By J.S. Fletcher and Kathy M. Newbern © 2010
Our drive today will take us to Nyaung Shwe, a town that’s mostly a tourist hub for people like us who are on their way to Inle Lake. Of course, Goldene, our Abercrombie & Kent guide has one stop along the way that is very special: the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery.
The red painted, teak-wood building is an interesting architectural structure on its own. Over 150 years old, it sits on sturdy stilts and has oval windows, some open and some covered with stained glass pieces. Inside are also mosaics, mirrors and ornate carvings, some gilded with gold.
Populating it, of course, are monks, but with a twist: most are boys, monks in training, here to learn about their religion and to see if they might fit into the monk lifestyle.
We take a peek at their living quarters. Many have brought personal effects from home like favorite books or even posters for the walls of their sleeping area. Personal hygiene? Showers are outdoors. Take a look at the slideshow to see their preferred brands of toothpaste. Beds are mats unrolled onto the wooden floors. And closets for clothes? No, but there are trunks with personal locks. We aren’t sure what that says, but observing the living space, we see there is little privacy and trust they, as humans, believe in the saying, “Better safe than sorry.”
Naturally there’s an air of seriousness since it’s a religious learning center. But there’s also a lightness afoot, mostly because boys will be boys. Some will continue their education and become monks; others will learn about their religion and themselves and go home. Either is a win, win situation.
Note: The United States has trade sanctions against Myanmar, but travel there is legal. You’ll need a visa (soon available upon airport arrival). Myanmar is ruled by a military regime. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest a long time. The head of A&K’s Myanmar office noted, however: “Not going won’t hurt the military government in the least, but going definitely will help the people.”
This story is part of a series on our Abercrombie & Kent adventure to Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. A&K is a leading provider of luxury travel services worldwide. To reach them, call 800-554-7016 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other Stories by JS Fletcher
• Stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
International Travel Examiner J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.