The Nat Festival – Bagan, Myanmar 🇲🇲 February 2005

// Part 3 of 8 //

Again, as for the previous festival, it’s pure luck that drove us to today’s celebration. We were on our way to Mont Popa, when we noticed that some celebration was being held in the village’s temple: the Nat festival.

The Nats are spirits worshipped in Myanmar in conjunction with Buddhism. Almost all of the 37 Nats were human beings who met violent deaths.

Never to miss this kind of opportunity, we asked for the bus to stop and went inside the pagoda.

A quick scanning of the offerings: fruits …but mainly alcohol..In fact, the Nat U Min Gyaw lacked the desire and the will to combat two vices frowned upon in Buddhist teachings: alcohol and gambling. This annual festival offers a legitimate excuse to indulge, and apparently people don’t let this occasion pass without maximizing on the opportunity.

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We were early, the only audience. It wasn’t long before we realized that the graceful dancer performing in front of the row of colorful Nat statues was in fact a man. He was wearing a long shiny embroidered dress with a train and heavy make up.

He invited us to his changing room…more like the backstage of a theater than a temple 😳

His colleagues were getting ready …

Even though we interrupted the rehearsals, we received a warm welcome, big smiles then were offered laminated “business cards” and stamped paper money which they promised will bring us luck.

Our guide explained that the the tips we handed out will be stamped and recycled to other guests as a “good luck charms”.

I still have them in my album, my lucky charms🍀…

The Novice Festival – Bagan, Myanmar 🇲🇲 February 2005

//Part 2 of 8//

A beautiful morning in the temple city of Bagan, the scheduled visit to the Nan Kaba Pagoda – VIII – near Myin Kaba village turned out to be much more than we bargained for. Once there, our curiosity was aroused by incongruously loud music 🎶.

Nonplussed, our guide was quick to explain that it should be the Shin Pyu, the festival of the novices because it’s the season 😳🤔🤷🏻‍♀️Our confusion didn’t last, dispelled by the following flood of information…we were in a village celebrating the most important event in the life of a Burmese: his entry to a monastery. As not everyone can partake in the noble endeavor of the minority wishing to become a monk, there is a way to experience the latter lifestyle: every male should stay in a Buddhist monastery as a novice monk for a certain period of time whether for a week, a month, three months or more, and his noviciat brings blessings to his family.

This important event is celebrated with a big party, the Shin Pyu. Our guide pointed out that we were lucky to be visiting during this month and witness the celebrations as February, March and April are the post- harvest, Shin Pyu season : the funds earned from the sale of the rice subsidize the costly ceremony. Sometimes, many parents- the case today – join efforts to finance their children’s pre-noviciat celebrations.

***

With this acquired knowledge, we watched with great interest the adults clad in a kaleidoscope of colours and a plethora of textiles, mostly silk, parading in front of us in two parallel rows.They appeared to be the parents, carrying in front of them the noviciat’s belongings, 8 necessary objects : an alms bowl, a razor, a fan, an umbrella, a sewing needle, and the 3 items of clothing that make up the monk’s outfit.

The adults were followed by the novices dressed like young princes in rich colours, with a paper crown on their head.

After a rushed photoshoot, we came to terms with our program, and entered half heartedly the overlooked temple .

However, as soon as we exited the pagoda, we were reunited with the stars du jour, now each one riding a beautifully decorated horse and accompanied by an umbrella-holding attendant to shield him from the sun.

*** Some families followed on foot, others on decorated oxen carts.

A déjà vu situation: we left them reluctantly in order to resume our interrupted scheduled visits and trusted our guide to take us back later to watch the ceremony.

Eventually, much later, towards the end of the day, we made it to the party in full swing. Guided by the loud music, we reached the pandal, an erected shelter where dancing and singing were taking place. We were the only “party crashers “ i.e. non Burmese spectators, however people made place for us. We watched with great interest the novices being blessed by a holy man, observed him performing the rituals that followed. Later on, we joined in the fun, enjoyed the party, and cheered the 2 entertainers who alternated their parts on the stage.

***

We left before the novices got their heads shaved, and wondering will it be here or in the monastery?

Let the Party Begin

// Part 1 of 8//

Traveling in itself is a rewarding experience, and the icing on the cake is when you witness a particular celebration during your stay. If you do your homework properly, you can time your trip according to annual happenings in your planned destination. We did it when we visited Laos 🇱🇦 for the Boum That Luang Festival, worked it out to be in a Guatemala 🇬🇹 celebrating All Saints Day and next day’s colourful Day of the Dead …and while in Bhutan 🇧🇹, we ended the Druk Path Trek with a big celebration:The Thimphu Tsechu Festival.

However, you might stumble upon such events unknowingly and that’s even better…forget the anticipatory hype and the build-ups, the surprise factor doubles the pleasure and is truly the cherry on top of the icing on the cake..Talking from experiences, twice in Myanmar 🇲🇲 and 5 times in Peru 🇵🇪 !!

