Back on the emerging tourist track in Myanmar, I headed by train down to the central city of Mandalay. Mandalay is a nice, comfortable, and somewhat happening town, and I had a great time exploring it for a day and two nights. When I got there, I booked into a basic but clean hotel, got some ice cream with a few other travelers, and got some sleep.
My full day in Mandalay was spent motorbiking around town with a local guide to check out some of the local Monastaries and attractions.
Mandalay is right on the water, and appropriately, I started the day checking out some of the river boats, and talking with a few women who were doing laundry at the water’s edge.
Next, a very very beautiful old wood monastary. The head monk who was there gave me a little tour, and I sat and talked with him a while. He’s an ex-kickboxer, turned monk. Very cool guy.
A quick tea with my guy.
Then, on to the dramatic Mahamuni Buddha Temple. From Wikipedia:
The Mahamuni Buddha Temple (Burmese: ????????????????, Burmese pronunciation: [m?hà m?n? p??jád?í]; also called the Mahamuni Pagoda) is a Buddhist temple and major pilgrimage site, located southwest of Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar). The Mahamuni Buddha image (literal meaning: The Great Sage) is deified in this temple, and originally came from Arakan. It is highly venerated in Burma and central to many people’s lives, as it is seen as an expression of representing the Buddha’s life.
Ancient tradition refers to only five likenesses of the Buddha, made during his lifetime; two were in India, two in paradise, and the fifth is the Mahamuni Buddha image in Myanmar. According to the legend, the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 BC. King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni.
And finally, a beautiful evening walking with monks across Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge. This bridge is an old teak bridge that spans over Taungthaman Lake. In the evenings, people casually stroll over the bridge, sipping drinks and talking. A truly relaxing experience. I loved seeing the groups of young monks relieving a bit of stress as they chatted with each other while walking over the bridge.
Also interestingly, there was a group of kids with a photography setup on the bridge. They would shoot people’s photos, and then make prints on their inkjet printer, which they sold. Their entire printing operation was run from car batteries and a solar panel, and the kids looked like they were having a great time – and doing brisk business.
Next.. onto Bagan.