..The day that I arrived in Mandalay I had to pinch myself. I thought !Mandalay.!..I'm here, I never would have beleived that I would one day be here!!.How lucky am I...To read about this city in many books and its wartime notoriety.To be here sometime in my life was a long distant dream.
Before I left for ( Burma) I shopped at the supermarket in Bangkok and purchased some small items that I could give to the children. These were simple items as far as I was concerened , but precious when you can't get one!.. These were Pens , coloured pencils, note pads, little colouring books etc. These I found to be very rewarding as the children would be so pleased to receive such gifts that their parents usually couild not afford.Thier smiles of joy were wonderful upon receiving such things.
I always made sure that the childrens parents were present whenever I gave these items to any of the children.
I´m not shure if i understood the explanation of the monk guide, but i think that this is the statue of the old monk who decided to change the decadence of the paya and looked for support in their restoration.
One of Mandalay´s best kept secrets (i was the only visitor when i visited the temple), this interesting pagoda were used for a long time as a shelter for homeless and was completely deserted and covered with dust and debris; a monk decided to change that and showed to one of the chiefs of the Mandalay Hill Resort who appreciated the potencial of the Paya and help in the restoration in 2006. A beautiful building with walls and colums decorated with intrincate golden carvings, it has one of the most beautiful Buddha statue i´ve ever seen.
Mandalay is well known for it´s arts and crafts. Located near the Mahamuni Paya, is the Craftmens Quarter. I visited a long street full of shops selling hundreds of Buddha images made of marble and stone. It´s very interesting to see entire families chiselling huge marble statues, a hard work that requires patience and skills. I was told that most of the Buddhas are sell to Chinese merchants. An instructive experience.
A compound of monasteries, is known as a center of monastic studies. It´s possible to visit almost all the buildings of the monastery and the monks are very friendly and used to visitors. At 11.00 the food is distributed amongst the monks, a very peaceful and interesting experience.
Most of my food while travelling throughout Asia is/was street food..There are just so many different things to eat and usually very cheap...IMPORTANTLY though sensible rules apply and be very careful what you eat..mostly water that has been boiled is the way to go..soups noodles and the like..While here in Mandalay I used to stop and have a nice cup of herbal tea and a chat with the locals....always the friendliness here is evident ...a cup only costs pennies..leave a little extra ..."these people do it tuff"
Always if things don't look too good buy some fruit with a skin to peel...you can't go wrong with that..
While staying at the ET Hotel I decided to hire one of the bicycles that they have there for hire...This is just a great way to get around the back streets and see the things that you like..The propietors of the Hotel will help with directions..Make sure that you have a wide brimmed hat if it is a really hot day...ALSO BE CAREFUL *the traffic can be chaotic..
HIRING FEES ARE A COUPLE OF DOLLARS ONLY FOR THE DAY..
This tannery/store was an unexpected encounter during our tour of Mandalay! The huge python skills were out to dry and cure, ready for sale. They are used to make shoes and bags, and other miscellaneous fashion accessories largely, and many are exported for use in large fashion houses.
This is right across the road from the Mahamuni Paya - and you will find a fairly impressive array of carved Buddha images and related religious items, interested renovated bronze temple and religious pieces, and basically the equivalent of garden gnome shopping opportunities in this corner of Mandalay!
This was one of the few businesses we visited during out 2 day tour of Mandalay. We were impressed to watch the process of gold pressing, and the sheer physicality of the labour required to pound the already thin sheets of gold into a sheer sheet of the gold leaf. Just under 2 oz of gold bullion is pounded until it becomes .75inches wide and 20 feet long! It is then cut up into 2000 little pieces, called leaves and stacked between bamboo sheet paper.
It takes three people taking turns for 5 hours to beat a unit of gold leaf. They work in intervals, taking rests that seemed way too short, before the mallet swinging and pounded recommenced.
Downstairs, in a darkened cool room where a team of ladies pounding out the shiny bamboo paper that the gold leaf is pressed between. The labour and time required to make this paper makes it very expensive.
