Today we were woken up by loud music. This town starts the party around 6am…luckily we had to wake up early otherwise it would have been really annoying. We took the bumpiest bus ride ever back to Mandalay, it was about a 4 hour ride but it felt like 22 hours long. We had a bathroom stop and lets just say Sarah is still figuring out the logistics of using the bathrooms with the squatting in a hole thing, with not much experience in the art of using 3rd world toilets, Sarah came out with some wet pants. We arrived at our nice hotel where they greeted us with fresh juice. We attempted to eat local food at a place the hotel suggested but they were closed so we returned to the Chinese place we ate at our first night since it was close by.
I don’t know if we mentioned this yet, but I want to show how beautiful Burmese calligraphy is. They really like the use of circles:
We took a taxi to the main palace. The palace is surrounded by military grounds which we are not allowed and it is very clear where tourists are allowed to walk (which is quite limited).
As we were walking in the very hot weather a taxi offered to drive us to the palace for free but then of course that led to us paying him to take us to other sites which worked out as we were going to take a taxi anyways.
The palace is the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy. The palace was constructed, between 1857 and 1859 as part of King Mindon’s founding of the new royal capital city of Mandalay.
Mandalay Palace was the primary royal residence of King Mindon and King Thibaw, the last two kings of the country. The complex ceased to be a royal residence and seat of government on 28 November 1885 when, during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, troops of the Burma Field Force entered the palace and captured the royal family.
You can climb a watch tower for a 360 degree view of the palace and the surrounding military base, most of it is covered by trees so you cannot really see much of Myanmar’s army activities, their reputation is stellar (sarcasm) so that’s maybe why.
Throughout the British colonial era, the palace was seen by the Burmese as the primary symbol sovereignty and identity. Much of the palace compound was destroyed during World War II by allied bombing; only the royal mint and the watch tower survived. A replica of the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s with some modern materials.
We visited all the temples and monasteries below Mandalay Hill, most temples look the same so we were really fast on visiting them. Trust me, we have seen more Buddhas in the last few days, than the Dalai Lama himself.
We visited Kuthodaw Pagoda,which contains the worlds largest book, or so they say… In the grounds of the pagoda are 729 kyauksa gu or stone-inscription caves, each containing a marble slab inscribed on both sides with a page of text from the Tipitaka, the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism; all this together form the largest book.
This is a Thanaka station inside the temple just in case you need to protect your skin. Just rub the bark with the rock, add some water and apply to your face and uncovered skin!
Here is Sarah with her privileged white little feet being afraid of walking into the concrete floor because of how hot it was.
The next stop was the Shwenandaw Monastery. It was built in 1880 by King Thibaw Min. The monastery is known for its teak carvings of Buddhist myths, which adorn its walls and roofs. The monastery is built in the traditional Burmese architectural style. Shwenandaw Monastery is the single remaining major original structure of the original Royal Palace today.
We then visited Atumashi Monastery. The original structure burned down in 1890 after a fire in the city destroyed both the monastery and the 30 feet (9.1 m) tall Buddha image. In 1996, Burma’s Archaeological Department reconstructed the monastery with prison labor.
We visited one more temple here, most temples have a small market outside where you can buy offerings for Buddha and a couple souvenirs.
We returned to the hotel and took a much needed shower and then went to the roof top of the hotel which has a restaurant, bar and free cocktail happy hour if you are staying there, so of course we had to get our free drinks. There was one other group sitting there speaking spanish so Sarah asked Eitan her usual question of where do you think they are from, Eitan was super confident they were fellow Mexicans. So he asked and yes they were, from Mexico City but currently none of them live in Mexico, apparently they also wanted to escape apocalyptic Mexico City like Eitan. We ended up joining tables and having a few beers with them, they were extremely nice and interesting people!
Bonus Pic of The Day: When you think you have seen it all, you turn on the TV in Myanmar and “Myanmar Idol” final is happening. Definitely not the same singing standards as the U.S. as it sounds like the contestants are drunk in a karaoke contest but I don’t think they are paying royalties to Simon Cowell either so we let it be.