Pindaya Cave, Myanmar
Pindaya Cave is both a natural wonder and a manmade wonder with over 8,000 Buddhas placed inside its chasm. About a ninety-minute drive from Nyaung Shwe, the cave is a good side trip to take when visiting this region.
The gaudy entrance is placed on the side of a large hill. Although a religious site, its appearance is similar to a Buddhist theme park. At the entrance, a sculpture of a 20-foot (6-m) wide spider and giant archer sculpture illustrate a local legend. Glass elevators carry visitor up six stories to the cave entrance.
Immediately upon entering, one is overcome with the sheer number of gold glistening Buddhas. Rising up the sides of the dark rock walled enclosure, it appears there's a figure placed in every possible position. The cave drips Buddha statues, and some are made of white marble instead of covered in gold leaf.
The cave has several different chambers as it winds back almost five hundred feet and in some places is over two hundred feet high. As you venture deeper into the cave, the air becomes quite thick and heavy with humidity. Pilgrims pray to any of the 8,000 Buddhas and sing as they pass through the echoed halls. The statues in the first and second chamber are packed quite tightly together, and narrow pathways can lead to quick backups during busy times.
Near Pindaya Caves you can visit an interesting handicraft workshop for parasol umbrellas. The young artisans start by beating wood pulp into a mush. Then, they spread limewater across a drying screen. After a day in the sun, the pulp becomes a durable piece of paper.
In another section of the workshop, craftsmen construct the base of the umbrella by hand. Using a foot-powered lathe, they strip the bark from the wood to make the handles. Small pieces of bamboo are strung together to make the stretchers, and then the paper is carefully connected to the top of the stretcher with string. The parasol umbrellas are mainly used for decorative purposes, but also are good at keeping the hot Myanmar sun at bay.