Thursday, February 11, 2016

Myanmar - Big Buddha anyone?

Just look at the size of it! The little things in front of it are very wide entrance stairs!
Sightseeing can be a chore. I mean, seriously, how many Buddha's can you take in during a tour of a country? In the end it all gets a bit boring, doesn't it? Nope it doesn't. Not even after having seen 8,000 of them in one cave alone! We are not Buddhists but were still impressed by it. The day ahead was somewhat of a mystery though. The guides were tightlipped about where we were actually going other than saying it would be sightseeing...

Buddha being built, here you can see how many internal
levels there are
We had assumed it was going to be city type sightseeing, as we were staying in a city after all and thus arrived in civvi clothes ready for a walk through town of some sort. We had assumed wrong. We were going 30 km out of town and thus changed over to bike gear and loaded up the bikes. It was 10 minutes max but the cars decided they couldn't/wouldn't wait and thus decided to go on their own... and got lost once again! The expression of 'no, not again!' on the guides' faces was priceless.

While the guides went looking for them we enjoyed something we had indeed not expected... a giant row of huge monk statues, followed by gigantic Buddha statues... and I mean truly gigantic! What a ripper of a place! They had taken us to the largest reclining Buddha image in the world, Win Sein Taw Ya. A Buddha of 180 mtr long and 30 mtr high! Another one was still being built, so we could see how it was done too. All of them are in fact huge buildings with rooms inside it where Buddhism is taught. A kind of school if you like. We just loved it, rode up the mountain to have a better overview, took some photos and then stopped at a small shop for a cold drink. We talked about how friendly it all was and how different from any other religion we knew. By some Buddhism isn't seen as a religion but rather a sort of 'philosophy of life'. Maybe that's why Buddhism doesn't need the images of suffering, hell and devils?

Walking in the shop I had been greeted by the lady who owned it... and a cute little kitten... As it turned out she was looking after stray cats and had dozens of them. We enjoyed a cold drink while the lost cars turned up, had a conversation with the owner, played with the very playful cats (two of which joined us on the table :-) and then headed to the last hotel of our tour and visit to Myanmar. The ride was once again stunning. Beautiful landscapes, again very different from the day before, unraveled themselves before our eyes. No need to ride fast here, you need time to let it sink in and see the beauty. It's hard to describe it other than lush green and friendly with weirdly shaped mountains in the distance.

We will truly miss Myanmar and were talking about how different leaving Myanmar would be compared to India, where we were all happy to leave it behind. Of course we are looking forward to Thailand but at the same time would love to spend more time here. Much more. We also felt that going on the tour was a good way to see it. It had not been a bus ride where everything was planned into minute detail. Nor had it been a tour where we had to follow the van. The guides had left us free to ride as we pleased, stop where we wanted, take photos etc. They had simply directed us to the amazing sights and showed us the best routes to take.

Arriving at the hotel, the last hotel of our visit to Myanmar, we found no secure bike parking. We had all learned the hard way that leaving bikes out on the streets is not a good idea. The guides were far behind us with the cars but with the help of a very friendly and sympathetic hotel manager worked out an easy solution: just park the bikes at the hotel owners' house (which is secure and just minutes away). Easy!

The last sight seeing was, you're not going to believe it, a Buddha cave! Had we already seen the 8,000 Buddha's in one cave, this one boasts 10,000 of them! Although we had seen many Buddhas before, this was so worth a visit! It's not a very big place (200 ft high and 300 ft long) but there are Buddha's all over the cliff walls. Thousands of small ones right up to the top. The guides had actually planned this as a stop along the way, which wouldn't quite work for us as the temperatures were in the high 30s and humidity at near 100% level. We preferred to ride on to the hotel, get changed and then take the van back. 'No problem sir, we will see you at the hotel!' Very kind of them.