09 January 2009

More on Yangon

So apart from more dodgy trips to change money what else have we been up to.
The biggest and most famous sight in Yangon, if not the whole of Myanmar, is Shwedagon Paya. A massive temple complex filled with countless temples, shrines, pavilions, buddhas and stupas. The main 98 meter high stupa at the centre of the complex is completely covered in gold leaf and solid gold plates. Unfortunately for us, most of it was obscured by scaffolding as they were performing maintenance and reguilding. As well as all the gold it also has numerous gems; the weather vane at the top is supposedly studded with 1100 diamonds which weigh 278 carats, on top of that is 1800 carat orb made of 4351 diamonds and the top of the orb is crowned with a 76 carat diamond. It's almost as sparkly as Liz's engagement ring!
Although the main attraction was barely visible we still managed to spend a good few hours there looking around the other sights at the complex, we even got to water our planets! According to local tradition you are associated with a planet and a sign that relates to the day on which you were born. Liz being born on a Friday is the planet Venus and the sign of the guinea pig or mole. Being born on a Sunday gives me the planet Sun (ok astronomers out there, I know the sun is not a planet) and the sign of the garuda, a bird like beastie from Hindu-Buddhist mythology. Inside the complex is a shrine that is associated to each planet / sign over which you have to pour water. Being as we were hapless foreigners there were plenty of offers from locals to help us out, along with a guesthouse recommendation for when we go to Inle Lake and more warnings of the dangers of fake monks!
We've also been to see a couple of rather large buddhas. At Ngahtatgyi Paya there is a five story high seated buddha. Just over the road at Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a massive reclining buddha (nearly 300 feet long). Whilst we were there we were also invited into the monk's quarters to see how the novice monks live and to watch them learning the Buddhist teachings. Every male in Myanmar is expected to don the monks robes at least twice during his life. The first time as a novice monk, some time between the ages of 10 and 20, and then again as a fully ordained monk later in life.
Tomorrow we have a fifteen and a quarter hour train journey up to Mandalay to look forward to! We'll be using Mandalay as a base for a few days to visit some of the old pre-colonial ancient capitals that are in the surrounding area.

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