Myanmar. Beauty Beyond the Suffering

September 28th 2012

Posted by Norma Manly

Myanmar(former Burma), a country that was expected to have developed rapidly after gaining independence from Britain in 1948, but the military seized an opportunity cementing a grip on power, producing one of the most repressive, brutal regimes in modern history and for more than twenty five years it’s borders sealed and its people isolated.

Yangon. Once the capital (changed to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005) mind numbing traffic as far as the eye can see, colonial buildings that even in decay seem some what beautifully majestic, temples and pagoda’s gilded masterpieces are seen throughout the city that would make you question your inner atheist.

“Welcome to Myanmar” a man, shouts out from his car window, “you want to see where our mother lives?” Twenty minutes later and an imprint of my hands left on Tay Na’s passenger seat I arrive at the gates of Aung San Suu Kyi compound, “She never forgot us” Na says wiping the evidence of betel nut from his lips and that she didn’t.

This lady embodies the soul of the nation. With the power of speech her kindred spirit infused a hope, and a hope that was maintained. House arrest would never tame her; she refused to be bribed into silence, her love and compassion triumphed.

I had not arrived in Mandalay ten minutes when I found myself in a local taxi driver’s house teaching English to his neighbor’s children. His name was Toe Toe. The following day he brought me to his brother’s monastery. His brother is the head monk there and also practices alternative medicine.

A largely Buddhist population with some 50 million, it remains a constant solace. In Mandalay alone there are over 400,000 monks, and all are openly political, they fear not of the government, nor the 300,000 military. Monks rank high among the 2,100 political prisoners in the country.

To be honest I did feel at times that I was being led on a leash. The military know your every move. They don’t quite lurk in corners of the streets ready to pounce, Actually the majority of the time they are nowhere to be seen, But in terms of Passports and visas always required when booking accommodation, traveling on buses, ferries, etc, that’s when the leash tightens.

There were a few incidents when fully armed soldiers, some frightfully young stormed onto buses with an air of asperity, demanding everybody’s ID card (which is compulsory to carry). Unfortunately the Burmese are far too accustomed to interrogations.

The complexities of this inchoate country can be difficult to understand, of how a regime can form such a people, but they are everything the regime is not; they are kind, generous, engaging, and humorous. Everyday they battle a tangled web of repression and reform.

As I make my way back to Yangon I am overcome by the wisdom and beauty beyond the suffering. A country so beautifully unspoilt, a piety of beauty, rich in unique culture and tradition and still withholds its name as the jewel of Asia.

