MYANMAR: A FOREST OF STUPAS
Bangkok, 8 March 2015
“Here” was Inn Dein, a village on the edge of Inle Lake, in Shan State, which is why we found ourselves staying at a hotel on the lake
ready to take one of these boats to the village.
In truth, our travel was a little different that day, because Inn Dein is actually on the old edge of the lake. Over the last fifty years or so, that edge has been creeping forward as farmers have created floating gardens on the lake’s edge
which after a while have become solid land, leading the farmers to create yet more floating gardens further out. So to get to Inn Dein, we had to travel up a shallow canal, the artificial continuation of the stream that runs through the village, which meant our travel was more like this.
To some still clung fragments of their original ornamentation
while others housed Buddhas in varying states of repair.
Though beautiful in their neglect, my wife and I agreed that this was not where the photo which had brought us here was taken. So we started walking up the hill behind the village, following the hand-drawn map we had been given at the hotel.
To get out of the sun’s glare, we ducked into a covered walkway that leads up the hill. It was cooler but it exposed us to stall after stall of hideous tourist tat.
To console ourselves, I reminded my wife of a similar covered walkway which we had seen in Bologna in Italy, which leads up to the Sanctuary of Saint Luke on a nearby hill.
No doubt, I told her, when in the old days pilgrims wended their way up the walkway to the Sanctuary (nowadays only tourists do so), there were similar stalls along the side selling hideous religious tat.
with some of the decoration clinging on
We began to walk up the hill, and soon found ourselves only among renovated stupas. My wife and I had mixed feelings about this wave of renovation that had washed over the hill. The decaying stupas are impossibly romantic, but we can understand that to devout Buddhists it must be dismaying to see such neglect. I suppose the only criticism we have (but it is a large criticism) is that it would have been good to renovate the stupas to their original form, something which quite obviously is not the case. We were so unenthusiastic about these renovated stupas that neither of us took a single photo of them, so what follows comes care of the internet.
After threading our way, disconsolate, through the packed crowd of renovated stupas, we climbed a nearby hill to get an overview of the stupa forest.
Even from here we could not really understand from where the fateful photo had been taken. So we went back down, walked through the temple at the centre of the forest, and visited the stupas on the other side. These were once again pleasingly decrepit, so we pleasurably ambled our way down the hill through them, picking our way over broken brick and stucco and around bushes and weeds which had taken root in the brick dust.
When we broke out of the forest and turned around, there at last we saw the view which had brought us here. Finally …
Bologna Santuario san Luca: http://www.laltraitaliatour.it/main2/images/stories/foto_viaggi/centro/tour_cuore_italia/bologna%20santuario%20di%20S.Luca%20panorama%20%28Small%29.jpg (in http://www.laltraitaliatour.it/main2/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100%3Agran-tour-nel-cuore-dellitalia&catid=53%3Aviaggi-centro-italia&lang=en)
All other photos: ours