My daughter’s best friend, Victoria, is a globetrotting citizen of the world — and she is only nine. Due to her parents’ work, she gets to spend summers in places like the Philippines, Indonesia and most recently Myanmar. I spent a year in neighboring Thailand myself and during that time was only able to peer over the border into Myanmar, but this isolated little Buddhist country has always piqued my interest.
Like Cuba, Myanmar is somewhat of a time capsule and has changed little since British occupation. Men go about their business wearing a skirt-like longyi, the horse and cart is the most popular form of transportation and betel-chewing octogenarians smile at you coyly with mouths bursting with the telltale blood-red juice. Then there is Shwedagon Paya, a glittery golden city within a city.
But what I didn’t know about when I was living in Thailand were the jumping cats of the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery. If I had know about these jumping cats, I surely would have crossed the border back then! But alas, I only found out about these acrobatic cats when Victoria returned from her summer adventures last year.
The jumping cats, in fact, were the first thing she told us about upon her return. These kitties, she gushed, lived in a beautiful wooden monastery situated right on the green velvet edge of Lake Inle. The monastery is built on stilts so it appears to be floating on the water. Inside the intricately carved doors are lots and lot of cats, a fair number of monks in colorful draping robes and statues of Buddha gilded in gold leaf. Despite the religious significance of the statues, most visitors come to see the cats. In their spare time, the monks taught their furry companions how to jump through hoops and through enclosed circles of arms. The cats can jump straight up surprisingly high (some better than others, of course) or lunge forward like a circus tiger. Not surprisingly, Nga Phe Monastery is now on the bucket list of many people who travel to Myanmar.
Next Page: Video of Jumping Cats