Monday, July 7, 2014

Corpus Christi Celebrations - Marta - Italy

Marta may only be a small participant when it comes to Corpus Christi Celebrations, for me that makes it even more poignant that the locals rally around to work together and decorate the road outside their own neighbourhoods in preparation for the Annual Corpus Christi Procession. This year it took place on Sunday June 22nd, it is an event which is celebrated all over Italy with Infiorate/flower displays on the streets made with petals, from fresh flowers where possible but augmented with paper and coloured wood chippings.  Whilst Marta’s celebration of the event may not be one of the larger events that take place in Italy, it is still something that many people in our little town are proud to take part in.

I am not a Catholic so am unable to comment on the significance of the event but I am able to share my photos with you, which I hope will tell the story of how seriously even a small village takes this event. 

On Sunday morning just a few hours before the procession was due to begin, the area was suddenly a hive of activity, as everyone prepared their displays.

                          An altar was set up ready for the service.

                                             The Procession

 I previously wrote about this event on my blog News From Italy back in 2011.
  1. The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ), also known as Corpus Domini, is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist.  Wikipedia

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mandalay - Part Two - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

Maha Muni
On our second full day in Mandalay we decided to once again use the services of the guide we had met, Ponnya.  No slacking though as we had a lot to achieve if we wanted to see as much as possible of the region with just a three night stay here. We had an idea of the places we wanted to see so with Ponnya's advice we had a very full itinerary, collected at 8am we did not return to Peacock Lodge until after sunset.  After a long busy day we were happy to spend the evening at the hotel and enjoy the local cuisine they serve, whilst chatting about the experiences of the day of which there were many. I could write many posts for this day alone, but it is already taking me far too long to share my impressions of this wonderful country with you! I will therefore keep words and photos to a minimum so I do not overload by sharing too much at once. For those that are really interested in seeing more photos of Mandalay, more can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled Mandalay, Myanmar. which contains over 500 photos just from our three days!

The photo tour in this post includes both places of historic and cultural interest, visits to artisan craftsmen and beautiful stunning scenic locations, shown in the order of visiting.  For more details on any of the places mentioned, there are links to various websites at the end of this post. I hope you enjoy this virtual trip to Mandalay, please let me know your impressions if you have a moment to leave a comment, which will be appreciated thankyou.

Maha Muni Pagoda The most respected Buddhist shrine in Mandalay, thanks to the presence in its central chamber of a magnificent gold Buddha image, 'Maha Muni' 'Great Sage' 3.8 metres high and covered in so much gold leaf it weighs six tons. 

The face really does shine like this as it is polished at 4.30 am and 4.00 pm every day by the monks.

The streets around the Maha Muni Pagoda are home to the craftsmen of Mandalay, where we went next to experience traditional methods of craftsmanship using gold, stone, wood and fabric, all absolutely fascinating.

We then drove to Amarapura a former capital of Myanmar, now a suburb of Mandalay. Amarapura is bounded by the Irrawaddy river in the west, Chanmyathazi township in the north, and the ancient capital site of Ava in the south. It is also home to one of the largest monasteries in Myanamar and sometimes houses as many as 1,200 monks. Mahagandhayon Monastery welcomes visitors and it is an impressive sight to witness the hundreds of monks lining up for their one daily meal every morning, and this is what we were lucky enough to experience. 

Monasteries are an integral part of life in Myanmar and although some people may question the intrusion, our guide assured us it is not seen like this. It is important for people to see the way of life in Myanmar, in fact Ponnya was very proud of the fact that he had been a monk during his education. He felt privileged to have been educated in a monastery and told us that his parents had been able to send him because he was the second son and therefore not needed to stay at home as the first born is expected to do.

The next stop on our itinerary for the day was Sagaing Hill located on the opposite bank of the Ayeywarwady River about 20km to the south west of Manadalay. It is an important religious centre and the hillside is covered with numerous pagodas and monasteries.

We visited the Sun U  Ponya Shin Pagoda a popular place to enjoy the wonderful views from.

While up there we also visited U Min Thonze Pagoda which is just a little further north and houses 45 Buddha images in a crescent shaped grotto elaborately decorated in red and turquoise glass mosaics.