Myanmar
Myanmar
Daw thaung, a retired school teacher resides with her son in the surroundings of a monastery, her son is the head monk there. He studied alternative medicine and provides this practice to his local community. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Young village children from the ages of 7 and upwards are forced to leave their family and look for work in the cities, Their families will depend on them financially, and sadly an education is very unlikely. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Hin Ya Dyi was abandoned by her mother and left outside a government building. She was brought to A Yeik Mon orphanage in Mandalay. She lives a very happy life here, she is loved, and nurtured and later in life will be provided with a good education. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
It's market day in the town of Nyaungshwe, and women from mountains desend upon the town. Once a week they carry up heavy bags containing fruits, vegetables, and meat on their backs and even balancing them on their heads, its a strenuous hike any time of the year, with tempetures souring high in the summer and paths are dangerous slippy during monsoon season. Nyaungshwe, Inle Lake.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A temple in an ancient site called Thayekhittaya, it is located 5 miles from Pyay, it dates back between the 5th to the 9th century, this site claims to house the first pagoda. Pyay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A temple looks out on a river that soon will rise once the monsoon season begins, which will force these residents to move inland. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Two of the many Orphans in A Yeik Mon. Eiei Phyo ee (Left) recently graduated from university. and now works as the accountant in the orphanage. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
It's harvest time for the sesame seeds and farmers are hard at work. What fascinated me about Myanmar is how rich and fertile the soil is, they can grow abundances of crops. Rice being the most important and their highest export. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
This young girl walks proudly as she wear a t shirt with two of her idols, Aung San suu Kyi and her father Aung San. "They never lost hope for our country" she says, and because of them my future is bright". Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Donated food is given to the children in A Yeik Mon orphanage. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A young girl sells postcards at one of the many temple sites in Bagan. With an influx of tourists visiting this region children have abandoned their education to sell whatever they can to make some money for their families. Bagan, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
One of the many toys that are donated to the Happy haven humanitarian project. Yangon, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Overlooking a village on the outskirts of Mandalay. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Toe Toe enjoys a cigarette in his garden amongst the city of Mandalay. He is a full time taxi man and spends what free time he has volunteering in orphans around the city and teaching English to the young children in his neighbors. He is optimistic about the future of one day owning his own travel agency so he can really explore his own country. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Celebrations are in full swing at Min Thant Aung birthday party, all his friends and neighbors gloriously sing happy birthday to him (which surprisingly sung in English) After cake was eaten which was spoon feed by the birthday boy to each of his friends, his parents handed him a bowl full of money which he would give out to his friends, this would in life grant him a successful future. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
street is lined with workshops and skilled craft men of stone craving, Marble is attacked with angle grinders and drills to create Buddhists images, that more likely be bought and housed for a monastery or temple. This skill is passed on from generation to generation, and walking down the street you bare witness to the stages of production. Mandalay.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Women washing clothes by Inle lake.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Bagan in Burma and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia both offer an endless discovery of an ancient Kingdom and it seems seldom know about Bagan archaeological site. Bagan is located in central Myanmar, and over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. It was the site of the first burmese kingdom dating back between 11th and 13th centuries. Bagan has suffered endless earthquakes the last in being in 1975, which caused horrific damage to the ancient site. Restorations are continuing. In 1990 the government forcibly relocated thousands of citizens living amid the archeological site, in fear they would treasure hunt, but for another reason too, to encourage this site as a tourist destination and soak up the money for themselves, Families were never compensated for the uprooting, and there new home was called New bagan. Bagan, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
The Happy haven Humanitarian center. The scourge of AIDS has orphaned many children. However not all become infected with the disease. Those who have not contacted the disease from their parents are either cared by relatives pr placed into orphanages. However those unfortunate children who have been infected with the HIV virus are stigmatized and neither relatives nor orphanages are willing to take them in, therefore face rejection and social isolation are deprived of everything young children should have. There was an urgent need for a care center to provide a home for these children, and with the help of charitable donations this center was opened. Haven aims to relieve the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering which children infected with AIDS experience and help them live in peace, happiness and with dignity. Two of the care workers cradle a 4 month old baby, their youngest in the center. Yangon, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
One of the many spirit festival being held across the country. Their are many spirits that are worshipped in Myanmar and every village has a shrine to them. These two young women believe they are being possessed by an evil spirit. Mandalay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Women work just as hard as men all over Myanmar, while tending to crops they sing, gossip and laugh a lot, Bagan, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A street is lined with workshops and skilled craft men of stone craving, Marble is attacked with angle grinders and drills to create Buddhists images, that more likely be bought and housed for a monastery or temple. This skill is passed on from generation to generation, and walking down the street you bare witness to the stages of production.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Business Kind Myanmar is a small community based NGO. Its mission is to create small neutral profit community businesses that make and sell affordable products that improve the living conditions of poor people, BK's first business is good sleep bed nets. 50% of their staff are women living with HIV/AIDS. Hlaing Thayar, Yangon, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A statue of Aung San( The man that fought his way to achieving an independent Burma) stands heroically in the center of the town, surrounded by commercial billboards. Pyay, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A merchant stands by her stall in a monastery. Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Inle Lake ranks among Myanmar top five attractions, it is 13.5 mile long and 7 miles wide, dotted around the lake are stilt house villages floating gardens. Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
The Gates leading to Aung San suu kyi compound, it was there where she spend her days isolated from the rest of the world and continued to fight for her countries freedom. Yangon, Myanmar.
Myanmar
Myanmar
Nyaung U river where locals spend their day fishing. Nyaung U, Bagan.
Myanmar
Myanmar
A reflection of a Budda is seen in a river close to a monastery in Pyay, Myanmar.