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Pindaya cave temples, Burma

Despite being blessed with plentiful natural and historic wonders Myanmar/Burma currently has the grand total of zero sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Not sure who’s to blame since if we understand correctly these things work both ways – a government has to apply for that status for a site which is then examined and accepted or refused by UNESCO? Also understand that the Myanmar govt has made a provisional list; Bagan, Mandalay old cities etc and whilst said govt may not be flavour of the month for obvious reasons looking through the list we see for example 6 sites in Syria, Gadaffi’s govt. had 5 sites accepted and even North Korea has the Koguryo Tombs so….?

More than 8,000 Buddhas at last count
More than 8,000 Buddhas at last count

Well we reckon the incredible cave temple of Shwe Umin at Pindaya, Shan State, would be a good candidate! Admit to being slightly skeptical when a day trip to a(nother) cave temple loomed on my suggested itinerary: the spectacular Pak Ou near Luang Prabang,

Pak Ou caves, Laos
Pak Ou caves, Laos

the 5th/6th century cave monuments near Cambodia’s Kampot, (see earlier post) and the world heritage cave temples at Dambulla in Sri Lanka sprung to mind….

Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka
Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka

…but don’t think we’ve ever been quite so awe-struck upon entering a cave temple as we were at Pindaya! (Think we just stood in the entrance going ‘wow’ for the first 5 minutes!)

Photos can't do it justice
Photos can’t do it justice

Now photos can’t do it justice – it’s not a single view but the entirety of the site that is so impressive: thousands of Buddha images – small, medium, largeĀ  – on the ground, high up on ledges, wrapped around stalactites and all painted or gilded with gold was a truly spectacular sight. Not a extensive cave system like Thailand’s Chiang Dao sacred caves but a series of chambers, tunnels, stairs and passages with closely packed statues in the larger caves creating their own tunnels and passagesĀ  – some you have to squeeze through – between the host of golden Buddhas. Maybe the fact it’s still a work in progress would be problematic for UNESCO – it originally dates from the 17th/18th centuries but statues are still being added right now.

View of Pindaya Town from the main cave entrance
View of Pindaya Town from the main cave entrance

The caves are located half way up a limestone cliff that towers over the town of Pindaya and so views are spectacular though they have installed a lift which is handy for lazy what-names like ourselves!

Main entrance
Main entrance

There are several seperate caves in the hill but since we’d stopped so many times on the way (see previous post) we only really had time to take in the main one. Although as we mentioned the picturesque drive through the farmlands of the Shan Plateau alone was worth it the caves were certainly one of the most stunning sites on our Burma recce and looking forward to getting back there soon to check out the other caves!

Slightly eerie with so many eyes on yo
Slightly eerie with so many eyes on you

Oh and by the way umbrella making is a local cottage industry so we stopped at a local house at the foot of the hill too!

Photogenic umbrella workshop
Photogenic umbrella workshop

Cheers!