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Kyauktan,  Burma - flag Burma
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Ye Le Phaya (Kyauktan, Burma)

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Kyauktan travelogue picture
The small town of Kyauktan, about an hour’s drive from Rangoon in the Southern delta region, is laid out as a narrow swath along the bank of a sizeable tributary of the Yangon River, with its buildings flanked by jungle-like stands of palms, mangroves and shapely acacia-like trees. It is both peaceful and picturesque, with ox carts, bicycles and pedal sidecars as prevalent as cars on the single road through town, and offers the traveler yet another rural respite from Rangoon without a lot of driving. Kyauktan is most known for its Yeh Lay Phaya, a collection of temples and pagodas situated on a small island in the middle of the river whose flat shape suggests that it started out as little more than the crest of a sandbar before the erection of the temple compound.

Favourite spots:
Kyauktan travelogue picture
The gilded temples and pagodas sit atop an elevated brick terrace, which is accessible via a set of conical steps on the left which lead up from the narrow strip of sandy beach and what appears to be the main entrance in the middle of the island adjacent to one of the large temples. The tallest pagoda, with its golden spire and large Buddha image, resides at the center of the terrace between two large palm trees. There are also pavilions on stilts at both ends of the island that extend beyond the terrace and a short distance over the water, with their arched roofs reminiscent of Japanese Shinto temples. The island is accessed by slender low-profile boats outfitted with oars and long-shaft outboard motors. The waters of the silt-laden river are café latte in color and though the current is by no means raging, it is substantial enough that it would carry you quite away down stream should you fall out and have to swim for the shore; unfortunately life preserves were not provided.

What's really great:
Kyauktan travelogue picture
At the downstream end of the island near the ornate cantilevered pavilion, the waters swirl with countless light grayish-green dorsal fins of the famous holy catfish (as large as three feet in length) which are just barely discernable as they break the surface of the muddy water and gorge themselves on the popcorn offered by the both the faithful and the tourists (purchased back on shore). It is believed by the faithful that merit can be gained by feeding the catfish. Unfortunately, what merit is gained by the act of generosity is probably offset by the sin of leaving the multicolored plastic bags that the popcorn came in lying on the steps of the compound; perhaps one of the faithful could gain merit by cleaning up after the meritous?

Sights:
Kyauktan travelogue picture
There's an interesting roadside market across from where the boats to the island are boarded (remember to remove your shoes and socks before boarding.)

Other recommendations:
Kyauktan travelogue picture
There's a pagoda and temple in town that I didn't get a chance to visit.

Published on Wednesday July 17th, 2002


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