Red Robes And Ringtones

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One of the things you can’t fail to notice when you travel around Myanmar is the large numbers of Buddhist monks.

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They’re everywhere, going quietly about their business, and in their red robes with their shaven heads they’re impossibly picturesque and photogenic, especially against all that beautiful scenery and stunning architecture.  Like this monk and his pupil, sitting contemplating Schwezigon Pagoda in Bagan, at nightfall.

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They can barely step outside without being papped by a passing tourist.  Sometimes it did feel quite intrusive and uncomfortable, but they honestly don’t seem to mind.  They’re very friendly and seem to find us just as charming and fascinating as we do them.

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Some of them were really keen to chat, and asked loads of questions about were I was from and what my life was like back home.  Many of them spoke excellent English.  Most have smartphones and they often wanted to have their photo taken with me.  I could hardly refuse… and now I guess I have some idea of what it must be like to walk for a few steps in their flipflops!

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Some of the monks are as young as 10 years old, though many only remain monks for a few months, rather than making a lifetime commitment.  At a monastery outside Kalaw we saw some of the boys studying, although like boys the world over many of them preferred to look out of the window!

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This is one of my favourite photos of the entire trip.  I love how the two boys are perfectly framed inside the curve of the window ledge, and how the boy on the right is just peeking out, a little guiltily…

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And of course, being kids, often the young monks just wanted to hang out with their friends.

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