Sagaing, Amarapura, U-Bein Bridge

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October 21st 2017
Published: October 23rd 2017
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Sagaing, Amarapura

Just an hour south of Mandalay, these old kingdoms are famous tourist places, for foreigners and locals. The bridge in particular is a spot to take a walk or chat with friends and family on a day off.

We began in Sagaing across the Irrawaddy river and reached it over a new bridge for which there is a toll. It was made because the old Colonial one could not take trucks. Now that is only for the railway. If you are going into the town you also pay for that, in total about k700 (about 40 pence).

Sagaing is like an island of hills, 240 I think, each with a pagoda. As time goes on it is more and more difficult for me to remember which I have seen so this with my many photos will help. We took a winding road up the hill called ‘frog hill’ due to its shape and its symbol is everywhere, even at the entrance as you drive up.

U Min Thonze pagoda cave of Buddhas is the first of its kind I've seen. Built into the side of the hill, this natural cave has 45 seated Buddhas in a concave arc, and 1 standing at each end. Earthquakes have damaged them over the years but one original remains. The pagoda glitters with glass mosaics as do several others in this area. I poured water over the head of my Sunday Buddha, also made a donation in a frog box and rubbed it's temple above the left eye as Chan said it would prevent the headache I get there when tired.

As so often, I loved seeing the plants, insects and views from the top. Of course I took lots of pictures.

Amarapura hand weaving

Chan took me to a workshop owned and run by a family. There were 2 girls weaving embroidery style designs in silk following charts on squared paper. The youngsters have to do this because the colours are similar and their eyes deteriorate with the close work. Two ladies spun the silk on to bobbins for the girls and the men work on bigger looms either in one colour or making the traditional checked design for longiis. I was then taken across the road to the shop and felt obliged to buy something but could not see what. Prices were in dollars
U Min Thonze U Min Thonze U Min Thonze

The cave of Buddhas
as well as the products not being what I'd buy but I finally settled on a zip purse with small raised flowers for Mum.

Nuns and Monks

We visited a convent for me to learn about the life of the girls who stay in them. For many poorer families this is the only way to provide an education for their daughters. Chan, my guide said that she was only able to have an early education because of that provided by a convent. Two girls were studying in one of the halls of the convent, writing the Buddha’s teachings in the religious script, Pali. They were happy to show me their books and pose for a photo. I noticed that a lady was visiting with another girl and Chan said that family members are able to meet with their girls on a social basis. Around the compound I saw the buildings where the girls live in dormitories and heard chanting from large halls outside were rows and rows of flip flops.

We also visited a monastery. Where we walked through the compound there were houses of accommodation either side. We looked into the kitchen and saw bags of food and logs for the burners, which have been donated to the Monastery. The person who organises the kitchen actually has a menu up on the wall as to what the monks will receive the following breakfast and lunch. After lunch time monks do not eat again. I remember there were over 1000 monks at this place and as with most of them they may be there for weeks, months or years depending on why they are spending time in the Monastery. As we left by the back gate it surprised me to see a local farmer with his cattle feeding in the grounds.

U Bein bridge

The longest teak bridge in the world at 1.2km appears everywhere in brochures, often as one of the famous sunset views and with monks walking across it. I saw as it really is, thronged with tourists and busy with vendors. I mentioned the impression given of the monks streaming across in the mornings to collect donations and Chan said “it doesn't happen”, aha, don't believe the hype”. At this time of year the Taungthaman Lake is full so people are fishing - some wading up to their necks. Once the lake dries up it will be farmed by the same people and there are restaurants in what is now flooded area.

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