On my travels around Myanmar, I was struck by the fact that traditions are still woven into the fabric of everyday life and not just resurrected for the tourists every night at 8 pm, with a matinee on Saturdays.
We were lucky enough to see a novitiation ceremony in a small town that we were driving through en route to Mandalay. We had stopped for a break and spotted some very fancily dressed children –
I thought this was a girl, but it’s actually a boy – dressed as a prince for the procession through the town before he goes to the temple to become a novice monk.
Everyone in the town had turned out either to watch
or to process
The novices all process using whatever means of transport their family can afford to provide for them.
So they might be on horseback
in a horse-drawn cart
or a bullock cart
or even on an elephant
Our tour leader was chatting to a local, who told her that the father of the boy on the elephant was a street vendor selling betel nut, who had probably saved up for his whole life to hire this elephant for his son’s big day.
The sisters of novices are allowed to dress as princesses, and they parade too –
but no horses for them … just Shanks’s pony.
And bullock carts aren’t reserved for parades – it’s quite common to see them out on the roads –
And there are so many other traditional skills still being practised every day
making umbrellas by hand –
A two-hundred year old lacquerwork studio –
producing beautiful pieces –
Cheroots – made by the local women –
and smoked by the local crones –
On Inlay Lake there’s a third-generation silversmith at work in a studio on stilts in the water
making jewellery out of pure Myanmar silver –
The lake dwellers have developed the most bizarre method of rowing, where they twist their leg around the oar –
and the lake fishermen balance precariously while they drop their nets into the water –
although I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed by the size of their catch –
But I ate his big brother for lunch, and he was absolutely delicious …