in Myanmar, the rainy season is just around the corner and right now the high temperatures are in the 100s.

After going to the preschool, we went shopping! The main market is called Boyjoke Market - B means General and the market is named after the national hero who helped the country gain independence from Britain. He was then assassinated. It would have been interesting to see how, had he lived, the country might be different now. A market in a third-world country is like a gigantic swap meet, outside, dirt or broken floors, and everything you ever wanted and some things you didn't know you wanted around every corner. Bargaining is expected, but it was hard to bargain when the beginning price was so dirt cheap. We didn't get a lot of pictures in the market - we were too busy trying to stay together and say "just looking", "no thank you" and "No!" to the beggars and persistent shop owners. We'll put together a google earth file so you can see the pictures others have taken at the places we visited.

I just love the extension cords going to each apartment for power and the little cafes under the umbrellas on the right.

Next post...
Shwedagon Pagoda - the most important pagoda in Myanmar.