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More prayers

I got a bit carried away with the photos from Bagan, but what else is there to do with these images?? And it’s still only day two :-)

In the header, and here and there elsewhere as well,  the cursed pagoda that still holds some mysteries inside, collapsed bits and statues that had to be closed in surrounded by rubble just to keep the structure upright. Gloomy, creepy, magnificent!

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Small Ruby

It’s my favourite one, Sulamani temple. Had to be restored many times after earthquakes over the centuries, but still, lots of original brickwork and paintings from the 12th century. Bright afternoon lights. Lots of detail. Many temples, horribly whitewashed and any character obliterated once you go inside, not this one. You can see the structure and the beauty of the bricks. And if you wait five minutes for a group to leave (really? five minutes??), it’s all yours.

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The name? The king chanced upon a ruby on this spot, and that’s how he knew what he had to do. Some say it’s “crowning jewel”. Some go for the ruby one.

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There are better paintings in many other places, but photography is usually forbidden. These are the biggest paintings anyway, I think.

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Burmese customs demand shoes and socks off even in the temple yards, and my feet are still sore, one week later, but they never stopped me from going round each and every one of them, inside and out as well.

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Prayers into the skies

Bagan is simply one of the best places in the world.

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It’s like having all of York or Köln cathedral all to yourself. A thousand times over.

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It’s peeking into hidden corners with a flashlight to discover nine-hundred-year-old monsters, Buddhas, Boddhisattvas, demons.

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It’s touching bricks and carvings that have witnessed so much.

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It’s breathing in the power of a million souls who have been there before, spellbound, terrified, or simply spiritual.

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It’s the echo of your prayer bouncing off the tall brick corridors.

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It’s the sweeping views, the lazy bells, the glimmering sun.

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It’s magic. It’s the stunning details. It’s the sum of all. It’s the past. It’s the present.

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I know I could or should be more specific. And I can recall three dozen temples with the details, and I could make a perfect 3-day itinerary for you, building up the tension and the awe.

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But nobody is reading this blog anyway, and nobody cares about the stories of feud, treason, captivity, regicide, bloodshed, chopped off limbs, curses that are still hanging around, the mysterious caved in corridors and covered up statues, or practical tips about the e-bikes and restaurants, or whatever.

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So all that matters is that I was happy there, three bright, sunny days, just keeping going until I dropped.

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And yes, I was missing you. But even you will never ever care about that, I know. And much less anyone else.

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I’m just scared that even in the happiest moments of my life I will be broken, because I will never stop missing you and wishing you were there.

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Nothing I can do. Pray more.

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Think of the hti that fell and miraculously didn’t hurt anyone.

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Or anyone else who walks around with much bigger pain.

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But I’m still stubbornly refusing to accept that this is all I’m left with, the Bagans, the reefs, it’s my fate to hover and smile and take pictures and carry the burden of unbearable magnificence and beauty.

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What’s the point?

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Time for a nap

Time for a nap…. pretty much anytime, anywhere. I’m becoming an honorary Asian in this respect. I can sleep on any airport floor now :-/ and have even tried the odd temple or pagoda for an afternoon siesta, yes. No problems lying on the floor. None at all.

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Also important: nobody’s gonna steal your shop to pieces while you are asleep. Reminds me of the story of a colleague who was selling newspapers on weekends to support his hobby of being a teacher, and his profits were easily wiped out by thieves if he was not careful. While awake….

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And that’s some Archeology Department staff after lunch, not in a big hurry to finish excavations.

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A younger sibling on a school floor.

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Choose your favourite place and position :-)

 

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Jasmine, teak, sand, and the like

I’ve had a few rough days, struggling with a full schedule, illness, and changing countries again in the meantime…. and got left behind with blogs, yet again….

But at least, when I’m busy, I don’t ask too many questions.

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I’m so scared about what is ahead of me, and the little details I’ve been looking at are just as important now as they were when I was right there. Keeping things in perspective. Or provide some kind of distraction. Live the moment. Whatever, there is always an excuse.

