A monk and his mysterious medicine...

Pindaya Travel Blog

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The first welcome rays of sunlight in the cold mountains.

6.30 am. Aart-Jan comes in, waking up everybody who is still asleep. This wasn’t the best of nights, it was cold and our matrasses were extremely thin (a blanket folded twice is at least as comfortable) and some of our group are terrible snorers.

We have breakfast around 7 o´clock, outside. The temperature still being somewhere near zero degrees Celsius, makes this a chilly experience, and everyone is waiting for the moment the sun throws its first light over the mountains. As soon as this happens, the ice on the rooftops starts to melt and the dripping of water can be heard all around. The sunlight, however, isn´t strong enough to affect our butter, which remains hard as a rock, making it almost impossible to use.

Hoarfrost still covers the ground where the sun cannot reach.

At 7.30 am it is time to say goodbye to the abbot, and Aart-Jan makes a donation in name of the group, to support the monastery´s work. After taking a group photo we start our descent, back to Pindaya. In the first half hour of the walk we pass lots of patches of grass that is still covered with hoar frost, but when sunlight touches them they rapidly subside.

It doesn´t take long before some of us start picking up the pace and soon the close group has turned into a stretched, interrupted line of individuals and couples. Once again Trudy and I aren´t forerunners, we stay near the carriers that close the line (I bet they know the way as well as the ones in the front) and take in the surrounding area.

A very cute kid in village during our walk to Pindaya.

We walk through another village where an ethnic minority lives, I forget the name the moment I here it, but they have got the cutest children here. A little further down the road we see a woman baking pancakes in a stall on the bank of the trail. We order some and my stomach, already having digested this mornings breakfast (white toast with jam), makes a summersalt for joy at the shear look at them. The pancakes are made of sweet sticky rice and I like them a lot. Some of our fellow hikers can´t eat all of theirs and give them to me, in order to keep up my strength I eat them all gratefully.

About half an hour closer to Pindaya we see a stall where a girl sells bamboo filled with sticky rice.

I just loved the pancakes this lady made of sticky rice.
This too we get to taste. The bamboo merely serves as packaging, if it weren´t for the shell of giant grass the products would all just stick together and become a huge lump of sticky goo. It doesn´t taste bad, but I liked the pancakes better.

Well before noon we come by a monastery where a monk is about to ring the bell for lunch, the last meal of the day. We are getting close to the village now, and just before we reach the first houses Trudy spots a butterfly somewhere near the road, that I and the two guides simply cannot find. After a thorough explanation we see the little creature at at least ten metres from the road side, between the leaves on a branch. I think I´ll call her Hawkeye from now on...

Because of our quest for the butterfly we are five minutes later in the hotel than everyone else, but we still get a decent room, that is clean and adorned with little orchids.

More sticky rice, this time wrapped in bamboo.
Even the bed and the toilet haven´t been forgotten.

We decide to have lunch in the first restaurant we see when we walk towards the village centre, it´s called Memento. It has a cosy interior, but the food is of mediocre quality and the prices are rather steep. Rudolf and Anne, who have joined us a few minutes after we sat down, agree on our verdict.

When we are done eating Mick gives us the tip to check out the monastery and the pagodas. This means we have to walk to the other side of the village, but we feel that our feet are up to taking us there, thus we do not linger. Pindaya is a village situated around Botoloke lake, so there are not too many options going from one end to the other.

Youthful monks playing some form of Chinlon.
There´s a lot of activity going on, I don´t know what the reason is, maybe the market has drawn a crowd today, but many people seem to have something to do in town. When we get closer to the monastery the streets quiet down a little. The monastery is made entirely of teak wood and due to the absence of any paint whatsoever and the rusty corrugated iron roof plates, it looks very old. We walk around it, taking some pictures of monks playing a form of Chinlon on one side and construction workers on the other. In the vicinity of the monastery there are several pagodas that are nice, but not very special. The interesting buildings are further down the street. Here are a fair number of pagodas in unrestored condition. Restoration in Myanmar is the same as rebuilding, or covering the originals in a thick layer of plaster. These pagodas, so far, have escaped this desastrous process and still show many signs of decay. Due to the fact that there is no traffic roaring by and there are no tourists here, the bells high in the pagodas that are chimed by the wind can be clearly heared.
A pagoda that hasn't been restored, yet...
This place is special.

We get to a pagoda with a small open door and Trudy looks inside. There’s a monk giving a scalp massage to a woman. Immediately she is invited in, and I must come in too, of course. We cannot communicate, they don’t speak English, but we feel more than welcome. We get some kind of powder, poored onto our hands from a small plastic bag, that we have to eat (according to their gestures). It tastes a bit like sal-ammoniac, but not quite. It takes a while, but we are able to find out that it is some kind of Burmese medicine, what disease the powder cures remains a mystery. We get four of the little bags as a gift and then we are offered some lukewarm tea in a cup that doesn’t look extremely clean. It’s a risk, but we cannot refuse now. We take some time to look around, make a little donation (1000 Kyat) and get back into the sunlight, after saying goodbye of course.

The monk that gave us the mysterious medicine.

We are hardly outside when Trudy spots a woman that is frying beans in an open shack between the pagodas, less than ten metres from where we got our “medicine”. In a split second the lady gives us a plate of beans and another lady comes running to give us a spoon. When asked if I want a plate as well, I thank her kindly, telling her that Trudy and I will share. The beans are really nice, but they seem to blow up in our stomachs, and when the plate is empty we are completely stuffed.

On our way back we take a little detour over the market that is about to end and then slowly we stroll in the direction of the hotel. When we hear someone calling we see four people from our party, that come from the province Limburg, sipping their Dagon beers in a bar on the right hand side of the road.

The teak wood monastery in Pindaya.
We have a drink, chat for a while and then move on.

We are overtaken by Ton and Judith, who have rented bicycles. They offer us a lift, but considering the state the bicycles are in, it seems very wise to refuse.

We take a short break in our room and then have diner at the Green Tea Restaurant on the bank of the holy lake. Normally they close at 7.30 p.m., but they are willing to stay open as long as there are guests. There is a power out in Pindaya, and everything is dark, but as soon as we set foot on the premises an employee meets us, telling us that if we have a little patience he’ll fire up the generator. We get a fantastic table on the terrace, looking out over the lake, lit only by some candles and the full moon in the sky. The service is great and the food very tasty.

It is past 7.30 p.m. when we leave, and at that time Evert and Aart-Jan walk in, so the staff can’t go home yet, but we call it an early night.

YantiSoeparno says:
Thanks for sharing Ronnie...
What a interesting trip :D
Posted on: Sep 14, 2008
glennisnz says:
I take it you survived the mystry medicine! You are having such a wonderful time.
Posted on: Sep 10, 2008
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The first welcome rays of sunlight…
The first welcome rays of sunligh…
Hoarfrost still covers the ground …
Hoarfrost still covers the ground…
A very cute kid in village during …
A very cute kid in village during…
I just loved the pancakes this lad…
I just loved the pancakes this la…
More sticky rice, this time wrappe…
More sticky rice, this time wrapp…
Youthful monks playing some form o…
Youthful monks playing some form …
A pagoda that hasnt been restored…
A pagoda that hasn't been restore…
The monk that gave us the mysterio…
The monk that gave us the mysteri…
The teak wood monastery in Pindaya.
The teak wood monastery in Pindaya.
Pindaya
photo by: TrudyNRonnie