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July 15, 1978 - Image 9

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Michigan Daily, 1978-07-15

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, July 15, 1978-Page 9

nda la y
a hypnotic motion nearly swept me off my
intricate carvings of flowers, people, and
imals cover the surrounding shrines, and rice
per pictures depicting characters from Bud-
ist fables hang inside. The innumerable Bud-
a images fashioned from brass, wood, and
me that fill these smaller temples were over-
ielming. Whether reclining or sitting, large or
iall, they all possess the same enlightened
untenance and long ear lobes which, in Burma,
licate great truthfulness.
While the "winking wonder" is spirtual en-
antment and fantasy, Rangoon is the physical
ality of one of the poorest developing nations.
len I reached city proper, the potholed
ulevards teeming with people and the ar-
itectural influence of the British Raj caught
eye. Lying 21 miles upriver from the Gulf of
artaban, Rangoon was once a gracious colonial
rt, the capital of British Burma. However,
ny of the dignified Victorian buildings have
llen into severe disrepair, abandoned and
arded up when nationalized by the gover-
kent years ago. A few, like the railway station
th its majestic colonnade, offer proof of for-
r British dominance.
he driver cajoled me into staying at the
and Hotel, one of the aging British dinosaurs
fering from malnutrition and neglect. While I
ed to image the former glory of this square-
led hotel with its porticoed facade and soiled
Ate stone walls, the driver eulogized it as one
Rangoon's finest today! Albeit a little seedy, it
s comfortable, had hot and cold running
ter, and room service-luxuries unseen in my
budget travels.
OWNSTAIRS in the lounge I chanced upon
an Australian couple I met earlier that mon-
Thailand. Sitting down to exchange anecod-
and quaff a few gin and tonics,'the bar came
life: several French tourists planned their
itineraries at the bar; a rotund Indian with

a whispy moustache spat at a distant spittoon
and missed; a rat scurried for cover under a
table; the overhead fans whirred as the upper-
crust of Burmese society sipped whiskey and
My friends, who had just finished their tour of
the country advised me tp plan my week
carefully and head upcountry as soon as
possible. Rangoon is just a shadow of Burma,
they warned. Since the country is 85 per cent
Buddhist, I wanted to see as many pagodas as a
week would allow. What could be a better choice
than Pagan, the "City of Four Million
Pagodas"? Along with Cambodia's Angkor Wat
(wat means temple) and Indonesia's Borobudur
temple, Pagan rates as one of Buddhism's
greatest achievements.
The plane fare was $35, and there was a flight
every morning - but not necessarily on
schedule. Following a two hour delay, due partly
to the ceremonious departure of the visiting
Yugoslavian vice president, the twin-engine
Burma Airways corporation plane finally took
off. Barely two hours later we landed at tiny
Nyangoo Airport, a single runway affair with a
spartan terminal.
Bloomin' idol made o'mud-
Wot the9rcalled the Great Gawd Budd-
Plucky lot she caredfor idols
when Ikissed 'er where she stud'
On the road to Mandalay ...
The transition from Rangoon to Pagan is
dramatic, like passing back in time to the
primitive 1920's of the British Raj. Climbing out
of the airport bus I stepped onto the single road
that winds its way through the dusty walled city
of 3,000. Small guesthouses with names like the
"Moe-Moe", "The Burma", and the
"Cooperative Inn", dot the main artery, offering
accommodations for $2 or less. Bullock and hor-
se carts trundled back and forth carrying
produce and people between villages.
Situated on the left bank of the Irrawaddy
River in the central dry zone, Pagan once
cradled a population of over 1,000,000, serving as
the center of Buddhist learning, culture, and
government in the eleventh century. Today it is

anxiously with activity. Women smoked
Kiplingesque "wackin' white cheroots" and sold
gold painted lacquer dishes, boxes, and animal
figures. Children with sandalwood powder
smeared on their cherubic faces played tag in
the narrow aisles of fruit and vegetables. And
young men passed the day admiring the
beautiful village women. A festival was in
Later, my amiable hotel manager, U Po, told
me that every temple of note has its own pwe, or
festival, and that these temples double as social
and often commercial centers of the community.
With Burma's plethora of pagodas, I speculated
that a festival must take place almost every day
somewhere in the country! U Po added that all
boys must live the ascetic life of a monk from
three months to two years, depending on his con-
venience and free will.
T HE NEXT MORNING I hired a horsecart
for $1 an hour and set out to recapture
Pagan's era of the temple builders. An un-
marked dusty road skirting he miniature hills
revealed a panorama of pagodas. Pagan is like
an open-air museum, the thousands of eroded
temples and monasteries its archaeological
exhibits. Beginning in 1057 with King Anawrahta
and lasting over two centuries, a succession of
Burmese rulers covered the city's 16 arid acres
with thousands of monuments of all shapes and
sizes. But the ravages of time, a sacking by
Kublai Khan's Mongols, and an earthquake in
1975 reduced an estimated 10-20,000 buildings to
5,000; only 100 or so interest tourists today.
Rounding a parched hill covered with accacia
trees we were suddenly back at the celebration,
a great white temple rising up before us. The
young wiry driver explained with much dif-
ficulty (one of the advantages to hiring a jeep
with an English-speaking guide), that the
festival honored this temple, the Ananda. Con-
struction scaffolding defaced the Ananda which,
like 400 other temples damaged in the quake, is
undergoing restoration.
SeeON, Pageii

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