Burma/Myanmar – Off the beaten path Pindaya caves and Kyaiktiyo pagoda

» Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Burma, Featured, long trip, Myanmar

Up to this point, we had done a fairly standard Burma trip. Two destinations on our itinerary were off the beaten path. First, on our way to Inke Lake we stopped for one day and one night in Pindaya. The second one was the Kyaiktiyo pagoda also known as Golden Rock, which was an extra two days trip after coming back to Rangoon. Based on my previous post about the food and the lodging you could think it was a luxury trip (and it was) but these two locations were a little to a lot more basic in the food and accommodation.

Pindaya

The attraction of Pindaya are the caves that are filled with buddhas. On our way to the airport, we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of the low fog in the Mandalay valley.

Fog in the Burmese field

Fog in a Burmese field

Pindaya is a small town and after visiting the caves during our first afternoon. You can see below the stairs leading to the cave entrance. Viewed from the top, the Hsaungdan (or covered stairwell) is  impressive.

The cross stairs of the Pindaya caves

The cross stairs of the Pindaya caves

The caves are known to contain over 8,000 images of Buddha. There are several levels of caves and new Buddhas are added regularly.

The Pindaya caves are full of buddhas.

The Pindaya caves are full of buddhas.

After our visit, we spent the night in Pindaya which had allowed us to see the sunrise over the Pindaya lake. It was the first time that the entire group woke up for the sunrise (it was usually just Tuan, my wife and myself). There is very little light pollution and we could get the stars and the local temple.

Pindaya at night.

Pindaya at night.

Early morning in Pindaya

Early morning in Pindaya

Burmese people are up and about very early in the morning and we met a couple of people heading to the market way before sunrise. We went around the lake and at some point, we met this man delivering water to the houses around. The market was very interesting by itself and we had some street food (some form of pancakes).

Getting water at the local well.

Getting water at the local well.

On our way to the Inke Lake, we stopped at a monastery and the light conditions were actually quite good with the sun coming from the large opening of the building. We kept quiet and moved around while the young novices were studying.

Youngs novices studying

Youngs novices studying

Young notice studying.

Young notice studying.

Golden Rock

Then at the end of the trip, Tuan, my wife and I went to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (or Golden Rock). It was a proposed extension to our trip and only the three of us did it. It was by far the roughest portion of the trip but by all accounts one of our best time. First getting to Golden Rock is a bit treacherous, you can either walk the 11km uphill or take one of the dump truck converted in people transportation.

Loading up people to go the 11km road to the top of Kyaiktiyo pagoda.

Loading up people to go the 11km road to the top of Kyaiktiyo pagoda.

We spent exactly 24hour on top of Golden Rock and we were so lucky to get a great sunset with the Kyaiktiyo pagoda. Wikipedia says that the Kyaiktiyo pagoda is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse at the “gravity defying” Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism.According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha’s hair. The balancing rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill.

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Golden Rock (or Kyaiktiyo pagoda) and woman praying and lighting candles.

Golden Rock (or Kyaiktiyo pagoda) and women praying and lighting candles.

Only men can approach the rock and put gold leaves on it.

Only men can approach the rock and put gold leaves on it.

A group of monks praying in front of the Kyaiktiyo pagoda.

A group of monks praying in front of the Kyaiktiyo pagoda.

During the night, people setup those huge food offering with table cloths, huge dishes, full plates, like a banquet was taking place but no one would come to eat. We figure they were food offering for the sunrise but the quantity of food was staggering.

At sunrise, huge food offering are setup.

At sunrise, huge food offering are setup.

This is the 9th post about my trip to Burma.

All the images presented here are available for licensing or as fine art prints.