Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 5 - January 10, 2008 - Mandalay, Myanmar

Day 5 - January 10, 2008 - Mandalay, Myanmar

Ancient Cities of Mandalay

Up at 7:05 and downstairs for b-fast @ 7:35.

Hopped in the arranged Blue Mazda Taxi (at 19,000 Kyat for the whole day) just after 8:00 AM for a trip to three of the nearby ancient cities: Sagaing, Inwa, and Amarapura.

The ride out of Mandalay was cool. We sat in the almost open bed of the small pickup. Lots of commuters. Monks on there alms collecting missions hanging out of the back of larger pickups.

Followed the railroad tracks for awhile before making our first stop across the Irrawaddy River from Sagaing Hill. Then across the so-called New Ava Bridge (circa 2005/06) to Sagaing Hill.

The stairs were covered but the climb was a lot shorter than yesterday's ascent of Mandalay Hill. A bit hazy but some views from the tiled top. Attendance: light. We were not asked to show the combo ticket so no stamp. ;-(

Then 10km north to Khaungmudaw Paya with its spectacular, blinding white, breast-shaped stupa. There were a good number of tourists and pilgrims and vendors, and some shady spots were one could relax and admire the splendid symmetrical stupa. Sun-Ling commented that it was a "middle class" stupa; school kids on field trips and women buying thanaka.

Over to Hsinmyashin Paya (Temple of Many Elephants) with its famous elephant motif. Slow; several workers eating lunch and a couple of meditaters. So a quick stroll around and on to nearby Sagaing Market for lunch.

Tried two places. The first was too expensive, the second too meaty. So we picked up some snacks from a Chinese grocery (no Chinese spoken; family run business, the son spoke some English) and a bakery. Spent about 1200 Kyat total.

Back in the blue taxi, we headed back across the Irrawaddy River, this time on the Old Ava Bridge which is one lane for vehicles in each direction with a center "lane" for trains. Super cool!Of course a train went by just after I put my camera away so I barely got a photo. But I did shoot some video (see below).

Turned down the junction road to Inwa Ferry. It's 1000 Kyat each for a return ticket. The ticker seller whistled and the ferry with its surly captain and a shifty mate came over from the opposite bank. Back and forth. Back and forth. Guess that might make me surly and shifty.

At Inwa (Ava) Island landing, there were about 30 to 40 horse carts waiting to take tourist around. 4000 Kyat was the going rate for a three-stop tour: old teak monastery, the watch tower, and the new masonry monastery. Tried to bargain down but no deal. Good for them!

Very cool to take the horse cart over the bumpy and dusty dirt roads in the manner of a Jane Austen novel. When passing through a village, the local kids would run along waving "bye-bye".

Ate our snacks at the old teak, ship-like, Bagaya Kyaung Monastery. It's still in use as a school for very young children; not restored, and nifty.

Back in the horse cart, I switched to the front seat as sitting in back was making me queasy. Passed through one of old city gates on our way to the Watch Tower (Nan Myint) - Inwa (Ava), MyanmarWatch Tower. Good view back to Sagaing Hill, Old Ava bridge, and the Khaungmudaw breast. At the tower, Sun-Ling bought a painting - one of the few souvenirs we would buy on the entire 5-month trip - for 4000 Kyat. It's now installed at our home.

Third Stop is the Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery. Masonry. Yellow. So-so. Back to ferry. Across. On to Amarapura.

I get lucky with the train: On the way to Amarapura we got stopped at a RR crossing and I jumped out in time to catch some video of the rolling, narrow gauge passenger train come through. I even got a wave.

Then to the Chinese Temple, a Guan Yin Temple much like any other Chinese Temple in Asia. Sun-Ling is 99% sure that it is now a nunnery or has lots of nuns who were cooking and eating while we were there... and ignored us.

Then onto a nearby temple - not not catch the name - to see the large seated outdoor Buddha, a reclining Buddha, adn a large owl. The younger monks were playing a vigorous game of football;"no photos" they said, while the older monks are playing cards and drinking tea.

Then on to the famous U Bein Teak Bridge. The world's longest teak bridge with lots of local color - monks, local visitors and tourists - but also loads of touts and vendors, boats for rent, blind musicians, owls and hawks to pose with, and restaurants. Bought some cold bean noodle soup - 500Kyat - too much.

There was a local guy on the bridge with a bike who was posing for 2 tourists (or professional photographers) who were down on the bank; and some tour groups were out on Taungthaman Lake in boats to watch the sun set.

The sun sank lower, the lake turned yellow, then orange, and things quieted down as we reached the far end of the bridge. Took a ton of photos.

Back to the truck, and back to the hotel in heavy rush hour traffic. I almost bounced out of the back of the pickup at one point. Crazy!

Hot shower and then out for Chinese noodles and fried rice at a small joint across from the Hospital @ 1600 Kyat total.

Back to the hotel and packed for tomorrow's trip to Pyin U Lwin Hill Station.

SLHOTD: Horse cart ride and Khaungmudaw Paya.
JHOTD: RR crossing video.

The morning commute as seen from the back of our pickup truck taxi.
On The Road to Sagaing - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

The dazzling Khaungmudaw Paya.
Kaunghmudaw Paya - Sagaing, Myanmar

Horse carting around Inwa.
Inwa (Ava), Myanmar (Burma)

School's in session at the Bagaya Kyaung (Monastery).
Bagaya Monastery and School - Inwa (Ava) Myanmar (Burma)

The ferry, the shifty mate, and the Old Ava Bridge in the background.
The Inwa Ferry to the Ancient City of Ava

The U Bein Bridge at Amarapura.
U Bein Bridge - Amarapura, Myanmar (Burma)

Sunset from the bridge.
Sunset - Amarapura,  Myanmar (Burma)

Crossing the Old Ava Bridge.


Nick said...

Fantastic Photo's guys, it looks beautiful there. We hope to be able to meet up with you both, in Asia, in the future!

john said...

@ Nick Thanks for the comment and we'll see ya down the road.