A Day of Mandalay Religious buildings

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October 22nd 2017
Published: November 25th 2017
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October 22nd

This all day tour started with a trip to Mandalay Hill and was listed as a tour of that area followed by “The rest of the day the car and guide are available for additional visits till 6 pm if wanted – we suggest you to visit Yankin Hill”

I had researched many interesting places and had a list of possibilities to share with my guide.

Mandalay Hill - half way up we stopped at Byardeik Paye Pagoda - the first Buddha encoutered points at arrivals and seems to be showing us the way out! Within this area were also calm seated Buddhas and I was fascinated by their hands - so much so that I photographed them from every angle! Next we continued up the hill on the one-way system, to the base of the lifts that take you up to the highest temple, Su Taung Pyei - wish fulfilling Pagoda. As with previous temple visits I was asked to leave my flip-flops in the taxi, it saved carrying them around. There was no waiting time on our ascent but when we returned an hour or so later there was quite a queue for the lift. A family with young boys was very interested to know about me and I shared sweets with their children making everyone smile. Our wait was extended due to allowing some older people to go down in the lift before us. At the top was a very ornate pagoda, glass mosaics everywhere and deep rich colours. Chan and I found the corner for our birthdays and poured water over the Buddhas there. A variety of Buddhas surrounded the main temple but for many people the purpose of visiting here is to see the views from the surrounding ramparts. Su taung pyae, housing the snake Nats is a major attraction for people. Some stroke them and some give them money or donate flowers to the models of snakes. As with so many temples these are regarded as granting wishes. Chan told a story of how a pair of large pythons lived on the Hill. When the female was killed by a car the male would not leave her and also starved to death. Now there spirits protect the hill. I have read other stories about them but like so many in Myanmar they are quite recent rather than century-old legends. As well as the city below, we could see many many temples around the Mandalay Hill including those at the bottom Kuthodaw and Shwenandaw Golden Palace which we were going to later.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

This is home for the world's largest book 729 slabs of marble inscribed with Buddha's teachings, the entire Pali Canon, are housed in row upon row of white stone stupa-like buildings. There are also the usual Pagoda buildings, a gold stupa in the centre apparently modelled on Shwezigon in Nyaung-U. In the grounds here a young girl was offering to make thanaka designs on people’s faces so I had mine done with leaves for a donation. She then presented Chan and myself with flowers to offer to the shrine.

Shwenandaw Golden Palace

This is one of the archaeological group of buildings for which you have to pay a zone fee. We had intended to visit Atamushi, a gold and white monastery, but as we had not bought the zone fee ticket at that stage we were denied entry. Shwenandaw was known as the Golden Palace, however there is little gold left on it. The building itself was reconstructed outside the Mandalay palace when the British over took most of the area. It then escaped the bombings by the Japanese and British during World War II as the palace was obliterated.

Gold leaf workshop

Chan was keen to show me the different crafts in the area. As gold leaf is used on almost every religious building it made sense to go and see how they beat it to a very thin paper. I did explain that I had seen them doing it in Thailand but this was a workshop setup to demonstrate the skills for tourists here. As we left the workshop there were many items for sale covered in gold leaf. Next I misunderstood and thought she was going to show me how jade is worked to make jewellery. However we ended up in a jewellery shop and I admired some unusual designs but as I was not interested in buying we did not stay very long.

This completed all morning tour and at this stage I discussed the different places I would like to see: Shwe In Bin monastery was top of my list and also the Mahamuni Buddha.

First we had lunch at the Amazing Restaurant, I'd chosen Chinese style and it was very tasty. Chan and I could share our dishes. At these times a group is best because you can try so many more dishes. There was another guide with 4 tourists and one of them jokingly said ‘see you at the next demo’. We did go on to a crafts store where they were making all kinds of souvenirs, from puppets to cushions and wood carvings. A large organized group came in and I was keen to go.

Mahamuni Buddha

This is one of the most revered Buddha in Myanmar. It is famous because it is covered daily, if not every nano-second by more gold. This is only allowed by male devotees. I've read that every morning around 4 am a senior monk washes the face and brushes the teeth on this Buddha. The shape of the Buddha is completely distorted now and as you watch the inner area men go up to it constantly adding more gold. The women have to sit outside the barriers and there are guards to ensure none approach too closely. There is a TV screen for women to watch what is going on and we could see from the sides where women also are sat watching and praying. I did see one lady taking a selfie before the shrine.

My driver Win asked if I would like to see his house, of course I would! Chan thought this was not quite the right thing to do but he took us to his house which was not far from the Mahamuni Buddha. There we met his nephew and sister and they immediately sent out to buy a large watermelon to share with us as their guests. Win’s house is a two storey building made in concrete with a large yard in front for his car. It reminded me of the kind of place I lived in Songkhla, Thailand. Chan was keen to tell me that her house is not as rich as his but is made of wood and bamboo.

Shwe In Bin monastery was the other place that I wanted to see. It is a wooden monastery and superficially looked quite similar to Shwenandaw. However it has only ever been a teak building and is only about 120 years old. It is still in use as a monastery and it was interesting to note the carvings on the structure and the fact that all parts, even the guttering, are wood.

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