A Travellerspoint blog

Mr. Book in Hsipaw

Mr. Book is a well known bookseller and a local source of information and assistance. He was born in Hsipaw and knows everyone and all of the local area. He is a teacher in the true sense and clearly cares about those in need. He also works as a direct assistance provider for poor families in the area. Someone in a guest house told us that he helps out local families and we approached him yesterday and told him what we intended to donate. With the 50,000 kyat donation (approx. $55), he told us that we can assist 5 families to eat for 20-28 days. Mr. Book told us to come back at 8 AM and we would go to the market to purchase the food and venture out to give it to poor families in need. That evening he would go out and identify the families most in need of the donations.

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We showed up at 8:15 or so this morning and he and a friend accompanied us to the market pushing their bikes equipped with basket on the front. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to put 35 kilos of rice, 5 large bags of local vegetables and noodles and 5 bottles of peanut oil on the bikes, but of course they had it worked out. We pushed the bikes loaded with the goods and visited the families in need. It was really amazing how gracious people were opening their homes to us and allowing us to snap a few photos with them as we left a donation and carried on.

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If you would like to help out poor families in the Hsipaw area, please talk to Mr. Book. The assistance that he facilitates is direct. Everything goes to people in need, without any overhead costs involved. Mr. Book can also facilitate purchase and donation of school materials for more isolated villages. (A great way to see a more remote area) A woman who accompanied us this morning had brought baby clothes from Denmark and as they are very hard to acquire here, they were much appreciated as well. He will find a way to use whatever you can do or give to help to benefit others. As an added bonus it is a real pleasure and learning experience to talk with Mr. Book. Also, please consider donating as a way to see the local area and visit a local family in their home. 20,000 kyat that you would otherwise use for a trekking guide could be used to feed a few families, and Mr. Book, a friend of his, or a student he knows will accompany you to deliver the donation.

Posted by mjschrum 02:21 Archived in Myanmar Tagged lights of village book festival buddhist myanmar shrine shan nat worship mr. burmese protection hsipaw lent thadingyut Comments (1)

Thadingyut


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Thadingyut, the Burmese Festival of Lights, marks the end of the Buddhist lent or the rains retreat. It is celebrated for three days centering on the full moon day of the lunar month of thadingyut, which this year falls today October 19. It commemorates the Buddha’s return to earth after preaching in celestial abodes and devotees light candles and lanterns to greet him. It is also celebrated by pagoda visits and paying obeisance to elders, which results in “tips”, small gifts of money for the children.

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young nuns

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nun procession

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bike laden with monastic gifts

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In Burmese homes candles are lit at both the nat shrine and the Buddhist altar. This morning we visited several monasteries, where people had lit candles and food was served. At the first two women quickly came to us and escorted us to the low tables around which food was served and insisted on serving us noodle soup with lime and chile. We then walked to visit the nunnery and monastery at the global pagoda.

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breakfast at the monastery

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Posted by mjschrum 03:30 Archived in Myanmar Tagged lights of village festival buddhist myanmar shrine shan nat worship burmese protection hsipaw lent thadingyut Comments (1)

Hsipaw Day 3


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Hsipaw seems to have interesting things to see and photograph around every corner. We have walked in all directions except east and have enjoyed all of it. Today we walked along the highway to Mandalay for 45 min to visit a Nunnery and even the highway walk was fun! This is one of the most relaxing towns we have ever visited, and you should come before too many people catch on.

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Noodle factory

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Noodle factory

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Posted by mjschrum 03:17 Archived in Myanmar Tagged lights of village festival buddhist myanmar shrine shan nat worship burmese protection hsipaw lent thadingyut Comments (3)

Hsipaw Day 2


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We took a walk in the morning along the railroad tracks to some Shan Villages to the south of Hsipaw. We met lots of friendly people along the way, and noticed that each village had a distinct nat shrine at its entrance. We did some investigating and put our findings below the first pics.

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Burmese villages have a Nat shrine dedicated to the village guardian Nat, or spirit. This shrine is to protect the village from evil spirits. The photos we included are village protection shrines. Nat worship predates Bhuddism in Myanmar, and perhaps can simplistically be explained that Nat worship encompasses the realm of daily life, while Bhuddism is related more to the afterlife. A Burmese king tried to outlaw Nat worship in the 11th century, and the fact that Nat spirit worship in Myanmar is alive and well today is testimony to its resilience in day to day Burmese life. In the fifth picture below, a bomb casing has been repurposed as a bell (?) nearby the shrine, perhaps to increase the broadcast signal from the protection shrine.

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There are 37 great Nats, who are human beings who died a violent death. There are also forces-of- nature Nats, such as trees, water, air, mountains etc. Some Nats are specific to different regions. Nat worship derived from Animistic origins, and has evolved into different spirits that may hold dominion over a place, person, or field of experience. The word “nat” is derived from the Sanskirt Natha meaning lord or guardian, and despite efforts of some Burmese leaders to suppress Nat worship, it remains popular.

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Posted by mjschrum 18:07 Archived in Myanmar Tagged village myanmar shrine shan nat worship protection hsipaw Comments (3)

Hsipaw Day 1


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We visited “Little Bagan” this morning, a pair of monasteries with several stupas, some of which are overgrown and crumbling, thus the Bagan comparison. It was a peaceful, shady little corner of Hsipaw and a great introduction to the neighborhood.

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We stopped at the Shan Palace next, where Fern, the resident caretaker, let us look around and then delivered a fascinating talk on the history of the Palace. Fern is the wife of Donald, who is the nephew of the last Shan Prince, who died in prison after being arrested by the regime. Donald was imprisoned for 13 years for talking to visiting foreigners, and now lives in Taunngyi. If you want to know more, the Prince’s wife wrote a book about her life in Hsipaw, called Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess – by Inge Sargent. Fern also explained how Hsipaw emerged as a traveller destination, in a December 1995 edition of the inflight magazine of Myanmar International Airways. The rest is history.

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We discovered Shwe Nga Restaurant on the way back, an awesome Shan noodle joint where they serve amazing Chinese clay pot noodles and Shan noodles as well. You can wash it all back with a Singha if the chili starts to overwhelm. We returned mid-afternoon and had more clay pot noodles, and it was even more amazing than our lunchtime visit.

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Posted by mjschrum 04:02 Archived in Myanmar Tagged myanmar hsipaw Comments (1)

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