Aung San Suu Kyi, the Buddha Cave & Taungyi


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Asia » Burma » Eastern Burma » Pindaya
October 14th 2013
Published: November 6th 2013
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A shiver up my spine

While waiting at Yangon airport for our flight to Heho I heard Ohnmar say "oh, there is Daw Suu Kyi", I quickly looked around and sure enough there was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being to led to an airport bus to take her to board a flight to the political capital. I caught a quick glimpse of her on the bus and felt a shiver up my spine. Next, we saw all the airport staff standing on the tarmac waving off the plane she was travelling on. It was a fleeting glimpse of this amazing woman, which created a snapshot that will stay in my mind a long time.

Bombing in Yangon

On the flight to Heho, we read about a series of bombing attempts in Yangon which injured some young people. Some insurgent groups, unknown to us, were said to be intent on disrupting the lead up to the full moon celebrations in the Pagoda's of Yangon and to discredit the security in the city leading up to the hosting of the SEA Games.

The newspaper article detailed how staff at the various pagodas were being trained in bomb detection. While reading the other articles I was surprised how openly critical the writing was of various aspects of the government. Another thing that struck me was how humorous many of the articles were also, humorous in a critical way if you get my drift.

Pindaya Buddha Cave

After landing at Heho we had a lunch stop by a lake, then visited the Pindaya Buddha cave. The cave is famous for the thousands of Buddha images that are deposited there. A bit like a much more organised Pak Ou cave (in Laos).

One of the legends about the cave is that a monk and his dog, while exploring the caves, got lost and three months later came out at another cave in Bagan. I think Bagan is about 100km from Pindaya, so this would have been an amazing journey by the monk and his dog.

Inside a small side pocket of the main cave we saw what looked like a pile of saffron robes crumpled on the floor. Closer inspection revealed it was actually a monk hunched over in meditation. You could just see the slight rise and fall of the crumple of robes as the monk slowly breathed in and out.

I noticed that a number of the Buddha statues in the cave were dedicated by westerners from various locations, Switzerland, Norway, the USA, etc.

Ohnmar also showed us a "fairy pond" were legend has it cave fairies do their bathing, splashing and frolicking with each other. She also told us some other legends of the cave, including some about elephants. There was a hitching post inside the cave for "mythical elephants" and this story appealed to me given my Burmese zodiac sign is the elephant.

Umbrellas

After the cave we visited an umbrella maker. All the products were handmade and the detail of the umbrella mechanism was really interesting to see made completely of wood. It was obvious the maker had been at this for many years and he was carving out the mechanisms with a knife quick smart and with amazing precision. The large umbrella shown in the photo was sold as part of an order to a French restaurant in Yangon for US$40 each. I have seen similar products selling back in Sydney for $400.

Taungyi & the Cherry Queen Hotel

Once we arrived in Taungyi and settled into our hotel, the very luminescent Cherry Queen Hotel (the outside of the hotel was very gayly lit by strings of neon lights, it looked a bit like a Burmese Christmas tree). We were met by two of Ohnmar's friends who lived in this city. They brought along some food for us to share for dinner and we were surprised that the hotel staff took the takeaway food containers and then served the food for us plated up in their dining room. In Sydney the staff would have told us to "take your takeaway else where this is a restaurant not a public picnic area".

We learned from these two young ladies a little of what life is like in Taungyi. The economy here is growing and they trade in many goods from across the Thai border. The town in the past has been supported by the fact it is part of the Golden Triangle, but this illegal trade is being over taken by more legal means to earn a living. The ladies kindly offered to let us stay at their house the next time we are in town.

A walk around the streets revealed a very
Pindaya CavePindaya CavePindaya Cave

Mum in the light
clean and tidy place. There were a few fire crackers being let off to show their eagerness for the full moon to arrive and the locals were warm and friendly. There were some young guys sitting in a nearby teahouse singing along to a Burmese tune played by one of them on a guitar. It was a nice atmosphere.

On our walk back to the hotel, two happy laughing girls were walking near us with a large bag suspended on a bamboo pole which they had on their shoulders. They were bouncing down the street like they were carrying something very exciting. When I asked "what's in the bag" they said "Oh, just rubbish Mister, but you look so funny in a longyi. You look like the happy Buddha sir - we like it". Mmm, maybe I should have reassessed my wardrobe after that comment?

(PS: Just got 2 tickets to welcome Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Sydney - woo hop!)


Additional photos below
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Pindaya CavePindaya Cave
Pindaya Cave

a crumpled pile of saffron robes - a monk meditates
Pindaya CavePindaya Cave
Pindaya Cave

new friends at the cave
Ohnmar & RobOhnmar & Rob
Ohnmar & Rob

should I have reassessed my wardrobe?
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Pindaya Cave

aaarrgggh!
TaungyiTaungyi
Taungyi

a chat with friends
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Taungyi

takeaway re-plated


6th November 2013

Happy Buddha!
Since everyone loves the Buddha, I'm sure that was a great compliment! What a magical place--a newspaper named Freedom, kind people, great guides and seeing (and going to see again) one of my heroes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Looks as if your holiday will last after your return.
7th November 2013

GREAT MEMORIES
Me and my friend visited this wonderful country on a tour on a package which made things easier because we did not have enough time. I do hope freedom and true democracy arrives to every single corner of those lands. I know what dictatorships mean, because I live in Argentina. I hope the best for 2015 for the lovely hard working lady in Myanmar.
9th November 2013

Aung San Suu Kyi
Great you saw the great lady at Yangon...and will see her in Sydney. We couldn't get tickets to see her speaking at the Sydney Opera House as the website kept on crashing due to the massive interest and by the time we got back on was sold out.

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