Monday, November 26, 2012

A Buddhist trilogy (of five)

They take Buddhism very seriously in Myanmar, which isn't a surprise when you consider that many countries suffering through oppressive regimes and terrible quality of life end up turning to faith for some paranormal relief. At least they chanced into one of the less tyrannical religions, though that's a bit of an unfair stereotype, as demonstrated by the frequent participation of Buddhist monks in the persecution of the country's minority Muslim population. So much for Buddhism being the harmless one.

But hey, enough of the dwelling on local politics and opening my eyes to the misery and suffering around me, this is supposed to be a holiday! Let's visit some of Myanmar's most significant Buddhist sites and pay extortionate and ethically dubious entrance fees to the fascist state instead.

My girlfriend was keen on visiting Myanmar's Famous Five Buddhist sights during our visit, and being a sucker for anything approaching a quest or OCD checklist I was happy to help, but unfortunately we didn't have time / couldn't be bothered to travel to some of those further afield, so here's 60% of them. Hey, it's better than I usually manage!

Shwedagon Paya,

I'll say this for the Burmese government - they may not provide basic freedom, reliable information or health care to the populace, but they sure keep those stupas shiny

There's apparently been some form of pagoda on this site for at least 1500 years.
They've gone a bit overboard since

This is the biggest temple platform I've seen since Sri Lanka, but they've kept it in better condition than those crumbling ruins. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing as I'm quite a fan of mess, but I'd have plenty of chances to get my feet dirty wandering around on old bricks in Bagan

I like how Burmese temples incorporate game show aesthetics

And you've got to love the attention to anatomical detail on these statues

Buddhist cruelty to animals is sadly prevalent throughout South East Asia. You can buy these birds to set them free (presumably because you get some kind of divine reward for doing so, rather than being out of kindness) before the merchants set about hunting them down so someone else can have their turn. Has anybody actually thought about this?

Octagonal day shrine, with each of the eight entrances being dedicated to a different day of the week and its accompanying deity.

I see you've spotted the plot hole. Rather than build unattractive seven-sided shrines, they just split Wednesday in half to get an extra day. Rearranging your country's weekly schedule forever is obviously easier than working out a couple of angles

Maha Myat Muni Paya,

From what I've observed, being a monk in Burma is a lot different to being a monk in Thailand. You can keep your eyebrows for a start, and judging by the monk I saw snoozing on a British girl's shoulder on the night bus, they're not so strict about that side of things either

The monks diligently clean the Buddha's face every morning, and throughout the day you can feel free to touch up any other parts you feel could do with a shine

Unless you're a woman, obviously. It turns out it's not just the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu gods that are sexist, Buddha doesn't really like that half of the population either.

Apparently the official rule is along the same lines as Bali's 'no menstruating women' decree, but someone eventually decided it was too time-consuming or embarrassing weeding out the menstruators from the innocents, and this was the direction they went in. Rather than, you know, forgetting the whole ridiculous thing

It's not only the holy Buddha icon you're allowed to fondle, visitors are encouraged to get their grubby mitts all over these priceless artefacts looted from Ayutthaya in Thailand, with a lack of respect for heritage that would give museum curators a heart attack

Shwe Zigon Temple,

Dating back to 1080, this temple doesn't look a day over 700

The ones outside have fared less well, but I like them more for it


  1. That last picture is seriously the best yet... Though that brings me to wondering, why it is , that the last picture never hast a caption/note.

    1. Thanks for your interest in my blog! It's nice when someone likes my pictures.

      Normally the last photo is one I can't really think of anything to say about, but I want to include anyway.