Relationship of the Burma Travel from 10 to 23 March 2017 by Jacqueline Berthelot-Blanchet

The recent opening of Burma, a country folded back on itself according to a secular tradition, was the determining factor in the choice of the annual trip of our association.
Prepared in close collaboration with Anne Fort, curator at the Cernuschi Museum who wanted to share her knowledge despite a health problem, this trip was planned in Upper Burma, Mandalay to Yangon, through the inevitable lake Inlay.
It was a delight !!! Difficult indeed not to succumb to the charm of this song Asia South East where faith, legends, spirit worship (nat) and traditions punctuate the life of its inhabitants, thus building a bulwark against globalization still in its infancy in the big cities. All this despite problems arising from the diversity of ethnic 135 inhabiting the territory and a military dictatorship still present although invisible to the foreigner of passage. Evidenced by the animation of temples crumbling under the offerings, pilgrims to be piled in many vans during their travels and processions leading to the monastic life of very young children in perfect joy. Witness the myriad of temples, pagodas, monasteries and zédis (stupas) encased in lush vegetation, most of which, gilded with fine gold, sparkles under a resplendent sun.

Shwenandau Monastery. Mandalay. © J.Berthelot-Blanchet.

Grand Buddha of Mahamuni pagoda. Mandalay. © J.Berthelot-Blanchet.

Pho Win Taung Monastery. Moniwa region. © J.Sarre.

Of all these monuments only zédis were built using materials intended to survive, as opposed to the monasteries and royal palaces to which the wood was reserved. Hence their rarity, consequence of war invasions and earthquakes. This is why the Shwe Nandow Monastery remains one of the precious specimens. Built in teak 1857, survivor of the fire of the Royal Palace 1945 for being moved in 1878 by King Thibow, then transformed by him into a monastery dedicated to the memory of his father, King Mindon, the building reflects the refinement of the royal palaces of yesteryear, thanks in particular to its admirable sculptures illustrating the Jatakas
Throughout the country there is a profusion of Buddhas whose dating remains mostly uncertain because of their reconstruction due to the destruction of invaders and frequent earthquakes, over the centuries.

The Plain of Pagan with its many temples and zedis. © J.Sarre.

Friends in front of the Zedis of the Kakku site.

Mandalay, last royal capital, and its intense monastic life, Pagan and its archaeological site of 42km2 bearer of 2900 buildings, Yangon and the Shwedagon (described as a golden mystery by Rudyard Kipling), Pindaya and its caves with 9000 Buddhas, of course, challenged us. However, special mention should be made of the eighteenth century Pho Win shrine as well as the Shwee Ba ​​Taung monastery, oddly compared to Petra. Likewise, Kakku cannot be forgotten, its forest of zédis (some of the eleventh and thirteenth century) with umbrellas provided with bells never ceasing to be an enigma in the eyes of archaeologists.
Far from being exhaustive, the mention of these places cannot ignore the museums: archaeological museum and lacquer museum in Pagan, Yangon National Museum with a department devoted to contemporary painting adjoining the classic building departments.
Lacquerware workshop where, in particular Burmese, many objects are created from horsehair, puppet shows, strolls on the markets, factory of cheroots (cigars), weaving workshop, manufacture of parasols and baskets, navigation on Irrawady and on Inle Lake allowed an approach of the Burmese soul in contact with the population.

Shan women on Inle Lake. © J.Sarre.

Shwedagon Pagoda. Yangon. © J. Saar.

Shwedagon Pagoda. Yangon. © J.Sarre.

It is highly desirable that this country torn apart by serious religious and political problems which the press does not fail to echo can open up to the values ​​of the Western world without the great octopus "called Western civilization" to resume. Pierre Loti, does not make him lose his identity.

In the end, a trip whose perfect success can be proud of the friendly and warm atmosphere in which it took place.


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