One Pagoda, Two Pagoda

Sunset on a Pagoda

One pagoda, two pagodas. Old pagoda, new pagoda. This one is right under a star. This one is right next to a car. From here to there, from there to here, pagodas are everywhere. That’s what you would say when you approach Bagan, the City of Two Thousand Pagodas. You could try counting them, but after a while, you will give up.

Spinning thread like Gandhi!
Spinning thread like Gandhi!

Dad took us to a lot of temples, but we breaked in a couple of villages and a lacquerware shop. In one of the villages, I helped spin cotton into thread, like Gandhi. In the lacquerware shop, we learned a lot about lacquer. We learned that it’s made from tree sap, which is white inside the tree. Then they take it out of the tree, and paint it onto the shaped material, but it turns black when oxidized! Lacquer doesn’t harden in the sunshine, though. Sunlight makes lacquer runny! For lacquer to dry, it must be kept in a humid environment, protected from direct sunlight. When I saw the lacquer getting mixed, I noticed that its consistency is very similar to the consistency of liquid chocolate, but it is so black that the color reminded me of tires.

The comedians (in pink) were my favorite characters
The comedians (in pink) were my favorite characters

One day, we went to a show. It was so amazing. The play was filled with local, traditional dances, and singing went along with some. I really liked a part with comedic dancers. That was funny!

On our last day, we saw a sunset on a pagoda. How glorious! It was so colorful, and the silhouettes of the incalculable pagodas were absolutely stunning. It looked like it could have been an alien world, dotted out, pagoda after pagoda. In no logical order whatsoever, it was a wonder how people knew where to build their own pagoda, or simply make their own mark on the land, two equivalent actions. Whichever you prefer to call it, after centuries and centuries of the practice, Bagan earns its name as the City of Two Thousand Pagodas, destined to join Casco Veijo, Melaka, and many, many other places a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Legend of the Origins of the Pa-oh and Kayin Tribes of Myanmar

Pa-O Dinner FB
Pa-O women gathered in the kitchen of their home

Once upon a time, two princes were children. These children dreamed of becoming monks. When they grew up, the princes did become monks. They walked into a forest with a lake in the middle, found a cave, and started meditating. One day, their chemist went to go get some herbs. At the same time, a female dragon was flying around that forest. The dragon saw the chemist and fell in love. The dragon turned into her human form, and got married to the alchemist. They lived in a cave.

One night, the chemist saw his pregnant wife turn into a dragon. The next day, the chemist left to go gather medicinal plants. His wife, noticing that he didn’t come back, laid her eggs, and flew back to her native land. The two monks found the cave, picked up two eggs, and returned to their cave. About two or three months later, the eggs hatched. Two baby people crawled out of the egg. One baby was Pa-oh, and the other was Kayin, both tribes descendants of dragons!

The Pindaya Caves of Wonder

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3184.

Many Gold Buddhas
Buddhas Everywhere!

I stepped into the glorious Pindaya caves. Golden Buddhas of all sizes, everywhere, everywhere. From the highest place in ceiling to the lowest place on the floor, the Buddha dominated the scene. In front of me was a pagoda. We walked halfway around this and explored the larger cave through the narrow passageway.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3180.I saw a maze, and immediately walked inside, before my parents. I had to backtrack, because I had entered the wrong way! We went to the top of the “hill”, and turned left. It was a dead end, but there was a cool little meditation cave that inspired me. I included it in one of my stories, Straight from Bed to Fame. We eventually got out of the maze, but it was tough.

Meditation Cave Pano
Meditation Cave Pano

DragonsWe ventured through the caves, eventually finding Buddhas guarded by dragons, some dragons scary, some not so much. Some dragons where also two-headed, and each neck had a fan, like a cobra’s fan. We eventually found the end. I went back to the maze, because I wanted to see the little room I had chosen for my story. I kept going back to that dead end, but I couldn’t see the entrance to the meditation cave, because of the angle I was looking at. After about three runs of the whole maze, I finally looked in the right place. It wasn’t obvious. I entered, and looked for a place that would be okay for my story. I found a tiny slide in the darkest niche of the room, perfect for my story! We walked out happy, thinking that we might go back there, because it was so amazing.

The Amazing Shwedagon Pagoda

Bathing the Buddha

We finally got a taxi, after a long period of waiting. We gave the driver directions to our friends’ house. The driver told us that our friends’ house was very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda. We were almost at our friends’ house and BOOM: the Shwedagon poked through the trees; a massive, cone-like structure coated in gold leaf and gold plates. So massive, it could be a millionaire’s mansion, but it is not; it is a holy Burmese Buddhist site. We immediately decided that we were going there. A few days later, we did. We went with our friends, Loring and Su. Su is Burmese.

We walked around the inner circle, finding our corners to wash the Buddha, for good karma. I washed the Buddha at the Rahu (Wednesday Afternoon) corner, because I was born on a Wednesday, and I was born in the afternoon. In Burmese Buddhism, there are eight days in the week. Wednesday is split into morning and afternoon, but in the Burmese calendar they don’t say “Wednesday Morning” and “Wednesday Afternoon”; they say “Wednesday” and “Rahu”.

The Shwedagon was so amazing that we went back there! It was especially amazing walking up the long staircase. If you ever go to Myanmar, you have to see the Shewdagon. It’s the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) of Myanmar. It’s the oohs and the ahs of the city itself. It’s the sudden feeling of meaningfulness spreading through your body at first sight. It’s the amazingness and wonder of that first sight. It’s been the ancient pride of the locals for twenty-five hundred years. It’s the whole reason that Yangon is on the tourist track, and nothing, nothing can change that.