Myanmar enshrined

By Jude Bacalso for Metro Society magazine; Photos by Jude Bacalso, Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Raul Manzano

Posted at Aug 19 2013 04:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 22 2013 11:51 PM

Traveling along her hot roads, the sight of shopping malls gives way to glimpses of stupas, and ancient trees felled by monsoons become, in the hands of native artisans, massive sculptures that speak of the mythical and the everyday. On the long trip to the ancient capital of Bago and her colossal pagodas, you see reclining Buddhas with eerily life-like eyes made of special glass, their feet bearing symbols.

The lot, it seems, is easier to understand once you realize that the Burmese live suspended between the rush of the new and the stillness of the ancient.

You enter barefoot (as in all stupas and pagodas) and walk clockwise around the structure. A devotee finds one of eight planetary posts around the stupa (a hollow structure containing Buddhist relics, this particular one is said to house eight strands of hair from the historical Buddha Gautama himself ), determined by the day of his birth. In Myanmar, Buddhism is laced with Hindu Brahmanism’s astrology, another peculiarity in the region that gives rise to literally eight days a week (concretizing Ringo Starr’s famous hyperbole). Finding the right Buddha and the proper rituals, which are then coupled with your specific animal symbol—ranging from Sunday’s garuda to Friday’s guinea pig—is key to having a prayer and a wish, separate in these parts, granted.

Yangon is no stranger to tourism. Its infrastructure for the industry is in place: there is an imposing Traders Hotel within the city and the elegant Park Royal Yangon near the Embassy Quarter, central to all the sights. The beautiful man-made Kandawgyi Lake offers one of the most beautiful sunsets anywhere, with the golden peak of Shwedagon glistening over the water where a gigantic replica of the Royal Barge is moored, itself a tourist attraction. It is a floating restaurant featuring traditional Burmese food and a cultural show that runs nightly.

One will surely have a memorable and enjoyable trip to Myanmar with its rich history, culture, custom and tradition and numerous tourist attractions, with many more unknown and yet undiscovered.

For more on the article, check out Metro Society magazine's August 2013 issue out in newsstands nationwide. Digital edition available on the iTunes App Store.