the Annular Solar Eclipse!
In the bright, pleasant days of winter, we will journey
to Burma (Myanmar), one of Southeast Asia’s most
enigmatic and fascinating locations. Our journey is
scheduled to coincide with the Annular Solar Eclipse,
January 15, 2010, as it passes over Mandalay. We hope
you will join us for this very special adventure!
Entering the heartland of Burma is like stepping into
the past. Ringed by hills, of the Indian and Thai frontiers,
the fertile plains of the Irrawaddy River have, for
centuries, nurtured a civilization that takes great
pride in doing things its own way. Since gaining independence,
the Burmese government has pursued a policy of self-sufficiency
and isolation. Today this land, rich in resources, remains
one of the least “globalized” places on
Dignified and proud, the Burmese people regard foreign
visitors as guests in their country and take pleasure
in introducing their customs. Men wear lungyis, loose-fitting
cotton wraps; young women brush their faces with tanaka,
a powder made from ground tree bark, both for beauty
and for protection from the bright sun. Ancient traditions
that have disappeared elsewhere survive in the valleys
of the Irrawaddy.
The Burmese people are devoted Buddhists of the Theravada
school. The gilded spires and Buddha images of their
temples can be sublimely beautiful, and temples serve
as places not just for worship, but where whole families
mark life’s milestones: young boys are ordained
as monks; couples seek guidance according to the day
of their birth. The complex of Shwedagon Paya, on a
hill in central Rangoon (Yangon), is one of humanity’s
spectacular expressions of religious devotion.
Highlights of our expedition to Burma include Inle Lake,
the fabled city of Mandalay, and the stunning plain
of Bagan where thousands of temples and pagodas rise
from an acaciacovered savanna. At Inle Lake, we will
stay in cottages raised on teakwood pilings, well offshore
in about six feet of clear water.
Many of the most productive, scenic locales on the Irrawaddy
plain have, at one time or another, hosted a capital
city. Mandalay has had four of them, some of which combine
exquisite historic architecture with intimate portraits
of contemporary rural life, best observed from a small
boat or a horse cart on an earthen track.
While Mandalay was Burma’s capital in recent centuries,
Bagan was the power center of antiquity. Thirteenth
Century temples and pagodas dot a broad, scenic plain.
Other activities in Bagan include a visit to Mt. Popa,
an exploded volcano cloaked in lush forest, and Sinluheing
(Elephant Pond) village whose residents subsist by cultivating
sesame and tamarind and distilling the fermented sap
of toddy palms.
I look forward to returning to Burma and will provide
commentary and insights during our journey. It will
be a delight to explore Burma and see the Annular Solar
Eclipse with you!
We hope that you will be able to join us.
Dr. Chris Carpenter
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