I am not particularly interested in cave as I am asthmatic and I usually get eerie feelings and sense of suffocation whenever I visit inside the cave. However, my curiosity always drives me to do some venture inside the cave and I went twice to Myin Ma Hti mountain to observe the cave. Another reason I went there is the view on the way to the cave is awesome and there are lots of seasonal flowers especially sunflowers and sesame flowers ( I went there before harvest time in December , so the scenery was yellow , white , green and red , the color of soil in Shan State is red ). But if you go there other time, you will not see sunflowers.
According to the record done by a monk at the Myin Ma hti village in the year 1906, the pagodas inside the cave were first founded by King Siri Dama Thaw Ka around 2300 years ago. King Siri Dama Thawka was well known as a king who tried to spread Buddhism all over the country. He built 84000 lakes, 84000 wells and 84000 pagodas, The cave is 1028 feet long and on the walls , there were side tunnels which are linked to outside. Previously, the cave was covered with the water and it was used to be called water flowing cave. However, it was assumed that the water disappeared through some opening inside the cave and nowadays, it is dry. There are still 28 statues which was assumed to be created 2300 years ago.
After King Siri Dama Thawka , King Anawrahta took over the pagoda and did some renovation , then it was taken over by King Along sithu. According to the record, the cave has existed for thousands of years before Buddhism flourished there.
Myin Ma Hti mountain is four miles from Kalaw Town. Kalaw is 4315 feet above sea level and the summit of mountain is 1075 feet from the base.
There is a legend that four powerful and extraordinarily strong horses came out from the divine and ate the paddy field and vegetable from the village farms. The villagers could not shoo the horses away and asked help from the King Anawrahtar. The king sent his four heroes named Kyan Sit Thar, Nga Htwe Ru, Nga Lone Lat Phal and Nyaung Oo Phee. The heroes managed to tame wild horses and brought them to the palace. On the way back, Hero Kyan Sit Thar galloped on the powerful horse and jumped over the mountain. The horse could jump over it and the mountain was named Myin Ma Hti ( The mountain which the horse didn’t touch )
You could reach the cave by turning to the right after you passed the toll if you come from Kalaw. You need to drive a few miles and the cave was on the way to Pin Long .It is situated in between Kalaw and Aung Ban. It is four miles away from Kalaw and two miles from Aung Ban. The temperature inside the cave is quite low and the water drops pour out from the cave. There is a place where you can make paste from the tree bark and wear it on your face. Some old people believe it has therapeutic effect.
If you are a fan of cave, just take it as one of your destinations when you arrive Kalaw
It is so cold right now, for a woman who has lived in hot places for more than 4 decades, I still cannot cope with temperature less than 15 C. Right now, the temperature is only 9 C in Taunggyi, Southern part of Shan State. The coldest hours are from 10 pm to 6 am. I am shivering while I am typing this. However, this time is the best time to travel in Myanmar, no rain and the roads are not wet and flooded. You can see lots of flowers in Shan State. They are all wild and seasonal flowers.
Today, I went to the place where I really wanted to go for a long time. The place is called “ Ywar Ngan” , in Burmese , it means “ salty village”, I have no idea why it was named like that. Lately, the place has been having attention from all over the world because of its beautiful waterfalls, caves and the blue lake lagoon ( Yay-pyar Lake)
There are so many legends about that village and it will be a good story for the curious travelers who also can trace the history. A lot of villagers are afraid to venture inside the forests and the caves for the fear of spirits and usually, people even local do not know much about the history. The local are superstitious and even tried to stop the tourists from venturing into unknown places. One time, a tourist tried to go inside a cave in Ywar Ngan village but he had to come out finally because the cave did not end after a half day and he became worried of safety.
I will tell you how I go there from Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. Taunggyi is in Southern part of Shan State. At first, we went to He’ Ho ( a place where there is an airport ), then Aung Ban and from there, you have to turn to right . It is the same way you go to Pin Daya. But once you reach the junction called Kyone, you need to turn left ( or go straight) , instead of turning to the right .
If you turn to the right, you will reach Pin daya. But don’t go that way because the road to Ywar Ngan from that way is very rough and only bicycle can manage well to go. May be the road will change in a few years as the villagers are repairing the road. For us, we had to turn back as we don’t want to damage our car by bumpy roads with full of rocks.
