Monywa - Burma by Bike

Today’s schedule was overambitious, too much sightseeing and not enough cycling.  Alex, the tour leader is desperate to deliver all the visits, but knew that it couldn’t be done in the time, so reduced the cycling from 50km to 20km and increased the amount of bus time.  I can understand why he did it, but clearly someone at Exodus needs to have another look at the schedule.  To add insult to injury, we also arrived late at the hotel which was one of the best on the trip.  
Sunrise at the U Bein Bridge
The day started very early with another visit to U Bein Bridge near Mandalay to try and catch a sunrise.  The sun was a little later than anticipated (can the sun be late?) and this put us behind schedule.

The world's tallest standing Budda
Christine, the biggest standing Buddha in the world and me

After a coach ride out of Mandalay we cycled to the Boditahtaung Pogoda and visited the world’s largest reclining Buddha and the world’s largest standing Buddha.  These statues were built in the 1990s and, if nothing else, demonstrate that Buddhism as a religion is alive and kicking and donors are willing to spend lots of money constructing new and ever bigger statues. Of course the only thing that distinguishes these statues is their size as standing and reclining Buddhas are built to a strict code.
Overtaking an overloaded motorbike
Repetition is an even stronger feature at the Thanbodday Pogada at Monywar which we visited next.  Built in the late 1930s on the site of a 13th Century Hindu temple (and partly funded by the manufacturers of Tiger Balm) the building is multi-coloured and totally over the top.  Situated in little alcoves, inside and outside the building, are 582,357 identical plaster of paris style statues (images) of the Buddha, very strange.
Thanbodday Pogada
Leaving our bikes, the final visit of the day involved a long bus ride to the Po Win Taung, a complex contains 947 richly decorated caves. Carved into a sandstone outcrop and dated to between the 14th and 18th centuries it contains numerous carved Buddha statues and mural paintings. The site is also full of monkeys who, as the sun set, generated a frankly intimidating cacophony of sound.

Murals at Po Win Taung
The landscape around the Po Win Taung is very dry, almost desert like, and in the early evening a little spooky.  A nearby mountain was gradually being removed by a Chinese copper mining company. It’s a controversial development and it, and the Chinese, are not universally popular locally.   In a recent protest police fired into a crowd, killing one protester and injuring 4 others. 
Sun set at Po Win Taung

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