Fly to: Yangon, Burma
Internal Transfer: 4 flights to Thandwe, Heho, Mandalay & Bagan
Visa required: Yes if British
Currency:Myanmar Kyat (MMK)
Time Zone:+6hrs30mins GMT
Day 10, 15/02/11: Burma - The Golden Shadow
Up for breakfast & then walked to the tribal market, Joanne let Tatisan cut her hair. If looks could speak then Jo's faced was awash with uncertainty, her posture rigid with doubt & the whites of her eyes flashed with fear... but hey that's just my interpretation.
The market was bustling, my eyes & soul graced with a vibrant, cultural bonanza. Paula and I headed to the food stalls, particularly fascinated by what meat, offal & fish was on display. Above us rested a heavy blue tarpaulin, providing some protection from the morning heat. The atmosphere was enlivening, people passed goods, bartered; laughter filled the air and the lines upon every face seemed to tell a story.
Before long we were making our way up to the Pindaya Caves; the main cave was of epic proportions, within it sat over 8,000 Buddha statues each one gilded in gold.
Although the Buddha's were divine, I found myself completely entranced by the cave itself. The deep hollows, the green tinge where light transcends into dark; the damp fungal smell which intoxicated my every sense. It was the immediacy; my eyes contracted involuntarily to the light as it turned to dark; my body recoiled in objection to the stagnant air, my skin poured under a dense veil of humidity.
My ears were filled with a deep echo... drip... drip, as each stalactite held and released a transient drop.
Within this cave occurred an obscure paradox; this place felt old, stagnant and decrepit yet on a gnarled, jagged piece of rock was growing a vibrant, healthy little plant.
Her branches like the hair of a petulant child; entwined and tangled for here, in this dark cave without touch or the gentle stroke of a brush she lived, untamed... wild.
My heart was captivated by her struggle, for against all odds, with such shallow roots she clung with untold strength... what desire, what courage, what resilience... what beauty.
After lunch I headed back into the tribal market, it was the perfect opportunity to wander alone, freely. The atmosphere however seemed to have shifted somewhat from this morning. I bought Nut-Crunch, adult/children's woolly hats and nail clippers (which included a small blade & tin opener) for the nuns.
Being amongst the locals was enlivening and I think my rosy cheeks went virtually unnoticed. In my peripheral I kept seeing a green t-shirt, after seeing it flash passed several times I turned to look. No sooner had I done so the guy's eyes immediately averted my gaze. As I continued I could feel his stare.
I 'casually' backtracked up through the side alley from which I had just come, slipping in & out of stalls and people. As I paused to breathe he appeared once more; I turned on my heels and engaged with one of the locals before squeezing between stalls, again he followed only this time more animated. I made my final pass through stalls and cut back to the main thoroughfare, as I broke out onto the street I spotted Joanne - with a long exhale I walked over to meet her.
The man in the green t-shirt was nowhere to be seen; Jo bought some unique sun hats (for the nuns) and we sat chatting, drinking coffee in one of the back alleys. On leaving the market we grabbed a horse cart and before too long were joined by Mitisan who gleefully jumped on the back. She directed the horse men to her Aunt's shop where she introduced us to the Burmese craft of umbrella making.
Jody was already there and it was brilliant to watch how the family combined their individual skills to create something so beautiful. The Grandmother kept smiling and prodding me saying 'tea, tea'. We shared tea and snacks with the family; the atmosphere was so inviting.
In the late afternoon we made our way up to the monastery situated on the hill. The talk this evening was one of reality, of a lived truth and though its delivery was exquisite the tone was sombre. I have been blown away by the Sangha's openness, the desire to share, to learn, to grow together; sat here I felt like I had witnessed a sermon, a teacher exuding immense ability, compassion & integrity. So although the tone was sombre I felt a real sense of awe, of admiration for what we had just witnessed. In truth I felt deeply empowered.
After dinner Paula, Joanne & me headed into the bar for a nightcap. I feel blessed. I can't express enough my gratitude for the sharing and openness which is taking place during this trip, its like we're all coming into blossom, or at least that's the way I feel. Everything, every interaction, every conversation is touching my core and with each day comes a new gift, a new insight, a clearer way of thinking and a new set of eyes from which to view my world.