If you read with this blog on a regular basis you’ll often see photos of the novice monks from the monastery in Tat Ein village in Shan State, located very close to the town of Nyaungshwe, which in turn is known as the gateway to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most famous tourist destinations.
But before I “discovered” Tat Ein village about four years ago, the local monastery that I visited most often in the past decade was Shwe Yan Pyay, the old teakwood structure with the distinctive huge oval windows, located on the main road leading to Nyaungshwe. I became friends with several of the monks at that monastery and would often take them on day trips to sites in the area, such as Kakku, Taunggyi, or the Pindaya Caves. Taking two or three monks led to taking five or six, and then a dozen at a time, and eventually I rented trucks and took the entire crew to the balloon festival in Taunggyi one year. They were always an appreciative and polite bunch of young men.
In the past couple of years, though, I’ve spent less time visiting Shwe Yan Pyay and more time cycling out to Tat Ein. But I still make it a point to visit Shwe Yan Pyay once or twice each time I’m in town, always taking donations of fresh fruit that I but at the morning market in town. Most of the monks that I’ve known over the years have moved on to other monasteries in the region, or perhaps gone back to their home village and resumed a “regular” life. Sadly, Pyinya Sawda, the monk I know who was pictured on the cover of the recently published Myanmar Dream Journeys, has joined the ranks of the departed and was not at Shwe Yan Pyay this time around. But I did recognize a few familiar faces among the remaining monks.
Unlike the mischievous bunch at Tat Ein the novice monks at Shwe Yan Pyay are more reserved and shy. They like having their photos taken but are sometimes reluctant to make a request. But when I suggested a few poses this time around, the monks were more than happy to accommodate the request. Here are a few photos from that most recent visit to Shwe Yan Pyay, both of the monks and some interior shots that I took in one of the buildings.