Our final Myanmar stop was the country's cultural capital - Mandalay. It’s a popular stop on the tourist trail with a walled citade-like palace complex surrounded by a moat, Mandalay Hill with its crowning temple and sunset views, popular crafts district, and many interesting pagodas. Like Bagan, we had to be selective with our single day of sight seeing.
We started with a fascinating look at Mahamuni Phaya. It is a rather non-descript temple except for on exquisite feature. A 13-foot gold seated Buddha. But there are lots of equally impressive Buddhas across Southeast Asia. What makes Mahamuni unique is the volume of gold leaf that has been lovingly rubbed on to the statue by devout worshipers. I common practice, this image now has a bumpy 6+ inch layer of gold as high as the pious can reach. Believed to be 2000 yrs old, the knobbly lower region is contrasted by the perfectly polished (and off-limits to rubbing leaf) face. In fact, monks reverently polish the face and brush the Buddha’s teeth each morning.
Next we made our way through the bustling crafts district. We visited the gold pounders’ quarter, where gold is still pounded into leaf by hand.
Around noon we made our way to Mahagandhayan Monastery to see the 500+ monks lining up with their alms bowls for lunch. It was very cool to see, experience, and photograph but it has become a bit of a tourist spectacle.
In the afternoon we made a stop at Shwenandaw Kyaung, an intricately carved teak monastery.
Next, Kuthodaw Pagoda to see the world’s biggest book. The “book” consists of 729 stone tablets, each about four feet tall, inscribed on both sides, and housed in its own white chedi. Taken together, the rows upon rows of white chedis are an impressive sight.
We finished our day, as most tourists do, atop Mandalay Hill. Unfortunately for us we had rain and overcast, so no sunset.
Other interesting Mandalay images: