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Published: December 8th 2016
The growing golden Buddha
Today we booked to do one of the tours available in the Mandalay area - The 3 Cities, which are three of the former royal capitals of the region and a visit to the famous U Bein Bridge. We did this by private taxi which was great as we didn't have to hang around waiting at all and could miss out the things like the silk weaving which we weren't interested in (only twigged this after having seen the wood carving!).
Our driver was a lovely young guy called Si Thu but prefers to be called Peter much to the amusement of his other driver friends who kept taking the Micky out of him whenever we encountered them. As with most of the men here he was wearing the traditional longyi, a kind of sarong and I'm not surprised as the porter in our hotel told us a pair of jeans cost $60! This was after he admired Howard's Smart Price ones and couldn't believe they were only £6 ha ha.
Anyway back to the trip, as per usual the traffic was mental with much horn blasting and near misses, I would not like to drive anything with less
than 4 wheels here that is for sure. Before getting out of Mandalay we stopped to visit the Mahamooni Pagoda, which is verypopular with the locals and they were out in force today. We took off our shoes and entered to the blaring of strange music and it was great to have someone with us to show us what to do and explain what's what.
We saw the Buddha with 11 fingers and the Buddha who food offerings are made before - these are for the angels who come down very early each morning to eat and pass the prayers along, we washed our birth day Buddhas 5 times each for blessings, saw fantastic views, Howard go to go into the men only inner sanctum to see the gold leaf offerings being placed onto a giant Buddha who according to the photos has grown 6 inches fatter from all said offerings and I waited near the women who were praying from afar.
Peter told us that only men are regarded as important and to have females only is to lose a generation, boys are revered as they get to be monks and there are big ceremonies and processions
Washing our birth day Buddhas
when they enter the monastery, which they have to do twice during their lives and is compulsory in Burma. Girls on the other hand can choose if they want to be nuns, but are regarded as second rate to monks and get to wear pink robes! Hmmmmmmm...... I didn't actually hit him I hasten to add.
This was followed by a visit to the Mahagandaryon Monastery which was most bizarre. You are allowed to wander around everywhere and take photos, where they get washed, see their laundry etc but by 10.15 you have to have found a good spot by the side of the road leading to the 'canteen' it must have a more religious term but I don't know it. All the monks then line up in strict age order with their bowls and file silently in to eat their lunch, meanwhile all the tourists take loads of photos and in some cases place offerings on their bowls. While we were there the monks on the left side got masses of stuff, from tiger balm to toothbrushes but those on our side only got a sachet of coffee, I bet that led to much practising of having no
Line up for lunch
envy, or maybe they just pool it all and share it out fairly, I hope so. It was rather uncomfortable watching this but according to Peter the monks like it, you would never have guessed it looking at them.
On we went to Paleik Hill, a fab place, a big hill that is supposed to look like a frog and dotted everywhere with pagodas. We hike barefoot up a ton of steps, saw where Buddha meditated for 25 years, had stunning views again, dodged souvenir sellers, gave in and ended up coming away with 3 woven straw purses of assorted sizes that I have no use for but at least one child will have money towards her education.
Lunch time and we opt for local village food - see picture. The loo was out the back near a field in a hut on stilts and I am well practised at squatting once more.
From the village we took a small boat across the river to Innwa, probably my favourite place so far. Everyone takes a taxi tour, that's the rule and the taxi is a horse and cart and the roads are really rough! You are driven
Lots of monks and lots of tourists
round to see the main sites and get to see rural life at it's most picturesque, people working in their fields, oxen, lakes, small stick and mat houses, rice, bananas, the list goes on.
Our first stop was at the Bagya Monastery, very small, old and made of teak, it was lovely 😊 then we trotted on to an ancient Pagoda with stone Buddhas and some how I ended up with a small bronze gong but Howard drew the line at the fantastic opium pipe. Then we climbed up the leaning tower of Innwa, very wonky with a very steep wooden staircase tacked on the side, that was a bit hairy!
The final sight was an ancient stone monastery and once more we climbed barefoot up and round the levels, right next to it was a brand new pagoda all white and gold.
I think the horse was as relieved as I was when we finally got back to the jetty area, my bones my bones. Boat back to the other side and we were whisked off to the U Bein bridge.
The mayor had this bridge using teak posts that span the width of the
Where Buddha meditated
river, it is a mile long and not too bad to walk along if you don't look down and stay in the centre as there are no sides Most of the way! Howard walked the full length and back I got halfway and stopped in one of the shelters where I had a chat with a lad from China who is in Burma for 3 years on business and much prefers China as Burma is to poor apparently. He was doing a bit of sightseeing with his Burmese mate and showed me some of his pics before asking if he could have a photo taken with me, ha ha, I have a lovely smile apparently, who knew?!
Eventually we got back to our hotel totally knackered but forced ourselves out for tea, at the Beer Garden, where I was the only woman. I had twice crispy pork and French fries, which turned out to be small pieces of belly pork and some dody looking chips. Howard ordered an Indian style masala curry which turned up as a chicken with green pepper dish any Chinese would have been proud of.
Back in the hotel and straight to bed, another
Stuff on ladies cheeks is traditional sunscreen
early start tomorrow but it was a brilliant day.
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