White House Press Pool – no socks and the President pours 11 cups

Subject: Pool Report #8

Yangon, Myanmar

POTUS made an unscheduled stop at the Shwedagon pagoda, the oldest Buddhist pagoda in the world, about 2,000 years old (though it has been rebuilt and renovated over the years) and the most revered site in the country. There initially was discussion of POTUS visiting this place, but it was not on the official plan, aides said. But upon arrival, the president decided that he wanted to go, so Secret Service and staff scrambled to make it happen. Tourists who were already at the site were cleared from the central pathway where Potus, accompanied by Hillary Clinton, walked. 

See pre-advance materials for more background on the site. It is like a majestic village, with individual temples, each containing one or more buddhas, lining the marble "streets" of the site. 

Visitors must remove their shoes and socks, which everybody including Potus and Clinton did. The pair walked up a long set of stairs, through a marketplace of sorts where all sorts of what appeared to be fairly inexpensive things were being sold in small stands lining both sides (snacks, snow globes, necklaces, flowers). The salespeople were not present.

They arrived at the top of another set of stairs to a central spot in the site, accompanied by a tour guide of some sort. Potus was heard asking him questions about the site such as "when was this temple built." 

Along the way are individual buddhas that correspond to the day you were born (there are eight total, with two for Wednesday for some reason, according to the U.S. embassy spokeswoman). Potus and Clinton walked over to the Friday Buddha for Potus, who was evidently born on a Friday. The spokeswoman said that traditionally people pour a cup of water over the Buddha for each year they are old, plus one. Potus arrived at his Buddha and announced, "I'm going to do it 11 times." He then poured a cup of water over the Buddha's left shoulder 11 times. After one or two, he asked his guide if he should pour it over the head or shoulder and was told he was right, it is the shoulder. After finishing he turned to the pool to explain why he chose 11. "I was dousing 11 flames," he said, then gave one example-anger. The guide then gave a few others-lust, anger, hatred were the ones pool could hear. Evidently there are at least eight over flames. He explained that they are all types of emotions.

Motorcade then proceeded to ASSK house, where remarks are open to correspondents.

Laura Meckler
The Wall Street Journal