Pindaya

pindaya: buddhas in the thousands at shwe oo min natural cave pagoda

Wednesday, February 25:  We arrive at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda at 11:00 a.m. My driver deposits me at the bottom and I follow the long walkway up the limestone ridge. I can see views of Pone Taloke Lake and the town below.

The approach to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

The approach to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

The giant spider at the entrance hints at the outrageous sights I’ll encounter inside the cave.

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

archer

archer

giant spider

giant spider

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

walkway to the pagoda

walkway to the pagoda

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya - Pone Taloke Lake

view from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya – Pone Taloke Lake

view on walkway to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view on walkway to Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

view of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

After climbing the steps, I take a lift to avoid the last 130 steps.

Inside the cave, I encounter Buddha figures in staggering numbers.   At last count, the caves showcased 8,094 Buddha statues.  Some were left centuries ago by Myanmar pilgrims and others were installed more recently by international Buddhist organizations in lands as far away as the Netherlands, the USA, and Singapore.  (Lonely Planet Myanmar, July 2014 edition)

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Of course, the many Buddhas need a plethora of offerings from the faithful pilgrims who visit today in steady streams.  New pilgrims deposit new images and mediate in the cave’s grottoes and chambers carved naturally into the walls.

offerings for the thousands of Buddhas

offerings for the thousands of Buddhas

The Buddhas come in all flavors: alabaster, teak, cement, marble, brick and lacquer.

Buddha at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddha at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Elephant Mooring Post

Elephant Mooring Post

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

a Buddha sit-in

The caves are packed with so many Buddhas that it’s difficult to move around.  Everywhere you look, eyes are staring at you.

Buddhas in the cave

Buddhas in the cave

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

serpent overhang

serpent overhang

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

the Pindaya caves

the Pindaya caves

intricate Buddha

intricate Buddha

Buddha and subjects

Buddha and subjects

more Buddhas

more Buddhas

monsters

monsters

teeth!

teeth!

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

MAZE ??

MAZE ??

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Buddhas at Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Pindaya

After visiting the cave, we head to the open-air Golden Moon Restaurant for lunch.

Menu at the Golden Moon Restaurant

Menu at the Golden Moon Restaurant

view from the Golden Moon

view from the Golden Moon

The Golden Moon Restaurant

The Golden Moon Restaurant

diners at the Golden Moon Restaurant

diners at the Golden Moon Restaurant

Here I eat a delicious lunch of potato curry with rice, accompanied by papaya juice.  I top it off with a can of Myanmar beer, which, to no surprise, will cause me to ask the driver to make another stop along the road so I can pee again!

potato curry with rice

potato curry with rice

a truck full of locals

a truck full of locals

I get to Heho airport at 2:30, way too early for my 5:00 flight.  I have to sit around an hour before I can even check my bag.

waiting at Heho Airport

waiting at Heho Airport

When I’m finally able to check my bag, the woman at Immigration asks to see my passport. She writes the number in a ledger!  I’m not at all surprised that there is no computer system; Myanmar seems to exist in a time warp, frozen in the 1950s.

I sit in the waiting room for a long time.  I use the bathroom twice, thinking it is the ladies’ room.  The third time, I scrutinize the picture on the door and realize I’ve been using the men’s room!  I can’t find a trash can anywhere in the airport, so I leave my debris (a water bottle and Snickers wrapper) inside the stall of the men’s room.

I love how at Heho (and Bagan) airports, the planes fly right up to the door.  A young man grabs a whiteboard sign listing the airline and flight.  He runs to the gate (or door) with the sign, shouting out the name of the flight. Passengers line up, walk out to the tarmac, and climb a ladder up to the plane.  The flight attendants quickly close the door and we immediately take off down the runway!

Heho Airport

Heho Airport

Flying to Yangon

Flying to Yangon

My arrival in Yangon is not much more sophisticated.  We get off on the tarmac and the luggage is simply loaded directly into the arrivals hall.  There is no luggage carousel.  I find an air-conditioned taxi service for 9,000 kyat ($9).  It takes about an hour to arrive at Agga Youth Hotel on No. 86, 12th St.

At the hotel, a short Russian guy is arguing with the staff because they apparently lost some of his laundry.  He tells me he packs light and only has a few clothes with him and now they’ve lost them!

I check into room 202 which is very small and unimpressive, despite the fact that this hotel was highly recommended by several people along my journey.  I settle grumpily into the room, exhausted from my long day, and as I’m too tired to go out, I eat a bag of Oishi Ribbed Cracklings in Chicken Curry Flavor and drink a bottle of water. I’m eaten alive by mosquitoes all night. 😦

I already miss Bagan and Inle Lake.

Categories: Agga Youth Hotel, Asia, Burma, Golden Moon Restaurant, Heho Airport, Myanmar, Pindaya, Shan State, Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

leaving inle lake: a brief stop in nyaungshwe at shwe yaunghwe kyaung

Wednesday, February 25:  This is a sad morning, as I leave the Inle Lake area at 9 a.m. for Yangon, my final destination in Myanmar. My plane actually doesn’t depart Heho airport until 5:00 p.m., but I’ve arranged a driver to take me to Pindaya for the day and then directly to the airport.

On the way out of Nyaungshwe, the driver stops at what is considered the most photographed monastery in Nyaungshwe: Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung.  With its ancient teak ordination hall, or thein, and its oval windows offering a peek at the novice monks, it’s quite charming.

entrance to Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

entrance to Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

I pay the driver 55,000 kyat (around $55) to take me for the entire day.

Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

a monk at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

a monk at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

little monks at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

little monks at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

monks & cats

monks & cats

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

monks studying

monks studying

monks in sunlight ovals

monks in sunlight ovals

monks in the doorway

monks in the doorway

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

Buddha at Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

the oval windows of Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

the oval windows of Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung

After walking around this ancient monastery, I get in the car with the driver.   The hotel has estimated it will take 2 1/2 hours to get to Pindaya, and then 1 1/2 hours from Pindaya to Heho Airport.  It actually only takes two hours to get to Pindaya, and we pass Heho Airport after the first hour, meaning it will take only 1 hour to get back to Heho.  On our drive, we pass through one of the most densely farmed areas in Myanmar, with a patchwork of dried fields and red clay.  We pass an umbrella-making factory and a cattle market.  There isn’t that much to see on the drive.  For some reason, the driver’s steering wheel is on the right and in Myanmar, cars drive on the right; this makes it hard for the driver to see around cars in front of him to pass. During the long drive, where there seem to be no facilities whatsoever, I have to ask the driver to pull over at one point so I can pee behind a tree.  It’s pretty embarrassing because a few cars drive by, and the tree isn’t big enough that it totally hides me.  Oh well, this is life in the 3rd world.   I’m sure people do this all the time out here in the middle of nowhere.

At 11:00, we arrive at our destination, the famous Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, a massive limestone cave brimming with thousands of gilded Buddha statues.

Categories: Asia, Burma, Heho Airport, Myanmar, Nyaungshwe, Pindaya, Shan State, Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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