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Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provid…

Mrauk U - Lots and Lots of Buddhas

For more of my Burma posts click here.

NOTE: the situation for the Rohingya has deteriorated severely since our visit.

Mrauk U is as stunning as it is isolated. It took about five hours on the river to get here from Sittwe and when we arrived we felt we were  at the very edge of the country and in a way we were. Rakhine State has a strong separatist element and the violence against the Rohinga Muslim minority, led by Buddhist extremists, has been increasing. Exacerbated by central government policies that have marginalized, persecuted and denied citizenship rights to the Rohinga,  the area is heavily policed, starved of government funds and riling with social tension.
But then there's the history, the monuments, the crafts, the people and the welcome. This was the highlight of our trip, in part because the sites are so empty, unrestored and situated amongst the fields, villages and the people. If Bagan is about the stupas then Mrauk U is about representations of the Buddha, hundreds of thousands of them, repeated over and over like our Western representations of the Madonna and Child in Florence where you just want to lie down on the museum floor and say, "I can't take and more!" 
D. joked to friends that, 
" Myanmar is a land of stupas.  And more stupas.  And yet more stupas... the only thing that exceeds the count of stupas is the number of times we've heard puns of the sort "stupa-endous" to describe it.  Or maybe Buddhas.  Carved, molded, cut, painted, formed, sculpted, blasted into mountains, ringed with LED lights-- the making of Buddhas is meritorious, and if so the people here are truly blessed."
The Buddha is everywhere, carved, cut and repeated, all before the age of mechanical reproduction and the repetition of Warhol. As you can see above there are multiple small images of the buddha carved over and over and one temple, Koe Thaung is known as the Temple of "90,000 Images of the Buddha" while another is known as the Temple of "80,000 Images of the Buddha" !

Koe Thaung  was my favorite of the temples we visited, the repetition of the stupas on the exterior remind me of Borobudor  and there is something meditative about the repetition of shapes and images. Visually Mrauk U is a very romantic place, but this is just an image and  the vehicles from Medecins san Frontieres and the Red Cross parked in our hotel are a reminder of the persecuted Rohinga minority. perhaps I don't know enough about the situation to comment but it seems everyone is a loser here because the ethnic tensions (which the central government has exacerbated) and have lead to Rakhine State being isolated and marginalized
 And to finish I can't resist just a few more images of the Buddha...

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