We tried our hardest to be respectful and observe the numerous rules of the Buddhist pagodas and religious sites of Myanmar. We did well; most of the time.
It’s a lot to remember; when seated on the floor of a temple, you shouldn’t point your feet at a Buddha statue, or have your photo taken with your back to Buddha, and be properly covered up, shoulders and knees.
In addition, at all the temples you have to remove your shoes and socks. The locals all wear sandals and so the idea of socks is just odd to them. Before they enter, they just kick off their sandals.
After the sunset at the magnificent Sutuangpyei Temple atop Mandalay Hill, we took the long way down the stairs, past small shrines and Buddha statues. We started off in sandals but quickly heard calls of “no shoes” from the locals. Usually it was a shoe-free area only in the temples, but this was a sacred path. We quickly kicked them off and walked down the hundreds of stairs at twilight.
At some of the big pagodas, there are cubbies and benches for foreign visitors. Everyone would sit down, take off their shoes and socks and then line up to check them in for 50 cents. I was doing this too at the start; what a pain. By the end of the day I had already switched to my flip flops and was kicking them into the pile of sandals like a local.
Our feet quickly toughened up to the blazing hot tiles, gravel and debris in the temples. Once in Bagan, we were walking through a dark corridor and under our feet there was a slight squish. I heard fluttering above us and saw bats flying. Yup, we were walking barefoot through bat guano. We consoled ourselves with the thought that people in LA probably pay hundreds of dollars for a bat guano pedicure treatment.
At the end of the day we would arrive back at the hotel and our feet would be absolutely filthy.