Dedicated to the Buddha

Nyaung Shwe Travel Blog

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This monastery, founded by an RAF pilot, offers water to pilgrims that are walking to the Golden Cave.

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.

The final part of our walk to the Golden Cave is this covered stairway.

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.

Thousands of Buddha images inside the Golden Cave.
k.a. paid for the restoration. The lighting is very poor for taking pictures, it is either too dark, or a huge bulb is shining straight into the lens...

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.

Prince Kummabhaya fighting the legendary spider that held seven women captive inside the cave.
32 a.m. (so I wasn’t exaggerating). We get to see the entire process, from plant material getting beaten to a pulp, via the frame making, to the assembly of the finished product. This is quite interresting, but as soon as everyone hits the in-house shop, Trudy and I go out to a closeby pagoda to take some nice pictures of the entrance to the Golden Cave. We are back in the shop before everyone is done shopping and we still have time to buy two little umbrellas ourselves. Those two are going to spend the rest of their careers as lampshades.

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.

The making of the frames of the handmade umbrellas.
By the time we have finished our meals, the tire problem is solved and we can move on again.

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.

The entrance of the Golden Cave as seen from below.
The rooms are nice and tidy. The hotel consists of houses that are split in four equal appartments, and they all have a name and number. We reside in block Cherry, room 2. I crash on my bed for a while, because I’ve got a terrible cold and I feel like closing my eyes. My nap doesn’t take long, because there’s supper to be found and money to be changed.

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.

Novices studying zealously in the Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung.

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.

The golden blister on the left cheek of this Buddha image is my little piece of gold leaf...
We go back to the hotel to cover up in bug repellent before we have dinner. We dine in a tiny place, where some locals are enjoying Burmese dishes, while others take away from the stall on the sidewalk. Trudy tries what the locals are eating, I order a delicious banana and chocolate pancake. Trudys food is good, but somewhat on the spicy side. When we have eaten our fill we make our way back to the hotel, thankfully using our flashlight in the pitch black streets.

A nice shower is very welcome, so are the soft beds...

glennisnz says:
Another very interesting day. I hope your little mbrellas made it home to be lamp shades without being too bent and twisted.
Posted on: Oct 05, 2008
hummingbird50 says:
Hey this is great...thanks for sharing...but no spiders:)
Posted on: Sep 20, 2008
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This monastery, founded by an RAF …
This monastery, founded by an RAF…
The final part of our walk to the …
The final part of our walk to the…
Thousands of Buddha images inside …
Thousands of Buddha images inside…
Prince Kummabhaya fighting the leg…
Prince Kummabhaya fighting the le…
The making of the frames of the ha…
The making of the frames of the h…
The entrance of the Golden Cave as…
The entrance of the Golden Cave a…
Novices studying zealously in the …
Novices studying zealously in the…
The golden blister on the left che…
The golden blister on the left ch…
The Pindaya valley is shrouded in …
The Pindaya valley is shrouded in…
Trudy is burning some incense and …
Trudy is burning some incense and…
Nyaung Shwe
photo by: TrudyNRonnie