Next on our agenda was lunch and our guide had decided that we should take a short ferry trip across the Myitnge River to Inwa (Ava) an ancient city that was the ancient imperial capital of Burmese kingdoms between the 14C and 19C. The title of capital of Burma seems to have depended on where the royal family of the time were living. After our lunch we took a horse and buggy ride around the surrounding countryside to get a feel of what the city must have been like. Not much left now apart from archaeological ruins and beautiful scenery plus a surprising number of tourists, we did not see many Westerners though. At every point of interest we stopped and were given the opportunity to explore and take photos. I could have written a post on Inwa alone, but as already pointed out, it would take me forever to share this wonderful trip with you, if I go into too much detail! It has however been very difficult to choose a small selection of photos to share, so maybe one day I will find the time to write some posts dedicated to specific places of interest, you never know!

For now if you are interested in seeing more of Inwa, lots more photos can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled Mandalay, Myanmar.
Our Transport
Bagaya Monastery
Bagaya Monastery

This ancient teak wood monastery was one of the highlights of the Inwa trip for me. Magnificent in its weather aged appearance and decorated with beautiful carvings.
Yadana Hsemee Pagoda
View from Yadana Hsemee Pagoda
Nanymin Watchtower
Not much to see but it is historically important to the people of Myanmar as it is all that remains of the palace and for that reason it is included on the horse and buggy tour. The so called 'leaning tower of Inwa' is just under thirty metres in height and its upper portion collapsed way back in 1838 after an earthquake. As the earth sunk below it soon afterwards it began to lean to one side. Amazing it is still standing!

Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery
The best preserved of all the buildings in Inwa.
U Bein Bridge
We returned via the river ferry to meet up with our guide again and drive to our final destination of the day U Bein Bridge. It is an absolute must, to take a walk across apparently the oldest teak bridge in the world. By the time we arrived it was the early evening, so after our stroll along the bridge we took a boat out into the lake to watch the sunset, a beautiful experience. The place was fairly busy with people taking a 'passeggiata', along the bridge or a boat out onto the lake, but that added to the atmosphere. 
Sunset at U Bein Bridge - Photo courtesy of my daughter - SMCF
 A perfect end to a perfect day.

If you have missed my earlier posts about Our Myanmar Trip here are the links.

Yangon - First Impressions of Myanmar

Yangon - Further First Impressions of Myanmar
Mandalay - Part One - Impressions of Myanmar

You can also find reviews of some of the places mentioned today on my Trip Advisor - LindyLouMac account.

With thanks to the following sites for some of the background information included in this post. The links will take you directly to the official websites if you are interested in learning more about Mandalay. I also used my Insight Guide to Myanmar for reference.

 Myanmar Travel Information    Mandalay Region - Wikipedia     Maha Muni Pagoda

 Mandalay - The City - Wikipedia   Mandalay Poem - Wikipedia   Words to Mandalay - Kipling Society

 Facebook - Ilikemyanmar - Information Channel                Amarapura   

  Trip Advisor - Mahagandhayon Monastery    Inwa - Wikipedia     Bagaya Monastery

  Trip Advisor - Nanmyin Watchtower

                              All photos are my own taken in December 2013 unless otherwise mentioned.

More Mandalay photos can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled Mandalay, Myanmar. which contains over 500 photos just from our three days!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mandalay - Part One - Impressions of Myanmar - Burma

I will write three posts about our stay in Mandalay of which this first one will cover just the first day. It was a full day as we were up at 4.45 am at our hotel in Yangon for a short 90 minute flight at 7 am to Mandalay. We  were at our base in Mandalay for the next three nights Peacock Lodge by 9.30 am. After settling in we set off exploring our immediate surroundings and located the Green Elephant restaurant that my daughter had found in one of our guide books as worth a visit. After lunch we got a taxi to The Royal Palace  where quite by luck rather than good judgement we found ourselves a local guide Ponnya who would it turned out be our taxi driver/guide for the next few days. A charming young man that we became quite friendly with over the next few days as he was able to tell us so much more about the country and his life than one can glean from the guide books. In fact I hope he will be reading these posts and approving of the way I am portraying his beautiful homeland.
On our first day in Mandalay we also visited Shwe Nandaw Kyaung, Atumashi KyaungKuthodaw Pagoda and Mandalay Hill. As usual I will let my photos do the talking apart from a few words of explanation where needed. For those readers that are interested in more information I include links at the end of the post.

Mandalay is the second largest city in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and was established in 1857. It was the last royal capital of Burma, located 445 miles (716km) north of Yangon and is located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River. With a population of 1.5 million it is the economic centre of Upper Burma and considered the centre of Burmese culture. The city has much cultural heritage to share with visitors as you will see from the selection of photos I am sharing with you.

Mandalay was also the title of the poem written by Rudyard Kipling in 1892 which some of you will probably be familiar with.  Manadalay Poem by Kipling

Enjoy your virtual trip to Mandalay and do let me know your impressions if you have a moment to leave a comment, which will be appreciated thankyou.

