Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pindaya Caves - a fascinating Pilgrimage Site
with a Giant Spider

See the locations on Pindaya Google Map

Picture by Christopher Michel

Pindaya is famous for its limestone caves, which are not so much a natural wonder as a fascinating pilgrimage site. Shwe U Min Cave (golden Cave) is set in the hillside. Here you will find over 8000 Buddha images from materials such as alabaster, teak, marble, stone, bronze, lacquer and cement. These statues have been brought here since the cave became a place of worship in the 18th century.
At the entrance to the caves sits Shwe U Min Pagoda. The tazaung or prayer hall was built by the hermit U Khanti who also built many of the religious edifices on Mandalay Hill.

But first you will encounter the giant spider:

Picture by marhas

A local legend tells us: Seven princesses were relaxing in the cave, when suddenly a giant monster spider closed the entrance with her net. Fourtunately a prince was nearby and heard them cry for help. The oldest and wisest of the princesses asked him for help and offered him the youngest and prettiest of them for marriage. The prince shot the spider with an arrow - pingu in Burmese. He then exclaimed "pingu-ya" ("the spider is dead"). This is said to be the origin of the name Pindaya.

Picture by marhas
The prince was successful: He shot the giant spider and married the youngest of seven princesses.

Picture by Michael Gemeinder

Soon after the entrance into the cave you meet Cutie-Sweetie:

Picture by marhas

A bit further into the main cave you will arrive at a pair of sweating Buddha images. "For some reason, moisture only appears on these two statues, making them especially popular with pilgrims, who compete with each other for a chance to wipe away the “perspiration” that constantly covers them", writes

Picture by marhas

Close to the end of the 490-foot walking tour of the cave you will see people collecting clay under a signpost that reads “Black Clay Hillock". It's the only place in the Pindaya area where the earth is black instead of red. People see this as a sign that the clay is sacred and can be used to ward off evil spirits. Some stalagmites in the cave produce gong tones when hit.

Picture by marhas

Picture by Terry Feuerborn

After leaving the cave you look down to Botoloke Lake. Pindaya is perched on its banks.

Picture by marhas

You can combine the cave-visit with a round trip: First you walk along Shwe U Min Pagoda Road to get to the caves, and then you return along the covered walkway that follows the hillside. On this way you reach a beautiful teak monastery. To get to the cave you can also take horse-carts. 200 steps up the covered stairway lead to the cave entrance.

Picture by marhas

In February/March the pagoda’s trustees held a six-day festival. Then there is a mile-long market and you can watch traditional Myanmar dance troupes performing under old banyan trees in the pagoda compound. On the eve of the fullmoon day the Danu, the main ethnic group in the area, present traditional music and dance performances. The banyan trees are centuries-old and said to be the most beautiful in Shan State.

Picture by Chuck Moravec
Impression from Pindaya festival

Pindaya hosts an itinerant market every fifth day.

Picture by Terry Feuerborn
View of Pindaya and Lake Pone Taloke from the entrance to the main limestone cave.

Picture by Allan Grey

Konlun Sayadaw Temple: Kone Lone Monastery, also known as Sun Daung Monastery

Picture by tian yake

Picture by Davy Demaline

Where to stay in Pindaya

Conqueror Resort Hotel: Bungalows in a garden just below the Pindaya caves, with swimming pool. Some guests say the hotel needs some updating, but most of them left very good reviews on From the backside wa wy leads to the caves.

Picture by tian yake
Picture by tian yake
Banyan tree near Conqueror Hotel

Golden Cave Hotel: Quite good reviews on

Pindaya Hotel: Run by Mount Pleasant Hotel Group. Basic but okay, says one reviewer on

Myit Phyar Zaw Gji Hotel: See picture by Kiyoshu Ochiai.

Pindaya Inle Inn: Beautiful surrounding with massive banyan trees. Good reviews on

Tahara Pindaya: Thahara Pindaya is a wooden farmhouse built in the traditional Shan way. It has five rooms with aircon and heating. Four of the rooms are upstairs and open onto the balcony overlooking the farm. To the town it's a 30-minute stroll through the fields. Aye Aye was born and raised in Pindaya. After managing hotels in Myanmar she has returned home. She and her family share their world with the guests.

Trekking from Pindaya

Pindaya is well known as starting point for trekking tours to villages of the Palaung, Taungyo, Pa-Oo and Danu tribes. You will see them cultivate tea, coffee, corn, garlic, onions and vegetables as well as tangerines, avocado, bananas, jackfruit and other fruits. For instance you can visit the village of Yazagyi. See pictures. Here you will stay in the monastery for the night. You can sleep on a mat in the ordination hall. Or you can visit the market at the little town of Pway Hla and the residence of the former chief.

Read more:
Land of Harmony, Spirit of Grace: A Journey through Pindaya (published in 2003)
Conservation of Ficus Species in Pindaya

More discoveries around Inle Lake:
Kalaw - the former British Colonial Town and the Colours of the Shan Hills
Inle Lake - where people live on the water
Hotels and Resorts around Inle Lake and in Nyaung Shwe - and Reviews by Guests
Nyaung Shwe Restaurant Picks
Wine tasting around Inle lake
Kakku: Thousands of Stupas around a Pagoda - a Magical Place
Burma Bible

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