January 2014

Moe Moe in Bagan

My friend Moe in Old Bagan. Despite the generous coating of pigeon guano inside the temples, we were all barefoot; all footwear is prohibited on holy ground.


Our friend Mu enjoying a rest in Old Bagan. The bare brickwork behind her used to be elaborately stuccoed and painted, but what a thousand years of weather didn’t abrade was shaken off by the 1970s earthquake. Although some of the temples are being stabilized and restored, there’s been a big uproar about the restoration efforts not being true to the original designs. frankly, there aren’t funds (or even references) for a precise replica. Well-intentioned, if modern, reconstruction looks like the only salvation for the temple city.

Guardian Angels

Guardian angels in Yangon.

Let angels sing thee to thy rest. No better place for a nap, I’ll wager.

Anatomy of a Stupa

Inside one of the plentiful shrines and towers of the Shwedagon temple complex, I found one in which the supporting structure hadn’t been bricked and gilded over. The contrast of minimalist teal and lathe with the traditionally ornate, bejeweled angels lent the pagoda something of the Met’s ambiance.

In truth, I’m not sure whether that would really be the understructure of a stupa. It looks a bit more like what’s called the “umbrella,” but my knowledge of Buddhist statuary & architecture is too limited to be sure.

Slow Day on the Bridge

Just another slow afternoon on Mandalay’s famous mile-long teak bridge.

In other news, New York’s finally getting the snow and ice that missed us all last winter. It makes me a tad nostalgic for the scorching temperatures in this picture…but at least it means we don’t have an 8:30 conference tomorrow morning.

Click on the image for a much better view!

Doing the Garden Digging the Weeds

Inle Lake is much more than the tourist trap that you’re likely to see in a guidebook. Like the rest of Shan State, it’s an important agricultural resource. All of Myanmar’s tomatoes are grown in its extensive aquaculture beds. While these superficially look much the same now as in the past – pole frames supporting acres of crops, each threaded by a network of canals to allow tending by canoe – the overapplication of pesticides is a real problem. There is no healthcare system to pick up on the extent of the human effects, but it isn’t difficult to imagine, when the people rely on the lake for fish, drinking water, and bathing.

Shwedagon Twilight

Buddhist shrines were once lit by candlelight, but in the wake of several fires, most have switched to electric lighting when available. A well-heeled shrine sports nearly as much neon as the Vegas strip. Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar’s best known shrine) is no exception, so the famous gold-leafed stupa rises above a flashing neon sea of enshrined statues and relics.

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