Up close with the residents of the Twante Snake Temple [PHOTOS]

I like touching snakes. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
I like touching snakes. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

A guide to getting there and not victimizing yourself

Whenever I want to seem cool and adventurous to a friend from out of town but only have a few hours to do it, I always end up at the Hmwe Paya (Snake Temple) in Twante Township, just south of the Goon.

The trip from Yangon to Dala to Twante has developed an undeserved reputation based on the irrational fears of people from the second-smallest continent and their descendants, whose encounters with reality fail to live up to their #wanderlust. Apparently, many people come to Myanmar unprepared to witness other people’s poverty or laborers negotiating their own wages.

Don’t let their white tears dictate your experience! The only thing you need to do to avoid scams and misunderstandings during your tour of Yangon’s southern hinterland is make sure your deal with your guide/motorbike provider is clear and that you get back by the agreed-upon time. (Don’t speak Burmese? Start learning!)

A ferry across the Yangon River. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

Your trip will begin at the Pansodan Jetty, where you will enter a reddish, one-storey structure and, if you are not a Myanmar citizen, you will buy a two-way ferry ticket for K4,000. Ferries run from around sunrise to 9pm. The ride across the Yangon River takes about 10 minutes.

People might try to sell you stuff. IT’S OK.

baby on ferry
Families with cute babies sell snacks for humans and birds on the ferry. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
A goose in a basket in Dala. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

Whenever I make the trip, I call my homie Ado (ah-doe), and he hooks me up with motorbikes for K5,000 per hour. (Ed. note: This story was updated in November 2019 based on a wash of complaints from people sharing negative experiences with the vendor. We suggest you seek current recommendations on reliable rental services.) He’ll meet you as soon as you get off the ferry in Dala. Make sure you tell him how many hours you plan to be gone and get back on time. You can ride with a driver or drive yourself. Most of the owners of the motorbikes don’t live in Dala, so if you’re late, they may begin to wonder what you’ve done with their livelihoods.

motorbike rental guys
Ado (left) and his friends. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

Once you’re on your bike, you’ll ride west and south all along the same main road through Dala, past a clock tower, a landfill, bunch of rice fields and a few golden pagodas until you see a smaller road on your left whose entrance is decorated with red arches. That will take you to the Hmwe Paya. If you wonder whether you’ve gone the wrong way, ask someone to direct you to the “Hmwe Paya”.

The temple is located in the middle of pretty lake that’s full of fat fishies. You can buy some bread or popcorn to draw the fishies to the surface of the lake and watch them be fat.

Once you’re inside, you’ll see this:

snake bundle
Snakes bundling for warmth. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
snakes in a tree
This fake tree is mortified. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

There are apparently over 30 pythons in the temple, ranging from cute baby ones to fat granny ones. All of them are lazy. They have no enemies, no venom, and they only drink milk.

Donations to the temple are used to buy milk for the snakes. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

One of the temple’s caretakers said the snakes are collected from the surrounding area and brought to live in the temple. Worshippers come to the temple to pray and make donations to the snakes, which, the caretaker said, some believe are representations of nats (nature deities) who will grant them riches and good health.

photos of snakes
Memories of milk and eggs on the temple wall. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
Tribute to the snakes. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
men praying at snake temple
Men praying at the Hmwe Paya. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

Last time I went, a nun in the temple encouraged my friends and me to hold a baby snake.

human holding snake
Holding a baby snake. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

When you’re done with the snakes, go have lunch, a skate and a swim at Dreamland, just down the road.

But please, please, please make sure you get back to Ado on time.

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