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 15, 20/02/11: Burma - The Golden Shadow
Due to an unsettled night, I was so grateful to share a morning walk with Esther. We talked about our experience of Burma, along with whether we had physically experienced any energetic sense of oppression whilst being here.
Before long we were heading across the moat and through the guarded Mandalay Castle gates. The minute we set foot over the threshold the atmosphere changed, up until now I hadn't experienced anything like the oppression felt in Tibet but by simply stepping over this line marked on the ground suddenly everything had changed.
The placid, care free atmosphere had disappeared; the air felt dense. We walked up a long street, passing signs warning 'do not venture from the stated tourist zones', here no photos were permitted.
Our bodies had become rigid; in this walled city I felt 'watched', vulnerable. For the first time since being here I felt like I was in an oppressed, somewhat secretive country. Within the parameter walls a small city existed, it was like stepping back in time.
Old shanty buildings lined the streets; we passed a military compound and then directly after a prison labour facility. With our heads lowered we walked passed, pretending not to glimpse but our eyes couldn't resist a shifty side glance. Men dug huge pits in the earth; they were chained at the feet, this was the labour camps of old. One prisoner was held to the side by a single armed officer, his hands clearly bound and chained behind his back.
Exhaling fully we continued up to the main palace. The buildings were majestic but something about us being here didn't feel too comfortable. We scaled a helter-skelter style staircase, which gave us an expansive view of the entire walled complex.
This place was well maintained and stunningly elaborate yet there were no people. As we walked the grounds and visited each building we saw no-one, we were the only people, yet obscurely I still felt watched.
Needless to say we didn't stay too long and I was glad to get back to the hotel. I somehow felt slightly exposed without the comfort/support of our Sangha. The group headed out to a silk shop and I was content to just enjoy everyone's desire to shop, or as Ken says, 'sacred shop'.
Before long we were boarding our 30min flight to Bagan, I sat with Avyn & Liz and it wasn't too long before they'd noticed my 'flight safety card ritual'. I guess we've been on so many flights now together it was only a matter of time before someone realised how intently I study the safety card every time I board.
The girls proceeded to test my flight safety knowledge & apparently I scored a respectable 97%, failing on the 'brace position with small infant'... go figure!
The scenery of Bagan was somewhat different to that which we've experienced anywhere else in Burma. The landscape has a dusty red tinge and the air has an ancient, spiritual feel about it.
As the sun was setting we pulled up at the most breath taking temple I have ever seen. It was huge; the stone work was so big yet complemented by such an intricate level of detail. From the outer roof to the inner ceilings; from the ancient murals to the 30ft golden Buddha this place oozed devotion.
As we crossed the Bagan plains the setting sun danced a spiritual dance of red, amber & gold whilst beneath rose thousands of Stupas, their intricate carvings a bold silhouette against the scarlet canvas of this dusky, twilight sky. Overlooking the Irrawaddy River we dined alfresco, the scene framed by the gentle glow of candles and the moon. As I stepped into this scene a lump filled my throat. Bagan is so beautiful, undoubtedly the most spiritually captivating place I have ever laid my eyes upon.