Monday, February 3, 2014

Road to Mandalay….. to see the iconic U Bein bridge

We had decided to take internal flights within Burma (Myanmar) as we heard that the roads were not in a good state. They have a new(ish) road between Yangon and Mandalay which takes around 10-12 hours. The flight at  just over 1 hour  seemed definitely more attractive.
Getting the flight from the domestic side of Yangon airport was an interesting experience! We didn’t notice our bags being weighed, however they did have a weighing scale!!

Looks as though it has been in situ since the British were there!
Everyone was given a little round sticky with the airline initials on it. Then everyone waited in the same area. When they were ready to board a flight they stood in front with a placard!

Again the flight was only about 40-50% full. This, despite the fact that I was told a month before going, that there was no way we could change to a later flight….after my horror at finding that we were booked on such an early 6.15am flight!
At Mandalay airport we had plenty of time to check out the billboards ….

while waiting for luggage to be delivered…which took a while despite only having a few people disembark, most were continuing on to Bagan

The airport at Mandalay was only built around 12 years ago so definitely more modern than the one at Yangon. However it was built at least 45 minutes drive from the city! Apparently, as they want 747s to land there, they were afraid that the noise and vibrations of the planes might not be good for the pagodas. We heard several times about a Quantas 747 charter flight which did fly in……perhaps the only one so far!!

Obviously we could not check into our hotel until afternoon, so off we went to do some sightseeing……

First we went by the iconic U Bein bridge to pay for a boat to watch the sunset from the lake. Apparently even booking does not confirm…..there are only a certain number of boats and they will take someone else if you are not there early enough.

Our first view of the U Bein Bridge…..

 Apparently there are many duck farms in the area and we saw the duck farmer leading his flock home!

Amazingly they followed him!!

Then we visited a silk weaving place where only young girls can work… in general 10-12 years old, obviously not at school but….feeding their families….

 they have to have soft fingertips which don't damage the silk ……so not for housewives!

Then we went on to the Mahagandayon monastery in Amarapura to watch as the 1400 monks and novices line up  for their one main meal of the day.  This was at 10am!  

They are allowed to take fruit back to their room but are not allowed to eat after midday!

The monks are not allowed to cook or prepare food themselves. However they have lots of donors…. at a cost of at least $2000 to $3000 per meal.The donor family of the day were there….

they expect to gain merit for the afterlife!
We got to have a private talk with one of their head monks because he is a friend of our guide. He has written quite a number of books in English. He was quite charming and very interesting!

On the way back to Mandalay we stopped by a wood carving place

where they also made puppets…… obviously we were to be tempted to buy!

And a marble cutting place……..all Buddhas!!

the one without a face is waiting for the master carver!
Then we arrived at the Mahamuni Pagoda…..

This is a pagoda where men are allowed to add gold leaf to the Buddha…..

but not Ladies!!

We happened to arrive on an auspicious day…… it was a day when young children were going through a ceremony….
The little boy at the head was obviously going to be a monk…...

he had a special blessing in front of the Buddha

The girls were having an ear piercing ceremony and the boys were being checked to see if they were possibly monk material!
some were exceptionally young…..

After the ceremony the boys could choose to stay at the monastery for 3 days, 5 days, a week, or a month. Or could choose to stay there permanently. If they wanted to stay the parents had no choice but to allow it!
Before leaving the Pagoda we got to see some items plundered from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The brighter parts are because the people believe it has healing powers and rub whichever part of it that corresponds to their ailment! By the looks of it more stomach and knee problems than anything else!!

Then on to lunch at Unique Myanmar which was good.

After lunch we got to check into our hotel The Hotel by the Red Canal. Definitely to be recommended! And their Indian restaurant where we had dinner is also to be recommended!!

After a brief pause it was on with the sightseeing!
First stop was the Kyaung Shwenandaw, the only part of the original Palace saved during the WW11 bombing to the palace area……and that only because it was removed about 2 kms away by the last King Thibaw, the one escorted out of the Palace by the British to live his life in exile in India! It was the bedchamber of King Mindon, his father and he died in it!! King Thibaw gave it to be part of a Monastery…which actually was bombed in WW11.

 It was certainly interesting to see…..

with ceilings covered in gold leaf…...

Then on to Kuthodaw Pagoda an area with 729 stone inscription caves/stupas with slabs inscribed on both sides with the entire Canon of Theravada Buddism  ….. We decided we did not need to see all of them!

Then up Mandalay Hill for the view.

 It was good…..but not superb. We were happy not to have walked up!

Then quickly back to where we were to take the boat out on the lake to see the U Bein bridge at sunset. It was a spectacular sight


It was a superb experience……...

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