Young Monks of Myanmar

Another rainy day in Myanmar. We spent the morning visiting the vast temple grounds of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Out of nowhere, a flash of crimson passed by, an evanescent moment. The colour, so striking against the backdrop of gold, was unexpected, as was the youth and animation of the group. The young monks were quiet and respectful as they ambled through this magnificent Buddhist monument but their gait and facial expressions revealed something else.

Buddhist monastic schools play a vital role in the education of the poor and underprivileged throughout Myanmar, as well as in Laos and Thailand. I often visit these schools when in the vicinity, and watch as young monks are instructed in business maths or English grammar or art, the latter usually based on sculpting Buddhist images or restoring carved panels.

‘ Generally, Burmese monastic schools accept children from needy families who live nearby and are unable to attend government schools. Many of the orphans who attend monastery schools in Yangon and Mandalay are from remote areas and have been sent by senior monks from their villages and small towns. Some operate similarly as boarding schools and some as day schools depending on the situation and support of the public.

The schools are required to cooperate closely with township education authorities to be officially recognized. The operation and finance rely heavily on donations and collaboration from the public. The fees of most of the students at the school were covered by these donations, and some parents were able to make a small contribution.’¹


Make it Rain: Bagan, Myanmar

I love it when it rains somewhere in Asia. It’s hot and humid and the sudden downpours are refreshing. They don’t usually last too long. When it rains in Bangkok, I like to duck into my favourite Chinese -Thai dumpling shop and sip a cup of ginger and lemon tea while grappling with chop sticks over a bowl of slippery dumplings. By the time they are scoffed, the rain has passed.

Rainy day fun, Bagan, Myanmar

This love of a good passing storm did not prepare me for the frequent downpours during our travels through Myanmar. I spent more time than usual meditating in golden pagodas due to heavy rain. On this occasion, we were tucked inside a restaurant in Bagan, watching the young lads outside having a ball.

Rainy day in Bagan, Myanmar

And my favourite rain song? Ed Sheeran’s Make it Rain. I sing this song often during Australian summers. For Ailsa’s travel theme, rain, on Where’s My Backpack.

My Myanmar

How much do we hear about Myanmar these days? Or Italy, or anywhere else for that matter, other than the dominant news from the USA?  Since the demise of Berlusconi, we rarely hear about Italy, unless there’s an earthquake. National disasters, terrorist activities, real or imagined, and narcissistic world leaders with toxic tendencies tend to dominate our mainstream media. We are adrift in a polluted sea of fake news.

Buddhist temple, Myanmar
Buddhist temple under a stormy sky, Myanmar

Against all odds, in 2015, a peaceful election was held in Myanmar, enabling a remarkable transition from a military led dictatorship to an emerging democracy. There is still a long way to go, not that any one cares much, when the eyes of the world are so focussed on the golden-haired beast. I’d rather contemplate these golden temples.

My Myanmar, a thousand golden pagodas
My Myanmar, a thousand golden pagodas
More moody temples, Myanmar
More moody temples, Myanmar

For those who take part in the Wordpress weekly photo challenges, the prompts now occur on Wednesday. This week’s challenge is Against All Odds.

The Road to Indigo

indigo 7

Fabric speaks to me. I collect it, stash it, feel it. Antique European linens, worn Irish cloth, functional and timeless, faded Ikat from Java, Sumatra and Flores, woven wall hangings from Myanmar, mid-century Japanese Kimono sprinkled with shibori, or little fabric offcuts featuring sacred cranes, plush velvet Italian betrothal bedspreads, alive with colour and kitsch cherubin, or hand worked pillow cases and curtains from the antique market in Arezzo in Italy, embroidered table cloths, ancient filet crochet edging with worked in stories, words or historical events, crocheted jug covers featuring Dolly-Varden shells and beaded weights, Indian silk saris and long dupatta scarves, visiting every floor of a Sari shop in India: fabric hunting is a central part of my journey. It is often the history of women’s work, or a window into a culture, or one that is about to become obsolete, that appeals so much.

indigo 4

Hand dyed indigo fabric is a recent addition to my textile addiction. I discovered some wonderful indigo fabrics at the Chatuchak ( Cha-Cha) Market in Bangkok in 2013. The following year, I toured an indigo factory in Dali, on the banks of Erhai Lake, Yunnan, China. And this year, I found another small producer of hand died indigo clothing on the banks of the Mekong River, in Chiang Khan, Thailand, as well as some lovely long lengths of deep indigo died linen in the back streets of the Warorot market, in Chiang Mai.

My next step is to learn this ancient art and dye my own cloth. I envisage drifts of indigo muslin, irregular in colour, floating in the summer breeze.Thanks Ailsa for this week’s travel theme, Fabric, at Where’s My Backpack. If I dug out all the representatives of my fabric collection, this post might fill a book.

Intricate. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar

The intricacy of design throughout the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar is breathtaking. A little stain glass panel caught my eye amidst the vast labyrinth of this glorious golden building.1-1-myanmar 455

In response to The Daily Post prompt, Intricate.

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Orange is the colour of Myanmar

Orange has long been associated with Buddhism throughout Asia, where saffron robes adorn young Buddhist monks, orange flags and sashes decorate temples and golden pagodas turn orange in the setting sun.

These Buddha were hiding inside one of the dark interiors of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar.


Travel Theme: Industry in Myanmar

Pre- industrial  forms of industry  continue in rural areas of Myanmar. Step back in time and watch these oxen tread the same path, day in day out, as they turn these ancient cogs to extract peanut oil from the nuts.

Working Bullock in small peanut oil industry, Myanmar
A bullock works to extract peanut oil  Myanmar

At this point, you may be feeling some pity for the poor oxen. No need. These oxen are very well fed and are rewarded for their work.


Notice the eye of the beast. He knows that his twenty minute shift is nearly up. He watches the build up of peanut butter, a waste product and one that he will shortly enjoy. A break and a rest, a peanut butter snack, and it’s back to work.


The photos below show the young men scraping away the peanut butter. The photo that is missing, but the one you can imagine, is the now still beast, his long tongue swinging and salivating in anticipation.



Below is the other shift worker, resting and waiting for his turn.  Peanuts are a major crop grown in Myanmar and peanut oil, freshly pressed in this manner, would be a prized oil indeed.


Sunday Stills. Yellow


School holiday time and my house and kitchen have been turned upside down by the invading tribe of wild things. The ten year old wants to work outside all day as he is saving for a motorbike,( but its raining), the seven year old goes through ten costume changes a day and the five year old tries to keep up with her, the three year old likes to play outside in the rain. My table is covered with art materials, there are balls and blankets in the lounge room, chaos has descended.

Here is my escape into the world of yellow as part of the Sunday Stills challenge: Yellow

Marigolds above and sunflowers below in the gardens of Chenonceau, France.Image

A yellow painted vegetable stall in West Java, IndonesiaImage

A doorway in Bagan, Myanmar


A fruit platter on board a houseboat in the backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala, India


Travel Theme: Statues


I am always drawn to Buddhist temples when travelling in Asia.The busy temples along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, or the quiet Lanna style temples in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The colourful temples, with attached monastery schools for young boys, in Luang Prabang, Laos and the small Buddhist temples dotted throughout the Islamic towns of Java. I attempt to visit them all .


These Statues of Buddha are a few from my Buddha files. They were all taken in Myanmar ( Burma), where the Buddhist Pagodas outdo all others in scale and opulence.

Ailsa’s ‘Where’s My Backpack‘ hosts a weekly travel themed blog every Friday. Check out some of the others.