pagodas and monks

Moulmein is third or fourth biggest city in Burma, the guide book is not quite sure about it.
Besides the British version of the name also „Mawlamyaing" and the like are common. Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell have been here in search of inspiration during the time when the British had their headquarters here during the first phase of their invasion in Burma.
Breakfast takes place on the balcony with fellow tourists. The Dutch we met yesterday turn out to be Danish after all. They know they got their flag from Tallinn. There's not much to eat: jam and bread, a tiny banana and nescafe. Local people traditionally eat noodle soup called mohingya or fried rice with leftovers from the day before for breakfast.
I ask from the hotel guy two motorbike drivers to a pagoda on the rock and giant Buddha statue. They are located in different directions, one 15 km from town and the other 20 km. I would prefer to start with the pagoda because there will be some climbing but we get to the reclining Buddha first. The road there is lined with over-life-sized monks. 175 of them, then they cross over a bridge and continue right towards horizon. Someone has helpfully numbered them. Reclining Buddha really is big and besides it's some kind of architectural wonder because it has been built without architects or other specialists starting in 1991 and it's already falling apart. Apparently it has to stand there based on faith. The point is to have a building which looks like Buddha, with rooms inside. Right now only a small temple is inhabited with three bored monks and a bunch of welding workmen. It cannot be called a very atmospheric place. The view shows the whole starting disneyland, among the trees is another giant man and endless amounts of stupas of course. Some kilometers before the park were two rocks either side of the road, one with a Buddhist stupa, the other with a Hindu temple. These looked cool because the landscape is strange: flat and suddenly a big rock. And on every rock a stupa or three.
We drive back and through the city to the other side. Through villages where there are horse carts with big wheels in courtyards. They are also visible on roads, rolling after horses. Traffic is rare and there's not much signaling and dust. Not many 'hello's either, rather people smile when they notice a farang. Monks are on the move, alone and in groups.
The stupa on the rock is called Nwa-La-Bo or at least that's one version of its name. Below the mountain we have to sit in a truck that fills up with locals rather fast. There are also two Australians who explain that everybody was waiting on us. How did they know we'd be arriving remains a mystery. The ride goes zig-zagging up the steep mountain. Greens and blues all around. It's very bumpy and even I'm too big for these seats. At the pagoda, as always, you leave your shoes at the gate and then continue on nicely warm clean-swiped stones. And there it is. One rock on the top of the other, keeping balance with the help of a Buddha's hair. Buddha had no problems with hair growth, the country is filled with his hair. The stupa as well as the rock are golden and all this should be at least a thousand years old which is an unproven fact. Below is foggy landscape. Locals disappear rather fast and the driver comes to look for us. For the ride down I choose to stand on the back to take some pictures. The driver has no problem with a farang standing. I'm disappointed because I know how to say that I want to take a picture. On our way back schoolchildren are on the move.
At the hotel we arrange the motorbike drivers to come and pick us up at four o'clock and we'll go to some pagodas on the mountain ridge to watch sunset. Until then we find a place by the river, have a beer, eat soup and noodles, then find another place and drink lime juice. Just to sit somewhere. Of course, everywhere you look is a heap of garbage. Narrow boats glide up and down the river and further up there's fish market under colorful sunshades. And there's a mini-cat under our table. An intelligent-looking monk from neighboring table begins to chat with us. He's proud to be meditating three hours a day. He has been a monk for 3 years and intends to stay that way. Comes from Chaungtha, 22 years old. Thinks that Külli looks like Britney Spears. He is sure that he has already attained nirvana or at least is very close to this. It should show in his eyes. He even takes off his glasses so that I could have a closer look. I don't notice anything special. He smokes. I rather not ask if nicotine isn't one of intoxicants disapproved by Buddha. The monk asks us to stop by his monastery later.
Then we occupy some chairs in the front of the hotel and read. Or Külli has a nap. Our closet is not very inviting.
Motorbike drivers arrive early and tell us to go. We start our inspection from south. Every place has cool clean floor and big golden stupa. Disco lights flash around the heads of Buddhas. Seidon Mipaya monastery is an exception. The second-last queen of Burma let it be built for her favorite abbot and also escaped there herself after a coup. Temple is a bit over 100 years old and in scenic disorder. An old monk opens doors so that we can admire everything until the very last corner. In an honor-place is a tooth of Buddha. I doubt it a bit because the teeth are not usually shown just like that. Who knows. Buddha had a lot of teeth as well. Next target, Mahamuni pagoda, has lovely color palette and paintings about life in 1920-30s and about life of Buddha of course. Puppies are playing outside. The last one is the classic sunset view place, Kyaik Thanlan pagoda. Up with the elevator and there are many temples and pagodas and a view over the entire city and over the river. Already the light before sunset is nice, not to speak of the setting sun itself. Continuous reciting of sutras sounds from everywhere.
Dinner is an error. There's plenty of beer but it takes a lot of time with the fish and then there's some confusion. Fish arrives at last being buried under spices and its taste is not identifiable. Restaurant's cat gets part of it. It's not known what the spices did with his digestion.
On our way back to the hotel is a cake-and-coffee establishment. The table that was just taken inside comes back out and tea is wiped from the chair. To our surprise it is not enough to order coffee but there are seven kinds to choose from. Latte tastes like grain coffee. The staff discovers a party of mice in the back room. A large hole has been chewed into a flour sack.
train ride
to the countryside

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