Monday, June 1, 2015

Mandalay Morning City Tour

Coming from Bagan the night before, we arrived Mandalay toll gate at 2:00 am, but since there was curfew till 3 am, our bus had to wait for an hour before entering the city. (Note: Curfew was already lifted since August 2014)

As soon as we arrived the Mandalay Bus station, we took early breakfast nearby at around 3 am!

We were fortunate to have a local friend who is willing to drive us around this early.  Our first stop was to witness the Mahamuni Image Washing Ceremony.

 The ceremony starts at 4 am, and we arrive just in time 4:05!

On the way to the temple, we pass by this market stalls.  Even at this early time of the day, there were local devotees which already positioned themselves in-front of the main Buddha image.

Notice, the ladies are seated behind.  We were really lucky to be able to squeeze us in-front row.  The center piece of the Mahamuni Pagoda is the Buddha statue covered with gold leaf. Only men are allowed to apply gold leaf to the Buddha statue. According to legend, the origins of the statue go back to the lifetime of Buddha. It is one of only five statues made of Buddha during his lifetime. Now the pagoda is part of the Mahamuni monastery, a teaching monastery with about 400 monks/students.

We sat for almost an hour, to see how the monk washes the face of Buddha, using brush to clean the mouth / teeth area.

Maha Muni, the holiest Buddhist site in Upper Myanmar : a Buddha image of great beauty; Witness the reverence and worship of the local people even their president comes here,

Maha Muni temple compound is decorated lavishly with the golden walls, stupas, marble floors,

There are also historical relics, like this life size Bronze statues,

Brief history of these relics,
1431    The Siamese (Thais) sacked Angkor and dragged thirty statues to their capital Ayutthaya.
1569 The Mons sacked Ayutthaya and dragged the statues to their capital Pegu (Bago).
1663 The Rakhaing (Arakan) sacked Pegu and dragged the statues to their capital Mrauk U (Myohang)
1784 The Burmese conquered Mrauk U and brought the statues, togerher wirth the famous Mahamuni Buddha image to their then capital Mandalay.
1884 The statues were damaged by fire. The then King Thihaw had most of them melted to cannons.


If you need breakfast, there are native food sold around the market,

Then we proceed to catch sunrise from Mandalay Hill , arriving here at 6 am is just the perfect timing, sun rose a bit late since there is a mountain range at the direction of sunrise, hence the sun will be visible from horizon at later time.

Climbing the stairs up the Mandalay Hill, is similar to Mt Popa but shorter distance.  We are the only visitor that morning, so the vantage view for sunrise was all ours.

Read more from the previous post about Sunrise and Sunset in Mandalay.

We went down the hill, and drove to
 Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is known as the world's largest book.  Even from top of Mandalay Hill, this place is visible.

Ku Tho Daw pagoda consists of 730 leaves (1460 pages), with the Tipitaka Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism inscribed on them in gold. Each leaf is 107 cm (42 ") wide, 153 cm (60 ") tall, and 13 cm (5 ") thick, made of marble.

It was built from 1860 - 1868. Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side in round Burmese script, chiseled out and originally filled in with gold ink. Each page was housed in its own building.

According to our friend, the scripts written on the those tablets are readable by old folks, but the meaning are difficult to decipher.

The last place of interest we visited was the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, which is located near the southern entry to Mandalay Hill.

Kyauktawgyi meaning the Great Marble Buddha Image. 
It was said that about 10 thousand men took about 2 weeks to transport the marble stone block from the Ayeyarwaddy River to the site where it is today.

The Kyauktawgyi Pagoda was built by King Mindon in 1853 on the model of the Ananda Temple at Bagan. It closely resembles the Ananda in exterior form but it falls short of the latter in construction and interior decoration.

Remember the gigantic doors of Ananda? They also have it here. 

And the small crystal glasses on the pillars are really photogenic!  The pagoda was completed during 1878. The chief feature of the Kyauktawgyi Paya is huge seated Buddha figure sculpted from a single block of pale green marble from the Sagyin quarry twelve miles north of Mandalay.

This ends our Mandalay morning city tour.  All those sights we visited were free to enter. 
I read from other sources that 10 USD tourist pass were needed to enter all these places, good thing we have a local friend that brought us in. Thus I would advise travelers to arrive early, not only to save money, but also to enjoy exclusivity in visiting those place. 

Lastly, before taking our AirAsia bus back to Airport, we had our last meal at this Mee Shei road side eatery.

One of the things I learned from this trip was Burma is once a powerhouse in Southeast Asia, but things has change as socio-economic factors and corruptible power was laid to the wrong hands.  But with their amazing tourist places, for sure they will eventually develop and progress as a nation, and being the host of 2013 SEA Games was a good start!

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