We are lucky because we came across lots of beautiful scenery on the way, the view is full of yellow, because it is the time for sunflowers and sesame flowers to blossom. To add that, there are also wild flowers which are all yellow. We can see yellow, light green , red ( the color of soil is red) , dark green and white. I was so fascinated by the view and also thankful to my friend for driving there for me.
Once you reach Kyone, you need to drive another 34 miles to reach Ywar Ngan. On the way, We see the road lined by Euclid trees. The view is beautiful because all the sunflower fields and sesame fields are surrounded by mountains. The cold breeze tickled my hair when I started to walk along the road. I even went inside the field and observed the sunflowers and cabbages carefully, I could also see some pagodas built at the summit of the mountains.
On the way to Waterfall and blue lagoon ( Mya-tha-bait lake), you can drop in at Main-ma-ye Mountain.
The mountain is called “ brave woman mountain” , in Brurmese “ Main-ma-ye-taung” ( Taung means mountain )
I did not climb the mountain because I recently had ankle sprain and didn’t want to get another injury. But I am going to post photos of my friends who hiked it. If you are patient, you can get the nice view at the summit.
After the mountain, we went to the blue water lagoon ( Mya-tha-bait-yay-pyar-aing). I believe the water is blue because of some chemical in the soil. But contrary to science, a lot of villagers believe there must be some treasure such as emerald bowl buried beneath the lake by angles. The legend is that the angels kept the emerald bowl for the purpose of donating it to New Buddha. They also believe there are a lot of spirits guarding the lake and are extremely cautious not to offend them. For that reason, they protested the idea of a tourist who came from Europe with the purpose of diving inside the lake and measuring the depth of the lake . They believe once you disturb the spirits, the villagers have to bear the wrath of super natural beings. The lake was carefully fenced and you cannot throw anything inside the water including the bread for the fish.
The water is amazingly transparent and we could see fishes swimming peacefully around the branches of trees inside the lake.
It was fascinating and I lingered at the fence without noticing that foreigners were trying to capture photos and I was obliterating their view.
Finally we moved on and went to the Forest star water fall , in Burmese ( Taw-kyal-waterfall). The waterfall as well as blue lake have been looked after by the monastery nearby and they try to clean the lanes and make sure tourists are safe. They also offer public toilets for the tourists and travelers. I would like to advice to donate for a few dollars for the monastery if you can. There is a donation box near by. We also saw a few Shan children playing on the way. They are very cute and kept on calling me ” sister”, in Burmese ” Mama”. When I approached them to have a chat, I found out that they don’t speak Burmese . They only know the word ” sister”.
I wanted to go to the caves , but it will take a lot of time and you need to go with the motor bike in the early morning . So we returned back and think of going there again. There are more photos of scenery along the way.
Now, let me tell you a brief history of it. The person who owns the business is A German guy called Bert Morsbach . As he and his friends share love for Myanmar and for wine, they decided to do the first wine production in Burma.
At first, he chose Kayar state, Loikaw with little success. Then he moved to Shan state in 1999. . The reason for choosing Aye Tharyar as a vine yard is it has excellent soil and weather condition . The winery is at the altitude of 1,200 m which is required to produce excellent white wine. It is also situated near a famous tourist attraction called Inn Lay Lake
Mr Morsbach has put tremendous effort in improving the quality of wine until it got international recognition in 2004. His goal is to produce top quality wines from carefully selected European grape varieties.
Most varieties of grapes are imported from Europe, France, Germany and Spain. Out of 50 varieties, only less than 10 can survive in tropical climate
Usually, the vine yard use a variety of grapes such as Shiraz grape ( imported from Italy ). Myanmar sparking rose, Sauvignon Blanc ( Bordeaux) , Chenin ( Loire), red Dornfelder ( Germany ), red Tempranillo ( Spain ).
Ayethaya Wines are grown at an altitude of 1,200 meters on the slopes of Taunggyi Mountains, near the village of Ayethaya, Geologically, these slopes are the Sounthern extension of the Himalayan Mountains.
