I had a beautiful day today. My mind was cool, calm and happy as I explored the markets and some of the sights.
I went to the markets first. Bogyoke market is a colonial era market set in what is now a tumble down concrete square but with many beautiful shops selling crafts, clothes and jewellery. The sheer scale was exciting to me. So many stalls and goods!
Next I went to Theingyi Zei market, an older, more claustraphobic ( if your that way inclined) market described by the Lonely Planet as “a proper Burmese bazaar” . Again the scale of it was thrilling in its way.
And then I went to “Junction City” a modern day temple of commerce with awful music but some rather nice interior decoration and a Christmas tree.
The future….perhaps. Air conditioned, clean and spacious. How could you possibly argue with that?
And then there were the temples. Sule Pagoda sits in the middle of a am er ( how can I put this?) a roundabout.
Yes thats right -a roundabout. Rimmed with shops, the inside is rather nice and costs three dollars to enter. After ordering me to take off my shoes a middle aged lady shoved flowers in hand ( for the Buddha) and charging the equivelent of a dollar. I can’t argue (or even bargain) with middle aged Burmese women ( you learn something new every day I guess!).
Nice enough overall but nothing compared with the Shwedagon Pagoda. This was absolutely stunning. About a 40 minute walk from town I first noticed it here after rounding the bend
The approach across busy streets requires the usual game of dodge the cars but after that……absolute heaven.
On entering the approach is deceptive and lined with stalls ( ssssh don’t tell Jesus) and there is three flights of stairs as you approach the entrance proper. Then its ten dollers in but totally worth it. I really had no idea of the beauty ahead of me and was grousing inwardly about having to pay!
But then, I was in this beautiful place. Everyone was barefoot and the atmosphere was one of quiet joy.
Absolutely gorgeous. This is the orient of my dreams. Hundreds of temples, statues and pagodas set in a concentric ring with a gold gilded stupa in the middle 99 meters high. Originally built to a height of 18 meters in the 6-8th centuries, it was raised to 40 meters in the 15th century and brought to its current majestic splendour in the late 18th century.
In a philistine act the British occupied it in the Anglo-Burmese war of 1824 resulting in vandalism and pillage and they and dug a tunnel under the stupa to see if it could store gunpowder. They occupied it again from 1852-1929 following the second Anglo-Burmese war. The Portugese also tried to make off with a bell tower in 1605. He wanted to melt the bell down to make canons but it fell into the river in transit. The same thing happened when the British tried to make off with a bell in the 19th century.
But somehow the stupa survived the Europeans.
Later in the 20th century it became a focal point for both nationalism and later for pro democracy demonstrations also. It is a strong symbol of Myanmar and loved by the people.
It was very special to be there. There were many people, both monks and lay people praying and chanting. I had a very pleasant meditation myself there also.
And tomorrow I will go to the monastery until the new year. I hope to do one more post before then. Thanks for reading!
Alan Coakley is a Travel Director with Trafalgar Tours based in Ireland.