The next part of my journey led me from the southern city of Yangon, Burma (Myanmar) to the northern city of Mandalay. My hotel offered city tours through their connections so I signed up for one heading out the next morning. I had a great time as our group was small and our guide was passionate. I traveled with 2 other ladies, one from Shanghai and one from Hong Kong. Our first stop was a teak woodworking shop to see the craftsmen at work and obviously, to shop.
After the teak shop we went to the Maha Gana Yon Kyaung monastery that is still active, housing over 1,000 monks of all ages. We were told that often times joining a monastery is the best chance at a good education since most kids come from low-income families and education is free while studying there. We caught a glimpse of young monks waiting to enter their eating hall for lunch. They traditionally bring their pots outside into the street in the morning to get offerings from the locals who gladly oblige. At this time, some tourists put snacks on the lids of the passing monks’ pots but they went into the eating hall where food was already cooked and waiting.
Next up was a short boat ride across a lake and onwards to a horse and carriage ride waiting to take us around the town of Ava, also known as Inwa. Ava was an imperial capital city from the 14th-19th century and the remains of decadence are notable. We saw an old teak monastery called Bagaya Kyaung. It’s too old and dilapidated to use as an active monastery so it remains as a historical landmark for tourists. It was too dark inside to get any good shots but here are some from the outside:
Ava (Inwa) is also home to some beautiful temple ruins. The ones you’ll see below are called Yadana Hsimi pagodas, built in the mid-1800s. There are also “stupas” which look like little mini temples with long pointed tops and no entrance.
Just before the sun got too low, we went to see one more ancient place called the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery. Although this pale yellow monastery was built in the traditional way architecturally, this one is unique because it was built with brick and stucco instead of the traditional wooden pagodas and temples of the times. It was completed in 1822 but earthquakes over time did some damage. It got repaired by each successive imperial family as needed and today it is still used as a place of worship among monks.
To top off our adventure we went to U Bein Bridge in Amarapura to catch the sunset. This is the longest teak bridge in the world, built in the 1850s and legend has it that couples who walk the 1.2 kilometer (3/4 of a mile) bridge together will have good fortune in their relationship. I walked a few feet out but the lack of railings mixed with the volume of people had me turning back mighty fast. I was still able to get a few shots and after that it was back to the hotel.
Lynn was a wonderful guide who worked hard to teach us about his country’s history. I hadn’t thought much of Mandalay until I took this tour and I’m glad I did. For 24,000 kyat (approx. $26 CAD) We got over 9 hours of adventure plus lunch and good conversation all day. We met lots of locals, many who were eager to have a chat and take our picture.
Stay tuned next week when I’ll share my most favourite part of Burma – adventures in Bagan!