landscape image - Burma, the golden shadow
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  • 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

  • Journal:Click here

Day 3, 08/02/11: Burma - The Golden Shadow

After a blissful night & recovering somewhat from jetlag I awoke diagonally spread across the lavish bed; this place in which I find myself is sumptuous...divine...far more than I feel I deserve or need but hey, that just brings my attention back to enjoying it more.

As I made my way down the corridor to the lift I met an Australian lady; looking just as baffled by the lift control panel as I would be. I heard my own voice which is normally so shy ask, 'how long are you in Bangkok for?'

'Oh only two days & then I'm flying out to Burma'

The scene was set; the smile across my face must've given away my joy. This was Joanne an English lady who now resides in Australia.

As the words left her mouth, 'oh so you're a fellow pilgrim' this was prime opportunity to share our first sarcastic, possibly even inappropriate comment. Chatting to her felt so comfortable and what was even better right now was that this fellow pilgrim seemed to share my sense of the ridiculous.

We left the lift and chatted whilst sitting on the harbour side; it was great to talk so freely about our individual processes along with what had unfolded to lead us to Burma and a pilgrimage with Roshi Joan Halifax.

The banter that I usually rely on so heavily in early interactions had long dissipated and our conversations unfolded with a richness that took me by surprise. Sat here, sharing good food, company, laughter; looking out across the Chao Phraya River I felt totally at ease.

I mentioned to Joanne I was going to indulge in some massage & body treatments to which she advised in a serious tone, 'now Emma, remember there is a 'right' way to put on the massage pants'.

We headed over to the Spa reception and booked our respective treatments. Today is about indulgence; I'm not going to try and cover that up or even try to deny it. I'm in Bangkok, in the most stunning hotel and I'm going to indulge in the most lavish treatments I can find...why, because this little girl in me bloody well deserves it!

1st treatment of the day...Chakra balancing with volcanic stones

"a perfect treatment to relieve deep-seated tension and muscular stress. Skin brushing, exfoliation and an ESPA facial cleanse begin the treatment. The body is massaged with blended aromatherapy oils and Ayurvedic infusions, combined with the use of hot stones to release tension, working on the vital energy points and chakras around the body. This treatment ends with a deeply soothing head massage to relieve stress from both the mind & body".

Treatment number 2: A skin brightening age defying facial

"this regenerating facial treatment has been specifically created to help combat the signs of ageing and skin damaged by the sun. Special facial massage techniques using product rich in anti-oxidants help hydrate and protect your skin with a particular focus on the delicate areas around the eyes, neck and lips that are prone to fines lines".

...and finally, Shirodhara

"the pouring of warm oil onto the forehead at the point of the third eye, facilitating deep relaxation & mind clearing". I love this treatment as it enables me to watch my own psychedelic visualisations come to life & into full colour as the warm oil makes contact and then effortlessly drips away with a cool, gentle reminder of impermanence.

After the treatments had finished I continued talking with Orasa about dosha, listening as she commented on my 'balanced state' hmm not sure that would have come up a few years ago.

I talked to her about my weight loss and my journey over the last few years; she never once took her eyes off me, her gaze, intense. It was quite an unnerving moment, then after a pause Orasa began to talk about herself and her own process over the last few years, her training and being given an opportunity to 'prove herself'. This process took a big commitment in terms of learning, in terms of physical conditioning and in terms of presenting the 'right' bodily image.

I really felt a connection, an empathy that somehow, to some extent connects us all, its not that everyone is 'normal' and in being 'normal' we fit in but instead it's an appreciation that to be human is to suffer and its this suffering and the openness to share that actually unites us.

Feeling a complete sense of elation I left the treatment suite and made my way back to my room. Engaging fully in my usual ritualistic faff; I showered, changed into the provided robe and slippers and then noticed a note pushed against the wall behind my door.

The note read that the group was meeting for dinner with Roshi Joan at 7pm... Oh b*llocks it's already 8:15pm!

A number of stray, somewhat chaotic thoughts raced through my mind; shall I just pretend I never found the note... No, that won't work because I really want to meet the group & after all I am going to be spending the next few weeks with them.

B*llocks...what to do... what to do...

It was at this precise moment that my old friend 'doubt' chose to visit me, 'fancy turning up late, you're going to love walking into an established group halfway through their meal, ha and then you have to awkwardly sit down with all eyes looking at you, make conversation, when you know everyone will be thinking how rude and disrespectful this woman is for turning up late...attention seeker'.

Listening or more precisely hearing my own thoughts I took a deep breath & opened the door. To my old friend 'doubt' I expressed my gratitude and that although I heed caution I will in fact feel that fear, that uncertainty and go meet the group anyway.

I walked up to the table, sat down and was immediately met in conversation with Cheris who proceeded to introduce me to everyone else on the table.

The sense of relief was instantaneous. Ken reached his hand across the table and introduced himself, straight away I felt my insides smile, felt a warmth but from where or what I'm not sure. Looking around this table I didn't in any way feel different or detached but instead came a sense of belonging, a sense of community; a sense that I want to embrace.