So, the last morning on the bikes.
Before we go let me introduce you to thanaka, a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It's a very distinctive feature of the culture of Myanmar. Commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls, men and boys do use it, but to a lesser extent. It's been used by the Burmese for over 2000 years and is applied to the face in attractive designs. Most commonly as a circular patch on each cheek and the nose. It's main property is the cooling sensation and it also provides protection from the sun.
Just as we had started cycling we came acros another Burmese custom, shinbyu is the Burmese novitiation ceremony in Theravada Buddhism which marks the ordination of a boy under 20yrs. It is regarded as the best religious gift his parents can give a boy and it is believed to have a lasting effect on his lifetime.
It involves thee whole family, aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings, even as in the case of this little tot, if they are reluctant to wear the full regalia! It's an expensive event for a family, especially if there is more than one boy, so, as in the case of the one we witnessed, the celebrations are shared with other families and all the village will be invited.
See the little girl in the decorated bullock cart? Still not prepared to wear her head dress no matter what the occasion is!
The temple we visited today was Kyuak Gu U Min, north of the main temple area. Partly buried into the cliff face it was discovered by the British during the Anglo Burmese war. There was the usual Buddha statue, this time complete with two canopies, two attendants, a string of neon flashing lights and....
a lotus shaped rotating disco light. Nice.
But if you ignored the 21century trappings it was calm and peaceful.
The stone Buddhas were finely carved
and with a faded charm no amount of neon flashing lights can change.
What makes this temple interesting is the tunnels leading into the hill side, deep under ground. There were several niches for individual meditation
plus the usual white graffiti. In this case the writing was on the roots of the tress which were growing far above! So I tickled their roots, but didn't hear them laugh.
The tunnel was much reduced in hight by the end and clostrophobically hot, so we were glad to come back into the open.
Framing the doorway were finely carved sandstone pillars
with the usual gargoyle embellishment!
Being off the beaten temple track there was only one vender outside, but she managed a sale from me - a string of temple bells and a mini Buddha. When I handed over the kyat she then proceeded to chant and tap the stall, I was her first sale of the day and therefore 'lucky money'.
Back at the bike yard the team had our final snack all ready for us. The bikes were handed back, seats, peddles etc removed and goodbyes made.
Here's the team, from left to right, the two drivers of truck and bus, the mechanic CoLee, the driving assistant and Alex, team leader.
All that was left for us to do was shower, pack and catch our flight back to Yangon with Alex.