Tuesday 13th March
We started our visit of Mandalay by walking along the east side of the fort, to get a sense of its size. It is really long! About 2 km on each side. It was built in 1857 as a residence for the richest people.
While walking along it, we saw people playing chess on a quite large scale.
We stayed to watch the game for a while wondering about the issue of it, but it was interrupted by the truck coming to pick up the pieces. I guess the rental time was over.
We kept walking and saw some beautiful pots at some point on the road. In Burma, there is water for free everywhere. Under the Chinese hat is a cup on a plate, people take the plate out protecting the water and take a cup of water, then put everything back in place. In a country so hot like Burma, it is a smart idea to provide purified water to everyone for free like this.
At the end of the side, a trishaw driver proposed to take us to Mandalay Hill so we went with him. We walked up the hill slowly, via the passageway on the stairs, following a monk.
We saw a few Buddhas on the way, like this one pointing with his finger. According to legend, the Buddha, accompagnied by his disciple Ananda, climbed Mandalay Hill and propethised that, in the 2400th year of his faith, a great city would be founded below the hill. By our calendar, that 2400th year was 1857, the year that King Mindon did indeed decree the capital’s move from Amarapura to Mandalay. I love legends.
The view was quite foggy from the hill, but still beautiful. Burma is really about tons of pagodas and Buddhas. Really the most spiritual country of South East Asia.
In payas, you always see boxes in which people put money as donations. There are several boxes and apparently people put money in the one corresponding to the month or day on which they were born.
We went back in the evening with the trishaw driver to our hotel area, which is an Indian area and had some Indian food.
Wednesday 14th March
We saw Hayley and Ross in the morning, went for some soup breakfast nearby and rented 2 bikes to get around. We cycled first to an old teak wood monastery called Shwe In Bin Kyaung which was commissioned in 1895 by 2 wealthy Chinese jade merchants.
We stopped for some lunch after. Nearby they were making a road, the Burmese way. It was really interesting. One guy was supervising the making of tar in two old barils, burning some old rubber wheels as a combustible.
Another guy was spreading it on the road.
About thirty people were spreading the stones on it, to make them stick to it to create the road.
And finally one guy was crushing them with the crushing truck by passing again and again on it.
We also saw some kids washing themselves at the well in a cheerful way.
After that, we cycled to Mahamuni Paya. On the way, we saw some horse and carts and picturesque backgrounds of an old charming Mandalay we had been looking forward to see and had not found yet.
While cycling, we ran into Hayley and Ross who were going to the temple too but with the trishaw. We saw them again in the paya. That paya holds one of the Burma’s most famous Buddha, one on which men keep adding golden leaves (women are not allowed to do it). Many locals believe that it is 2,000 years old.
In the temple are also bronze statues that were stolen a few centuries ago from Angkor Wat (the main temple of the Angkor complex, in Siem Reap, Cambodia). Locals rub parts of the body of these statues, believing that any affliction on the corresponding part of their own body will thus be cured.
The coolest thing when visiting temples and pagodas in Burma is to interact with the people. Burmese people are really kind, friendly, smiling and funny.
While exiting, we ran into a woman and girls monks. In Burma they shave their head, and dress in pink with an orange cloth on their head.
After this temple, we cycled to Amarapura, a nearby city, to see the U Bein’s Bridge. We first saw some cows eating garbage. It reminded me of India.
On the way to there we stopped to play with some kids. They were really fun.
They were also some of them fishing with a net they were holding in their hands, moving around and taking out of the water.
We arrived at the U Bein’s Bridge for sunset. Lots of locals and monks come here to enjoy the sunset.
It is the world longest teak footbridge.
It is apparently also the most photographed one.
We ran into Hayley and Ross again and came back together, the four of us on bikes, searching for a cool place serving the Mandalay local beer we had not tried yet. We found a nice pub with locals only, where we had a few pints together to celebrate the day.
More cycling in Mandalay tomorrow!