Don’t fear the giant spider said to watch over the entrance to the Pindaya Caves. He’s just guarding his seven kidnapped princesses, waiting for Prince Kummabhaya to challenge him to a duel. Here in the hills of the Shan State, hemmed in by China, Laos and Thailand, legends literally run deep. But to every arachnophobic’s delight, this karst maze is home not to young ladies, but to 8,000 gold images of Buddha.
Time passes more slowly in this region, where the rich orange farmland and smoky green tea set it apart from the rest of Burma. In a devout nation, this cave, hidden in the mountainside, is a jewel. When your eyes fall upon the sea of statues, your mind stops moving, your brain stops counting, and your thoughts go Zen.
There’s nowhere else you can imagine being when, at every step, the images are smiling at you. It’s a sense of absolute serenity, far from the standard traveler’s path. If you lose the way, don’t worry. Buddha says, “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself”—so the rest of the world can wait.