Saturday, January 16, 2010

Revered Thaung Tho Pagoda

There are lots of pagoda complexes and monasteries on Inle Lake, but one caught my eye a few times. It appeared so similar to Indein pagoda that I was convinced my pilot had guided our boat there by some inconceivable back way. Like Indein, Thaung Tho sits on a low hill, is surrounded by white stupas and has a long covered walk leading to the summit. However, it is considerably smaller.

Getting off the boat, I noticed numerous bamboo stalls beside the shore. Just like Chaing Kham, from where I had just come, this site is part of the rotating market on the lake. It looked abandoned. I made my way up the covered stair, missing the vendors that were so prevalent in Indein pagoda and stepped out into an immaculate pavilion.

Where Indein is nearly a ruin, Thaung Tho is lovingly maintained; the stupas all in good order and the paths were regularly swept clean. Although weather-beaten, the white paint was brilliant under the noon sky. The gold paint trimmings were particularly nice.

Of greatest interest to me were the beautiful crowns (called hti) atop each spire. They were intact and resplendent with bells. Unfortunately, there was no breeze to make music at that time of the day.

It was obvious that Thaung Tho was used on a regular basis. It's not surprising given the number of people living in the area. I later learned that the site is host to two annual Buddhist events. On a nearby hill, I could see workers repairing another stupa.

Even though the site is frequently used and well maintained, there was evidence that nature had no problem getting a toe-hold on anything constructed by humans in this environment. I wondered how long those plants had been growing from the tower (and what sort of damage it might have caused beneath the surface). Keeping this place in good shape is a serious task and a time consuming one for people who spend their days hard at work.

See more photos here.

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