Burma, Hpa-An

Touring Hpa-An

Another week in Myanmar. After two weeks at Pa-Auk Forest Monastery it is one without a fixed daily schedule. I go to Hpa-An in the north of Mawlamyine (Moulmein) and stay with Soe Bros, a guesthouse with friendly staff offering tours to the nearby caves and lakes. There is a balcony on every floor which serves as a meeting place for travelers.

I participate in a tour with 6 others. It is truly amazing. Great group vibe. Smiling faces. Pretty cool driver named Eloy.

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Impressive caves embedded in nature. We visit many caves. I lose count. And it really doesn’t matter. I tend to be precise but not too much into statistics.

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Ya-The-Byan-Cave

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Good one!

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Famous rock with stupa in background, some nobodies in foreground

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Homage to the three jewels

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I was told there are at least 1,000 (one thousand!) Buddhas in Lumpbhini Park

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View from cave before the descent to the lake

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Work in progress (courtesy of Camilla Howe. thankyous 😉

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Some dude having coffee and cheerut at the lake

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A Cave dweller’s view over Burma Land

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Taking a plunge in at the water lake with other children. It’s fœnn!

The next day I rent a scooter and drive to Mt. Zwekabin. I hike up that steep mountain. Sweating hard. after one hour I give myself a short rest. (Thinking:) I was not feeling too good this morning. Tummy was upset. Still, I went for it. But I probably picked the wrong day for that trek. Stretched out on the wooden platform at the middle station I feel weak. Then I drink and continue walking. It is very steep. Shortly before the end there is a pagoda. I feel exhausted. Have to sit down. Almost throw up right there. Just wait it out, this waterfall-sweaty dizzy heart pounding nauseous feeling subsides soon.

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May ALL beings be without thirst…

Fifteen or so minutes afterwards I am ready for the last few steps up the mountain to Zwekabin Pagoda on the top. I cannot eat. It is noon. I take a nap in the shade. Photo session: Some Burmese girls take pictures with me. I have lunch and lie down again for another two hours of siesta. I listen to the last Dhammavidu talk indoors. (thx marko!) Outside it is burning hot. In the afternoon I go back down. I feel much better.

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Mount Zwe Ka Bin

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Small is beautiful

About the temperature, I can’t put it any better than Mr. Orwell in ‘Burmese Days’:
The heat throbbed down on one’s head with a steady, rhythmic thumping like blows from an enormous bolster. … and … The heat rolled from the earth like the breath of an oven.

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Jez bin i om 🙂

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After 2 hours of steep stairs I reach the peak

Scooter takes me to the bat cave where I meet some friends from yesterday’s tour. After a beautiful sunset we watch innumerable bats coming out of the cave. It goes on for more than half an hour! Indescribable…

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The Salween river from top of the bat cave

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Travel compays for a couple o days. What I lean on is a stupa. The skirt is called longyi (pronounced almost like lynchee)

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Millions billions trillions…

On the way up Mt. Zwekabin I meet a lady. She gives me a green fan. Salty waterfalls down my arms… the next day I meet a couple on the foot of Mt. Hpa Pu. It is opposite the town of Hpa-An where I stay. Across the Salween river. The man says that maybe I have sweated out all the evil spirits. I don’t know. I don’t believe in spirits. They’re just an invention to distract from what is really scary: Reality – as it is. I believe in shit. So I guess I sweated out all the shit in the system. Shit I had put into it the day before. Burping and farting and sweating out filth and surplus air and rotting hylae on the way down Mt Zwekabin. Almost on ground level I meet Noel again, a Philippine I’d met when I was with Karina (Graz) to have a great traditional dinner at Galaxy Hotel for free. She was so sad to leave Myanmar. Anicca dukkha.

I take the boat across the river and climb the stairs up Mt. Hpa Pu. Nice view. Truly amazing. No tablet with me so no landscape pictures this time. Just imagine! A short way before the peak the stairs end. From there, I have to climb. I give up when it gets too steep. Flipflops are no gear for that. Way too slippery. No grip on the gravel part. And with bare feet the rugged stones feel like sauna-stones. So both with and without footwear… all options I have to let go of. Not worth risking an injury of any kind. Humbling experience for a Capricorn. A parallel to the day before when I almost pass out and go down in a burping-farting-fashion. (Thinking:) Why am I attached to this body, or other bodies? Why give it so much importance? Just to think of the stuff which gets out of ANY orifice seems enough to be repulsed. Why identify with this loathsome bag of flesh at all? Why o why?

Maybe that is also what I meant before when I mentioned what is really scary.

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Burma, Mawlamyine

Some impressions of Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery

I went out searching for liberation in the forest, but that turned out to be crazy, because the truth is within oneself.

(Ajahn Buddhadāsa)

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Dark grey boulders, lush green landscapes, and a big blue sky

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Oh how I love to walk in nature and explore hiking trails!

Today I spotted many many animals. A frog sat on my left flipflop when I returned from the upper dhamma hall. A cock wandered around just outside my kuti. A squirrel came down from the forest to where I was practising walking meditation in the afternoon. A spider rested in its web’s centre. A bird flew right above me into the tree tops. An ant tried to crawl in between my toes and I wouldn’t let it. Four cute puppies licked my hands like their mommy’s tits and I’d let them. A butterfly stroked the earlobe of a man walking in front of me. A cat sat next to a nun having lunch. A mosquito found its way into my mosquito net cell. So many animals… and as for the humans, they’re spitting coughing burping farting chatting like there’s no tomorrow. Which in fact there is not – it’s always today.

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Foundation for another building, maybe a new dhamma hall?!

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Joey (Manila) and some bearded guy

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*chirp chirp chirp*

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Sunset from a hill near Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery

Days go by really fast here.

Two substantial meals per day. Eight hours meditation per day. A walk uphill to watch the sunset. Some chanting. Sound sleep. Some say: ‘If you want to live a spiritual life all you need to do is to go to bed early and get up early.’

That’s it? Maybe it is. It’s a good start for sure.

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Burma, Mawlamyine

Traveller mind, Tranquil mind

Now I have stayed at Pa-Auk Forest Monastery in the south of Mawlamyine. It was good. Good to settle down after some months of being on the move. Meditation schedule was as usual. Not too tight but tight enough.

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Noble silence was not taken too seriously. Many monks from China, Vietnam, Thailand, and also westerners. All in all about 400 people there in the woods. Staying in kutis (huts) and practicing ānāpānasati and/or four-elements bhāvana at the Dhammavihārī Sīma, the upper meditation hall.

After some days my roommates (from Myanmar and Germany) left and I had this relatively big and, what’s more important: silent place all for myself for the remaining 10 or 11 days. Upstairs one local monk’s residence.

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Burma, Mae Sot, Mawlamyine

A very wet road trip

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Border-X-ing @ Mae Sot

In general, Myanmar is calm. People are super friendly and extremely helpful.

And yet…I am writing this at a guesthouse in Hpa-An. Suddenly I hear a thud in the distance, sounds like a detonation. My seat shudders for a second. What was that?! A young girl comes and turns on the TV.

… …

Two weeks ago I entered the country overland. It was a piece of cake, really. Took a bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. Stayed there for Songkran festival and left as soon as I could. Songkran being Songkran, we got completely soaked as we went through the villages. Here are some impressions.

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Old friends having a chat

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Many buckets were not thrown on us but right onto our luggage. Funny, yes, in a limited sense. Once you dont give a shit anymore you dance along…

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Tire asti gate gate paragate parasamgate hehe

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Problem. Solution. Ten minutes.

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