Geographic Expeditions Wanderlust Blog
field research, writing, and photography in Myanmar for a luxury adventure travel company
Notes from the Field: Making a Monk Laugh
Myanmar is a country that is devoutly Buddhist. Throughout the country, you are bound to spot the tip of a stupa, dome-like shrines containing Buddhist relics, peeking up from the landscape. There are said to be more stupas than people in Myanmar!
I was in Burma on Tazaungdaing, the full moon festival celebrated in Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar. Tazaungdaing, also known as the Festival of Lights, marks the end of the rainy season. It was indeed a magical experience, as it had been raining heavily before I arrived at Shwedagon Pagoda, stopped when I was there, then started up again immediately after I left. I’m chalking it up to good karma.
Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest pagoda in Myanmar, was abuzz with activity. While trying not to slip on the wet tiles, I excitedly navigated my way around the giant golden pagoda, weaving my way through the throngs of Burmese pilgrims, tourists, and monks lighting candles and well wishing to the Buddha. I finally found a little corner to light my own candle. As I struggled to find a spot for my candle, a group of young monks in crimson robes came up beside me. As I placed my candle precariously on the ledge, it teetered over and the young monk next to me looked up and giggled at my blunder then ran off with his friends. I think the Buddha was also looking down and laughing.