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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Monks Outside a Temple

This picture was taken at one of the many Pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar. These monks were in charge of a group that seemed like it was on a field trip, they had lots of very curious little monks along with them, and they were just as interested in us as we were in them. It was an interesting exchange, my sister and I were taking pictures of the monks, and one of the older monks took out his cell phone and took a picture of us. I love it when both tourists and locals get something out of an experience! In our experience everyone in Myanmar was really friendly, and no one seemed to have a problem with pictures. Bagan is a fantastic city, and if you are visiting Myanmar I highly recommend a visit to Bagan!

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This picture was taken inside one of the many Pagodas found in Bagan, Myanmar (formerly Burma). There are over a thousand Pagodas in the area, and each one has something interesting to offer. Some are more ornate on the inside, others have more to offer in terms of architectural design. Many have intricate paintings, some of which, have faded away, or have been lost over time. In this picture you can see, on the wall behind the Buddha statue, as well as in the hall, the remnants of some of these fantastic paintings. Personally, I like the combination of the bricks and the paintings, it really allows you to see multiple aspects of the Pagoda, in terms of it’s construction, and the way it has changed over time. Many of the pagodas are still in use, for religious purposes, as well as for visiting tourists. Often you will see buddhist monks, like this one, praying in front of these statues. If you see this, try not to be disruptive. Walk around rather than in front, and make sure that you do not take any pictures with your back facing the Buddha. Also when visiting these pagodas be respectful in the way you dress, many have signs posted outside to indicate what is/ is not appropriate dress, and make sure you take of your shoes, and socks. I can’t recommend visiting these sites highly enough, they are truly amazing, and pictures (even good ones) don’t really do them justice. If you are visiting Bagan it’s not likely that you will have time to see all of the Pagodas in the area, we were there for four days and we saw twenty-one, so do your research! Get a guide book, or a guide/ driver if you are more comfortable with that, and figure out which of the temples you want to see the most. No matter what you see when you are here, they all have something to offer, and each one is unique and beautiful. If you are in Myanmar try to find time to visit Bagan, it is absolutely worth the trip!

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This picture was taken at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma). The pagoda, which I mentioned in a previous post, is a very popular attraction for both native and foreign tourists. It draws lots of visitors, some are visiting to just take a look around, others come with the intention of practicing their religion. Among those visiting are large numbers of buddhist monks. If you look closely you can see, near the glass case in the center of the shrine, a monk has his head down in prayer. While lots of people come here to pray it also seems like a lot of people are just there to hang out, and relax with their families and friends.It’s a really cool site, and I really enjoyed walking around the (rather extensive) grounds. As always, if you are visiting a religious site remember to be respectful of the dress code and any other rules presented to you. There should be signs near where you purchase tickets telling you what is and is not allowed. As far as dressing appropriately, it’s always a good idea to have a sarong or some kind of wrap to cover up your legs (especially if you don’t want to wear it all day, a wrap/ sarong is easy to put on over shorts and take off when you no longer need to be conservatively covered), also make sure to cover your shoulders, and remove your shoes!

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This photograph was taken in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), at Shwedagon Pagoda. It is also known, quite appropriately, as the Golden Pagoda. It’s a fantastic site to see, and one of the more popular places to visit for both native and foreign tourists in Yangon. It’s really incredible to see  the Pagoda, towering up in the midst of the city, a shining bright gold point. The Pagoda is just as impressive from close up, the rooms are covered in mirrored mosaics with tons of Buddha statues and offerings of flowers. The temple is also, not surprisingly, an attraction for lots of visiting monks. When visiting remember (as always) to be respectful, this is a religious site, and a very important one at that. Make sure (both men and women) that shoulders are covered, legs are covered at least below the knee, and shoes and socks are removed before entering the Pagoda. (P.S. more pictures of the actual structure to come!)

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This picture was taken in Bagan, Myanmar (formerly Burma). This is a group of young buddhist monks going to collect alms. This was a lucky shot, we had woken up early and happened to see these monks passing the gates of our hotel on our way to breakfast. Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, and Bagan seems to have a particularly high number of Buddhist monks. It was really cool to see this, and i’m sure if you want to make sure you see it while you’re there, you could ask the front desk at your hotel when/ where it happens. Myanmar is still not a heavily touristed country, and it is a somewhat conservative place. It’s important to know about this and try to be respectful of this when traveling there. Try to cover your legs, at least to your knees, especially when you are entering temples, it’s also important to cover your shoulders and remove both shoes AND socks when entering any of the numerous pagodas in Bagan. It’s always a good idea to have a sarong with you to cover up for these visits. When watching the monks go for Alms, be respectful! Don’t take flash pictures, don’t break their line, and don’t talk to them. Being culturally considerate is something that I always stress, keep in mind that whenever, and wherever you travel, you are a visitor,  try your  best to be respectful of the traditions and beliefs of the place that you are visiting.

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These pictures were taken in the cemetery of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) of Prague. The Jewish quarter is an interesting area to visit, there are 6 synagogues that you can visit, and a Jewish Museum. The area has a really interesting history too; it was sort of the center of Jewish living in Prague, starting around the 13th century. The area has a really mixed history, in my mind this district stands as a testament to the survival of the Jewish culture in the face of adversity. I really like that this area has maintained its cultural identity through time as well, and you can really see the layers of different eras here. The graveyard is really cool, but if you are visiting this area (as with any other place you visit) remember to be respectful of the rules here: make sure if you are visiting synagogues that you cover your shoulders, and yarmulkes are provided for men to cover their heads while visiting the religious sites. Also, just a heads up, if you want to take pictures in this cemetery you have to pay, but it’s not expensive at all, and i’m pretty sure the proceeds go towards maintaining this historical site. Also when you are here, if you can, try to find a good restaurant! The place we went to was overpriced (we didn’t have a lot of options, most places were closed on the day we went) but you can get a killer bowl of matzo ball soup here!

Also, in case anyone was curious, placing stones on the headstone is a Jewish tradition. Apparently the exact origin of this tradition isn’t know but it’s thought that the act is symbolic to show the presence of a loved one visiting the grave site, and that the deceased individual has not been forgotten. And I think the candle is a Yahrzeit Candle, which is burned in memory of a deceased person.

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This picture was taken in the tiny underground chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine just outside of Krakow, Poland. The mine is really cool, and this is only a tiny chapel, which, while still beautiful, is not quite as impressive as the larger one which has lots of statues carved from salt in the mines. This chapel, like the other, has a lovely chandelier made from salt crystals! The mines are cool, and are absolutely worth a visit!

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