Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 75 - Outside Mandalay

I spent the entire day on the back of a motorbike exploring three cities outside of Mandalay – Amarapura, Inway (Ava), and Sagaing.

The tourguide first took me to some of the sights in Mandalay, including Shwe In Bin Kyaung, a monastery build completely of teak wood, and Mahamuni Paya, which has a 13-ft Buddha in the center that has been continuously covered in gold paper leaves by the locals as they pray. The Buddha is said to be covered in up to 6-inches of gold over the span of over a hundred year. All of the statue is covered except for the face, which is kept completely clean. Women are not allowed in the inner chamber of the Paya and are not allowed to apply gold leaf to the Buddha.

We headed to Amarapura next, which is considered the royal ancient capital city of Myanmar. We stopped by a couple temples before visiting the Mahagandhayon Monastery, which is home to thousands of monks, including many young, novice monks robed in white. Some of the monks are only there for the span of their studies while others stay there indefinitely. We were lucky enough to arrive right before the almsgiving ceremony, which occurs everyday at around 10:15am when all the monks line up on the street to collect food from the volunteers who help cook for them. This is their only meal of the day.

Afterwards, we headed to one of the most famous sights in Amarapura, the U Bein Bridge - a 1,300 yard long teak footbridge used by the locals to cross the Taungthaman Lake. The rains and winds presented a challege as I watched every step I took down the bridge, some of the steps loose.

The next city we traveled to was Inwa, which required a boat ride across the river to reach. I met up with a Dutch man who happened to also be touring on motorbike and we explored the city together, avoiding some of the fees that were imposed on foreigners. The city itself was nothing too special – just more pagodas and stupas, and a leaning clock tower.

After lunch, we headed to Sagaing, which is home to about 500 stupas all within the hills of the city. We headed up Sagaing Hill, which was my exercise for the day. At the top were breathtaking views of the entire city, where you could see the hundreds of stupas scattered throughout the city. I can't believe how many stupas there are in this city. I thought Chiang Mai was incredible with it's many religious sites, but I think this city (and country) surpass it.

We headed back to Mandalay in the afternoon, where my tourguide helped me plan the rest of my 2-3 weeks in this country. It will be interesting figuring out how to get from one place to another, but that's all a part of the excitement.

I ended the night meeting up with the Dutch guy I met at Inwa and we had dinner and a couple beers, discussing some of the ridiculous stories of scamming that we had experienced and that he had heard from other people he met. It seems that white people have a lot more trouble with scammers than I do. I don't know if it's because locals view them as more vulnerable and gullible (or wealthier?), or maybe they are just easier to target than I am. It's riskier for them, but they have better stories to tell in the end.

Mahagandhayon Monastery - Alms Ceremony

Novice Monks eating around 10:30am

Mahamuni Paya (and the Men who are allowed to pray in the inner chamber)

Myanmar Marionettes

The meticulous craft of silk-making

Pagoda in Amarapura
U-Bein Bridge

Sagaing Hill

Inwa Bridge

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