The dominating soil is based on limestone which is ideal for the cultivation of wine. The famous Inle Lake, an attractive tourist destination , is very close ( 25 km )
Not only the owner, the wine makers are the best experts from Europe. They work closely together with the company . The chief wine maker is Mr Hans Leiendecker. He has been living in Myanmar for many years and married to a Burmese lady . Both of them are very nice people.
To make the wine available to distribute all year round, the company has imported wine from South Africa. As South Africa has 6,000 different types of wines which are produced by 560 wineries, the imported wine called “ Monte Vino “ is much cheaper than locally made wines. They import semi fermented grape juice and finishes the maturing process by bottling MONTE VINO in Myanmar. The result is an outstanding quality wine at an amazingly low price.
There are around 100 workers. They used to export to China but stopped because there is not enough for local market.
By the way, I saw a lot of workers are happy there. I even witnessed they were doing the meeting and some good workers were given bonuses for their hard work. I am glad that Burmese people are learning how to make wine from the company . As it’s not easy to get a job easily in Aye Tharyar, the vine yard is giving jobs to Burmese people.
here are the price of wine bottles
Red wine one bottle : 12,000 kyats or 12 USD
White wine one bottle ( normal ) 10500 kyats or 11 us D
White wine one bottle ( late harvest ): 20,000 kyats , 20 us D ( for take away price), for sit and drink 23,000 kyats or 23 us D
Red wine use all the components of grapes such as skin, seeds and fresh while white wine use only fresh and juice.
The staff called Peter explained to me that the vine yard try to use lease chemical ( 85% of fertilizers are organic ) using cow dung, branches , leaves of grapes trees, mixed with rice powder.
The harvest time is in February or March.
Before harvesting, the vine yard staff prick six grapes from different plants in a row and put the mixture or the juice on the slide to measure sugar break. Sometimes, if sugar break is not as high as expected level, the grapes are not harvested. That means the time of production will be delayed. Red white needs two times fermentation and white wine needs only one time. Red wine needs to be stored in oak barrels for a while to alter the taste and smell of wines. The oak is ordered from Europe. The whole process of crushing, pressing, fermentation, storage, re fermentation , storage, bottling, labeling takes 9 to 12 months.
I am impressed with the way Peter explained me about making wine, he described each and every step in details. It is impressive to know young people have passion for their job.
The reason I like the restaurant is they have cocktails, ( not all bars have cocktails) and I can walk along the vine yard facing the mountains. I also think they decorate the place well. You can look a few photos of the restaurant.
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If you arrive Taunggyi, you should not miss going to Aye Tharyar Vine yard.
I wanted to write this to give information to people who want to go to a recently discovered attraction called Nam Vay waterfall. Please do not imagine it as a spectacular or a big waterfall. For me, it is just a river with a few steps and torrential water flow. It is not even amount to be called waterfall.
But it is really worth to go there as you will see ranges of mountain and untamed nature on your way despite the road is tricky and underdeveloped and there is lack of safety.
To go to Nam Vay, you need to go to capital of Shan state, called Taunggyi. From there, you use Bogyoke Aung San road and follow the road towards katku pagodas.
Hard working tribal people
A cow boy
We started our trip only around 8 as we had a nice breakfast at a cafe.
I was quite surprised to see the houses of Shan State are neat and made of brick. The housing areas are also clean . I heard Shan people take effort in improving their area on their own. They have volunteer groups who clean the public places, plant trees and alert forest fire. Shan State is also regarded as the cleanest state of Burma.
On our way, we saw lots of tribal people called Pa-O who are walking with the basket on the back and cover their head with locally woven cloth.
I think they are very hardworking people as they can walk miles and engage in farming seriously. They are not that friendly and are socially shy. Some of them might even refuse to take photos with you. But if you take one, do not forget to show it to them. One of them asked to take her photo again after she rearranged her dress and turban and properly smile. How cute!
I think women are hardworking. They not only cook and look after the house and children, but also take part in farming which is a hard labour.
By the way, it intrigued me the color of the dress of Pa-O people. All of them uniformly wear black color clothes made of cotton. I wonder why. I tried to ask that to above woman. Unfortunately she cannot answer as she cannot speak mainland Burmese. She can only speak her own dialect . Later my colleagues told me Pa-O think they are descendants of dragons and that is why they choose black color.
I also found out there can be shortage of water in Shan State during dry season as the locals depend on the river for the water usage.
