Monday, August 23, 2010

Myanmar – Mandalay

The national security is tight, not sure of local passengers, but the foreign passengers have to register names on bus ticket. While leaving or entering Yangon, all passengers have to pass through a check-point where the identity to be checked. Strong stinky ammonia smell enveloped the area as most of the passengers clear their bladders in the open space.

Comparatively Mandalay offers more sight-seeing than Yangon, though not really spectacular. The Mandalay Palace can be neglected, wild weeds were not cut, layers of dust found their resting place, mostly empty. Mandalay Hill was better, ascending the staircases was not so tiring, the panoramic view of Mandalay city and sunset was beautiful. The glittering 13ft bronze Buddha image was the highlight in Mahamuni Temple. Over years thousands of devotees (only men are allowed) have pasted 6-in thick layer of gold leaf on the image! I had contributed too.

Mingun can either be reached by boat or 1 hr drive from Mandalay. The unfinished Mingun Paya cracked during earthquake in 1838, leaving probably the world’s largest pile of bricks. The nearby Sagaing Hill was not special, but its higher altitude grants a better aerial view of the area. Plenty of stupas studded over the area. Amarapura was another favourite attraction especially the sunset view. The 200 yr old 1.2km long U-Bein footbridge was built of over 1000 teak posts across the shallow Taungthaman Lake.

The jma-packed jade market is situated in Mandalay, we skipped the USD1 entrance fees (no one asked for it). Traders were busy scrutinizing the quality of stones and gems. Workshops were available to fabricate the products for customers.

The visits to the monasteries and their schools were the most unforgettable, that I liked most. Through conversation with the monks, I understood better the monkshood, their backgrounds, difficulties and predicaments, their future and expectation, their disciplined simple lifestyle and peaceful ideology. We were invited to their English lesson, where foreigners are encouraged to interact with them, to practice verbally.

The Moustache Brothers show (USD8), famed for its political critics was truly disappointing, thought Lonely Planet gave a lengthy recommendation was worthwhile, it was a cultural dancing show instead largely. The act was not professional but quite a mix. The emcee was trying hard to be humorous but over superficial. Sound system was weak. Place was run down, eventually turned out to be a souvenir selling at the end of show.