Why are you taking a photo of the water jugs? His eyes were asking. You don’t have water in your home?  –  Nope, it is not customary to share drinking water all the time, everywhere, for free, with anyone on the road. Yangon airport is the only one I remember that has free water…. not the usual 2-dollar ripoff.

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We must be hilarious, sometimes, the kinds of things we take photos of.

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Sometimes I wish I could feel more, understand more, how we are being perceived.

I’m guessing I should have learnt something. Some enlightenment, overarching life lesson, something that resonates and echoes for years. Nope. It’s just distractions, big and small. Stunning and trivial.

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I’ve only just left, but I wish I could go back for more. So many areas still remote and inaccessible, not used to foreigners, or beyond reach. So many people still struggling for basic human rights, being exploited, hidden. I know it’s not all a golden story…. still a long way to go. Very long. But whatever it is, it’s a place that grabs you tight and never lets you go.

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There are these sandpainters in Bagan. Some of them are truly a pain in the ass, chasing you down on a motorcycle, or following you to the tops of pagodas. Some of them show hidden staircases and views and paintings on the ceiling, and are a wealth of information. However annoying they may be sometimes, I really admire their art, and it’s a shame they don’t realise that their approach is chasing a lot of people away from ever listening to their stories. They painstakingly learnt to copy the ancient murals from the temples. We are talking 900-year-old designs here, quite unique, can’t see anything like this in Thailand or Cambodia, nothing even comes close. Lots of Hindu and pre-Buddhist elements, everything has a meaning, every colour or brushstroke has centuries of tradition. I could sit and watch and listen for hours, too bad they want me to shop :-)  Now I wish I had bought more. Quite a few are in a box somewhere…. waiting for me to have a home.

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(The monks with umbrellas and the landscapes are of course modern designs.)

Bagan is of course is one of the best places in the world, and quite the opposite of “the little things”, I don’t even know how anything I can show and say will ever do it justice.

 

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Home of world records

I was thinking, I should have tried for a job in Mandalay, not Yangon, back almost three years ago. But then, internet was really sketchy and there were no flights out. On the other hand, there are, and were, motorcycles…. changing everything.

Anyway.

I was planning to go and visit for a weekend for two years, but something more important always came up. Like, catching up with sleep and lesson preparation. I never made it until last week.

Mandalay and its vicinity are home to the “world’s biggest book”, the world’s longest teakwood bridge, the world’s biggest uncracked bell, and the world’s biggest, albeit unfinished, Buddhist pagoda….

That “book” is actually the entire body of Buddhist scriptures and explanations carved on stone slabs, each housed in its own little white-washed pagoda…. almost 3000 in all in the two separate but adjacent temples. And they are real temples, still alive, with people having a quick nap on the floor, little girls selling jasmine garlands, couples making out in the hidden corners, young monks picking star flowers and chatting well hidden in the trees, kids climbing the buildings as if they were monkey bars at the playground.

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Unfinished, shattered, cracked, impressive…. and of course, climbed by all, right next to a huge sign asking people not to, hoping that the next earthquake is not scheduled for today. Amazing structures like this make me wonder when I look at my 4-year-old school building falling apart, where did all the knowledge and craftsmanship go, these people were building pagodas nine centuries ago that are still standing, and this huge one is merely two hundred years old, and their descendants, well…. not really proud caretakers of a noble heritage.

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This one, not cracked, just so badly graffitied…. and another moment of hope that this is not earthquake day. The Burmese also have a much larger, legendary bell that their archeologists are still relentlessly looking for.

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And of course a bridge is just as good a place to sleep as any other. Or to go to school, sell food, fidget with your mobile (there is good signal here – good for Myanmar, at least), and take selfies. Famous, but still very much a community space.

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Too many photos, I will need to continue here some other time.

 

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No title

It’s just too much sometimes.

If someone dropped a small kid in my lap now, I would take it.

I know there are so many things wrong with me, and and and….

and I cannot talk about this.

I took many of these pictures and ran away to hide my tears.

Can you find the world’s biggest bell in one of the photos?

By the way, the first one is my colleague and friend with her son. Mine would be the same age now.

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Oh. And here is the same mother and daughter from April four and a half years ago, and just the other day.

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