In the City of Golden Pagodas

I didn’t have any expectations for Yangon, so it didn’t disappoint me.
The city is decidedly third world, with dilapidated buildings and primitive shops. The only saving face is its many golden pagodas reaching upwards from the thick vegetation. We visited the biggest pagoda complex in the country, Shwedagon Pagoda, whose height reaches 300+feet. The steeple of the pagoda is, allegedly, crowned with diamonds and other precious stones mined in Myanmar, but it is protected from thieves by its shape, which makes it impossible to climb. The shape of the Burmese pagoda was designed as such so it would throw no shadows. A shadow would be considered to be part of a buddha, and walking on a buddha is, of course, a no-no.
There are several buddhas stationed over the complex, each one accepting specific offerings and promising specific gifts in return. Thus, I put a real gold leaf on one of the statues to receive a gift of good complexion. Then I spread my wealth of the newfound good complexion to others by hitting a big bell three times with a large wooden stick.
Another buddha was sitting on top of an elevated platform, and in exchange for prayers, he offered to help defeat the enemies of whoever you asked him for. One buddha accepted offerings of five water ablutions, another – a gift of flowers oozing an intoxicating odor, yet another-plain old paper money. A very convenient arrangement it was, for the buddhas to be so narrowly specialized: people were not crowding around one buddha, but were spread out according to what they were in need of at the moment.
As to the people of Myanmar, they seem serene and very polite. Most wear sarong-type skirts, both men and women. Traditionally, nothing else separated the skirt from the skin, and older people still adhere to the tradition of wearing nothing underneath, while younger people strayed by wearing underwear.
A lot of women and some children wear a caked-up powder upon their cheeks, brows, and noses called “thanaka”. This powder is applied to the face with a peace of wood after it had been ground on sandstone. The resulting paste serves as sunscreen, but also offers treatment for oily skin and doubles as a makeup.
After visiting this pagoda, we went to see the biggest reclining buddha in Asia, and it was very big, indeed.
Overall, the faces of all the buddhas are china-doll like, most sculptures are rather crude, and buildings are not refined. No Rafaels nor Michelangelos worked here.
Burmese food we sample today was flavorful, but there were more Thai items on the menu than Burmese.

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