|Looking like a flea on the great Buddha's shoulder, Kip (see blue arrow) peers from a trap door we found.|
Why more tourists don't come check out what must be the world's largest--and strangest--reclining Buddha, we'll never know. At nearly 600-ft long and ten stories high, Zina-thu-kha Yan Aung Chan-tha is an architectural marvel by itself. Yet, it's what's inside and surrounding the super-sized statue that should shift it to the top of anyone's must see list for Myanmar.
More akin to a 50-acre Buddhist Disneyland than a solemn place of worship, "Buddha's Playground" can be difficult to describe. Hopefully, the following photos will help.
Lining the entrance to the Park, some 200 stone monks, begging bowls in hand, march solemnly toward the big Buddha.
The line of saffron-robed men stretches for more than a kilometer, crossing over the road by elevated bridge, heading through a wooded area and finally disappearing over a small hill.
Once beyond the monks the main attraction comes into view, dwarfing everything around it, including homes, store fronts, the surrounding hills and more than 100 temples, pagodas and other shrines built nearby.
Above, that's Kip on the scooter heading toward the Buddha. A basketball court could almost fit on one of the statue's unpainted feet. A pedicure must cost a small fortune.
In addition to strange outdoor statues, the Park even features its own water slide and swimming area at the base of the Reclining Buddha (left). Boys and girls, all fully dressed, raced up and down the five slides during our visit.
Once inside the cavernous statue, things get truly interesting. More an unfinished construction project than a place of reverence, there's little in the entire statue that's 100 percent finished. The smell of wet concrete, sawdust and paint follow you every step.
Below left, Liz poses inside one of the Buddha's concrete toes, which, like many other parts of the statue, awaits finishing touches.
Below right, a boy puts a primer coat of paint on a statue that will fill one of the 182 rooms inside the Buddha.
We found life-size images of ancient sea creatures flying through the air, of bull elephants stomping bleeding men, of harems of topless women servicing a prince, and of the devil himself (at left) either pouring glowing coals on suffering victims or helping warm up a clothing-optional jacuzzi.
In addition to the oddities, you will find beauty, as well.
Below, thousands of miniature Buddha statues covered in dust wait for their turn to decorate a nearby wall or ceiling.
If you can find a window or hidden passageway, get yourself outside the Buddha, where the views are spectacular.
Above, the vista from the Buddha's shoulder, looking down at the water slide and across to a construction area, then Pinhead to the right, backed by a small lake and beyond that miles of greenery.
Though the Buddha Park remains a work in progress, it's one of the most fascinating man-made attractions we've seen in Asia.
So if you find yourself in Myanmar with a bit of time and are looking for an off-the beaten track adventure, go check it out.
Our bet is you'll be glad you did.
(The Buddha Park is located 20 km south of Mawlmine, Myanmar)