To continue the blog series about my favourite moments while travelling, today I will be sharing the picture and the story of the “framed monks”.
I have to confide you, that this picture is one of my favourite from the entire trip. It tells the story of this little situation it happened while in Myanmar, or as the oldies say, Burma, and it is definitely one of those memories that always leave me with a big smile even if it might be something so small.
One of the most fun places I have visited while in Myanmar, was the city of Mandalay where I end up staying a few days exploring.
In a small town close by, Amarapura, there’s this mesmerizing U Bein Bridge, which spans Taughthaman Lake and is 1.2 Kilometre long. This stunning bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world and also one of Myanmar most iconic sights.
As one of the most photogenic locations in all of Burma, especially during the sunset, when the sun slips behind hills and trees and you can see the spectacular lake reflection and silhouette against the sky, it’s understandable why it draws so most attention to U Bein.
Getting to the bridge a couple of hours before sunset was a great idea, as it gave me the time to explore its shores.
I was fascinated by the buzz of activity on the bridge and on the shore.
There was little markets selling from all sort of souvenirs such wood carvings and jewellery to even marionette puppets.
The hustling that was going on was exciting…Seemed that everyone both on the shore and on the bridge were trying to improve their English with me and everyone seemed to talk to everyone. A lot of children running back and forth laughing and playing, the old and young men trying to give a tour to the small number of tourists that were around, to the ladies trying to sell you from fruit to some weird animal snacks, beetles perhaps? And the little girls trying to sell you flowers and necklaces.
However, my favourite was to see all that red, orange and yellow spots, bathed in the glow of the setting sun. They were everywhere and you would see them wandering alone, in small and even big groups. The young. The old.
During my time in Asia, I have visited several countries that are predominantly Buddhist and I have learned extensively about Buddhism and it fascinates me.
I also have learned that the most religious Buddhist country in the world, Myanmar, has the highest proportion of monks and nuns, with somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the population practising Buddhism. I’ve learned that from as young as 7 years old, the boys of Myanmar train as novice monks. They pray, eat, play and even live together which form a very close bond.
But I have also learned that women should never approach or interact with monks, our hands can’t even touch, to my dismay as I would love to know more about these incredible fascinating men.
So as I was trying to simply disappear into the bustle of people on the iconic U Bein bridge and watch the sun fade over the water, I saw them. This 4 friendly monks chatting away with this western traveller man.
I must admit I was a bit jealous as they were having what seemed a very meaningful conversation and I really wanted to join in as I could also learn about their dreams, their experiences, wanted to know who they were.
But I have just observed. Kinda hiding I watched them interacting and conversating. While people were passing by they kept giving me sweet smiles… the locals and then realize that monks were smiling back at me as my mouth was on a constant smiley pose.
And that’s what made me come out of my cocoon and as I was walking in direction of that colourful bunch, I kept the smile on my face.
When I got to the group of men, the 4 monks and the (I think it was a Spanish) traveler, I exchange looks and smiles with them all (I thought as long as I don’t talk to them or touch it should be fine and not disrespectful), and the traveler said something to me which I responded with a joke, about monks and technology. To my surprise, they all burst out laughing.
Proud of my achievement and with my phone in hand I decided to frame that moment and I took a picture of them still laughing at my joke.
Then I said goodbye to the traveller and smile back at the monks, and walk away feeling a mixture of liberation, naughtiness, accomplishment but still mischief.
And as I walked back to shore, locals and tourists alike wander the span of the bridge, mingling, eating and enjoying sundown, a perfect melting pot of daily life in a stunning setting – another perfect end of a day in Mandalay with my adventure with a Bridge & Buddhism!
This picture means so much to me for another reason.
Shortly after leaving Myanmar, my digital camera was robbed from me and I have lost most of my pictures in that wonderful country. The few I saved were the ones from my phone, and this is by far my favourite, the one I stole from the monks in exchange for a joke.