Irrawaddy River Myanmar’s Amazing Buddha Carvings

Irrawaddy River Myanmar Aazing Buddha Carvings

Sailing up the Irrawaddy River to the north of Pyay in Myanmar with two eight year old guides was not what we had imagined.  As we pulled up at the riverbank and jumped out of our taxi, these two cheeky 8 year olds grabbed us by our hands and took us down to one of their Dad’s long tail boats.  They chatted excitedly in Burmese to us and there were not going to let us out of their sight.

The cheeky boys on our journey up the Irrawaddy River Myanmar


Tourists had arrived, they were excited, and we may have been the only ones they would have seen today.  Their Dad smiled and motioned for us to get in.  There is only one reason why tourists would venture out this way and it is for the amazing buddha carvings on Achtung Mountain.

How did these carvings get there:

Achtung Mountain was used by the Burmese and British as toll posts at the end of the Second Anglo Burmese War.  The boatmen who sailed the Irrawaddy River had to pay a toll or a tax to both toll posts.  At times the sailors were delayed and to fill in their time waiting for the weather to improve the sailors carved Buddha images whilst praying to Buddha.

Our journey up the Irrawaddy River


A 15 minute boat ride later and we had arrived at the muddy banks of the Irrawaddy River close to the Buddha carvings.  What an amazing sight. We had never seen anything quite like it before in our travels.  Unfortunately, the carvings are showing signs of wear and tear by the elements of the weather.


Amazing Buddha Carvings on the Irrawaddy River Myanmar


As we are climbed up the steep and treacherous path the boys suddenly stopped, pointed to the steps and placed their finger to their mouths showing us to be quiet.  A deadly snake had slithered across our pathway.  They were not afraid, we waited until it was safe and we pushed on further up the steep path.

Snake along the path close to the Irrawaddy River Myanmar



After the episode with the snake we were a bit nervous to take off our shoes as we wandered around the base of the Pagoda.  It would have been disrespectful not to take our shoes off.

Pagoda on the Irrawaddy River Myanmar

The boys had a good relationship with the Buddhist Monks who lived on the top of the mountain.  We had arrived just in time for morning tea.  We sat cross-legged on the floor with the Buddhist Monks whilst enjoying a cup of very strong black tea and a banana whilst our two guides hovered outside waiting for us to finish.

Buddhist Monks on the mountain along the Irrawaddy River Myanmar


The boys rushed us back down the hill and into the waiting long boat, hoping that when we arrived at our departure point there would be more tourists for them to guide along the Irrawaddy River and up the mountain.

Back in the long tail boat along the Irrawaddy River Myanmar

They hovered closely to us as we disembarked and was delighted when they both received a tip for their good guiding.  Their smiley faces beamed as they counted out their money.

Check out our video on the return journey… here.


If you want to read more of our adventures in Myanmar click here.


  • James says:

    Thanks for posting this. I never made it to Achtung.
    I’m still not certain on the morally responsible thing to do in these situations. The children should be in school. Now its possible these boys were making some extra money on their day off, or they could be the sole breadwinners in their family and they work every day during tourist season. Being realistic, school may not provide as great an opportunity as learning English from tourists.
    I try to strike a balance between being friendly without promoting child labor. I’m certainly not taking a position against your decision to go on the boat with those children. Myanmar was full of small children working, sometimes 14 hours or more. It is sad to me, but some of them are happy for the opportunity to work, sometimes making more money than their parents.
    Do you have any perspective on this? Is it paternalistic to inject and support Western values when you travel?

    • Hi James
      It is difficult – it does put us in a quandary sometimes. We take each situation as it comes. Thanks for your comments.
      cheers Jane and Duncan

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