Mandalay, Sagaing and the OK Team

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October 18th 2013
Published: November 13th 2013
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We had fun getting to Mandalay, an early morning boat ride and then a bus to Heho and a short flight. We had time to chat at the airport to some of the baggage porters and they told me Mandalay would be “a bit warm”. I can tell you they were not exaggerating, it was so hot and humid, like walking around in a sauna.

In Mandalay we met with our “UN Group” which was later renamed the "OK Team" – Denis and Stella from Singapore, Sandar and Terence from Sydney, Dee and his parents Schwa and Sang. So, our little group was now 14 and we had a chance to practice some more language skills with Rob trying out some Lao language with Dee’s parents. We spent 2 and a half days in and around Mandalay.

Blessed to have a big family

We toured around Mandalay and Sagaing on the 16th and 17th, visiting a lot of Pagodas as usual plus the Royal Palace. One of the monasteries we visited was for student Nuns and we had an interesting talk with one of the young students. She told us that a Nun adopted her at 4 years of age and when she was 7 years old she decided to become a nun herself. She said she did this because she wanted to get an education and also felt very happy at the monastery. I asked what kind of subjects she studied and she told us that she did all the normal school subjects, like maths, history, Burmese language, plus she focussed a lot on studying the Buddhist scriptures. She told us “I am so lucky to be living here, I have such a big and loving family now I have been very blessed”.

A seat for the “OK Team”

At one of the Pagodas on Mandalay hill we made a small donation toward the building of a concrete seat for pilgrims to rest on as they climbed the hill. For a small cost you could have a seat dedicated and inscribed with your name and the date of your donation. Our whole group chipped in and paid for a seat to be inscribed with “The OK Team Australia, Malaysia & Singapore”. We named it in honour of the fact that a very common question among our team of travellers was for someone to ask the group or individuals “Are you ok?” and when you responded “Yes, I am ok” a quick question would be fired back at you “are you sure?”. So, our seat was named in honour of this ritual questioning.

Dana at Yesagyo Sayadaw's Monastery

We had the opportunity to make offerings to the student monks at another of Sayadaw Yesagyo’s monasteries. This particular monastery caters for close to 100 students. It is a very serene place and we enjoyed the Dhamma talk prior to our offering very much. Ohnmar did her best to translate the talk to us and Sayadaw was very patient when it came to question time. We had just taken the 5 precepts in the lead up to our offering and Sayadaw asked if we had any questions. I put my hand up and asked “one of the 5 precepts is not to take intoxicants, but as my friends know I like to have a nice cold beer on occasion. Is this ok or not?” Sayadaw smiled and gave a little chuckle and the answer came back “Well that means you can only say yes to 4 of the 5 precepts, being honest is the best thing in this regard and don’t over do things”.

Sayadaw also paid Mal a nice compliment as he had worn a longyi for the first time and Sayadaw commented “You look good in the longyi, a bit like the happy Buddha”. This had us all chuckling along with Sayadaw who meant his comment in a very friendly way and showed he had a good sense of humour.

Aside from the food offering, Yong and her family made a donation to the monastery and she was hoping things would go smoothly that day in honour of her family. She was not disappointed, the lunch offering to the monks went like clock work with everyone chipping in and doing what they could.

After the monks had eaten we got to relax and share our meal in the dining room. It was a very peaceful place to share some time with our friends. Sharing food is a wonderful way to bring people together and we certainly did not go hungry. Over lunch we talked and got to know our fellow travellers more and enjoyed the relief given by the fans in the dining room.

Sunset at U Bein Bridge

We ended the day on some boats watching the sunset at U Bein Bridge. This is such an iconic symbol of Myanmar and the boat guys knew exactly where to position their boats for us to get some great sunset shots. I watched the many tourists walking on the bridge and hoped that it stands up to the many thousands of visitors that tread upon its teak boards. U Bein Bridge is 141 years old.

Full moon in the pool

Our hotel had a lovely swimming pool and was such a welcome relief from the humidity. Mal gave some of the hotel guests a bit of a shock in the evening when his swim shorts fell off as he exited the pool. A Burmese women at the other end of the pool area gave a short, muffled scream and some other Asian tourists burst out laughing. Mal made a very hasty exit from the pool area after that.

A chat at the bar

Mal, Lorenza and I got talking to a local small business owner at the hotel bar. He owned a small tofu factory and was also building a new family run hotel by the
around Mandalayaround Mandalayaround Mandalay

than aka maker - the burmese sunscreen
river. He told us about how business was growing and his family circumstances were slowly improving. We talked a bit about how politics was changing and the people were gaining a bit more freedom and power to control their own lives. He said at one stage “three years ago if we were having this conversation someone would have been listening and I would probably be arrested when I leave the bar”, he also said “I really hope things keep improving, I really want to build a good future for my children”. Good luck to him and his family.

Additional photos below
Photos: 45, Displayed: 26


Young NunYoung Nun
Young Nun

happy to have a big family
Young NunYoung Nun
Young Nun

happy to have a big family
around Mandalayaround Mandalay
around Mandalay

making offerings for the full moon
OK Team SeatOK Team Seat
OK Team Seat

our donation for a seat for Pilgrims on Mandalay hill
around Mandalayaround Mandalay
around Mandalay

getting ready for candles for the full moon festival
Royal palaceRoyal palace
Royal palace

Lorenza & Dee

13th November 2013
around Mandalay

Sweet and touching encounters
How great to have people to translate for you, so you could talk to many people. The young nun's and the final business owner's conversations were so touching. So glad things have changed and the latter won't be going to jail for having that conversation with you. We have so much to be grateful for.
14th November 2013

Can't wait to see Burma
We really wanted to see Burma on our last trip and ran out of time and money. It looks amazing, and I love Sayadaw's comment about the five precepts, just take four of them, honesty is most important and don't try to do too much. That really encapsulates what I love about Buddhism. Thank you so much for sharing! Can't wait to see if you guys make it to Bagan. Please enjoy some fermented tea leaf salad for me!
16th November 2013

Are you ok?
Love the story about funding for the OK bench. How wonderful. You've had some wonderful experiences and touched lives. Here's to allowing them to build a good future for the children.

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