 


Shinbyu , Noviciation Ceremony- Pagan , Myanmar – February 2005

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Nat Festival – Mt Popa, Myanmar February 2005

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Boun That Luang Festival- Vientiane, Laos November 2007

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The 20th anniversary of the School of Civil Engineering at Universidad Andina Nestor Cáceres Velásquez – Puno, Peru October 2011

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           All Saints Day – Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala, November 2015 
 
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The Day of the Dead – Zunil, Guatemala November 2015

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The Thimphu Tsechu Festival – Thimphu, Bhutan October 2016

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde Sans The Evil Streak …a Woman of Many Contradictions

My sister once said to me, you are like Lebanon 🇱🇧 the country of contradictions…

You are devout and a party animal… you endeavor to practice your 5 daily prayers and more, the beautiful voice of one specific muezzin makes you stop everything to listen to his beautiful call for prayer, but again certain songs can pull you to the dance floor with shameless abandon💃…

Your friends? social butterflies😎 and literati 🤓You are equally pleased in the company of the younger in their 30s as well as the older with experience in their 80s.

What else? I love a good 🏋️‍♀️ as much as I love farniente..I enjoy living in the fast lane, enjoy the adrenaline that helps me cope with a hectic lifestyle but equally enjoy a relaxing morning just catching up on the world or reading a catching book, staying home and not having any planned outings…

In the morning☀️ I look forward to the peace and quiet of the night 🌙 and the rituals preceding the “ machine switch off” 📖 while at night I look forward to the morning “waking up process” and its routine – a warm 🚿 and ☕️ in the garden listening to the chirping 🐦

These contradictions must be explained by the following: my yin and yang DNA is probably the “joint account “ of 2 extremely different ancestors 🤔

Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoy the luxury of 5* hotels as much as I enjoyed the overnight homestay in Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca in Peru 🇵🇪, the shared sleeping accommodation – we were 12 – of a wooden boat during a Mekong cruise in Vietnam 🇻🇳, the rudimentary comfort of a traditional yurt in Uzbekistan 🇺🇿, and camping in Bhutan 🇧🇹 under torrential rain 🌧 i.e. muddy terrain 🤷🏻‍♀️

Anyone like me?

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Four Seasons Hotel – Anahita, Mauritius 🇲🇺 2014

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Le Negresco Hotel – Nice, France 🇫🇷 2014

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Lake Palace Hotel – Udaipur, India 🇮🇳 1998

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Riads – Marrakech and Fès, Morocco 🇲🇦 2016

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Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort – Inlay Lake, Myanmar 🇲🇲 2005

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Beach bungalow Hotel Vanille – Manakara, Madagascar 🇲🇬 2009

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Local’s casa- Amantani Island, Peru 🇵🇪 2011

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Wooden boat – Mekong, Vietnam 🇻🇳 2001

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Nurata Yurt Campsite, Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 2008

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Campsites between Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan 🇧🇹 2016

From Place to Place

From place to place
Beauty standards change
Black, gold or white
A smile is a smile
Tattooed, toothless or carmine
It makes young and old shine
😄😄😄😄😄 

Vietnam 🇻🇳 2001 Applying black lacquer on the teeth of young coming-of-age women was a very popular rite of passage.

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Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 2007 Gold teeth are a traditional status symbol.

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Tea plucker – Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 2004

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Myanmar 🇲🇲 2005

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Laos 🇱🇦 2007

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Madagascar 🇲🇬 2009

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Peru 🇵🇪 2011

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Guatemala 🇬🇹 2013

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Laos 🇱🇦 2007

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Bhutan 🇧🇹 2016 Carmine or brown red teeth colour are a side effect of chewing betel nut, a very commun practice in SE Asia.

My Secret Lover

This is for all the good times I enjoyed with my secret lover. Yes, I’m admitting it now, I’ve had one for many many years..

This relationship only brought me extreme happiness and fond memories. I still remember how I used to furtively check the time while helping out the children with their homework; I’d steal a glance at my watch longing for our daily dates then I’d rush quickly – literally running outside 🏃‍♀ – in anticipation of the strong emotions I’d feel whenever I feast my eyes 👀 on my lover …and because being one minute late meant I’d be stood up!!

I didn’t mind this zero tolerance stance because of the flexibility I was allowed: my love never missed a date, followed me everywhere even to Lebanon 🇱🇧and didn’t mind if I was too busy to show up !

The other thing I enjoyed about my : I could be myself, I didn’t have to dress up 👗for our daily date…casual outfit, no salon visit 💅

How convenient is that!😊

How did I manage to keep this relationship going on for so long? Honestly it wasn’t arduous despite my ‘s dynamic schedule (a fluctuation range of one and a half hour plus or minus ) for I was fortunate we lived conveniently near the Corniche so I cleverly timed my routine jog according to our daily dates 😉

Our relationship came to an abrupt halt when we relocated to a new house, quite distant from the Corniche…just like that 🤷🏻‍♀️

For all those waiting for me to reveal the identity of my secret lover, sorry to disappoint, no juicy info : it’s the Sun right before it sets…

Well it must be something really out of this world to be able to compete with my hombre

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Awan Egypt 2016

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Phnom Bakheng Siem Reap Cambodia 2003

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U Bien Bridge Amarapura Myanmar 2005

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South Africa 2009

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Madagascar 2009

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Bali Indonesia 2012

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Ibiza Balearic Islands Spain 2015

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Aswan Egypt 2016

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Hawai USA 2017

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Athens Greece 2018

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Lebanon 2018