Friday, April 18, 2014

Burmese Hug

"Burma gave you a hug.. it just hugged a little too hard" smiled Lauren as she sat with Andre at a cafe in Yangon. The two had come primarily to use the wifi. The fact the small upstair's coffee shop served food was a bonus.

My last few hours in the colonial era city were punctuated by bouts of coughing and sniffles. I felt although it was a relatively minor chest infection, there was little point in sitting idol in a hotel room blowing my nose and feeling sorry for myself. I decided yesterday to head back to Bangkok to get my camera gear serviced, some film developed, to pick up real meds (something which can be quiet elusive in Myanmar) and to assess how the protests between the UDD and PDRC had developed.

Thingyan is the most important day in the Burmese calendar and what most likely made me ill. If it wasn't ingesting water, it was the temperature changes between cold water, hot air, and then air con in our hotels. The festival celebrates the passing of the sun from Pisces to Airies and is seen as the New Year for Theravada Buddhist countries in SE Asia. Thousands flock to the streets and engage in combat. Water pistols and buckets being the weapon of choice. For those who have a little more foresight (and often money), firehoses trump squirt guns often with devastating effect. At one stage, I had managed to drown both my camera bodies. One was resurrected with a hair dryer, the other is for now one of the many cameras which fell to the festival. On the final day of festivities, thousands flock to pagodas around the country. The oldest and most well known, Schwe Dagon in Yangon is filled with thousands of devout buddhists worshipers from sunrise to evening.

The festival itself was brilliant. Adults, children, and young punks alike danced in the rain. Strangers offered me alcohol which was generally followed in adorably broken English  'Are you happy? ITS THINGYAN!'. My face hurt from smiling for 12 hours a day.

Revellers party out the front of town hall. The ancient Sule pagoda can be seen in the background. More pics to follow in the coming days. 

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