Enchanting Myanmar Enchanting Myanmar

Contents | Letter to Our Readers | Pagodas of Sagar:Lost Treasures | Marble Images |
Mysterious Jewels of the Jungle | Guardian on the Northwest | Birders' Delight | Pwe | Events Calendar


by Khin Thuzar
Photos by Sonny Nyein

As accessibility improved over many areas of the country both the locals and the tourists have been amazed at the number of enchanting places that were being discovered, such as Kekku or the Taung-to Pagoda complexes of the Shan State. They may have been hidden from the eyes of people from other regions, but they are living places of worship for the nationalities living in the area. The nationalities are no doubt astounded that a place, which for many centuries was part of their history, should generate so much excitement to newcomers. What is more exciting, however, is that there seem to be more places yet to be discovered. Take for example one unknown and mysterious village called Sagar, by the banks of the little-traveled Belu Chaung, or according to the literal translation, Ogre Stream. One is not sure if ogres actually roamed there once, but it is a stream flowing out of Inlay lake and into the Mobye Dam on the other side of which is Pekon Town on the borders of Kayah State. Belu Chaung then flows into Kayah State and even past Loikaw, its capital.

In the old days when Sawbwas, or princes, ruled the territory Sagar was a principality with its own prince. By now all is left of Sagar are ancient pagodas and monasteries, and the once busy town is now a village hidden away from the world and almost forgotten. Nowadays the nationalities who inhabit the area are Pa 0, as hard working as they are good-hearted. The Pa 0 settles in large and prosperous villages and are known for the work they put into their communities.

The route to Sagar is in itself a journey of enchantment. The bo~t weaves through the
waters of Inlay and down south, beyond Taungto Village with its old pagodas, past Kyaing Kan Village where they weave monk's robes from fibers pulled from the lotus stems, a magical process not known anywhere else in the world. 


The village of Kyauktaing one passes by and must stop on a market day is then a gathering place for the nationalities, to see them arrayed in their colourful costumes and draped with beads, chains and coins. They come to buy and sell piles of fresh, luscious vegetables that for sweetness are unrivaled, finely woven baskets, pots and bowls of thin red-gold glazed ware made in local kilns.A few old ladies earn their living with some rickety sewing machines set up for making up new-bought longyi on the spot.

A market such as this offers simple wares and delicious local food such as fritters and slices of golden fried bean curd, Shan noodles and steamed vegetables wrapped in leaves.

Definitely Kyauktaing market day is not to be missed.

The boat then goes beyond Lekya Village known for its lacquer ware, finally easing into Belu Chaung. If ogres reign there they must surely have been the most benign of creatures, and lucky are they to live here for the scenery is beautiful; the morning sun casts rays on the sparkling water and the tender green shoots of grass shimmer with the light. Purple mountains and hilly terrain surrounds the stream. The air is still with the blue and gold of sky and sun, as if nothing else exists on this earth. To breathe in the pure air in such a surrounding, far from the violence and stress of the other places on earth, is balm to the soul and comfort to the mind.

Waterfowl of all sizes swoop lazily to watch for fish, or they sit in groups briskly cleaning their feathers. As they circle over the boat, which is something they rarely see here, the sun glints through their wings and tips them with gold. It would be a paradise for birdwatchers here as the winged ones are of many different species. 

You pass by clean and prosperous Pa O villages here and there on the banks, their fishing boats moored on the banks. The villagers farm and fish, living with few material and modern comforts but with a vastness of tranquility and bountiful nature around them.

The two hours' boat ride seems almost too short on this route, when you arrive at the Takhaung Mwedaw Pagoda complex just before Sagar village itself.

The pagodas are in the same style as those of Kekku, Taung-to and Indain all of which lie further north. Once, there must have been some connections between these four complexes. No
records remain apart from the charming legenqs told, and firmly believed in, by the people of the region. They say a beloved king of Bagan, Alaungsithu, had traveled far and wide, building pagodas at places of rest. Maybe somewhere there are old artifacts and inscriptions to be discovered but so far none has been found.

The workmanship and style of the four complexes are similar, so perhaps the craftsmen who did one complex worked on the others as well. Who were they, these gifted builders, and who were their patrons? Once, when the pagodas now in ruins were newly consecrated, what festivities there must have been. Long lines of pilgrims must have marched over mountains, across rivers and valleys to bring offerings to the shrines. Soft light from hundreds of candles must have turned the place magical, these centuries past.

The once splendid pagodas are lost in time, sometimes half submerged in the rising waters of the stream. Their isolated and abandoned state makes you wonder if their guardian spirits are not yearning for the lost times with pilgrims praying
and bringing offerings of food, flowers and light.

As Buddha taught us, AII is Impermanence. But it is strangely painful to see the decay of monuments built in His memory and as testament for our gratitude to Him. As a lost site of antiquity, sagar may yet regain the devotion of pilgrims from far and near. Then it will be the gain of these new pilgrims not only to worship here again but to be blessed by the tranquility of the region, a tranquility which is like a treasure that is getting more rare in this modern world.

Contents | Letter to Our Readers | Pagodas of Sagar:Lost Treasures | Marble Images |
Mysterious Jewels of the Jungle | Guardian on the Northwest | Birders' Delight | Pwe | Events Calendar

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