Have you ever known you should get up and go on a walk? But it feels like there’s no where worth walking to?
Sometimes after you’ve been traveling for awhile it can feel like that. Like, why would I go see another stupa? Or drive for hours to see another gilded temple?
Luckily we’re always happy to eat another durian, and sometimes our appetite is the kick in the pants we need to go on an adventure. And when we’re on a durian adventure, we always see cool stuff along the way. Like this 560-foot-long Buddha.
One day, after a few chillaxing around Mawlyamyine, we rented a
motorbike and took off through the Burmese countryside looking for
durian orchards. To get an idea of which direction to head, we asked the guy at the hotel front desk where the most durian trees grow. He drew lots of vague little
arrows and circles on our map, and then asked us if we were going to
stop and see the largest reclining Buddha in the world.
“Where is it?” Rob asked.
“You’ll see it on the left,” the guy replied, motioning with one hand.
That sounded easy, so with map in hand we set off looking for durian and the world’s largest reclining Buddha.
But first we needed lunch.
Just outside of Mawlyamyine I spotted this small fruit store loaded with durian. We pulled over, and proceeded to amaze the lady selling durian with how much we wanted to eat.
Her durian was phenomenal.
They were small, but super fresh. It was like sucking melted dark chocolate off the plump seeds. We had to use some serious self-discipline not to stuff ourselves prematurely and kill the motivation for the hunt. How else were we going to find the durian orchards and the giant Buddha?
We headed south along the highway, scouting for orchards. But we drove and drove, and didn’t see any. In fact, we didn’t a single orchard until we had almost hit Mudon.
It took so long to find more durian that it was nearly sunset by the time we remembered we were supposed to have passed an enormous Buddha. We’d apparently zoomed right past without catching even a glimpse of it – which should be kind of hard to do if there was really a 560-foot Buddha reclining by the side of the road.
Which it was not, by the way. For anyone hunting durian in the Mon State who also wants some cool cultural exposure, the largest reclining Buddha in the world is a few hundred meters beyond the giant swans.
We found it by stopping repeatedly to approach strangers and point mutely at the photo on the back of our map. When at last someone indicated we should turn, Rob pointed the motorbike off the main highway toward the hills. We putt-putted past some shops and along a long line of painted statues of monks. At first they looked identical, like a set of dominoes clothed in red. As I stared at them I realized that they weren’t identical. Whoever had made them had used three or four different molds for the faces. I thought they were kind of creepy.
Finally we came around a corner and there it was. The Big Buddha.
It was confusing – a mystery construction of gigantic proportions. I couldn’t imagine who’s bright idea it was to build it in the first place.
But then, spending 365 days eating durian is not a terribly rational thing to do either.
Evening was coming on and the hillsides began to take on a gorgeous orange hue, the mountains casting dramatic shadows. So we climbed to the top of the next hill to get a better view of the Big Buddha. The hills were littered with smaller Buddha statues and literally hundreds of golden stupas.
As we turned to hike back down the hill, I gaped at the panorama below. The hillsides were on fire, contrasting sharply with the verdant jungle plains. Then I noticed the line of monk statues robed in red, curving their way around the hillside on the left. They marched down the other side of the hill, and up and down the next, and onward in a pinprick line that extended as far as we could see.
There is obviously a lot of things I don’t understand about Buddhist culture. But I think if we didn’t occasionally get exposed to the odd temple or enormous Buddha statue I would understand a lot less.
We all need different motivations to help us get out the door and explore. For Rob and me, it’s the temptation of durian. What’s yours?