MESSAGE: Burma *Videos*

In a world where people are increasing demanding payments for photographs, it was refreshing to have people in Burma actually ask to have their photos taken. Throughout my week in Burma, I happily posed for pics with villagers, as well as snapped a few of eager souls to take home with me. Charming!

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – U Bin Wooden Bridge. This 200-year old wooden span is also the longest wooden bridge in the world. Located at Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay, the U Bin is a favorite spot for locals to come to watch the sunset.

On the way to the bridge, I saw chairs set up under trees opposite cane fields. Evidently, it was a little like Lover’s Lane, where a couple (for about $1) could rent chairs for a few hours and share a cool drink in the shade. That’s how mellow life in Burma is…one can simply sit and watch the grass grow…

EAT (Tasty Eats) – Tea Leaf Salad. One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is a Burmese place serving this fabulous Tea Leaf Salad. The salad comes with a side of tea-soaked leaves, peanuts, dried shrimp and chilis, and is tossed with a lemon dressing – Delicious! I kept asking for it, but alas, no one seemed to know of it (maybe it’s one of the American Chop Suey-like culinary inventions).

Instead we were offered loads of fish and chicken dishes, especially Mohinga a fish soup with rice noodles. I tried it one night, but liked Sagiang Chicken Curry the best, a coconut-based curry with shredded leaves added.

SEE (Must-see Sights) – Shwedagon Pagoda. Dominating Ragoon’s skyline, Shwedagon Pagoda is more than 325 feet tall and covered in gold, making it literally glitter in the night sky. It was built in the 11th century and is considered one of the oldest pagodas not only in Burma, but the world. It is absolutely one of the beautiful images I have ever seen!

More than just one stupa, the pagoda is actually a complex of golden temples, shrines and places of meditation. It was busy on the night we visited, with whole villages coming to pray and meditate. They sometimes stay for days, eating and sleeping in the temple’s courtyards.

Here’s a peek at Burma’s wonder:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Shwedagon Pagoda:

SHOP (Gotta Have) – Longyi & Sarongs. A longyi is a piece of fabric about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. Women wrap the cloth around them to form a longyi, while the men’s version is called a saron. The cloth is usually a long cylindrical shape that you step into, then gather in front and secured with a knot.

True to form, Mom and I both bought longyis. Her’s was a cotton blend of blue tones, more of an Indonesian ikat pattern. Mine was a more formal burgundy raw silk version, with a beautiful gold pattern on the bottom. I thought I’d wear it while making presentations on the road.

The men’s sarongs are usually a checked pattern, but you sometimes see stripes. The men unabashedly unfurl their fabric to get a little breeze going in the steaming heat of the day. We bought a sarong for my brother and the merchant demonstrated for us how to tie it. Check it out!

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Burmese Sarong:

ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Balloon Ride over Bagan. They say you haven’t been to Burma if you haven’t been to Bagan and I agree! Bagan is the Burma we all see on travel posters and in our dreams. Such a beautiful place!

Bagan was Burma’s capital for 500 years, during the 9th to 13th centuries and it is still adorned with more than 2,200 pagodas. In fact, most of old Bagan is a “temple zone,” with strict controls on building heights and even paved roads to ensure we have an uninterrupted view of the temples.

One of the splurges on our trip was to take a sunrise balloon ride over the temple zone. It was a slightly hazy morning, but the view of the thousands of pagodas beneath us as we sailed across the sky was unforgettable. Truly magical – just watch!

Can’t see the video? Click on this line: Balloon over Bagan:

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Press Freedom. Burma’s military government has a reputation for persecuting independent reporters, with neither freedom of the press nor freedom of speech guaranteed by Burmese law.

In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked the country among the world’s 5 worst jailers of the press for the past 4 consecutive years. Foreign and exiled Burmese media personnel are still denied working visas.

The government has adopted new reforms in 2011, including less restrictive media laws. The world is in wait-and-see mode to see if some of the world’s strictest controls on media are lifted this year.

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Buddhist Lunch Procession. The city of Mandalay is home to more than 100 Buddhist monasteries and 70,000 monks. It’s also home to Burma’s largest monastery: Mahagandayon Monastery.

Located in Amapura, which means “city of immortality,” nearly 1,000 monks live at Mahagandayon. Visitors are invited to watch the lunch procession as hundreds of monks silently file into the open-air dining hall.

Interested in getting an inside look at a monk’s life? Before you do, check out this article I wrote last year on Buddhist etiquette: “Respecting Buddhist Alms-Giving Traditions:”

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 and is filed under Asia Pacific, Messages by Country.

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