Kids are everywhere and they are lovely. Some of them help in farming and house chores. I saw around 10year old kid riding bikes. Because of lack of transport, parents might allow them to ride although it is dangerous. The rest have to walk miles to go to school. I saw children digging the drainage in front of their houses.
The best time to go to Shan State is the winter. If you go during summer, you cannot find much green or lush forest nor wild flowers. If you go during wet season, you cannot trek nor enjoy the bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
By the way, I am so proud of the sky in Shan State which shows there is no pollution and there is only the clean fresh air. Here are a few photos of mountains and countryside houses.
The most fascinating about Shan.State is having gigantic trees which are as old as a century. They have massive horizontal braches which can hold a dozen men easily. I am glad locals did not cut them down despite they need wood to make fire as most houses do not have regular electricity.
Regarding direction in Shan.State, it is pretty difficult to get direction from local because
1). They do not know how to differentiate left and right. They only use east, west, south and north
2) some locals cannot speak Burmese nor English
3) they do not say they do not know if they are not sure. Instead they tend to give wrong direction as they feel bad for not being helpful.
We were given wrong directions and spent extra two hours on road.
To go to Nam Vay river, you need to follow Katku road. Then you will see junction, on your left is towards katku and on your right is towards Kyauk ta lone. Please follow Kyauk Ta Lone road.
After that, you will arrive at the lovely village called Saung Pho. Please pass through it.
There is a big monastery with many.young novices at the entrance of Saung Pho. The restaurants are not available nor if there is, the food is terrible. Please pack your lunch from Taunggyi.
After Saung Pho,you will pass another village called Lwal Saung and then you will see the big sign on your right indicating towards Nam Vay.
After you turn into the lane, the tar road ended and there is earth lane with red color. Some areas have puddles and muds. Cars and cycles have to be left before you arrive at the wooden bridge as the soil is too soft to pass through.
Then you need walk over the bridge and walk another half a kilometer to arrive at Nam Vay river.
You will see some paddy fields and need to pass through streams with very flimsy bamboo bridge.
The Nam Vay river is torrential and unpredictable for the depth. A 19 year old died of drowning in May. Locals usually do not swim there. The area is quite beautiful although water is muddy.
Afterall, seeing Nam Vay river is not as enjoyable as seeing beautiful scenery on the way. There is no proper safety measure and swimming is not advisable.
But to have a picnic beside the mountains is lovely. I want to go there again.
Today we went to the place where you can climb the hill and see the overall view of Inn Lay.
Maing Thouk is 20 miles more or less away from Taunggyi and it is located on the Eastern shore of Inn Lay lake, half village is on the dry land and half is in the lake. Most population rely on farming and most of them use boats as a way of transportation. We drove up the hill and observed the monastery and paid homage to a small pagoda. The view is lovely .
The pagoda on the hill
There is also an orphanage on the hill which is organized by the monastery. The original in charge monk of the monastery passed but his statue is placed at the pagoda. It was written that he became a novice at young age.
We then walked on the bridge and savor the view of mountains and vegetable farm. We saw farmers being busy rowing the boats and digging the soil.
Some houses have restaurants and selling beers and local delicacies. At first we wondered how to go to restaurant. It was easy. Just shout to the person whoever is visible on the house. They will row the boat and pick you up at the bridge. At certain part of bridge, they have ladders where you can climb down and up.
The water was up to only knee length as the rain has not come yet. The girl who picked up with a boat was very skillful in handling the boat. The weather became hot as it was almost 11 am. But we still enjoyed our boat ride and snack at the restaurant.
When you step on the boat , it is shaky a bit , but you do not need to worry once you sit down.
Afterall, it was such a nice outing.
On the way back, we had a nice lunch , fish curry at Pauk Kyaw restaurant beside Nyaung Shwe road. The restaurant is in chalets made of bamboo and thetch . The chalets are inside the lake which has many fish. Phone. +95-9-5215934. ( the dishes are cheap and yummy)
On the way , we saw a lot of tourists on bicycles . They bike around Inn lay as using bike is less costly and more enjoyable.
I recommend Maing Thouk as a good place to visit as you can observe the unique agriculture and nice scenery.
real live experience regarding travels, meeting strangers and daily life.