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Travel consultant Charlotte recently returned from another trip to Burma, where she researched a few more off-the-beaten track experiences for our customers. Here, she’s written about her visit to Kyakkami Yele Pagoda – a rather unusual seaside destination!
Kyaikkami Yele Pagoda (also referred to as Kyaik-kami Ye Le Paya) makes for an unusual destination in that it has been constructed out at sea! Connected to the land by a long corridor, the pagoda itself settles on a natural foundation of reefs, with the waves lapping the sides and even submerging the corridors during higher tides.
Situated in southern Burma, a two-hour drive south of Mawalmyine, the town of Kyaikkami is half an hour away from Thanbyuzayat, home of the recently opened Death Railway Museum. Both locations can be combined for an interesting day trip during a stay in Mawlamyine.
Whilst the inside of the pagoda is nothing out of the ordinary (it’s very much like many other pagodas across the country), the location itself is a local pilgrimage spot, where the novelty of its off-land position is as exciting for locals as it is for tourists. Girls will dress up in their finest longyi for photo shoots among the pillars, young boys will play in the waves as the tide rises, and the most popular souvenir stands make their money selling fish food for the catfish congregated at the shore.
The site comprises a shrine containing Buddha relics, a small monastery, and a viewpoint looking out over the sea – a hotspot for young couples coming to watch the sunset.
The decision to build the pagoda here is steeped in legend. It is thought that many thousands of years ago, Buddha came to the area and sat on the rocks, where he gave the 20 sons of the king 11 of his hairs, to keep as relics. 10 of the sons promptly built a pagoda to enshrine these relics.
There is another interesting story associated with the pagoda. Way, way back in the history of the world, a king decided to float four Buddha statues enshrining relics across the ocean from the fellow Buddhist country of Sri Lanka. He believed that they would make their way to locations where other relics were already and, as planned, one arrived in Kyaikkami. It is now thought that this statue is located in a shrine chamber underneath the pagoda – but as this is not open to visitors it remains a story of legend and rumour. Regardless of the authenticity of the legends surrounding the origin of the pagoda, its importance to local Buddhists is obvious to see.
Adding another monastery and pagoda to a trip in a country where monasteries and pagodas make up 90% of the attractions may seem like a strange idea, but the unusual setting of this floating shrine makes for some different views and great people watching!
Ask us how to visit – Mawalmyine is included in our Kipling’s Burma itinerary and a day trip to Kyaikkami can easily be arranged.