The Message of Hpaungdawoo
Ngaputaw Township, Myanmar, December 2016: I don’t know if it was built to mark the spot where the Andaman Sea meets the glorious tides of the Bay of Bengal, or the builders were simply taking advantage of the rocky shoreline to build a pagoda, or both (I still need to understand the Burmese script to be able to fully understand what the signs are saying) but the Hpaungdawoo Pagoda majestically enhances the seaside landscape of Haigyikyun, a rustic seaside town at the southernmost tip of the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar. The Hpaungdawoo, is part of Mawtinsoon Pagoda which is built on the cliff overlooking the shoreline.
The town of Haigyikyun is part of Ngaputaw Township, one of the areas heaviest hit by the Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Recent improvements in infrastructure has given hope to the development of the tourism potential of the area but a proper airport close to the coast is still among the vital infrastructure needed to further boost tourist arrivals. Right now, one needs at least 10 hours of land travel from the nearest international terminal to this coastal town. From the capital city of Yangon, it takes 4 hours of land travel to the city of Pathein (where there is an airstrip that currently does not offer commercial flights). From Pathein, it takes at least 6 hours of travel through winding roads to get to the Haigyikyun and other coastal areas. Many of the villages of Ngaputaw along the coast of the Bay of Bengal are still inaccessible to 4-wheeled vehicles. (also see The Fisherfolks of Haigyikyun).
It truly amazed me that the rock formations around the Hpaungdawoo closely resemble those of big, turbulent waves crashing into the shore. I’m sure that scientists would have a credible explanation for these natural formations but, having heard of some of the tragic aftermath of Cyclone Nargis (more than a hundred thousand fatalities); I can’t help but think of these rock formations as vital scripts — Mother Nature’s coded messages — reminders to human beings of her unstoppable power. Perhaps the Hpaungdawoo is trying to send a message back.