Friday, March 08, 2013

Cities Of Ancient Mandalay

There are three ancient cities around Mandalay, that at one point served as the nations capital, and we managed to visit at least a key point of each one in a day trip.

Our first city was Sagaing, and the climb to Soon U Ponya Shin Paya. This gave us great views across stupa-dotted Sagaing hills and the Ayeyarwady (or Irrawaddy) River - and the Ava and Irrawaddy Bridges.

The paya itself has impressive mosaic terraces, mirrored mosaic spaces, and the bemusing neon additions to the major buddhas of the temple.

At Inwa, or Ava in the old language, we left the car for a longboat across the river, to then take a horse and cart to explore the sights on this side. This city was the capital for 400 years, with an earthquake ending it's reign to Amarapura. What remains is the city walls, outside of which many villages have developed.

After our driver took us to the temple closest to his home, we visited the teak monastery, or Bagaya Kyaung. The building is supported by 267 teak posts, and is a working monastery, with lessons set up inside, and an older monk presiding over a younger monk's learning as I wandered through.

The most interesting sight on Inwa was the leaning and rickety Nanmyin watch tower - albeit from the roadside. A closer look lost the magic of the precarious structure, severely damaged in the 1838 earthquake, and seemingly has had no repairs since!

Riding in the back, or up the front of the cart with the driver, gave us each an ample view of the village life going on around us. A very rural and basic setting, we saw children coming from school, groups of woman working in the fields, and men driving bullock carts along the roads. Kids out doing their chores were always keen to say hello to the sight of three foreigners, and maybe even be brave enough to test any other English words they have been learning.

Getting to Amarapura, which is considered The Southern City to Mandalay's northern city. The main attraction our guide was keen to time correctly was to be at the U Bein Bridge for the sunset colours.

The bridge spans 1.2kms and is made of teak, crossing the Taungthaman Lake you will reach Taungthaman village and pass a monastery which is the home to thousands of monks.

After wandering along a portion of the bridge, we then spent this time people watching, on the bank of the lake with a few beers, which was the perfect end to an amazing day of ancient ruling capitals.

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