Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The cool, refreshing charm of Buddhist Hsipaw


There is an old Bamar custom to bury a pot of oil in the center of a town, based on the belief that the town will last until the oil runs try. Such a pot was buried under Hsipaw (pronounced “Thi-baw”) in its early days. In the 1980s, a few curious residents unearthed the clay pot, and were happy to find sufficient oil still remaining. Perhaps, too, they were equally happy not to find any human skeletons in the pot, dispelling rumors that the oil had been a part of human sacrifices. Thus, for those meditators especially attracted to Hsipaw’s charm, it will come as a relief that the town will probably be sticking around a while yet! And getting there can be a romantic adventure in its own right: the train from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw and on to Lashio has been called one of the great railway journeys of the world.


Today, the historic small town of Hsipaw, originally called Ohn Baung (Ohn Baung was also the name of one of the great principalities of the Shan region, and a well-known lineage of great saophas ruled here), has many local cottage industries and workshops. For the foreign yogi, it also has a number of inviting places to practice. It is somewhat of a hot season escape, as it keeps slightly cooler than the rest of the country (though if one is really looking to escape the heat, Taunggyi, Pyin Oo Lwin, and Kalaw are even cooler).