Friday, 9 October 2009

Yangon: Ngahtatgyi Paya & Aung Thukha - Traditional Myanmar Food House

What makes the Buddha statue in Ngahtatgyi intriguing is the splendour of the gold flame-like designs behind the statue and the woodwork of skilled carpentry in the backdrop as well as the ceilings. The temple itself is held together by metal beam structures that hover over the statue.

I walked back and forth on the right side of the temple to find the right angles for a good shot. As I was doing so, an elderly man came and spoke to me. He was friendly and charming. According to him, the diamond on the forehead of the Buddha statue has been donated by a rich lady, who has now passed on, and is 24 carat. I asked him if there are people who would steal the diamond or if anyone has attempted stealing, and if the temple gets locked up at night. He replied saying that nobody would steal the diamond. I noticed there were grilled doors at every opening of the temple and assumed that the place do get locked up at night after visiting hours.

Next, he explained to me the cleansing practice performed by the Buddhists. He demonstrated to me at a nearby small Buddha statue, about the size of a human torso. First, he picked up one of the water-filled little cups that were lined in front of the statue. Then, he emptied the water from the cup by pouring it over the statue. I was then asked to give it a try and at first, I declined, saying that I am happy just taking a few pictures of the temple. But, he insisted. So, I mimicked the routine and returned the cup after refilling it with water from the jug that was placed beside the statue. "No, no, you have to do it ten times," he said. I nodded and repeated the procedure for the next nine times, thinking of what sins I had committed that I was to cleanse myself and if Iwas offending Buddha or the other worshippers for carrying out this practice for experience sake. I am not all too sure if it was psychological but, I felt a little lighter after the demonstration and was happy to see the elderly man smiling with approval.

Before he left, he politely asked if I could help him by offering him a dollar, which I volunteered within a bat of an eye. His smile warmed me and my parting message to him was, "God bless you". While I was back wondering around the temple, enjoying the wonderful sights and peaceful ambience, that inkling feeling of deceit returned. I was being reminded of the earlier incident at Chauktatgyi Paya. I mean, I didn't feel like I was being deceived by the old man who asked for a dollar, which would be ridiculous of me. I guess I was annoyed at the thought of the guide asking for USD 5 from each of us and annoyed at myself for pursuing the matter with these unnecessary thoughts when people here live on less than a dollar a day. Sigh.

R's foot was getting worse. She was now limping and insisted that we'd see the doctor at night after we're done with all the visiting instead of going to a clinic immediately. I knew she was doing this so as not to disrupt our tour plans. In a way, I was glad that all the magnificence of this temple is all concentrated on this one big Buddha statue where R could comfortably sit on the prayer mats to admire without exerting too much movement.

Beautiful Buddha statue dressed in gold with golden flames surrounding it and exquisite wooden carvings on the backdrop

The eyes of this Buddha statue reminded me of the ones I saw in Tibet

Like this one of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, Tibet

The temple is a simple hall with a gigantic and stunning Buddha statue. There is something about these gentle, giant Buddha statues that when you see one, you could almost feel all the peace in the world. They just radiate such aura, it's amazing to just stand and watch.

When I was back in Thailand on my return trip, a Thai friend was saying how religion like Buddhism is used as a ploy to keep the people out of politics. This was in response to my pondering of how a country so poor like Myanmar (actually, the country is rich but the people are so poor) is maintaining all these golden and jewel-studded Buddhas and in fact, they are still building new ones! In fact, some of the temples are so poorly maintained, they are worn-down and locked up. You even have these men going around in the cities and down, pulling a cart of speakers, asking for donation to the building of new temples from the mass public. How can these people give money to the temples when they are struggling to fend for themselves? And, why are people donating the thousands to the temple and not the poor people? Someone once told me that the donation is done out of faith. I completely understand yet my logic defies me. Sigh. Better to have a place in heaven than comfort on Earth, I was taught that too in church. Sigh.

A random roadside picture

At Aung Thukha restaurant, I was pleased to see no tourist but a crowded restaurant of Myanmarese. The waitress signaled to us to order food by some pointing hand gestures. Upon understanding, we headed over to the food counter and pointed at the dishes we would like to have. R ordered a prawn dish while I, a chicken dish and a veggie dish. These came with a bowl of soup for each of us and a plate of Myanmar salad as appetizers and sweets as desserts. The dishes were cooked with excessive oil, which I am not used to but tasty nonetheless. I dipped the first cucumber piece into the salad dressing but refrained with the remaining pieces because I wasn't used to the taste. I loved the clear soup, there were herbs and many types of greens in it. I felt refreshed with each passing gulp. I tried the three different types of sweets. The nuts were nice but the other one next to the nuts tasted strange to me and the round ones were too sweet. R had spitted the entire thing out the moment it touched her tastebuds. Hehehe. She had literally cringed. She thought it was awfully too sweet.

Our lunch meal at Aung Thukha

My favourite, clear soup of greens

The desserts: nuts alright; dark greenish stuff tasted strange; roundish thingie too sweet

Outside the restaurant

For vehicles in Myanmar, the license numbers are written in Myanmar numerals

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HAHA the green stuff is laphet (pickled tea leaves) and you're supposed to mix it with the fried beans ( And the yellow candy is palm sugar (htanyet).