It was a beautiful Christmas morning on the Irrawaddy River, not a snowflake in sight.
We pulled anchor and literally crossed the river to Mingun.
We certainly weren’t alone on the river anymore!
A buddha figure in a snake, why not? This is actually a Naga Buddha. A naga is a deity that takes on the form of a snake. After Buddha attained enlightenment a Naga King named Muccalinda spread his cobra hood over Buddha to protect him from the rain. So, this snake’s head is protecting the Buddha while the coiled snake’s body acts as a cushion…
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi was the dream of King Bodawpaya – it was designed to be 150 metres (just under 500 feet) high. Construction began in 1790 and was halted in 1797 at it’s current height of 50 metres. Whether it was stopped due to lack of labour (the slaves kept running away) or over concerns about structural stability is still a matter of conjecture. King Bodawypaya’s death stopped construction permanently in 1819 and in the earthquake of 1838 it was severely damaged. It’s probably a blessing that it hadn’t been completed.
Two 29 metre tall (100 ft) chinthes were built to protect the pagoda but in the same earthquake they both lost their head’s into the river. All that’s recognizable today is their back ends.
While there isn’t much left you can still see the incredible detail on them.
Mingun has a lively market area with some beautiful works of art.
Our next stop was the Mingun Bell, the 2nd largest working bell in the world, which was cast to go in the finished pagoda. Curiously, it was cast from 1808 to 1810 – after construction was halted but before the King died. It weighs 90 metric tons (almost 200,000 pounds), is 12 feet tall and 6 to 12 inches thick.
And when you ring it with a piece of wood, the reverberation is incredible.
Looking up inside the bell you can see how thick it was. Some people were actually going inside it!
The Hsinbyume Pagoda (also known as the Mya Thein Tan Pagoda) is Myanmar’s Taj Mahal. It was built in 1816 by Bagyidaw in memory of Princess Hsinbyume who died in childbirth. The temple is modeled after the Buddhist mythological mountain, Mount Meru.
The symmetry and lines of this pagoda are amazing.
And no temple would be complete without some oxen.
Back out on the street, the locals fry up these cakes in pans of hot oil.
Some have fruit, some have little fish, some have nuts…
Marionettes have been a part of Burmese culture since the 11th century. These beautiful intricate puppets are for sale everywhere.
We saw this and had to laugh, but apparently it’s quite new…
Sat Taw Yar Pagoda on the riverfront was built in 1881 and contains a footprint of Buddha in marble. We did go inside, but since we can’t read (or understand) Burmese we didn’t see it…
It’s protected by two very large chinthes.
And has a taxi stand out front…
Notice how the soldiers on the left side of the photo have their right arm up and the ones on the right have their left arm up. I wonder why?
Beside the pagoda a traditional wooden longboat is displayed.
The view of the river from the courtyard of the pagoda. Can you imagine a royal barge pulling up to the stairs?
Not far by boat from Mandalay, Mingun is a popular day trip from the city. A lot more activity than we’ve become accustomed to!
By the time we finished lunch, we were tied up in Mandalay – at an actual dock no less!
We hopped on a coach (a lot of bus for our small group) and headed to Amarapura. Amarapura was once the capital of Myanmar and is now a township within the city of Mandalay. It’s most notable tourist attraction is the U Bein Bridge, a 3/4 mile long teak bridge built from reclaimed teak from an old royal palace. It’s the longest teak bridge in the world, and, I’m guessing, the most crowded. We did walk on it, but just far enough to say we’ve done it. I’ll be honest, it was not my favourite moment walking on a very crowded bridge with no railings.
This little temple near the bridge had a sort of Disney-esque feel to it.
The bridge crosses Taung Tha Man Lake. At this time of year, much of the bridge is over land but in the rainy season this entire area would be under water.
People come here by the bus load to watch the sunset, best seen from a sampan on the water.
We loaded into our sampans, two in each and were rowed out into the lake.
Our (very serious) captain…
The bridge is much less crowded now!
We were rowed under the bridge, which made no sense as that was the side the sun was setting on. It all became clear when we saw our bartenders wearing santa hats, singing Jingle Bells and pouring drinks. Avalon thinks of everything!
Donning our Santa hats and with drinks and snacks in hand we were rowed back to the east side of the bridge to watch the sunset.
We were the only group on the water with our own beverage sampan, so spoiled.
Sangria, fruit juice and beer too.
Everyone else was wishing they were travelling with Avalon!
The sunset was beautiful, and the bridge makes a lovely backdrop.
Back on board, the chef had prepared a Christmas turkey for us.
A santa cake…
And a yule log with strawberry snowmen…
To top it all off, the crew sang “Jingle Bells” in english and Burmese…