Our tour of Mandalay started with The Royal Palace, where you definitely need to use your imagination as sadly most of what can be seen there today dates from a 1990's restoration by the Burmese government. Unfortunately rather than employing craftsmen and materials to replicate the palace of King Midon, they chose to rebuild using concrete and corrugated iron. Worth a visit though as although the site bears little resemblance to the 19C original it still manages to convey the grandeur and sheer vastness of the palace.

The Watchtower from which in 1885 it is said Queen Supalayat watched the progress of the British Forces up the Irrawaddy 

Next we visited Shwe Nandaw Kyaung which was at one time part of The Royal Palace, due to its removal and rebuilding on a new site in 1878 as a monastery, it was the only building to have remained intact after World War II. A miraculous survival that has allowed future generations to see this very grand example of C19 Burmese Teak Architecture in all its glory. Four different roof levels, many beautiful carvings and its imposing teak platform just give us a hint of the former glory. Many of the exterior panels are crumbling due to the the ravages of time, although some have been replaced with inferior reproductions that lack the depth of the originals. The structure was once gilded and covered with glass mosaics, imagine what it must have looked like then. Personally I found the building very appealing in its natural though ageing state.

Atumashi Kyaung  was just next door and is a yellow ochre and white painted building that European visitors in the 19C referred to as one of the most beautiful buildings in Mandalay. Burnt down in 1890, it has since been magnificently restored. Just next door to Shwe Nandaw Kyaung it is worth a visit, just to experience the vastness of the hall!

We then drove north-east out of the city towards Mandalay Hill visiting the Kuthodaw Pagoda en route.

Mandalay Hill  viewed from the east moat bridge of  The Royal Palace. The city took its name from the 240 metre (790 ft) hill that is located to the north-east of the city centre.  Known for its many pagodas and monasteries, the hill has been a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists for nearly two centuries.

The world's largest book stands upright, set in stone, in the grounds of the Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay. It has 730 leaves and 1460 pages; each page is 107 centimetres (3.51 ft) wide, 153 centimetres (5.02 ft) tall and 13 centimetres (5.1 in) thick. Each stone tablet has its own roof and precious gem on top in a small cave-like structure of Sinhalese relic casket type called kyauksa gu (stone inscription cave in Burmese), and they are arranged around a central golden pagoda. The most unusual book I have ever seen! The 729 pagodas individually house the marble tablets on which the Tipitaka has been inscribed. When it was first unveiled it took 2,400 monks to recite  the text, hence the name! 

Just a few of the pages!
Finally the climb of Mandalay Hill which was worth the climb for the  panoramic view of Mandalay from the top, plus for all the other things of interest there were to see. There are four covered stairways called saungdan leading up the hill from the south, south-east, west and north, and convenient seats of masonry work line these stairways all the way up. The climb is considered a rewarding experience and a commendable deed at the same time. Two gigantic chinthes(stylised lion figures) stand guard at the southern and main approach at the foot of the hill, popularly known as the Chinthe hnakaung atet(two chinthes ascent) which consists of 1,729 steps, this was the one we did! 

Southern Route Entrance

After that climb and seeing the magnificent views we were well and truly ready to return to our peaceful haven at the Peacock Lodge, having arranged to spend the following day with Ponnya from 8am until 6pm. Another fascinating day of sight seeing in the Mandalay area, which will be the subject of my next post.

If you have missed my earlier posts about Our Myanmar Trip here are the links.

Yangon - First Impressions of Myanmar
Yangon - Further First Impressions of Myanmar

With thanks to the following sites for some of the background information included in this post. The links will take you directly to the official websites if you are interested in learning more about Mandalay. I also used my Insight Guide to Myanmar for reference.

 Myanmar Travel Information   Peacock Lodge   Mandalay Region - Wikipedia  

 Mandalay - The City - Wikipedia   Mandalay Poem - Wikipedia   Words to Manadalay - Kipling Society

 Facebook - Ilikemyanmar - Information Channel   Mandalay Palace       Shwe Nandaw Kyaung

 Atumashi Kyaung    Kuthodaw Pagoda  Tipitaka  Mandalay Hill

                              All photos are my own taken in December 2013

More Mandalay photos can be found on Flickr in My Album entitled Mandalay, Myanmar. which contains over 500 photos just from our three days!

I would also like to point out that this entire trip was organised as independent travellers by my daughter. She planned and researched an itinerary, which we discussed, then she booked all the hotels and flights.

 Copyright All rights reserved by LindyLouMac Photo Collection