Mountains of Burma...the Road to Mandalay


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October 16th 2014
Published: November 9th 2014
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PuppetsPuppetsPuppets

...at the Woodcarver shop, very popular in Myanmar...
October 16, 2014



Ah Burma, the mystical land of Kipling and Orwell...the Lovely K had always wanted to see Myanmar (Burma), and we figured it would be best to see it sooner rather than later as the country is in the process of opening up more and more to tourism...so from Bangkok it was a direct flight to Mandalay to begin the adventure...

Visa process at home was interesting, and with the guide books mentioning that there were no ATM's, Visa was rarely used and to bring all your money in new, creaseless/pristine American dollars (preferably $100 bills) I wasn't quite sure what to expect when we arrived...but customs was quick, the money changers at the airport did inspect the bills as if they were purchasing some rare antiques but in the end it was pretty easy and straightforward...into the taxi and off to town!

No reservations so decided to start at the Smart Hotel, it had a half decent review in the LP and from the map looked to be in a good location...greeted by very friendly staff, and after checking out the rooms and chatting with the manager we decided to stay...we were still pretty bagged from the jetlag, and the previous late night in Bangkok didn't help so just laid low for the balance of the day at the hotel, figured we'd rest up for the following days' exploring...

The next morning the hotel arranged a taxi for us, so off we went for a day of exploring...the first thing I realized is just how spread out the sites are, and while everything looked kinda close on the LP maps Mandalay just didn't seem conducive to walking around...which was a drag as that is something we love to do, but not much choice...

We saw so many things that day that the order and site names are a bit of a blur, but we started off in the Gold Pounder's District to see folks, well, pounding gold...crazy, applying thin squares of gold to various Buddha's is a big part of the culture and this is where they pound the gold into these squares, looked like a lot of back-breaking work...next was Mahamuni Paya, where we witnessed folks applying the gold squares to a huge seated Buddha, which is reputed to be 2000 years old, and after centuries of the gold leaves
Gold Leaf BuddhaGold Leaf BuddhaGold Leaf Buddha

Devotees applying the votary squares of gold to this ever-growing Buddha at Mahamuni Paya...
being applied it has grown into this knobby, kind of distorted figure but cool nonetheless (supposed to be 6 inches of gold covering it now, there are photos at the Paya showing what it originally looked like and some shots over the years as it continued to receive the gold votaries...).

The rest of the day in no particular order included a visit to a woodworking shop, a Buddhist temple where we witnessed the monks on what I believe was their daily almsround, and a textile shop...then it was off to the Sagaing region southwest of greater Mandalay, and in particular Sagaing Hill which is dotted with several pagodas...poked through some of these, the views here of the surrounding plains was beautiful...

Stopped for lunch at this remote restaurant, then were ushered into a boat by our taxi driver and whisked to the other side of this river where all sorts of carts and donkeys were waiting...our driver didn't speak much English so we weren't sure what was going on but after hesitatingly hiring a cart we were off and running...and as it turned out there were all sorts of pagodas in the countryside, so visited several of these on our three hour tour...I have no idea where we were, but the temples were cool and it was fun bopping around in the back of this rickety cart...

Made it back to the river and crossed back to our taxi...last stop for this day was to be the famous U Bein Bridge in the Amarapura region, a bridge made entirely of teak and spanning 1.2 kms across Taungthaman Lake...we were looking forward to checking it out but as soon as we were about to start crossing the skies completely opened up and poured rain, dang! Tried to wait it out over a pint but it was relentless, complete with flooding in the streets...man when it rains here it rains! Disappointed we hopped back in our taxi and called it a day...

That night we took in the infamous Moustache Brothers show, something I had wanted to check out...originally three "brothers", this troupe were notorious for telling jokes about and making fun of the Myanmar generals and government, eventually earning two of them lengthy prison sentences of hard labour...one has since passed away, and now only one "brother" carries on with the performances (Lu Maw), which are part vaudeville, part shameless self-promotion but still with jokes about corruption and anti-government quips...it is in English but Lu Maw's manic-ness makes it challenging to understand everything, it is very cool nonetheless and definitely recommend checking it out...

