Dedicated to the Buddha
Nyaung Shwe Travel Blog› entry 10 of 27 › view all entries
We get up at six a.m. after a fantastic night. The bed was long enough, so were the blankets, and the mattress was amazingly soft after yesterdays accomodation.
Breakfast is served at seven, and with a full stomach we set off on foot towards the Golden Cave at 7.45. Only eight of us are walking, the others wait for the bus to arrive.
It is an uphill walk and we come by a monastery that was founded years ago by an RAF pilot. Next to the entrance of the premises stands a jug, filled with water, meant for thirsty pilgrims on their way to the cave.
During our walk we have a view that is amazing, doesn’t matter where we look. The valley is shrouded by a combination of morning mist and the smoke of wood fires on which people are cooking their meals. The effort of the climb and the already strong morning sun make our perspiration flow in abundance. It takes us about half an hour to reach the cave that houses over 8,000 Buddha statues. The last stretch of the walk is a long flight of covered stairs, leading straight to the entrance. The others, who came by bus are already there. They came up the lazy mans way, by elevator. We have to take off our shoes again and then we can go in. It is overwhelming to see so many Buddhas cluttered together. Unfortunately we can’t tell which statues are old and which ones aren’t, because almost every single one has been restored the Burmese way. The signs underneath the statues tell who “adopted” it, a.
We collect our shoes and walk out on the other side of the building, where a statue of a huge spider and a brave man attacking it with bow and arrow, have been placed in recent years. This scene refers to the legend of seven princesses who were bathing in a lake and were captured by the spider, trapping them in the cave, only to be saved by prince Kummabhaya of Yawngwhe (nowadays known as Nyaung Shwe).
Everyone is back on the bus at 9.30 a.m. for one of the longest bus trips on this journey, it must at least be 500 metres. We stop at a little workshop where umbrellas are made at 9.
Now we drive until 12.30 over horrible roads and then have lunch in a Thai restaurant that is built on the premises of an orchard filled with oranges. The service is far from quick, but the food isn’t half bad, so let’s not complain. While we eat our bus has to go to the shop, because something is wrong with it. Diagnosis: a nail in the rear tire.
We get to Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung a little after 3 p.m., this is a wooden monastery from the 19th century with elliptical windows. Here novices are studying aloud and we can hear the cacophony the moment we get off the bus. An old monk sits on a bench in the shade, listening to the zealously uttered phrases. Once we are inside, the young monks hardly notice us, they are lost in their books and have no time for curious foreigners.
We are only a few minutes driving away from Nyaungshwe, where we will be staying in the Paradise Hotel for the next three nights.
When we head for the town centre we hear very loud music coming from a little temple-like structure (it sounds like an Indonesian Gamelan being abused in a terrible fashion) and we decide to check it out. Once we have made our way forward through the crowd we see some ugly men dressed up as women smoking cigars while dancing. Later the money changer tells us that this all belongs to a festival dedicated to the nats and that the cigar smoking men/women depict the nats in question. The festival is held with an interval of two to three months, so to the locals this is nothing out of the ordinary.
It seems that the U.S dollar has slightly dropped in value, because we get only 1170 Kyat for one dollar, but hey, we still leave the shop with a big wad of money in our pockets. We buy some cookies and stroll through the village for some time. By the time the sun goes down we accidentally find the Yadana Man Aung Pagoda and we check if it is still open. We are welcome to come in and have a look around. The pagoda isn’t spectacular when it comes to decoration or architecture, but what makes it special to us is that we get to stick gold leaf on a Buddha statue ourselves (I choose the statues left cheek), we burn some incense and light a candle as well. Who knows what it is good for... We bought a couple of miniature umbrellas when we got in and someone in the temple tells us that we have to put them in a vase next to the Buddha (for good luck maybe?).
By the time we leave the pagoda it is completely dark and mosquitos are on the prowl, we see them dancing everywhere.
A nice shower is very welcome, so are the soft beds...