Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and felt busy and dirty after the relative emptiness of the Shen Highlands. The morale of the group definitely dropped a notch and wasn’t helped by a cramped city
centre hotel that seemed a little neglected (apparently the usual hotel was
|U Bein Bridge|
it’s size Mandalay was only established in the
mid-19th century when the then king decided to make it his royal capital.
Dominating the centre is a huge fort with outer walls over 2,000m long
with a surrounding moat 65m wide. The British arrived 25 years after its
construction, and ‘relocated’ its treasures to the Victoria and Albert museum.
|Women vegetable pickers|
Although the British probably grabbed everything they could lay their hands on, something’s are just too big to shift and a packed day spent touring the environs of Mandalay (54km) was spent visiting the ‘biggest and longest’
In the morning a cycle ride through the busy suburban streets (great fun) takes in the U Bein Bridge one of Burma’s top tourist attractions. It’s a teak footbridge, thought to be the longest in the world (1.2km) and spans the Taung Tha Man Lake. Built in 1857 using wood reclaimed from a local palace it’s a wonderful place with great views of the bridge itself, the fishermen on the lake and farmers growing vegetables on the
mudbanks that form as the lake seasonally retreats.
In the afternoon we visited the Mingun the site of what would have been the biggest pagoda in the world if King Bodawpaya hadn’t died before it was finished. What is essentially a huge pile of bricks has been damaged by successive earthquakes, earthquakes that have also damaged the huge crouching lions positioned on the banks of the river Ayeyarwady as if ready to leap over it.
|Everything but the oink|
Leaving the pile of bricks behind us, we then visit a shrine to a monk who could recite the entire works of Buddha and apparently is in the Guinness book of records for having the world’s biggest memory.
Moving on from memory monk, the next record breaker, the Mingun Bell, is the largest bell in the world that can still be struck (the biggest bell in the Kremlin is cracked). The craftsman who forged it in 1806 was subsequently executed by King Bodawpaya to prevent
him taking a
commission from anyone else which probably qualifies the King as the world’s
least grateful employer.
After visiting the Myatheindan Pagoda, the stucco
reminded me of Brighton, we took a boat trip back to Mandalay in time for a
visit to the Kuthodaw Pagoda and the inscriptions on the 729 stupas that
together are used to justify the title ‘the biggest book’ in the world.
The final bit of sightseeing involves watching the sunset from the top of Mandalay