MYANMAR / Shwekyin (Bago Division)

Like Aithabyu in my previous posting, this place is not for regular  tourists either. I was here in November to survey location for Korbani during Eidul Adha.  Shwekyin is a small town north of Bago, off main Yangon-Mandalay road. After passing the town of Nyaunglebin, you will turn right into a dirt road and drive for another one hour passing by small villages amidst rice fields. From Nyaunglebin to Bago it takes about one and a half hour, and another one and half hour to reach Yangon. All these travel times are unnecessary should the roads are properly surfaced and widened, but unfortunately that is not the case in the whole Myanmar. Civil infrastructure development take a backseat in this military-run government. Yet you can see toll gates operating from time to time, especially when entering a good stretch of the road. Fees is very nominal ranging from 100 kyats to the highest 400 kyats, along this stretch.

Shwekyin is located to the north of Bago (aka Pegu)

Shwekyin is located to the north of Bago (aka Pegu)

Shwekyin in Burmese literally means ‘digging for gold’.  Major economic activity is farming and gold-mining. There are hundreds of moslem families in Shwekyin and they seem to be in total freedom to practise their religion, as evidenced by a number of masjids we encountered, albeit old ones. Few moslems are sucessful business men, looking at their house they live and the car they drive. In fact they are the main shakers and movers in driving the moslem community in this town. They finance the operation of  masjids and madrasah. They ‘wakaf’ their lands to the  madrasah and graveyard. They are respectable figures in the community. We were introduced to Haji Ramadullah here, or better known by his Burmese name Haji Bokpyin. He has many ventures, one is that he buys gold flakes from gold miners and condensed them into a gold bar, weighing about 400 grams each. See pix in the gallery. He said he would carry his gold bars to Yangon next week to sell in Yangon.  His other business is supply cows.

In Myanmar moslems and non-moslems are almost similar in appearance. You can tell their the difference if only moslems are wearing white caps (kopiah) and grow beard and for ladies wearing ‘tudung’ to cover the aurat. They talked in Myanmar and maintained their Burmese name on the registration card and passport.

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