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