Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shan State - Pindaya Lake

It was time to travel back in time, back to a world that is (almost) unchanged by the future, a pastoral life where people work and live by the sun and seasons, community support 
Ma and Pa - note the new well 
such as barn raising (though here it's home raising), local schools, kids can go anywhere and everybody knows everyone...probably to the dismay of the teens...enter the world of Shan State.

We drove through the patchwork quilt countryside, where, depending upon the season, 

On the banks of the bathing hole
this region grows the fruits and vegetables used throughout the country...all grown organically by hand. Oxen roam the fields to till the land, fertilize the fields, pull the hay carts, haul people to and from the fields, as well as to bring in a new water pots or pipes for water. (it's for the community water spots, not to the individual haul it yourself to get it to your home).There are motorcycles now, but few compared to the cities and you will see a truck here and there, usually FILLED 
Truck to the market - about 15 miles away
with as much as can possibly be put in it whether it is people or things. The roads are mostly dirt, though they are hard at work, hand laying pavement. They can be impassable during the rainy season so they are working to make it easier to get around.

We traveled to Pindaya Lake, weaving through the mountain valley, through fields that grow a wide variety of foods including potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, cabbage, beans, peppers and far more than I remember. Moving up closer to the mountains they also grow coffee and tea....truly a breadbasket. There is a great legend here about seven heavenly princesses who get trapped by an enormous spider. A prince comes along, kills the spider, and, of course, marries the youngest princess and they all live happily ever after. When he kills the spider he proclaims "I killed the spider" (Binguya) which, if said enough, can become Pindaya, the name of the lake.

We headed up into the hills around the lake to the very same cave of the legend. Let me 

start out by saying that they were tangling with a mighty big spider! It's a limestone cave with great stalactites and stalagmites, some even joining into columns already, meaning the cave system is quite old. There seems to be some fluorite mixed in with the leeching minerals because some parts of the cave are distinctly green or purple, making it quite pretty. Now, caves tend to be cool for the most part, a great place to escape summer heat but this cave was different. The first main cave was noticeably cooler than the outside warmth but as you wound your way through, there
Greens & Purples in the cave
 was a point where suddenly, warm, humid air surrounded you and the remaining back part of the cave was a bit hot; an anomaly Jeff was ready to pursue but finally decided that the local geologists probably could already explain the reason for the temperature difference. The rainy season affects the interior of the cave because there's a section where a lake forms at times from the intense rain that falls.

While there were stalagmites in various places as well as a column or two, they really weren't what we were winding our way around as we explored the cave. The cave system was filled, and I do mean filled, with Buddha statues of every size, shape, and composition...marble, wood, concrete and even bamboo. They were mounted on stalagmites, on various rock formations, as well as creatively attached to the walls all the way to the roof of the cave. Some were so high you could barely see much detail (or perhaps that was the result of living with bats in the cave). The Buddhas were more good works offered by people around the world and more are still arriving. They are always looking for creative ways to eke out more space to keep up with the demand. The main cave has become a labyrinth where one can weave through the statues, meandering countless paths and getting quite turned around.

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