Next up, we followed Ekayi to one of the lesser-used entrances to Shwedagon Pagoda. We entered, took our shoes off and were handed plastic bags to carry our shoes in.
Note: This is very useful! Hang on to your plastic bag between monasteries / pagodas and temples. You always have to take your shoes off and you don’t always want to come out the same way that you entered, so having your shoes with you is easier than back-tracking to get them!
Amanda, our Tucan Travel Rep also stopped to buy us all cool wooden bead necklaces. She bought a crazy amount of them and nearly cleared the vendor’s store out! Not joking!
We walked through the beginning of the temple with Ekayi explaining different customs along the way. When we came to the really large golden Budda in a glass room, it was explained that only men were allowed to enter.
Paul, our token male, from London went in to have a look and was kind enough to take all of our cameras. Traveling with 8 women must have been tough on him, but he was a true sport!
After a little exploring and a few photos, we headed across a bridge to an exit / entrance. It was here that we learned about freedom.
Freedom of the animals that is.
At this gate there were two vendors; one selling caged birds to be released and the other selling fish to be released into the pond.
It was really quite an interesting concept to pay a few cents or a dollar to free caged animals into the wild.
First, several of the girls were handed over tiny little birds, which they cooed over before opening their hands and with a quick flutter of their wings they were gone. Would they go home? Would they fly far? Would they be captured, just to be sold again? Regardless of their fate, whether for a few moments or the rest of their life, they were being given the chance to be free from their cage. Fitting metaphor for travelers.
After the birds had fluttered away, Amanda, our Tucan representative bought nine little fishies (one for each of us), which were put in a bowl for us to carry over and release into the pond. They were little black fish that looked a bit like catfish. Three of our group made a ceremonial release of the fish to their freedom in the pond of the temple.
Seems like we had done our good deeds for the animals today.