Nepal Holi Festival.
Nepal's flag is a mystery itself. It's M-shaped appearance when flipped horizontally represents Himalayas. That fact itself is splendid. With a saved travel budget I headed off to Nepal to celebrate their Holi Festival. Which coincided with Philippines's Holy Week Holiday. I need to scrutinize a different history and culture from a Chistian's point-of-view.
Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara
Kata, Karon Beach
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Myanmar Thadingyut Festival
Yangon, Nyaung-U, Heho
I waited for 6 hours (transit) in Malaysia, before Air Asia flew to Yangon, Myanmar. Ms. Nhida (my guide) greeted me warmly and we went sightseeing in Yangon. I saw novice monks elsewhere, even in the city walking barefoot (totally cool in my Christian perspective).
The abundance of Theravada Buddhism really overwhelmed me and this is just Yangon, this is just one city :) Highlight(s) of my 1st day was merging with the locals on the big jetty that allowed me to experience the people coming from another island and they are selling their stuff on another island. I was mesmerized by the colonial crafts and portraits in Strand Hotel and that evening I gazed on the beautiful Shwedagon pagoda.
Every bit of the pagoda is more than perfect, but my favorite was the volunteer streetsweepers (no charge or donation for cleaning) and one portion of the pagoda has Y(ellow) G(reen) R(ed) labels that you step ON and the TOPMOST jewel changes to that color. It's so amazing it has something to do with light refraction or something and to think ancient Myanmar pagoda architecture has already some scientific explanation behind it. Simply brilliant \m/
After Yangon, I flew to NyaungU then my new city guide (different guide per city) took me to local market. I saw thanaka, Myanmar's natural sunblock then some various veggies and sellers offering me best price for the stuff they sell (which I politely refused since I'm saving money and I'm on a very tight budget) and I also saw nuns (monks female version) in pink roaming the market for donations. I also saw a lot of tourists which I dislike since they tend to be amused and get cluttered in a queue, and I like moving a lot...there are people behind waiting so that's it :/
More temples in Bagan
The next is I visited some pagodas, most to my surprise were being rennovated then my favorite is the temples in Old and New Bagan. WOW at first I only see these marvelous architectures in postcards and in the world wide web mostly in National Geographic and CNN and Booom. I was literally there jaw-dropped. I was obsessed with history and teracotta and cool figures surrounding the temple on the cruel king on how he does not want a needle to enter between the bricks or else he'll cut the hands of the workers. How the window is purposely built small so that less light will preserve the story inside the temple (like how photography on a dark room works) and the story of Buddha was plastered over and over again on every temple. Inside-outside on top, behind, above below I will run out of prepositions but the whole thing is just so spectacular that only any human from whatever sect or religion is not human at all NOT to marvel at this intricate Myanmar proclivity.
Climbing Mt. Popa
Then after that it's time to climb Mt. Popa. Initially I had to pick Mandalay's Amarapura (I think) or Mt. Popa. But I'm glad I chose the latter (maybe next time I'll choose Amarapura and Monywa for the giant Buddha statues). But 5 days will never be enough to unravel Myanmar's treasure. Mt. Popa used to be a forest with Nats or spirits that protects. In Old Bagan (I think) I was told that one famous story of the Buddha was he was attacked by evil spirits and tigers and serpent but the Buddha just remained calm and he just meditated not fighting back. Then one Nats appeared and from his long hairstrand he squeezed water from it and the massive water flooded every evil away. Yes it reminded me when the Egyptians chased the Israelites and Moses miraculously flooded the sea and drowned the Egyptians. It has certain similarity not quite and I'm not saying that Egyptians are evil (off-topic) but to be able to witness that story from a modern Myanmar local with your camera, all you have to do is take shots and listen.
The 31st and :'( final part of my trip was in Inle/Innlay Lake and to swing by the lake 45 mins back and 45 mins forth is so peacefully relaxing. At noon it was so hot but the loud motorboat just adds to the experience. On early morning and late afternoon it's very cold. You can see the fishermen rowing with paddle on their one leg, which is an exceptional Myanmar skill...I passed by the floating tomato island...You see they've this unique agri/aquaculture that allows them to float a mini-garden of tomatoes then stick it with large bamboo supports (well I was told that one property of Inle lake is objects do float from it), then they can drag these 'floating islands' elsewhere like a boat...fantastic... then on the other side of the island there are more temples, like mini-Bagan. That night in NyaungShwe was unforgettable, I was lost from my hotel. I wandered around the village and recorded a video of candlelights and mini-fireworks. The locals helped me get back to my hotel. LOL! The next morning I was so damn lucky to watch their procession around 5:45AM of 31st October, I think they call it their Thadingyut & lighting festival. Each boat represents an offering that they will carry to the main pagoda to honor the Buddha. The main boat carries the Buddha(s) and they are parading it throughout the lake. Just swing by my videos on the URI's (link section). My personal advise to tourists/outsiders (like me) is YOU just have to close your eyes (like Buddha meditating) and acknowledge the world that Myanmar is a very cool place to hang out. Common sense follows though don't close your eyes for too long especially when you're in a foreign land =))