I flew to Pindaya from Bagan to Heho. The town is charming and you can buy some wonderful Shan paper and parasols made from mulberry bark. Two highlights for me were the Pindaya Caves and hiking to remote hill tribe villages.
The Pindaya Caves are where you will see 8,000 Buddha images, made from alabaster, teak, marble, brick, lacquer and cement, which have been put there over the centuries and arranged in such a way as to form a labyrinth throughout the various cave chambers.
In the area, I saw women harvesting rice, fields of gold, green and red earth like a beautiful patchwork, wild poinsettias and trucks with a huge number of people in the back.
Another highlight was hiking to a Danu village with a monastery. I was able to attend a Donation Festival at the beginning of the Full Moon Festival. There were monks, people eating food seated on the floor and at small round tables. The 80 year-old woman with no teeth was my favorite who laughed and said “people say I am beautiful even with no teeth”. Taking pictures of the children and monks was equally fun. I gave a donation to one of the monks who then blessed me and wished me much happiness. On the trail going to a farmhouse for lunch I saw wild orchids and large groups of monks and people walking to the temple. I later visited a primary school where I handed out candies and pens. The teachers loved it and all of the children waived goodbye to me as I left!
In addition to the Danu I saw Pao-O people dressed in black-layered tunics and vibrantly colored turbans. There were small settlements of Palaung and Taungyo people also dotting the hills.
At the farmhouse for lunch, I took out Flat Maggie which I was carrying for my niece in Kansas City for her school project as they were reading the book Flat Stanley. Flat Maggie then met Flat Abby who was being carried, by hikers from Connecticut, for their granddaughter. New friends in the hill tribe villages in Myanmar! The picture taken with the older woman of the house was priceless.
In town, there were also celebrations for the Full Moon Festival with processions and music.