Of all the pilgrimage sites in Burma, the Golden Rock or Kyaiktiyo (proun. Chite-tee-yo) in Mon State was at the top of my ‘to do’ list, second only to the majesty of Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. Balanced precariously at the edge of a cliff, the 18 ft tall rock is a sight to behold and is said to be perched upon a single hair of Buddha. I will post on Kyaiktiyo in more detail, including the treacherous pickup truck ride to the mountain itself, but part of what made this pilgrimage magical for me was the gaggle of nuns from Mawlamyine who had come to pay their respects.
With their orange or saffron or red robes, monks in Asia are hard to miss and are fairly omnipresent throughout Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Given the political situation in Burma, the monks there are fairly outgoing and most try and talk about politics (provided you are not in a public place) or to practice their English. In contrast, the nuns, swathed in beautiful pink and orange robes, are fairly quiet and rarely initiate a conversation. Unlike the monks in the country, many of which become a monk for a few months and then return to their lives, most nuns remain nuns for the rest of their lives. Also unlike the monks, they do not travel abroad and are not supposed to preach. They are customarily reserved, and only within their own monasteries did they open up to me.
However, when I said hello to this group of young nuns at the Golden Rock and offered to take a group picture for them, their faces blossomed into a multitude of bright smiles and the babbling and the enthusiastic hugs began. I must have spent close to an hour with them, comparing our feet or our hands or our height (“You! Myanmar size!”) and being dragged around to different parts of the pagoda.
Definitely one of my fonder memories of Burma.
Some other photos from the time at the Golden Rock: