The small town of Pindaya is located as about as central as you can get in Burma. Home to the local Danu people, Pindaya can only be reached by small and windy roads which snake their way through mountain ranges from Mandalay, Inle Lake, or Bagan. Travellers who make their way to Pindaya will pass through hills covered in pine trees, farmland, as well as number of small ethnic villages. Very few tourists come to this part of the world, but those who do are greeted by a scenic town and the mystical Hsin Khaung monastery and the 200 million year old Pindaya caves. This was a place was keen to rest and take in the sights before continuing my journey to Lake Inle.
I had spent a long time on the road already but I was still mesmerised at the constantly changing scenery. One moment I would be looking at the colours of the orange farms, and next I’m winding up the side of a mountain passing small villages. Occasionally, the car would pass some buffalo cowboys, who were herding their flock along the road. My final destination was Lake Inle, not far from Pindaya. But when I was planning my holiday I came across this small town in my research and was instantly drawn to it by it small size and the fact that I love to visit places that are not on the usual tourist paths.
Finally, as the car pulled away from the last curve in the road, I could see Pindaya not too far in the distance. There were no high rise buildings, but a 1700 metre mountain peaked in the background of the town. In the late afternoon sun as the car made its way to the hotel, we passed local women wearing their traditional, colourful clothes. They must’ve been heading back to their villages after spending a long day buying their daily supplies at the towns markets. This was a sight that made me realise that I was definitely in a town that was way off the tourist trail.
After spending a night at the hotel, I had a busy day ahead of me. I had one day to see the two main sights in the town before I continue my way to Lake Inle. One of those sights was Hsin Khaung monastery. The Hsin Khaung monastery was a truly fascinating experience for me. Witnessing the way the monks living their life in a way which they have for hundreds of years gave me a feeling of serenity. My next stop was probably the most renowned area in the region – the Pindaya Caves. Estimated to have been formed more than 200 million years ago, the opening of the cave involved a walk past the Shwe U Min Pagodas – giant white stupas which climb out of the ground. I entered the cave to see an amazing site. At the entrance of the cave there was what seemed to be a hundred or thousand Buddha statues. It was an amazing sight to see so much many spiritual images combined with a spectacular creation of nature.
After reviewing my time in Pindaya, I was definitely satisfied that I had made the right choice to spend a day in this small town. Pindaya is a place which is off the tourist trail and gave me the chance to witness some of the significant religious sites in this culturally rich nation.
Pindaya, 24 March 2011