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Published: February 16th 2019
One of my favorite photographs of Schwedagon Pagoda
RANGOON IN THE RAIN
I loved my hotel in Rangoon, The Great Feel Hotel. I shared my photos with Mo Mo (pronounced with long o’s – it means rain) the young lady at the desk. She introduced me to Ko To, her boyfriend. The door to my room on the third floor is carved wood. There is no elevator. I made seven or eight trips a day up and down those stairs. The room has a very attractive walnut bedroom set with a cute vanity and mirror. The bathroom is spacious and I loved to soak in the deep bathtub which I filled to the brim. It was such a luxury. I sent my clothes to the laundry and I took a teapot to my room after meals. I enjoyed pampering myself.
When I asked about the make up on Mo Mo’s cheeks she explained that some people make it themselves and it is considered attractive to wear in public, rather like rouge, I guess. Young men wear it too. She actually gifted me with a jar of manufactured Thanakha. It can be purchased from Amazon; it feels great on the skin and leaves it soft and
I picked a stormy rainy night to see this pagoda and it is certainly worthy of another visit.
smooth. I never got brave enough to wear it in front of anyone, though.
For my next trip to the city, I got a late start and returned to the Strand Hotel for that second High Tea I wrote about earlier. It was 7 pm before I started for Sule Pagoda. It was a long walk, much of it dimly lit or downright dark. When I arrived at the Pagoda I found it was in the center of a high traffic area and it felt like the cars were careening toward the pedestrians through a downpour that made us almost invisible. It was terrifying. Just inside the door of the pagoda I removed my shoes. There a woman squatted next to a covered wire basket of tiny wrens. She reached out to me holding a wren…”One dollar.” she said. I shook my head no. Cleverly she encouraged, “Two?” Indignant, I shook my head, and said, “Only one,” and I had to smile at myself. I am such a push-over. As I held its fragile life in my hands, the almost weightless bird gave a little flutter and I turned and released it into the night. This was the highlight
SULE PRAYER SPACE
There is always someone giving reverence at the shrines.
of my visit to the Sule Pagoda. Such a simple act and unexpected, but I remember it every time I do Tai Chi and get to the form, Capture the Sparrow, and Release.
I have learned not to leave my shoes at the entrance of temples because I am directionally challenged and most temples, although circular, have numerous entrances and exits. I forget to count the exits as I pass and get a bit agitated till I find my shoes again. Also most temples are paved with marble and many have textured rubber mats but due to the rain and all the visitors this floor was filthy and very unforgiving on feet used to wearing shoes and socks. Perhaps due to my very full day, my waning energy, the rain, the chaos of people and traffic outside, and the constant movement of people inside, I found myself feeling like an outsider. I walked the circuit, studied the Buddhas, and recited a few Catholic prayers. I found my exit, wiped my feet with a napkin I just happened to have tucked in my bag and put on my socks and shoes. Then I hired a taxi to take me to
THE WALK THROUGH THE SULE PAGODA
It looked like maybe there were shops selling candles, etc.
the famous Schwedagon Pagoda.
I had only a little over an hour to see this well renowned edifice, but I figured a short visit was better than no visit. I discovered there was a “foreigners” fee, and was told to leave my shoes and socks under a bench, then rode an elevator to the top floor.
The elevator exits to a covered hall that overlooks the lower floors. This is probably the most awe inspiring antiquity I have ever visited, close to edging out the Nazca Lines which I find more interesting than Machu Pichu. I was stunned at the richness of the gold and diamonds. Buddha after Buddha, each in its own stupa - they radiated from the center of the floor. I slowly traversed the aisles, then I asked a bored young security guard where I could find the Buddha’s foot print. He led me there, then urged me to a far, dark corner and pointed up to the Diamond at the very top of the temple, capturing the light of the moon. It was radiant and without artificial light. It took my breath away. From the brochure I learned The Diamond Orb, as it is
called, is 22inches high, 10.50 inches in diameter and has 4,351 diamonds. The total weight is 1,800 Carats and the Apex Diamond is 76 Carats. The guard escorted me around the floor again and in broken English he described the special structures, including the umbrella which looks like no umbrella I have ever seen. I took so many photos I filled my camera’s scan disk and started using my cell phone, discovering that the phone took better night photos than the camera.
By closing time I was holding my breath due to the pain in my feet. I was stunned by the magnificence of the temple and couldn’t help wondering about security for such treasures open to the public. I guess I have seen too many American movies of heists by master thieves. Even though I had only a short time and the Showroom and Museum were already closed, and I did not get to see the surrounding grounds, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the temple.
Too bad I couldn’t end the evening with a foot massage.
It was late when I got back to my hotel and I was hungry. Finding some dinner proved
Raining, but it doesn't dim the beauty.
a challenge. Thank Goodness for 7-Elevens.
The next morning I had a delicious breakfast and chatted with a friendly couple from Australia. This was their third trip to Burma and they had many helpful suggestions for other sites not to be missed. After they excused themselves I listened to lovely string music with a western theme, then went to my room and soaked in the tub. Finally I went to the shop to pick up my Burmese skirt and blouse. Both are beautiful and fit perfectly, although they did not give me the graceful Burmese hourglass figure I so envied. My silhouette is more like an empty toilet paper roll, straight up and down. I received many compliments from the Burmese people I met on the rest of my trip, though. The skirt, the longyi, is so comfortable and less restrictive than jeans in the heat. It was worth the wait.
My last morning I finished packing and went down to the desk to pay my bill. I mistook the manager, Mo Mo’s auntie, for the cook…how embarrassing. The staff gave me a lovely framed sand painting of the Kweigon Palace I had visited, and a handy cardboard
THE SACRED BODHI TREE
This was an amazing sight. A huge tree growing on the platform.
carrying case. Then we all took pictures of each other. It was like leaving home.
Wouldn’t you know it? The taxi dropped me with all my luggage, including the new box, off at the wrong terminal. I had to wait for a shuttle to the correct terminal so I was running late. Once there, I stood in line, reached the counter at last, and discovered that I had left my Fitbit (watch and more) at the other terminal. I only had 20 minutes to get there and back, but I value the Fitbit and didn’t want to walk away without it. I left my luggage at the check-in counter and ran. Of course, I met an angel, an executive type business woman with a car and driver and she insisted on dropping me off at the other terminal. I happened to see the same agent who had checked me in and he handed me my Fitbit. My timing was good - there was only a short wait for the return shuttle and I made it back in time to check my luggage and board my plane.
Dare I say? …now I am… “On the Road to Mandalay.”
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