Mandalay

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The towels and juice were ice cold but the welcome was warm and friendly at the Emerald Land Inn Mandalay
Our first jaunt was up Mandalay Hill, the hotel laid on a vehicle, unfortunately not the rather fine Austin  in the photo. Our driver dropped us off half way up and we were presented with three choices, walk, elevator or escalators.   In 2002 we chose the latter and were soon standing on the hillside overlooking the city that King Mindon built in 1861 when he moved the capital from Amarapura to the foot of Mandalay Hill
The view is awe-inspiring

Truly a panorama

To the South lies the city of Mandalay with it's walled fort.  To the West lies the river and beyond that the hill of Sagaing and Mingun.  To the North rice fields stretch as far as the eye can see and to the East the Shan hills
 
Within minutes of our arrival, a monk introduced four of his friends and they appointed themselves our guides for the duration Naing Lin, Bo Bo Dein, Khaing Lhaing Tun and Aye Chan Thu are all university students who come here every Sunday to practice their English and learn about the world beyond their borders.  They proved to be delightful companions
We stayed until the sun set and our 'guides' remained to see us safely down the steps.

 

Karaoke Night loved around the world, one of many interesting things to be seen on the way down

 

When we reached the street, our guides transferred us into the hands of a friend who had access to his uncles Taxi, he took us to a restaurant and returned after dinner to take us to a puppet show and to see us safely 'home'

 

Southern Entrance 2005

 Our climb to the top started between the giant chinthe, guardian deities, half lion, half dog.   Seen at the entrance to many temples in Myanmar and on the Kyat
 

 

Unfortunately by avoiding the 1729 steps in the heat of the day in 2002 we  missed out on the lower temples and it was too dark to see them on the way down 

I vowed that next time I would walk up and risk heat prostration  It is a long gentle climb up, some of it bare foot but the walkways are covered and offer low stone walls to sit on  

There is a lot to see and the climb can be broken up with all manner of temples and statuary depicting the history of Mandalay

 

 

Shweyattaw Buddha

 

When climbing the hill it's a relief to see the gold plated statue known as The Shweyattaw Buddha, literally  the standing Buddha - it means you are two thirds of the way up

He pre dates the city of Mandalay. His outstretched hand points to the spot where King Mindon would build his new capital city, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Gautama Buddha that a center of Buddhist learning would be built there

The mirrored  Sutaungpyai pagoda graces the top terrace.  It's surface is covered with silver and blue tiles which twinkle in the sunlight.  It has been restored many times during it's long history and plaques acknowledging gifts from benefactors around the world are fixed to the pillars and walls

Sutaungpyai (wish granting) pagoda

 

Mandalay Mingun

We didn't know it as we took our trishaws to the ferry dock but we were about to feel the tail end of a Typhoon in the Bay of Bengal.  It was chaotic on the riverbank with a man directing operations with a bullhorn.  The nicest ferries being  reserved for tour groups  we identified our less than luxurious vessel and prepared to walk the plank.  We didn't know it as we took our trishaws to the ferry dock but we were about to feel the tail end of a Typhoon in the Bay of Bengal.   It took 80 minutes to cover the 11 km to the temples
The weather was so miserable, this image and some others from Mingun were taken in 2005
Reduce Reuse Recycle.  Longi have a new life as sails
Ferry landing and first glimpse of the ancient temples

Oxen, carts and drivers were patiently awaiting our arrival 

A smile from  to brighten the greyest day

We choose to walk as there was much to see all around us.  We were heading for the Mantra Gyi Pagoda but first had to run the gauntlet of the tee shirt vendors

They and the umbrella sales women were pretty tenacious but pleasant.  They will follow you until a purchase is made or a better looking prospect turns up.    Many artists display their paintings, carvings etc at tiny stalls and there are lots of trinkets, shirts and souvenirs to purchase if you have a mind, prices were lower than in Mandalay 

Mantra Gyi Pagoda

Destined to tower to a massive 500 feet and become the largest pagoda in the world, sadly it only became the largest brick pile in the world 

Thousands of slaves and prisoners of war were pressed into service.  Building was halted upon the death of Bodawpaya in 1813.  As none of his 122 children or 208 grandchildren shared his vision, it remained unfinished.   In 1838, an earthquake caused the upper levels to collapse into the hollow base.  Today the edifice stands at only a third of it's intended height

 

Visibility being poor in we opted not to remove our shoes and climb to the top.  In 2005 the weather was fair and the path looked promising with good  steps.  It quickly deteriorated and is quite a challenge.  Not for the faint of heart or anyone with vertigo
 The Mingun Bell, at 87 tons and standing more than 12 feet high it's the largest intact bell in the world.  Commissioned by Bodawpaya  in 1790, the largest bell in the world befitting what was to be the largest pagoda in the world, remains an amazing feat of casting.  To prevent there being a bell to rival it in size, Bodawpaya ordered its creator to be executed

As long as the bell hangs in Mingun there will be a boy to demonstrate it's mighty ring.  If he can persuade you to crawl inside, so much the better

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