After leaving the doctor’s office, we still had time to see something Susanna thought would be very interesting for us — the 1500 monks and novitiates at a large monastary lining up to receive their daily lunch, always donated. We arrived at about the same time large hoardes of tourist buses were arriving. We were able to walk around the monastary, which was very interesting. Today’s lunch had already been cooked and prepared, but men were already at work preparing the next day’s meal. The cooking fires were still hot.
After we left the monastery, we went to a shop where women and men were weaving silk scarves and fabrics. It was interesting to see hand non-electric and some old electric looms, the sort of looms that may have been used in the USA over 100 years ago.
This was obviously a place designed for tourist consumption as well. The even had a gift shop where all the shop attendants spoke English and the prices were marked in dollars. When I inquired how much a scarf was, the price seemed to be about the same as I would pay in the USA. Remembering the scarves I purchased in Chang Mai two years ago for a fraction of that price, I demurred. When we left there, we went to lunch at a nice Thai restaurant. A large European tour group joined us there, as well. It seemed the town, like much of the tourist circuit in Myanmar, was overrun with groups of German (or Scandinavian language) speaking tourists.
After lunch, we checked into our hotel for a much needed rest. Susanna told us to be ready at 3:30 for our next stop, Shwenandaw Kyaung, followed by Kuthodaw Paya, and then sunset from Mandalay Hill.
Shwendandaw Kyaung is just a small portion of what once was a royal palace. In fact, I believe it is what remains of a royal bedroom which was dismantled and moved to another location and transformed into a monastery. The remainder of the palace was lost to bombing during WW II. My overal impression of the building, like many buildings in Myanmar, was that it had seen better days. The intricately carved teak had once been painted in bright colors and gilded in gold, but little of that remained other than some faded stains. Instead, the teak wood is no longer protected from the weather at all, is not oiled in any way, and thus is slowly being destroyed by sun and rain. Too bad, it is really beautiful.
After we left Shwenandaw Kyaung, we went almost around the corner to Kuthodaw Paya. This Paya contains the entire 15 books of the Tripitaka, inscribed in the Pali language on stone slabs. Each slab has its own small stupa. According to my Lonely Planet book, it took a team of 2,400 Monks six months to read the whole book in a nonstop relay. I don’t want to violate any copyright, but there’s a nice arial photo at http://www.terragalleria.com/asia/myanmar/mandalay/picture.myan4743.html .
Here are some photos that we took:
After wandering around here and telling dozens of people (who seemed to attach themselves to me like cleaner wrasse) that no I did not want to buy this or that, I finally managed to extract myself and get back to the car. From there, we ascended by road to the top of Mandalay hill. The road was one lane, pot holed, and very steep with no guardrail. I was glad that our driver seemed to be very careful. We stayed at the top of the hill for sunset. Then, tired, we were ready to grab something to eat and retire for the evening. Also mindful of our budget, we asked Susanna just to take us by a grocery store so we could pick up some fruit and cheese and crackers to eat in our room that evening.
As we were driving toward the grocery store, however, we stopped the car to catch this shot of the sunset over the renovated Palace. The Palace was occupied first by British and then by the Japanese during WW II. It was destroyed by fire at the end of the war and then rebuilt during the 1990’s using slave labor. It is presently occupied by the Army. We felt no need to pay the tourist fee to go inside and pay homage to the military regime, but the photo of the outside was rather nice. My Lonely Planet Guidebook says the fort is 3.2 Km long (4 square sides) with a moat 70 M wide and 8 M high walls.
At the grocery store I was surprised to see many name brand items on the store shelf — Kraft, Colgate, Crest, Pepsi and Coke. We purchased some fresh fruit and crackers, but cheese was not good quality and quite expensive so we left that off. The watermelon, on the other hand, was some of the sweetest I’ve had in years. That night in the room we rested and watched a movie that was a romantic comedy enjoyed by all. I think lights were off by 10 for everyone.