Sunday, April 28, 2013

Knock Knock

Originally written April 24, 2013

Picture a holiday where every household prepares a feast, and anybody is free to wander into anyone else's house, sit down and start eating - no knocking on the door or introducing yourself required. This would never fly in most developed countries (my own included) for a host of reasons, but in Myanmar this is standard behavior for the 'Pagoda Festival' (though what is has to do with pagodas I'm not entirely sure). It's like a pub crawl, but you eat rather than drink and visit people's homes instead of bars.

I was lucky enough to be included in the celebrations, which essentially entailed eating copious amounts of food, during a day trip I booked to a nearby island just off the coast of Mawlamyine. No one else signed up to go that day so I had my own private tour which was pretty cool!

My guide, a very sweet, elderly man named Mr. Anthony, and I headed over to Ogre Island some 10 kilometers away from the mainland. While it was pretty huge as far as islands go, it was still reasonably undeveloped in that there were no mini marts or large stores. The island's quaint villages and palm trees gave it a calm, stress-free atmosphere, and the festival made it all the more special.

Now as a Caucasian foreigner here in Myanmar I've been getting a lot of stares and attention since day one, even in Yangon, the country's biggest city. But as a Caucasian foreigner on an island that doesn't see too many tourists, during the Pagoda Festival, wearing a longhyi (a long skirt, typical Burmese apparel for men and women)... it was what I imagine being a celebrity to be like! Everybody wanted me to come into their house for food (which resulted in me eating multiple meals and becoming uncomfortably full) and take photos with me. I was extremely touched by how generous and genuine everybody was, not to mention fascinated by the whole concept of the Pagoda Festival. I think Canada needs to come up with a holiday where you can walk into a random person's house and start eating...

Just another day in the friendly land that is Myanmar!

View from one of the island's pagodas

Mr. Anthony & I

Some young girls at the pagoda

The first house I got invited in to

A couple of very fancy girls!

Another house I got invited in to

Trying so hard to be Burmese

Another lovely family!

P.S. I'm going to start referring to Burma as Myanmar in my posts from now on. Before coming here I had read that most locals call it Burma, its official name until 1989, but since being here I've found out that everyone refers to it as Myanmar!

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