Mandalay – This is definitely not Vegas’ Mandalay, although there may be as much gold and sparkle. Mandalay was briefly a capital city, but only a few remnants of its reign are left. Today it’s a busy, congested city. The original royal palace was made of teak and included over 40 buildings. The original palace burned down and has been reconstructed. Unfortunately, it has not been maintained and the remaining structures are in rough shape.
One block north of the palace is the world’s largest book. 729 white pagodas are set in tight rows around a golden pagoda. Each contains a marble slab etched with the Buddhist Pali Canon (Buddha’s teachings). It’s a stunning view.
Further north are the South East steps of Mandalay Hill. On the way up, we passed a number of different zedis, shrines and pagodas; many are covered in gold, coloured glass and mirrors. Some have good views of Mandalay.
Traffic is a nightmare in much of Myanmar and especially in Mandalay. Most intersections are uncontrolled with no traffic lights or even stop or yield signs. The only thing preventing accidents is that the speed limit is only 48 km/hr (straight conversion from the British rule when it would have been 30 mph!). The highways are no different. On a 2-lane highway there will be 3 lanes of traffic going one direction and at least one lane of traffic driving the other way!
South of Mandalay are some interesting sites.We went to 3 different villages.
Amarapura – The country’s largest Monastic College allows access to parts of their monastery during their morning meal. They feed up to 2000 monks and have quite a system to get this accomplished. Their kitchen has 2 staff cutting vegetables, 3 fires with cooks stirring curry and soup in massive woks and a storage area filled with large bags of onions, potatoes and carrots. A few buildings away is a large pool for cleaning the dishes.
At 10:30, 2000 monks exit their quarters and parade in silence down the main sidewalk, carrying their alms bowls (patras). They recieve their portion of food and then sit down in a large, open dining hall and, in silence, eat their meal. It was such an interesting custom to witness.
Sagaing Hill – Situated along the Ayerarwady River, Sagaing Hill is covered in countless zedis and pagodas. There are stairs and a road to the top where there are, of course, more pagodas. There are nice views of the river valley from the top of the hill.
Inwa – Set on an island, the village of Inwa has a few historic ruins from the time the Ava ruled this area. To get to the island you take a 5-minute long-boat ride. On the island, the sites are very far apart so we took a horse and buggy to get around.
The Maha Aungmya Bonzan monastery was built in the 1800s with thick brick walls covered in stucco. The inside of the monastery has beautiful arched doorways decorated with carvings. Behind the monastery are Bagan era (1200 AD) stupas.
Bagaya Kyaung is a beautiful teak monastery built in the 1800s. It has massive teak pillars on the inside and other than the new tin roof, is completely composed of teak. It is still a functioning monastery today.
Amarapura – The oldest and longest teak bridge in the world is over 1 km long and is in Amarapura. The bridge was built in the 1850s. Out of the original 1086 teak poles, only a few have had to have been replaced by concrete. It is a walking bridge and is pretty shaky in the middle, maybe more posts need to be replaced. Being here at sunset is the nicest time and we were lucky to have a beautiful, smoke free sunset.
If you look closely you can see a monk walking on the bridge!
If you like what you read, please share it using the links below.