There is a never ending amount of temples and pagodas in Myanmar, but probably the weirdest one, and one of the most special pagodas, is Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya. That is the official name, but it has become widely known as the Snake Pagoda, or Hmwe Paya. In the 1970s, three pythons came into the pagoda and curled up next to the Buddha image. They never left, and are being taken care of as vital part of the pagoda. Easily reached from Mandalay, the Snake pagoda is in Paleik and can be easily visited on a morning.
As I took off my shoes and walked into the pagoda, I did not notice anything special compared to other pagodas. There were donation boxes, people sitting on the floor to pray, kids running around, and of course the necessary amount of Buddha and other statues. But when I then approached the main Buddha image and walked past a small crowd, I saw them lying curled up next to the Buddha. Two giant pythons, resting and seemingly lazy, with money on their skin. You could stroke them, and hear them breathe.
I walked around the rest of the temple, where I found a lot of python statues, and visited a small area called mini-Bagan nearby. But the best was yet to come. Around 11am, the snakes are taken out to be washed in a special pool, watched by a pious crowd. They are then dried up, with towels and money, and fed some milk, after which they glide back to their statue. They are truly revered as if they were sacred animals, and taken care of very well. While watching the spectacle, I was amazed at the friendliness of the pythons and the respect with which they were treated.
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Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Snake Pagoda (Paleik) (Myanmar). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Snake Pagoda (Paleik). Read more about this site.