After the breathtaking scenery in Bagan and the life changing vistas of the pagodas framing the rising and setting sun, we made our way across Myanmar to Mandala. Mandalay is the true heart of Myanmar, and the second largest city in the country with around 1.5 million people.
Mandalay is a rough and tumble city, but it has that something special that just pulls at your heartstrings. Maybe it’s the rawness, or how genuine and real everything is. Or perhaps it’s the “Vatican City” of Myanmar that resides in the suburbs, where all the monasteries are located.
Being a Buddhist country, there are stray dogs and cats everywhere, and they’re very comfortable around humans. This little cutie gave us company as we ate lunch in Mandalay on the way to a temple.
There is a famous wooden bridge in Mandalay called the U Bein Bridge. It was built by a King in order to make safer passage to see his girlfriend across the river. The wooden planks are uneven lengths and there are no side rails, which makes for a rather exciting experience when the bridge is full of people at night to see the sunset. Legend has it that if you’re able to walk the entire length (I believe it was ~1.5km) with your girlfriend or boyfriend, it means you’ll be together forever; as a result, you see a lot of couples walking the bridge.
Throughout our trip, we were inspired by the energy and passion of Myanmar’s youth. They’re full of hope, entrepreneurism, and a desire to make their country better for future generations. There is a real collectivism that we witnessed and an incredible generosity.
I hesitated on taking this picture because I feel that Monks deserve privacy, but this monastery of 1,000 Monks has been designated for tourists to learn more about Buddhism and the Monks’ lives. Sadly, I witnessed some very bad behaviour from fellow tourists and photogs that made me squeamish and embarrassed (there can be no excuse for taking pictures of unclothed Monks taking showers when there are clear “NO PHOTOS” signs visible). Even after our guide warned the photographer not to take the picture, he quietly waited for us to leave and then tried again ☹
Mandalay is famous for its monasteries, but it’s also known for the place where religious statues are made. There is an entire neighbourhood with street after street of amazing manufacturing shops making Buddha and other religious statues. Some of the statues were incredibly impressive and huge; they were being moved by carts pulled on wheels from one shop to another for their different manufacturing phases.
Mandalay is sometimes skipped on Myanmar itineraries, but we had a great time there and found the city to be full of raw energy; the unique experience of seeing the development of Monks in the country from Novice to full-fledged makes for a very special place to visit. Plus, how can anyone not like a place called “Mandalay”?!