Elephants No. 33 and 34 – Mawlamyine, Burma

These elephants I am about to show you, my dear reader, are in fact not single elephants but two groups of elephants found in temples to the south of Mawlamyine that we visited on a day trip. We enjoyed our stay in Mawlamyine, not just because of its slow pace, glittering golden stupas, and stunning sunsets over the river, but because it made a great base for such day trips. Burma is full of weird and wonderful things – another sight visited on such a day trip was a temple based around a series of rocks balanced precariously on top of each, painted gold.  But onto the elephants… (more…)

Elephant No. 32 – Hpa An, Burma

The main attraction of Hpa An is the collection of stunning caves in the surrounding area. We went in an EXTREMELY bumpy tuc-tuc to visit them (seriously – no metalled roads so way more bumpy than your average bumpy tuc-tuc ride). As they were religious sites they often had ornate entrances like this one, guarded by two white elephant statues. Them being religious sites also means you have to remove your shoes each time you go in – I stupidly wore lace-up walking boots thinking that as they were caves it would be uneven ground – and as a result probably spent more time putting on and taking off shoes than visiting caves. Nevertheless, it was an interesting day-trip, both because of the standard-very-surreal-bizarre Burmese statues in many of the caves, and a delightful boat trip out of one of them. I would thoroughly recommend a stop in Hpa An for anyone in the south of Burma.  (more…)

Elephant No. 12: Emei 

Last week we went to climb one of China’s four sacred mountains, Mt. Emei. The climb lasted two days, and by two days, I mean two days of walking up steps pretty much all the way – not quite the mountain stroll I had been envisaging but we were rewarded with some of the most stunning views that I have ever seen, through misty clouds and over dramatic forested peaks. We also combined our climb with staying in two Buddhist temples, one in Baoguo village at the foot of the mountain, and one perched on a crag half way up. This latter temple, Xixiangchi, was a particularly special experience, with nothing connecting it to the outside apart from a path of steps leading upwards, and another leading downwards. There were steep drops on either side, and when the cloud came up, all we could see was whiteness stretching in either direction. It was also a great place to watch a sunrise over the mountains, if slightly blurry-eyed from a night of less than excellent sleep in hard temple beds!  (more…)