The next day we got another taxi, this time it was to check out the palace and some of the sites northwest of the city, and we arranged to detour back to U Bein Bridge as well in the hopes of being able to see it without the rain...thought we were going to start at the palace but the driver suggested we do Mandalay Hill and some of the surrounding pagodas first before the afternoon heat kicked in so off we went...not sure to this day what "afternoon heat" meant as it seemed stinkin' hot all the time, lol....

Meandered around the hill and checked out some pagodas, then it was off to visit more around the base of Mandalay Hill...the coolest for me was Kuthodaw Paya, home of reputedly the world's largest book...and I would say it qualifies, the "book" is actually 729 text-inscribed marble slabs, each individually housed in their own little stupa arranged in rows around the
Daily Catch..Daily Catch..Daily Catch..

...as seen from the U Bein Bridge...
Paya, quite something...

The Palace was next, and I have to admit it was less than impressive...tourists are restricted to the main road that leads up to the reconstructed palace (done in the 1990's) and while the site houses many timber buildings the majority are empty...there's a rickety watchtower that provides great views of the city but aside from that not a whole lot to see...

Finally it was back to U Bein, and this time the sun was shining so we were able to see it properly...lots of local foot traffic, definitely quite the sight to see and experience...leisurely made our way across, stopping to watch kids playing in the water and fishermen in the water up to their necks fishing...had a pint on the far side and then made our way back...

That ended our adventure in Mandalay, managed to see a lot of things but now it was off to our next stop, Bagan, on a slow boat down the Ayeryarwady River in the morning...


Additional photos below
Photos: 57, Displayed: 26


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Mahamuni PayaMahamuni Paya
Mahamuni Paya

The gold leaf Buddha...
GongGong
Gong

...at Mahamuni Paya...
Woodcarver ShopWoodcarver Shop
Woodcarver Shop

...some beautiful pieces here...
Daily AlmsDaily Alms
Daily Alms

Monks out for the daily almsround...
Monks IIMonks II
Monks II

...receiving the daily alms..
SilkSilk
Silk

...I think it was a silk workshop..
Sagaing Hill...Sagaing Hill...
Sagaing Hill...

...with the Ayeryarwady River...
Sagaing Hill IISagaing Hill II
Sagaing Hill II

...love the temples...
Sagaing PayaSagaing Paya
Sagaing Paya

...no idea which one, cool though...
StatueStatue
Statue

...great detail...


9th November 2014
Kuthodaw Paya

Pagoda City!
Whirlwind taxi tours followed by a lazy boat ride--I guess you'll be experiencing a lot of contrasts in this country, ie places that look close, but then are far away. Gorgeous pagodas--love that contrast of gold and pink. I must say that I adore that you call you partner, the Lovely K. Indeed she is, but you are so sweet to call her so. Hope the boat ride is sweet.
12th November 2014
Kuthodaw Paya

Thanks Tara...
Boat ride was sweet, was nice to have a down day of watching the world go by...it's a cool country, lots of contrast and still very real, glad we went when we did...
11th November 2014

Mandalay
We experienced two earthquakes while we were in Mandalay. We felt the same way that you did about going soon before the country changes too much. Inle Lake was one of my favorite spots. The number and beauty of the temples.....
11th November 2014

Earthquakes?
Yikes...luckily didn't experience those...yeah, the country seems to be opening up at a rapid pace; Visa is everywhere now (and in the oddest locations) and hotels are being built on what seems like every block...gonna change for sure...Inle was awesome, as was Bagan and Ngapali Beach, more on those to come...

Tot: 0.097s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 10; qc: 26; dbt: 0.0155s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.2mb