Myanmar is not for nothing called the land of pagodas and monasteries. On each hilltop, in each village and where ever it seems suitable, there are smaller and bigger pagodas, often white colored, but also quite often painted in gold. Each village hosts a number of monasteries, mainly with monks, but also occasionally with nuns. Both have their heads shaved and can only be differentiated based on their robes: the monks wear red robes, and the nuns have pink robes. Kids of all ages are sent to monasteries to attend school and like everywhere else monks and nuns go out in the mornings to collect food for the day.
The town of Sagaing is famous for its tectonic fault and for being prone to frequent earthquakes, but also for its many monasteries and the Buddhist University. One of the largest monasteries, covered in gold and with beautiful jade columns, is situated on a hilltop offering a splendid view over the Irrawady floodplain. Many people visit the monastery and make offerings to the huge Buddha statue; we offered some nice flowers to the Buddha and I asked for good luck in finding suitable lakes
The other day we drove right into a monastery on our search for crater lakes. Our Myanmar colleagues took off their shoes before getting out of the car, and deeply bowed on their knees in front of the monk before addressing him. We too had to take our shoes off before placing our feet on sacred ground.
The monk kindly showed us around, he in his flip flops and we barefoot. Only when we had come outside the monastery compound, we could put our shoes back on again. And of course I was not supposed to talk to him – women shouldn’t speak to monks. Too bad that we did not find any signs of a natural lake here; just an artificial pond, full of beautiful water lilies. It would have been fun to have a real lake inside a monastery, stay in the monastery and experience the daily life here.