Myanmar tradition: Unforgettable full moon day of Thadingyut.
The thing that keeps me remembering after four years, which makes me pour out my memories to you, is a wonderful moment that I had on a trip.
It’s chilly cold there in October. By the time we got to Ayethayar, it was five in the morning. Since it was my first time trip to such a mountainous region, I was so excited that I couldn’t fall asleep on the way. My close friend who is a lovely Shan girl, invited me to her hometown during an October Holiday (Thadingyut Holiday). Express buses stopped in Ayethayar Terminal, a town that is famous for “Ayethayar Golf Course”. Her father drove us to our final destination, Ho Pone, which is 12 miles away from Taunggyi, the capital city of Southern Shan State. After passing Taunggyi, the urban atmosphere changed into rural atmosphere. The feeling of enjoying beautiful scenery and landscapes over the mountains is priceless. It was around 6 by the time we approached town. The whole town was quiet! I was a bit upset to see the boring town. It should be awake by then with small grocery shops and teashops as in Yangon, I kept thinking as I looked around. The big market just opposite my friend’s house was closed. It is natural that companies close during holidays but this town was quite strange as even the family-shops were closed. And people looked very excited, eager and busy as well.
When we got to her house, we unloaded the car and took a rest on bed.
“We are going to attend monasteries in rural area tomorrow, you want to help me with donation?” said my friend in the evening, “During this kind of holiday, we all stop small business. We are usually very busy managing for holiday plans. It’s very exciting and lovely”, she continued. As I am Buddhist, I thought it would be very easy to adapt! But it wasn’t actually. I was quite surprised that they put some cooked rice, small slices of different fruits (guava, apple, etc.), some candles and incense sticks together in a small bowl. There were 20 or more bowls, I think. I discovered a very different custom although we believe in the same religion. They impressed me when I saw how much they were careful about donation and how they took it very seriously. “These bowls with food will be donated at different monasteries as we are driving to one after another tomorrow”, she answered me as if she knew what I was wondering. “How about those who don’t have cars? Isn’t far away to walk from here?” I asked. “We already invited neighbors to come and join with us. Sometimes our car was broken on special occasions, but we never feel reluctant to ask for a ride. That’s not an issue here” she replied. Oh! They are so nice to be willing to share their cars. That is a tranquility you cannot have in cities nowadays.
We set off to countryside on that full moon day of Thadingyut. Living in seclusion under religious laws, monasteries are a bit away from town center and residences. The farther we were away from town center, the more beautiful the scenery was. With a mountain on your right side, you will see green trees on top of mountains near you and foggy hills far away on the other side! Fresh air that travelled miles and miles over the cold mountains makes you feel free from worries. And the blossom of flowers among the grasses grown on top of hills by your side makes you lost in peaceful thoughts. I saw some Pa-Oh (I know they were Pa-Oh by looking at their traditional clothes; Pa-Oh being a Shan sub-ethnic group) walking to the same direction as ours. Maybe they lived somewhere near monasteries.
As we got closer to monastery area, the environment changed a bit. We got into narrow, bumpy and dusty streets with small huts on each side. Children looked excited to see colorful people on cars passing by their huts. They waved their hands as they jumped in joy. Their faces showed no greed, no worries nor anger. They were fully enjoying their lives although they were not rich.
I realized that what we need in life is not wealth of money, it’s acceptance of what you are given in life. Then you will no longer be poor in mind.
Before I could stop thinking, I saw many Pa-Oh in their best traditional clothes, men in turbans, baggy pants and women in their best garment with turban on heads. I never thought that I would see those costumes nowadays on festivals. Their faces were sincere and excited. It was absolutely amazing to see the rural tranquility and serenity. It’s hard to find words to express the way they looked at that time. They easily noticed that I am not local. They didn’t say very sweet welcoming words, but their eyes said many words, which were much nicer. Being innocent, being generous and being helpful are the things you cannot buy anywhere. But they have it ready to share with you.
The first monastery compound we went to was quite spacious. The main building was just opposite the main gate. I saw some people coming down the stairs and going through pillars under the monastery. Since monasteries in rural area are built with tall pillars, people can stay under the monastery. On special occasions, food treat is serviced down under the building. It’s cool and lovely. You can see foggy mountains and blue sky through pillars as you enjoy the food.
After praying and donating the rice-bowls, my friend asked me to go and enjoy the food downstairs together with her. To be honest, it was a bit awkward to eat since the food didn’t look tasty. It was Shan-Rice (which is sticky and a bit rough), bean soup and fried red chilly! How could I eat it for my lunch? “C’mon, you should not miss it,” said my friend, “Or you will regret it later”. By the time I tasted it, I realized that I was totally wrong thinking that it would not be delicious. Yes, it was. Fried chilly smelled very good and fresh. Bean soup softened the rough sticky Shan-Rice. It was a perfect mixture of hot chilly and sweet soup. It was a very good dish that you should not miss when you are in Shan State. I even wish that I could eat it now.
Then we continued our journey from one monastery to another. It was a great fun to see a parade of cars going in and out of monastery compounds. We waved hands and greeted each other. There were some booths in monastery compounds. We decided to eat something there as we took a break. Shan To-Fu, which is only tasty in Shan State, is another unforgettable memory. We can get it in the whole Burma, but none can beat To-Fu from Shan State. We sat in a circle on a bamboo mat under the open air. The evening sun was kindly shining on us. The wind passing through valleys brought fragrance of flowers and it tossed you here and there. From a bird’s-eye view, we were enjoying the best local food on top of a mountain which is thousands meter above sea level.
It was a great sorrow to leave for home when the sun set. I got a special moment, which I never thought I would have. I realized why those people looked so happy. Their daily life is spent on the farms, growing crops. They have no other fun fairs to enjoy. Only this period of a year is the greatest moment they are always looking forward to. They donate things as much as they can afford from their savings. I did not see them as poor people. Actually they are very rich in good mind and benevolence.
I was all alone quiet on the way back home. Beautiful tranquility, kind hearts and good deeds filled my heart. Those are the things I still cannot find in developed areas, built with educated and smart people.
After the sun set for minutes, the full moon was on her way up the sky with twinkling stars. I have seen full moon every month of years. But that full moon was amazingly beautiful to me.
Since I stayed there for a week, I paid visits to famous places like Inle Lake and Taunggyi Market. I experienced riding motorbikes on mountain cliff, which was thrilling. I visited the famous Taunggyi University.
However, what could catch my heart was a visit to rural area on the full moon day of Thadingyut.
Written by Mingalapar forum team