Yearning for Faraway Places…
That I’ve Never Been or Will See Again

Recently, I wrote another essay about traveling. However, I decided to use three famous writers and how they valued traveling hoping that they will carry more weight than this old guy. Apparently, that essay didn’t quell my yearning for far away places. Moh Moh, the mother of my three granddaughters in Myanmar, emailed me about returning to visit them during my winter break from teaching. I love my family in Myanmar, which was the way that I met my family. There is a tension about traveling. Willie Nelson’s song, On the Road Again, addressed that tension about never seeing places and never seeing them again.

Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again

However, I went back to doing some research about one of the destinations in Myanmar that I have never seen and might not see again…Loikaw. In the midst of discovering more about Taung Kwe Pagoda, I noticed something that Ibn Battuta wrote about travel. “Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta is the shortened version of his full name, ʾAbū ʿAbd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah. He was born in Tangier, Morocco in 1304. Much of his family were Berbers and were closely tied to Islamic legal scholars. However, in the span of thirty years, he went on three long trips. He traveled throughout all of the Islamic world and east through the subcontinent of India, Indochina, China, and several islands in the Far East.

Interestingly, I looked at the places that Ibn Battuta visited. From Tangiers in the west to Timbuktu in the south, Turkey and the Middle East, India and China in the east, Ibn Battuta and I traveled to many of the same places.

I grasp his issue of traveling begins with being speechless, which quickly morphs into telling anyone who will listen one’s excitement about places far away and off the beaten path. I want to see my family in Myanmar again during winter break in a couple of months. I also need to talk with a couple of the teaching staff regarding my fundraising drive for 1250 laptops for the two schools were my grandchildren attend.

However, Moh Moh has already written about taking me to places like Taung Kwe Pagoda in Loikaw. I have read a great deal about Taung Kwe, which means broken mountain.

Taung Kwe

There is a Buddhist prophecy regarding Taung Kwe and an additional eight pagodas. Some believe that sometime in the future all these nine pagodas will become one all knowing pagoda and act as a blessing upon Buddhism.

Not far from the Taung Kwe Pagoda is Htee-pwint-kan or Umbrella Pond located in a rice paddy field. This pond is quite small, measuring about a hundred feet around the perimeter of the pond. Locals believe if you see the umbrella in the pond, it will give you good luck.

Umbrella Pond

So, how did the Umbrella Pond come about. Well, a crocodile and a white buffalo dug it in the midst of the rice patties. This is the legend.

Once upon a time in a dense forest a big white rabbit and a big crocodile lived together as friends. One day the rabbit told the crocodile that a severe drought would befall the following summer which would cause extreme hardship. The rabbit then persuaded the crocodile to leave the forest to more salubrious pastures where water was plentiful. Believing in the rabbit they both travelled till they reached atop a hillock when the rabbit ran away, leaving the poor crocodile to his dire fate. Luckily, a white buffalo passed by and saw the predicament of the distraught crocodile, who requested the former to take him to where water was available. The buffalo replied that water was very far away. Then the crocodile suggested that the buffalo dig the earth with his strong hoofs, urinate on the earth to soften it and repeat the process again and again until the pit was deep enough for the crocodile to wallow inside. The buffalo obliged, and the crocodile wallowed until as luck would have it water spurted from the subterranean lake, bringing relief to the amphibian. The thankful crocodile offered to help the buffalo so that he may not suffer for want of water. Thus, we now see that buffaloes never feel the scarcity of water as the crocodiles kept the promise made once upon a time.

As I was researching where Moh Moh will take me around Loikaw, I happened to get an email from National Geographic. They suggested that I should travel to Bhutan and see the Taktsang Palphug Monastery or Tiger’s Nest (Lair) Monastery.

Tiger’s Nest

Tiger’s Nest with Tibetan prayer flags

There is a legend among the locals that Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. For the Bhutanese Buddhists, Rinpoche is seen as the second Buddha and takes the form of a Rainbow Body. Interestingly, this second Buddha is still alive in the form of a Rainbow Body.

The Rainbow Body of the second Buddha

I kid you not; I know how Ibn Battuta must have felt dealing with his yearning for faraway places. This is the Tiger’s Nest in the winter. I’d even love to be there during the winter. What stories could I talk or write about a winter at Tiger’s Nest.

The Taktsang Monastery of the Tiger’s Nest

We all need to read much more.