musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Shin Phyu from Zin Ko

It’s official: my camera is gone! No, I didn’t lose it or have yet another malfunction, but I no longer have it with me in Bangkok. When I was in Mandalay back in late November I left it with Zin Ko, one of the boys who has used the camera in the past. I didn’t foresee any need for the camera in the months ahead, and Zin Ko had expressed an interest in borrowing the camera to take photos at some neighborhood weddings that were coming up, so I told him he could keep it. I stressed to him, however, that I might need to use it again when I come to Mandalay next time, so this wasn’t necessarily a permanent gift. I told him that I was thinking about buying a new camera, but I didn’t have enough money yet. But if I did end up buying a new model, I promised that I’d give him the old one.


Well, business has been very good at my bookshop the past couple of months, and determining that I now had enough money to splurge on a new camera, I broke down and bought one this week. I’ve almost worked out all the functions, but I’m a slow learner, so it’s going to take me a while to figure everything out. Now I need to phone up U Tin Chit’s teashop and leave a message for Zin Ko: the camera is now yours, kid. Go wild!


In addition to weddings, another important tradition in Myanmar is the Shin Phyu, a Buddhist ceremony in which young boys go through an elaborate ritual before temporarily becoming a novice monk. This ritual involves dressing up in elegant costumes and putting on so much makeup that, well, you’d be inclined to think that you were seeing a girl. But no, it’s only a time-honored Burmese tradition and has nothing to do with cross-dressing. When I was in Mandalay last year several of the boys from the 90th Street neighborhood, including Zin Ko, gave me their Shin Phyu photographs as souvenirs. I scanned a few examples for today’s post.



Meanwhile, I’ll be curious to see what sort of photos that Zin Ko has been taking. I haven’t scheduled my next trip to Mandalay yet, but I’m hoping for a return sometime in the first half of this year.



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