Much like the disastrous stay on top of the Golden Rock, this was another unexpected addition to our itinerary about which we knew very little in advance. Fortunately this one turned out to be a thoroughly pleasant surprise.
A short drive from Kalaw, we were dropped off in the shadow of a giant spider, climbing down from the Pindaya Caves built into the limestone rock face.
Paying our entrance fee we stood at the bottom of an endless looking flight of steps, winding their way up to a second entrance.
Still aching from the climb up to the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, we must have looked a little despondent as the ticket seller grabbed me by the arm and pulled us along a tiled passageway to another room.
Ding! Two steel doors slid open to reveal an elevator containing a smiling old man in an armchair. We squeezed in and without getting up he jabbed at the button using a gnarled wooden stick.
Seconds later we were back at the stairs, but this time looking down at the countryside below. From here the spider looked about life size.
Legend of the spider
Update: The symbol of Pindaya is the spider (or pin-gu). Seven princesses were bathing in the nearby lake and were captured by a giant spider. A passing prince killed the spider and set the princesses free.
Around the Pindaya Caves
Down at the bottom from the caves is another set of well-preserved stupas and a couple of workshops. The first of these is a paper and umbrella making workshop. Initially sceptical I was thoroughly taken with the skill and craftsmanship that goes into an umbrella.
The attached shop is also the cheapest and best place we found to pick up a handmade umbrella. We later regretted buying just the one, so searched unsuccessfully through Mandalay and Yangon to find something that matched the deep red monk’s umbrella we purchased in Pindaya.
The small town of Pindaya at the foot of the mountain is a dusty little place with an ornate man-made lake and a weekly market.
Fortunately for us it was market day, so we got to visit a more authentic market than those we saw in Yangon and Inle Lake, both of which were very skewed towards tourists. Surrounding the market are more established shops, including a friendly book seller with a supply of foreign titles.
Of course, if you’re 6’3” and stand up straight in the market, what you actually see is: