Indein: Abandoned and Forgotten

60 comments
Asia, Myanmar, Southeast
Indein 1

Deserted Shrines at Nyaung Ohak

Chapter 1, Part 17

Far from the crowds and bustle of tourists and locals at the center of Inle Lake, our small boat headed to the southwestern side of the lake. Our boatman skillfully navigated the calm waters to Indein (Inn Thein) creek, past Phaung Daw Oo pagoda with its gleaming spires, and moved upstream towards the village of Inn Tain Kone. Occasionally the boat sheered away a few inches to avoid collision with local men who were collecting rocks and minerals in the river.

The shallow waterway, at some points shaded by dense vegetation, is navigable only in the rainy season, leaving me wondering how the locals do their activity in the dry season as boat is the main means of transportation in this part of the world. After almost one hour, we were finally approaching the village where almost naked men were bathing near the pier, nonchalant of several tourists and local boats around.

We paid a small entrance fee and walked towards a group of ruins perched on a higher ground just a few meters from the river. Ancient red-brick temples in various states of neglect and decay dotted the area amid dense overgrowth, some appeared to have succumbed to the forces of nature more than the others. Historical notes on the temples of Nyaung Ohak, Burmese for ‘group of banyan trees’ as the compound is called, is sketchy. Some believe the shrines, together with Shwe Indein pagoda, were built during the height of the kingdom of Bagan, although most agree that a lot of structures were constructed in a later period long after the fall of the ancient Burmese dynasty.

A Buddha statue half buried in the debris of a fallen spire, as well as tree branches protruding from the crests of a number of shrines, were testament to the abandonment of Nyaung Ohak by the locals as a worship site. Carvings of what seemed to be Vishnu astride Garuda hinted at a period of syncretism between Hinduism and Buddhism by the people who built the temples.

Not all was neglected, though. As we ascended the hill through a long, covered stairway, studded with souvenir stalls on both sides, we found newly-painted spires sitting next to the austere ones. Shades of gold, grey and terra cotta rendered this group of temples a rather playful appearance. Unlike Nyaung Ohak, Shwe Indein was still very much alive and used by the locals to pray and for other religious purposes. The contrast between the two could not have been starker.

Indein 2

Red-Brick Ancient Monuments, Slowly Reclaimed by Nature

Indein 3

A Towering Shrine, Nyaung Ohak

Indein 4

A Derelict Sanctum with Hints of Its Heyday

Indein 5

Relics from the Past

Indein 6

Various States of Damage

Indein 7

Mother Nature Fights Back

Indein 8

A Fine Creation of Burmese Craftsmanship

Indein 9

Presumably Vishnu and Garuda at the Supposedly Buddhist Temple Compound

Indein 10

Crowned by Nature

Indein 11

Rows of Spires Near Inn Thein Paya

Indein 12

Inn Thein Paya’s Complexions

Indein 13

Reaching Up for the Sky

Click here for the full list of stories from the Spice Odyssey series.

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

60 thoughts on “Indein: Abandoned and Forgotten”

  1. Miris melihat candi candi dibiarkan begitu saja. Eh tapi kok kelihatannya punya aura sendiri ya dibiarkan begitu saja. Aduh jadi campur aduk antara miris dan takjub-lah.

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    • Nah iya kan. Selalu sedih sih kalau ada candi yang terbengkalai. Tapi di sisi lain candi-candi semacam ini biasanya ‘asyik’ untuk dieksplor. Tapi ya semoga ke depannya candi-candi di Nyaung Ohak ini bakal lebih terurus sih, biar bisa bertahan hingga bertahun-tahun yang akan datang.

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    • Thank you, Athena. I suppose its state of decay makes it so unique compared to the bigger and more imposing temples of Bagan.

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  2. Ada pohon besar di salah satu stupa, itu wow banget. Sayang sih kalau dibiarkan bertahun-tahun atau puluhan tahun lagi, peripih di bawah candi rawan dicuri pemburu harta karun. Juga sejarah kebesaran dinasti di sana terancam lenyap dari pikiran generasi muda. Nice share lah, Bama. *brb cari tiket murah ke Myanmar* 😀

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    • Aku belum sempet riset sih mengenai ada tidaknya peripih di bawah candi-candi itu. Tapi secara keseluruhan memang jika kondisi kerusakan ini tidak diatasi mungkin beberapa generasi yang akan datang candi-candi di Nyaung Ohak ini akan tinggal reruntuhan saja. Thanks Halim! Hehe, udah banyak sekarang airlines yang terbang ke Myanmar, jadi banyak pilihan.

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  3. Bama I have long since run out of original adjectives to compliment both your photos and writing. Really I am in awe of how you continue to put out such high quality posts one after another. The photo of the tree that has grown through the tower or on top of it is absolute magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww Sue, that’s so kind of you. Thank you for your encouragement! I guess I really enjoy the whole process of blogging: the research, writing, selection of photos, etc. I have found inspiration to travel from other blogs, so the least I can do is to share what I experienced on my travels so others realize how many beautiful, magical, intriguing places there are in the world.

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    • Thank you, Amila. Due to its strategic location on the crossroads between China and India, Myanmar is rich in cultural heritage. Indein is just one of the most intriguing historical sites in the country.

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  4. Woooowww…. breathtaking views Bama. Speechless…
    Soalnya saya tidak sampai sini… waktu itu ga cukup waktunya. Memang harua kembali lagi buat yang belum dikunjungi yaa…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indein ini salah satu highlight kunjungan saya ke Inle Lake, mbak. Tapi emang lokasinya agak jauh sih, harus dialokasikan minimal setengah hari untuk ke sana. Ayo, balik lagi ke Myanmar mbak! 🙂

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      • Waktu itu dengan sangat menyesal harus skip Inle. Makanya rasanya mau gigit jariii ngliat foto2mu… yah harus dischedule utk balik lagi ke myanmar

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      • Inle sih lumayan touristy, tapi ada sudut-sudut tertentu yang sangat atmospheric menurut saya. Gigit kue aja mbak, lebih enak. 😀

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    • Thank you. New Zealand is one of the countries I’ve been dreaming to visit. Milford Sound, Canterbury, the sheep, the Maori culture, so many reasons for me to visit the country. Hopefully sooner than later. As for Turkey, I’ve only been to Istanbul and I really loved the city. Rich in heritage, culture, delicious food, and … cats, it truly is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.

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  5. I don’t even know where to start – it all looks truly magical! The picture of the golden statue is great and the one of the statue carved into the stone with the shadow in the back … I love the details! My favourites are the ones of the trees crowning the buildings: “Mother Nature fights back” and “Crowned by Nature” – I love visiting old sites and seeing nature taking back the space that has been taken from it decades ago. I also love the picture with the differently coloured buildings – stunning! Do you ever send any photos in to magazines or take part in competitions?

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    • Many thanks, Katha. Indein really was such a photogenic place, it’s hard to take ‘bad’ photos there. I guess many people, including me, are fascinated by scenes of Mother Nature reclaiming what was once hers. That’s why Ta Prohm in Cambodia is so popular now. I did try to send my photos to some magazines a few years ago, but I guess they lacked stories and depth. Anyway, it’s always nice to hear from you!

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  6. What an amazing place. And fabulous photos Bama. I don’t think we got to that particular set of ruins although we spent three days exploring in and around Inle Lake. I think Myanmar is full of ruins all over the county.
    Alison

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    • Thank you, Alison. Had I not stumbled upon a blog post about this place, I wouldn’t have been aware of its existence. We were in Nyaung Shwe for for days, and did a half-day trip to see this place. Ancient ruins are everywhere in Myanmar. I remember on a flight from Yangon to Nyaung U (the closest airport to Bagan) I read about an excavation project of an ancient temple on the outskirts of Mandalay. There must still be so many out there waiting to be rediscovered.

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  7. I feel like some of the places you are highlighting I have never seen or heard of before. I am so enjoying your photos and stories. It is so fresh and interesting. And to see nature taking them back over is so interesting and beautiful, and destructive, all at the same time. Enjoy your visits.

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    • I’m glad my posts give you a glimpse of heritage sites less known to most people. Some places in the world are famous and touristy for obvious reasons, but there are still so many areas like Indein waiting to be explored by the curious ones. There’s something about nature reclaiming human’s creation that really fascinates many of us. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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    • Thank you, Indah! In spite of its size and fine carvings, there’s very little account on the history of Nyaung Ohak, which makes those crumbling temples even more mysterious.

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  8. great post. enchanting place, never thought of going to burma, btw. but i think i have to make it on my list somehow. the clash of nature and the abandoned shrines look amazing, but pity at the same time. if one day the whole parts of nyaung ohak are ruined by nature, the heritage will be finally completely destroyed because of neglection. in that point of view, it’s kinda sad.
    luckily, shwe indein has a better destiny.
    i wonder if burma is a save place to travel for ladies in a group of 2 or solo travelling without a tour operator? or better hire a local guide?

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    • Thank you! Those derelict shrines slowly taken back by nature makes a very atmospheric scene, but we all surely hope not to lose the temples altogether one day. From what I saw the local people were doing renovation work, one temple at a time. As for Shwe Indein, because it is still used as a place of worship it is much better maintained.

      Burma/Myanmar, like other Southeast Asian countries, is generally safe to explore, even for women. Hiring a local guide would be nice for he/she can provide you with information about the places you visit. But traveling without one would be just fine.

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    • There’s still so much to be discovered everywhere, even in my own backyard! As you said, the world is a beautiful, terrible place. Those ancient temples are truly beautiful, but when you dig deeper into their past many of them have rather dark history. Thanks again, Kelly!

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  9. Just think Bama, if it weren’t for your keen eye and that post you read about Indein before we went to Myanmar, we might have missed it entirely! What struck me the most was seeing those strangler figs growing right through the middle of the ruined stupas. Indein has to be one of the most enchanting temple ruins I’ve been to so far. Thanks for recommending it and publishing this beautiful post!

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    • I’m glad I followed that blog! Sadly her latest update was from April 2015. I have a feeling that Ta Prohm prior to Tomb Raider used to have a similar ambiance with Indein, or maybe even more mysterious with those big strangler figs. I’m really glad we waited for the sun to come out that afternoon, otherwise I might have done that crazy idea of returning the next morning. 😀 Sama-sama James. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I have to agree with Sue above…can’t think of one more adjective! Your photos are stunning, your research, thorough. What bothers me, though, is that I was on Inle for quite a while. I had plenty of time to go down to Indein, but I did not know about it. You took a boat from one end of the lake all the way to the other, and then another hour, eh? That’s a long ride. But that ruined stupa with the half-buried Buddha is lovely. And funny…the trees growing right through the stupa. What kind of camera do you use? I don’t want to carry a heavy pro camera any more, but dang it, your photos are making me want to.

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    • Many thanks, Badfish! Both you and Sue are too kind. I was really lucky to have read that blog post about Indein written by one of the bloggers I follow. When James and I arrived at our hotel, we asked the owner about the places we wanted to see at and around the lake, and planned our visit accordingly. My heart sank a little bit when the sun was hiding behind thick clouds as we explored the ruins. Fortunately we waited long enough for the skies to clear up. Yes, it was quite a long boat ride, but the way back to the town was lovely. Our boatman went through small rivers rarely plied by tourists, and we were at the lake just before sunset. I use Canon 500D/Rebel T1i which I bought around six years ago, my very first SLR camera it is. I’m thinking of buying a lighter camera though.

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      • You know, I like to take photos of some things under cloudy skies…you get more detail because the clouds act like a filter for the harsh sunlight. But I’d rather be in the sun. And sunset light is the BEST. Sounds like your trip was cool, and you got a good boatman. I had a Canon once. But I gave up Pro-style cameras and all those lenses. I used to travel with a tripod and a camera bag as my carry-on. NO MORE. I’m not carrying camera equipment again. And I don’t want to change lenses. But I do want tack-sharp images like yours. Dang it…what to do?

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      • Yes, you’re right. Some things do look better under cloudy skies, but in general I prefer the sun. 🙂 Oh tell me about it! I used to travel with three lenses. At some point in my six-month trip my one of my old lenses started acting weird, so I decided to buy a new one. But before buying that new lens I was thinking it’d better be one that can replace all the three lenses I had. It’s been serving its purpose pretty well. But still, I want to try traveling with a much lighter camera.

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    • Thank you! Bhaktapur is so photogenic, and it’s hard not to take decent photos there.

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    • Thanks Chris. At certain corners of this place my friend and I were the only ones around as most visitors went straight up to Inn Thein Paya.

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  11. Pingback: Nyaung Shwe: A Town on the Edge | What an Amazing World!

  12. Ini tipikal kota terbengkalai yang menarik untuk dikunjungi. Penuh dengan bangunan kuno (sampai berlomba dengan tetumbuhan segala), gak terlalu ramai, dan terkesan misterius. Dan detail ukiran/cetakan pada bangunannya cukup halus ya.

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