Ilan Derech

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Travel Journal
🙏🏽 Phuang Daw Oo

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Phaung Daw Oo

Travel Journal: Mandalay, Myanmar 2020

Shot on: Leica SL &  ZEISS ZM Distagon 1.4/35 

I met Aung Min at the Temple on the top of Mandalay Hill, while walking around with two dear friends who I had met while arriving to the Mandalay airport, Veronika and Gloria from Austria.  Aung was giving the temple a round and all of the sudden he approached me and we began to chat about my trip, his life, photography and exercise- he told me he wanted to be a gym buff like me, although I don’t consider myself one 😂-, I was extremely surprised by his age (19) and friendliness. I recall hearing from other people, and in foreign countries, that normally interacting with monks is highly disrespectful; but clearly this wasn’t the case at all. We instantly became friends and even began to arm wrestle in middle of the temple with everyone witnessing our childish match 😅.

The evening continued and the sunset arrived, between the mist and dust, the sun turned into a piercing glowing orange orb, setting in the horizon and bathing Mandalay in a golden light. We had to head back to the hostel but I didn’t want to part ways without Aung Min, so we walked him back to the monastery and I invited him to hang out with us the next day in a tour around the city. We picked him up and invited him to eat and visit all the sights around Mandaly -yeah, all the tourists were like “wtf is a monk doing with them?”-. After all that, Aung invited us to visit his monastery so I could make a photo-documentary about it, I honestly couldn’t have had a better gift.  

A whole new world. That’s how I’d describe Phaung Daw Oo. I always admired people that are  focused into mastering a certain thing in life, and especially when it’s been taught from generation to geneartion, for that reason my curiosity grew when I noticed that monastic schools in Myanmar formerly known as Burma, had students starting from the ages of four and up. As I was walking past the main gates, laughter and energy of young kids flooded the dusty and warm air. 
Covered in their  monastic robes, this tiny kids were running all over the place chasing each-other after a ball, riding rusty bicycles and from time to time a ballon filled with water would fly across mid air making me dodge them like Neo in The Matrix -I’m a 90’s guy so no wonder the reference-. The earthy tones fused with  tanned skin and contrasting with the deep carmine and orange cotton robes stood out even more due to the golden sunlight and the pale greens tones of the buildings facade, I suddenly found myself in my kind of a photographic heaven.
It was the most pleasant scenary I could’ve found since I’m not that good the the whole “being formal” thing, I find it so boring, plus what is life without some spice from time to time?. Out of nowhere some of the kids started running towards me while I was walking to the other end of the path where the school was, others would wave me hello with a massive smile from side to side and they started pulling me towards an improvised football court where a game was being held.