The Shwe Phone Pye Paya sits high above Taunggyi, in the Shan State, Northern Myanmar. The Lonely Planet describes the views as dizzying. But more importantly Mr S, our new friend who, you might remember we’d shared a cup of tea with earlier in the morning, recommended it. View very beautiful, he said with pride, in much the same way I tell visitors about the best spots in my home town.
Getting there was easy, relatively. John and I hired a taxi for the afternoon (K15,000). The road was single lane and closer to tortouous than I like, but then you all know what a chicken I am. Thinking about it now, it was very similar to the road up Te Mata Peak here in Hawkes Bay, and the views were just as dramatic, perhaps more so.
We had the place pretty much to ourselves, apart from this fellow:
From here we got our first glimpse of Inle Lake. In the photo below you can see the southern most tip peeping out from behind the hills on the left.
On the way back down the hill our driver took a detour and we were both a little watchful. In the absence of a shared language, he’d made an executive decision that we would like to see this cave. He was right.
In barefeet, choosing each step with care, we followed a group of monks down a staircase that had been carved into the rock.
The cave was rediscovered approximately ten years ago and is slowly being restored. My photo doesn’t do it justice. There must have been three hundred or more Buddhas sitting in front of this stupa which, no doubt, houses a very sacred relic.
The air was dank, chilly enough to make me shiver, but there was no mistaking the sacred atmosphere or the reverence with which the monks approached the site.
Outside again they relaxed, taking the time to photograph each other.
Our last stop was Sulamuni Paya.
The temple is famous for its corn cob stupa, which Mr S had told us is modelled on the famous Ananda Temple in Bagan. He was pleased Bagan was on our itinerary but first were the much anticipated Inle Lake and Mandalay. His advice about Inle was spot on, too, but more about that later. First came the election.