Mandalay Journals

Myanmar - Road to Mandalay

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A December 2004 trip to Mandalay by Ed Hahn

Teak Bridge at Amarapura Photo, More Photos
Quote: The ancient capitol of Myanmar. Long the object of my fantasies, Mandalay has a certain mystique that permeates everything we see and do.

Myanmar - Road to Mandalay

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Overview

Teak Bridge at Amarapura Photo,
Quote:
Katmandhu, Timbuktu, Shangri La: all names of places that fascinated me when I was a youngster. Among them was Mandalay, “where the flying fishes play.” You might think that my expectations would get in the way of reality but the two days we were here actually exceeded my expectations.After landing we were met by our guide, Bruce. He would never tell us his Bamar name. He was older than any of our other guides and more than a little cynical. Nevertheless, we covered a lot of ground in two days.Our first stop was Amarapura, the royal capitol prior to Mandalay, with its two kilometer long teak bridge. We also visited a nearby monastery that houses upwards of 1,000 stu...Read More

Kuthodaw Pagoda

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Attraction

Kuthodaw Pagoda Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
On our way to Mandalay Hill we stopped at the Kuthodaw Pagoda, often called the world’s largest book. It is a huge walled complex situated at the base of the southeast side of Mandalay Hill. It was built by King Mindon at the same time he was constructing the Royal Palace, both started in 1857. Both Pam and I noticed that the main stupa looked familiar. Later I discovered it was modeled after the Shwezigon Stupa we had seen near Bagan. I was beginning to think that, “All stupas looked alike.”The stupa is set in the middle of a thirteen acre field of 729 pitaka shrines. Each shrine contains a marble slab, inscribed on both sides with a portion the Tipitaka, Theravada Buddhism’s sacred texts. To...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 11, 2006

Kuthodaw Pagoda
Mandalay Hill
Mandalay, Myanmar

Mahamuni (Great Sage) Pagoda

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Attraction

Mahamuni (Great Sage) Pagoda Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
This is possibly the most popular Paya in Mandalay. It certainly provides fascinating insights into the religious practices and devotion of the people of Myanmar. The original Paya was built in 1784 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1890. It exists to house a most revered Buddha image. Nobody knows how old the Buddha image is. Legend has it that the original bronze statue was modeled from an image of the living Buddha. Originally from Arakan, it is considered to be the holiest image in Myanmar. It is heavily covered in gold leaf to the point that it is impossible to even guess at what the original image must have looked like. Male worshippers continuously apply gold leaf as an act of devotion. W...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 12, 2006

Mahamuni (Great Sage) Pagoda
South of 41st St. on 82nd St.
Mandalay, Myanmar

Shwenandaw Monastery

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Attraction | "Shwenandaw (Golden Palace) Monastery"

Shwenandaw Monastery Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
Originally part of the royal palace at Amarapura and later moved to Mandalay, this monastery began its existence in the mid 19th century as part of King Mindon’s living quarters. After King Mindon died in 1878, his son and successor, King Thibaw thought that perhaps the apartments were haunted, so he had the entire structure dismantled, moved to its present location, and re-dedicated as a monastery in 1890. It is still a working monastery.At one time it was completely covered in gold leaf and glass mosaics. The gold has long since worn away. The glass mosaics have disappeared and what is left is the weathered teak with which it was originally built. It is perhaps the only surviving example o...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 13, 2006

Shwenandaw Monastery

Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay Hill

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Attraction

Mandalay Hill Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
I never quite got clear whether Mandalay was named after Mandalay Hill or vice-versa. Since the Buddha, himself, is said to have visited Mandalay Hill, I’ll go with the former. As the legend tells it, when Buddha reached the top he stretched out his hand to the plain below and prophesied that a great city and religious center would be founded at its base. Unsurprisingly, given its history, the hill is covered with numerous pagodas and religious shrines, including, most notably, the Shweyattaw Temple. Approximately two-thirds of the way up the hill, it houses a large golden standing statue of the Buddha in a dramatic pose with his right hand pointing toward the Royal Palace and the city below. ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 14, 2006

Mandalay Hill

Mandalay, Myanmar

Novices at Mahagandhayon Monastery, Amarapura Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
Amarapura was our first stop after flying in from Bagan as it was on the way from the airport to Mandalay. I think I would have appreciated it more if I had seen it after spending a day in Mandalay. Founded in 1782, it was twice the capital of Myanmar: (1783–1823) when the capitol was transferred back to Inwa (Ava) and (1837–60) when it was moved to Mandalay. Bruce, our guide, was quick to point out that its royal palace, great temples, and fortifications are now in ruins, either moved piece by piece to Mandalay or destroyed by earthquakes and fire. Our first stop was U Bein’s teak bridge. At 1.2km, it is the longest teak bridge in the world and is in surprisingly good shape considering i...Read More

Exploring Sagaing - Religion and Life

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Story/Tip

Vista From Sagaing Hill with Ava Bridge Photo, Mandalay, Myanmar
Quote:
This was one of the most interesting stops we made during our whole trip to Myanmar. Not because of the attractions we saw but because of the rituals we were able to observe. Sagaing has an interesting history. In 1315 it was made the capitol of a Shan Kingdom after the fall of Bagan had thrown Central Myanmar into chaos. The capitol was moved across the river to Inwa (Ava) in 1364. It briefly regained its role as capitol from 1760 to 1764 before the capitol was moved to Inwa, then to Amarapura, back to Inwa, back to Amarapura before finally ending up in Mandalay. The people of that time evidently liked to move the capitol based on what the seers said.It is mostly known as a religious ...Read More

Exploring Mingun - One Man's Ego Trip

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Story/Tip

Exterior of King Bodawpaya's Paya Photo,
Quote:
The day we visited Mingun was a religious holiday which, in spite of the crowds, made the visit more interesting. Pam, my wife, and I took a fish-tail boat across the Ayeyarwaddy River to Mingun with Bruce, our guide. The trip takes about 45 minutes. It was a beautiful morning as it was still relatively cool. Our first stop was what was intended to be the world’s largest pagoda. Sometimes known as "King Bodawpaya's Folly" because it was to be so immense that there was no way it could be finished in his lifetime. Before we reached the zedi itself we looked at two incredibly huge stone Chinthes (lion guardians), near the river, that were partially destroyed in an 1838 earthquake. ...Read More