Badly Behaved Chinese Tourists Draw Local Ire in Myanmar

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Chinese Tourists in Bagan in July.
Photo: Zaw Zaw/ The Irrawaddy

Mahagandhayon monastery in Mandalay Region is one of Myanmar’s most prominent monastic colleges. Well known for its adherence to the Buddhist monastic codes, every year it attracts thousands of tourists eager to glimpse the peaceful monastic life of the more than 1,500 monks who reside and study Buddhist teachings there.

For visiting tourists, the monastery’s main attraction is the sight of hundreds of barefoot, downcast monks silently lining up to accept late morning meals offered by donors. Witnessing the ritual imparts a sense of tranquility and is a deeply moving experience for many onlookers. Mahagandhayon is also famous for its strict religious discipline.

But the monastery’s tranquility was shattered one morning in early January this year when a group of visiting Chinese tourists quarreled loudly as they competed for the best place to take pictures of the monks. The argument sparked an uproar at the monastery, and tourist guides had to lead the tourists out of the compound.

The Chinese tourists’ behavior forced the monastery to post instructions in Chinese on its walls, telling visitors not to enter prohibited places like dining halls, not to drink alcohol and not to engage in arguments inside the monastery compound.

“Most [foreign] tourists follow the rules on how they should behave while they are observing the peaceful monastery life here. But the Chinese do not,” U Nyein Kyaw Kyaw Win, a member of the Mandalay Tourist Guide Association’s executive committee, told The Irrawaddy.

The tour guide, who caters to Chinese travelers, complained that most of his clients rarely follow the rules, such as taking off their shoes at pagodas. “We warn women not to wear shorts when visiting religious sites, but they ignore us,” he said.

Myanmar society still mostly adheres to well-established dress codes, particularly regarding skirt length for women. In religious buildings, the knees and shoulders should be covered, and it is customary to remove one’s shoes.

Read the full article at The Irrawaddy:

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