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December 30, 2014

A Passage to Bangkok, part 3

 

Stupas, monks and dogs…

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The first thing you notice when visiting Myanmar, besides hearing the delightful “Mingalaba” out of everyones mouth, is the unbelievable amount of golden stupas and pagodas dotting the countryside. Thousands of them.

I’ve never seen so much gold since Mike Myers starred in Goldmember.  “I love gooold…”

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Running a close second for sheer numbers, are the hordes of mangy dogs everywhere.  Poor guys. We were told not to touch them, but as you can see from the picture, good luck with that.  Anyway, that’s what emergency medical evacuation is for, right?

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Other than the shimmering gold pagodas, the poverty, as in Cambodia, is front and center.  Nonetheless, the Burmese are smiling, incredibly hardworking people.  I watched as women carried baskets of gravel, easily weighing 100lbs each, on their heads as they walked up the riverbank all morning long.  If my employees are reading this, take note and quit your whining.

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It’s not uncommon to see the local buses filled to capacity, with extra passengers riding on the roof and hanging off the back.  We were keeping score, and the most people we saw on a motorcycle at one time was six.  The total disregard for safety would give an American OSHA officer a coronary.

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Myanmar is a beautiful country.  While many of the sights are simply spectacular, the children steal the show every time.  Sheri and I will forever remember walking through a remote village along the Irrawaddy river, engaging the wide-eyed kids who were amused by these strange looking people walking through their home.

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Sheri gave an impromptu lesson on a “Pinky Tuscadero” finger snap, while I tried to explain the weird looking device that I was carrying.  Showing these kids images of them on the camera had them laughing hysterically.  

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The Irrawaddy river provided spectacular sunsets, while the monks made colorful vistas of their own, their brilliant red robes making a startling juxtaposition against the drab, dirt roads.

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Marble Buddha sculptures, about a thousand of them in various stages of completion, await finishing at a local sculpture shop in Mandalay.  The marble, which I assume is a local material, is a beautiful, pearlescent white that is capable of a very high polish.   

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IMG_8127.jpg If polishing stone Buddah’s all day gets you hungry, may I suggest piles of single-serving whole sparrow?  The flies are included, free of charge.  

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Yangon, formerly Rangoon, being Myanmar’s largest city, has at least three typical fabrication shops that I saw. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit any of them.  This pleased Sheri immensely.

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Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda was under renovation while we were there.  Why under renovation you ask?  More gold, of course.  This picture only shows a fraction of the site.  I have nothing against Buddism, but in an otherwise poor nation, I find such an obscene display of wealth to be a little ridiculous.  Then again, in all fairness, one can say the same of the Vatican.

As we conclude our visit to this part of the world, I can honestly say that I’m glad I came, will always remember it, but don’t really feel I need to return.  Southeast Asia is an assault on the senses. But for me, unlike Italy or Ireland, the region doesn’t leave you wanting for more.  Except Bangkok.  How can you argue with a 90 minute massage for 300 baht? But that’s a whole other story...

“Mingalaba”!

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Posted by Shaun Kelly on
Joey:
Excellent blog, once again. It is an immense pleasure receiving such communiques regarding your far and wide travels and adventures to regions abroad. Hope your carpal surgery went well and you are in full recovery. I'm happy to see you didn't consume sparrows or tarantulas. Keep up the excellent work.
--SMK
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