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« January 09, 2008 | Main | January 07, 2005 »

January 08, 2005

Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon, Room 533 (5:40 AM)

Early morning observations after sitting for an hour:

  • I've noticed that most neighborhoods have a little wooden kiosk with clay jays filled with water so that thirsty pedestrians can avail themselves of a cool drink. They are all over the city.
  • There is a slow, steady drumbeat from the local temples in the morning.  This apparently is broadcasting the merit accrued from the morning prayers to all that hear the sound.

We leave tomorrow. I need to initialize the GPS at some point today.


Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon, Room 533 (5:02 PM)

I accomplished everything that I needed to do today. I went to the Shwedagon pagoda, I had a nice lunch, I took a long nap, and I just got back from a refreshing swim.  The Shwedagon pagoda was, as always, majestic, exotic, and strangely calming. It's amazing how in the midst of so many people such a peaceful atmospherre can be maintained. Some background information. After Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment in about 600 B.C., he was visited by two brothers, Tapussa and Bhallika, who were merchants from Myanmar. The two brothers offered the Buddha a gift of honey cakes, and, in return, he gave them eight hairs from his head.  The brothers presented the Buddha's hairs to the King of Okkalapa, who erected a pagoda to enshrine them. The original pagoda was 66 feet tall. From the 14th century onward, successive monarchs re-built Shwedagon until it reached its present height of 326 feet. In its current form, Shwedagon is a complex of pagodas sprawling out over 14 acres. The main pagoda is topped by a diamond orb containing 4,351 diamonds; the crowning jewel is 1,800 carats. The shaft is covered with half a ton of gold, 83,850 jewels, and 4,016 small gold bells.  The four corners of the temple complex are marked by large bo trees (Ficus religiosa), which were planted using cuttings from the original tree at Bodh Gaya, India, under which Siddhartha attained enlightenment.

When the sun goes down the temple complex is gloriously illuminated, and it is visible from many parts of Yangon.  For Burmese Buddhists, Shwedagon Paya is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites in the country.  It is a wonderful place to spend some time, be slow and quiet, and get focused before running some transects. I also got some great video footage (see Sunday at Shwedagon).

Than Myint just called from the lobby. He brought over our airplane tickets to Myitkyina together with a few receipts. On the airplane ticket receipt they had listed the serial numbers of every one of the $20 bills (30 in all) used to buy the tickets. Can't be too careful these days. I initialized the GPS.  The Summit Parkview Hotel, Room 533 is located at N16˚47.673', E96˚08.613' (EPE = 45 feet). My place in space, at the moment.

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