Where we were docked in Mandalay wasn’t the best spot to capture the sunrise, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
We had a busy day in Mandalay, starting out with a visit to a gold leaf workshop to learn how it’s made. This is the most arduous part of the process – these young men pound the package of gold leaf for 30 minutes. By the look of his toes I think that, sometimes, they miss.
From the gold leaf workshop we went to Mahamuni Pagoda. This is one of the most revered shrines in Myanmar, home to one of the five likenesses created in Buddha’s lifetime. Legend has it that when Buddha saw the figure, which he believed it to be his only true likeness, he gave it his spirit and said it would be his representative for five thousand years. As a result, the Myanmar Buddhist’s believe that it is a living image of Buddha. The faithful (men only) go at sunrise to wash the face and brush the teeth of the image (several of the crew had gone early that morning); during the winter, the image is covered at night to keep it warm.
Beautiful flowers, to be presented to Buddha, are always for sale outside the Pagodas.
This is the Mahamumi Buddha. The men (no women again) in the photo are applying gold leaf to the Buddha; it’s estimated that the gold is about six inches thick and you can see how the bottom part of the figure is losing it’s shape from the gold application.
The pillars in the pagoda are covered with beautiful jade tiles…
Once inside the pagoda, you have to walk down a fairly long hallway to reach the Buddha or to leave. This hallway is full of little shops selling everything from fake flowers to toys…
to kitchy little cats (their left arms move up and down)…
and of course, Buddha figures.
From the Mahamuni Pagoda we went to a tapestry and wood carving workshop, where this guy, neither tapestry nor wood carving, was hanging from the rafter.
The face, arms and legs of the marionettes are made of wood, each one is unique.
This shop had some absolutely amazing wood carvings
King Mindon was the 2nd last King of Burma and one of the most popular. He built Mandalay Palace which was completed in 1859 and seized by the British when they occupied Burma in 1885. Subsequently, during WWII, the Japanese used it as a munitions depot and it sustained heavy allied bombing in 1945; everything was destroyed.
Shwenandaw Monastery is the only part of King Mindon’s Glass City to survive. This building was originally the King’s living quarters; after his death in 1878 his son, King Thibaw, thinking it was haunted by his father, had it dismantled and moved to it’s current location. In 1880 it was converted to a monastery.
The outside of the entire building was once coated in gold, you can still see the flecks that remain.
There are many intricate carvings all around the Pagoda. Now quite weathered, these were also once covered with gold.
The building has a four tiered roof and a beautiful veranda that goes all the way around. Can you imagine this completely covered in gold?
On the move again, we passed this tuk-tuk style taxi cab…
Kuthodaw Pagoda was built in 1857, also by King Mindon. The 13 acre site is comprised of a golden temple surrounded by 730 identical white stupas. In each stupa is a marble tablet. 729 of them are inscribed with the complete sacred text of Theravada Buddhism; the last 1 describes their creation. It is collectively the “largest book in the world”.
This must have been a sight to see in 1868 when the tablets were unveiled – the writing was filled in with golden ink and the tablets were decorated with precious stones. Unfortunately, when the British invaded in the 1880’s the site was looted and the text has since been filled with black ink.
The very shiny stupa in the centre…
and the funny little men on the steps…
The temples are social places, there are always people just hanging around, relaxing and socializing.
Just around the corner from the pagoda is this artist’s “workshop”. He paints on photo paper with ink, a thick brush and a razor blade. The whole process takes him just a few minutes – he has to work quickly to get done before the ink dries.
He does the broader strokes with the brush and then scrapes the ink off to create the white areas and the detail.
The result is amazing…
Avalon gave each of us on of his drawings – this is mine – the corner of the Mandalay Palace and the moat that surrounds it.
Which oddly enough, was our next stop!
The Palace walls form a square – each of the walls is 2km long, 3m thick and 8m high. There are 48 bastions and 12 gates, 3 on each wall equal distance from the corners and each other. The palace area in the middle was rebuilt in the 90’s, but most of the property is a military base and off limits.
We’d had a very busy day, but we’d driven by a huge market and we wanted to go for a wander. We asked the cruise director and he assured us that is was perfectly safe to go. After dinner 4 of us set out for the Zin Yaw market accompanied by a couple of our crew. Unlike many markets that are only open in the morning, this one is open late – it was almost 9 when we go there and it was still surprisingly busy.
It was very well lit, maybe this was just for backup?
It’s a market, so I guess it’s okay to bring your goat to work with you…
Even though it was late, they were still stocking up. This man was catching and stacking the zucchini.
On our way back we caught the goat snacking on the tomatoes, delicious!
Every market in this part of the world has a lovely supply of peppers!
We’d come in the back way so we exited at the main entrance.
This is a mobile gas station!
It was a nice walk and a great way to end to a very busy but interesting day!