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!