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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Around Mandalay


U Bein Bridge Sunset
A Day's End
U Bein Bridge, Amarapura

After almost two weeks of travelling in Burma in mostly cold, tranquil and remote areas surrounded by mountains and lakes, arriving in Mandalay felt like being woken up from a dream. After a 6-hour bus ride from Hsipaw, we arrived in the city of Mandalay welcomed by the heat and the swarm of taxi and moto drivers. 

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busy streets of Mandalay

As we made our way to our hostel, we saw how busy the streets of the city are– the traffic, noise, and crowded markets. It was alive and full of energy. In retrospect, I realized how it made more impact on me compared to Yangon. The city felt more real to me. It felt like being back in India. 

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Only two days to explore the city and its surrounding sites, we decided to rent a motorbike. I was only a passenger, but I knew how hard it was for my friend to drive in the chaotic streets of the city. But we both knew that renting one instead of hiring a taxi would give us more freedom to explore. And I knew that he really liked the challenge and excitement it brought. Especially when we were stopped by a police officer and asked for a driver’s license, that’s another experience worth remembering. 

I’m not really a fan of cities, but driving around Mandalay was a wonderful experience. 


U-BEIN BRIDGE, AMARAPURA 

The one thing I’ve always wanted to see in Burma was the U Bein Bridge at sunset, I’ve seen beautiful photos and I wanted to see it for myself and hopefully capture it as well. A 1.2 km teak bridge across the Taungthaman Lake, U Bein is said to be the longest teak bridge in the world. It is used by the people to cross from Amarapura to the Taungthaman village. 

U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge Sunset

U Bein Bridge 2
U Bein Bridge Sunset

We sat down by the lake and patiently waited for the sunset. And it didn’t disappoint. It was spectacular. I love sunsets (as you all can see from my various photos) and so far this has been one of the best I’ve seen. 

Aside from the sunset, on the bridge one can also see people ending their day – families on benches, monks passing by, and people on their bicycles. 

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SAGAING 

Just on the other side of the Ayeyarwady River is Sagaing, famous for being a religious center for Buddhist monasteries. We also learned that Burmese people go here to meditate and for a retreat. Even before crossing the Ava Bridge, one can already see the numerous stupas covering the hills of Sagaing. 

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view from the other side of the river

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Ava Bridge

You can climb the staircases/hills to go up the various pagodas, or just walk to see some of the monasteries. We were lucky to have been welcomed by a monk into one of the monasteries. 

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one of the stupas on top of a hill in Sagaing

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this young monk opened the gates for us

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inside one of the monasteries

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i can't explain it, but i just love this photo inside the kitchen of the monastery

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cute little monk :)


MINGUN 

Most people go to Mingun by riding a boat from Mandalay. But this site can also be reached by motorbike from Sagaing. It may be a long one, but the ride can be worth it as you pass by different villages. 

Minguin is where the ruins of Mingun Pahtodawgyi (built by King Bodawpaya) can be found. It was supposed to be the largest pagoda to be built in the world, but construction was stopped due to a prediction of the King’s death upon its completion. It was also destroyed by an earthquake twenty years after.

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ruins of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi

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Along with the pagoda is a bell that is said to weigh 90 tons, and is considered to be the second largest bell in the world. 

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Mingun Bell


But one of the most memorable experiences I had in Mandalay was when we stopped for a while in the road along the river. We initially wanted to take photos of the river, but these children came up to us and just offered their smiles. They didn’t ask for anything despite the fact that they were just living by the side of the road. They just wanted to laugh with us and have their photos taken. 

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these children came up to us when we stopped by the road

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just look at their smiles

Burmese Kids Mandalay
:)


It’s just one of those moments when you feel so overwhelmed by the innocence of children and how much joy they can give you just by smiling.