Our first stop was Bodhi Tataung, which translates to “1000 Buddhas.” It is a veritable “forest” of Buddha statue monuments, all lined up in rows like crosses in a huge cemetery, each with its own concrete parasol. But the Buddha garden is just the beginning. Nearby one can see two gigantic Buddha statues.
One is standing, 424 feet high and the second highest in the world and one reclining, 312 feet long. We snapped a few shots of the sprawling Buddha checker board and then climbed the interior stairs of the nearby 430ft Aung Setkya stupa to gain a nice viewing platform for the great Buddhas that dominate the nearby hillside.
Its an impressive sight and the work of a single monk, opened only in 2008. As usual in Myanmar, Maia with her golden locks attracted a lot of attention and requests for photos from the locals.
Our next stop was Thanboddhay Paya, home to what can only be described as the world’s greatest “Buddha-rama”. This whimsical pagoda has been decorated with 580,000 Buddhas images. Most of them are tiny plastic versions, but the creativity of this fantastical extravaganza is impressive and just plain fun! There tends to be a distinctly gaudy element to Myanmar religious art. I noted it in my blog about the Golden Rock. Everywhere in the country one finds lots of disco Buddhas with radiating, electric light halos and pavilions covered by strands of multicolored, Christmas-like lights.
This “Buddha-palooza” stop displayed the kitsch element in spades. Toss in a fair measure of mythical beasts, frogs, tile-covered lizards, and rows of 30-foot obelisks covered in yet more tiny Buddhas (I got the distinct impression they probably glow in the dark too) and you begin to get the picture. Truly delightful and a nice contrast to more staid temple complexes elsewhere.
One final stop before arriving in Mandalay was the iconic U Bein bridge in Amarapura. It was built around 1850 by the mayor, U Bein. This photogenic sight is the world’s longest teak footbridge, stretching almost a mile across a shallow section of Taungthaman Lake, supported by 1060 tall teak poles.
Gracing the covers of many guidebooks and travel brochures, it makes for a nice sunset stop. We dutifully trundled off our bus and joined the throng of tourists and “commuting” monks and schoolgirls walking across the somewhat wobbly wooden structure. Then it was back on the bus and on to our centrally located hotel.