The sheets of bamboo are 1 year old and cut into 10 inch sheets. It is then soaked in a huge pot with lime and water. It sits in the lime for 3 years, before being boiled for 72 hours continuously. The sheets are then beaten to a pulp for roughly 2 days with a wooden hammer. At the end of this process, the pulp is mixed with water and spread on a cotton frame to filter the bamboo. It is then dried in the sun - and cut into small squares, and beaten again on bonze or copper plates with a teak club, until its strong, shiny and the colour of the metal. The jarring of the club on the metal slabs looked very uncomfortable, and the women had the strongest hands and forearms. I imagine they would make great masseuses after retiring!
The gold is stacked between the bamboo paper, and wrapped in quantities of 200's, called a unit.
The gold leaf is used for adorning a lot of the Burmese traditional lacquerware, and, of course, sold for all sorts of other artwork and temple offering.
Wasn't sure whether to include this as a Bagan or Mandalay tip so I have included it in both.
Take the boat from Mandalay to Bagan - arriving to a sea of pagodas is spectacular compared to the Bagan to Mandalay boat trip.
The boat trip itself is a wonderful way to see ordinary life along the river. You see numerous pagodas, people farming, fishermen, people bathing in the water and numerous other sights. It is also a time for you to take a break and really reflect on what you see at a leisurely pace.
The seats are quite comfortable but what you will find is that almost immediately after you leave Mandalay people will move to the various decks to take photographs, chat with other passengers or simply to "chill out".
The trip takes about 9-12 hours depending on the season. You leave at 6am. Make sure you organise with your hotel that they provide you with a boxed breakfast. The cost is US$18.00. The boats do not run on a Sunday.
There are two brief stops along the way: one where women sell various fruits and another where women sell blankets. The stops are not enough for anyone to get on board or for you to leave.
Most of the passengers are tourists although you might find some Burmese on board. However, this should not deter you from taking the trip.
When you arrive in Bagan there is an immediate change of pace. You have to climb some steps and you are met by various touts, porters and officials. Be prepared with your passport and US $10.00 the fee to see the Bagan sights.
See also the article on the Air Mandalay site: http://www.airmandalay.com/english/current.php
Checking out the evening market in Mandalay can be a very special experience!
Mandalayans walk the numerous alleys with countless hawkers, foodstalls and performances .
There wont be an animal, you cant find deepfried, broiled or cooked in those small kitchens.
Just give it a try but take care ! There might be also some pickpockets around, but definitely fewer than in other Asian cities.
Hire an airconditioned taxi and take a trip up to Maymyo/Pywin U Lwin or even half way there. You will feel like you have been transported to another time zone or at least experience a sense of surrealness as you see sights that remind you of bygone days.
Along the way you will see villages very close to the roadside, bullocks, rice fields, people on bicycles, people selling bootleg petrol in jerry cans, cars fully laden with goods passing you on the way to China and cars similarly laden with goods on the way back from China.
You'll travel along hair pin bends and see some magnificent countryside along the way too!
Cost to Maymyo/Pyin U Lwin for the day US$50
There are many beer stations in Mandalay, indeed all over Myanmar, but I'd like to put in a word for this place. It is the Super Light Beer Station on 80th Street.
It's nothing special in the decor stakes, just the usual plastic chairs, bare floor and large TV showing the normal mix of karaoke, football and martial arts films. The service was quick and friendly, and one evening when I popped in for a few well-earned beers after a hard day's sightseeing I found out, when I called for the bill (check) hat they had included a free one. Nice work, guys, and the only time it happened in Myanmar. Not that the beer is expensive at all, but I thought it was a nice touch. There are also some extremely cute youngsters you can have a laugh with.
If you want something to eat, the thing to do is wait for one of the numerous passing vendors like the one pictured. S/he will prepare your food at the roadside and bring it to you inside. I don't know how it would work in Britain with health and safety regulations, but this guy was actually carrying a wok of hot oil and a brazier of hot charcoal on his shoulder!
Worth a visit.
After crossing the small river by barge, you'll be shown a horse and cart team to take you on your tour of Inwa. This trip is down tree lined lanes and across paddocks from one temple to the next. Absolutely fantastic stuff, although not always the most comfortable over some of the rocky patches !
Great hotel, arguably our favorite in Myanmar. You can tell the owners put a lot of thought into...more
No. (A-15), Corner of 53rd & 30th Street, Chan Aye Thar Zan Township, Mandalay, Myanmar
Good for: Business
No.(10/182), Wingabar Street, (10) Quarter, Westen Bogone, Kalaw, Mandalay, Myanmar
Good for: Solo