Almost there … to Mandalay that is! Mandalay was the last of the Royal Capitals of old Burma/Myanmar. Our boat slowly made it’s way there, but first we reached the confluence of the Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers, where in the very early morning mist we had to stop and wait… The river was very shallow and wide and full of sand banks. The morning mist made it extremely difficult to see and hence navigate, so we moored next to a bank and listened to early morning singing and rituals of a nearby village; a village that we couldn’t see until the sun rose and burnt off the mist! It was rather special…
Before we arrived in Mandalay, we stopped off at a few local villages. Ohn Ne Chaung was a delightful village where life went on as it had for generations. We were a real novelty and we were like the Pied Piper – children flocked to us and went everywhere we went.
The other was the village of Yandabo. Yandabo has two claims to fame; their first as the location of the Yandabo Treaty – the site of the signing the treaty at the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War – signed by both the Burmese and British Kings. Their 2nd is that of the terracotta pottery they produce from their local riverbank clay. It was a lovely prosperous and productive village to wander around.
We finally arrived in Mandalay the following morning – to a busy schedule for the day. First up was the Mahamuni Paya where the Buddha Statue was continually growing – by the additions of gold leaf – only allowed by men of course… the Buddha statue actually looked rather odd, like it had leprosy or something similar. Next up was “Golden Palace Monastery” – Shwenandaw Kyaung. This teak building was originally built within the palace walls as a residence for King Mindon. The building was moved outside of the palace walls and converted to a monastery after the King died. Consequently this is the only surviving part of the original teak Palace. The Mandalay Palace area is surrounded by a large square moat, and once housed the Palace build in 1857. However, the whole palace area was bombed by the Allies during WWII and now most of the reconstruction within the walled area is controlled by the military.
Mandalay is actually made of 3 cities: Mandalay (with the CBD dominated by Chinese), Sagaing, the centre of Buddhist teaching and meditation in Myanmar; and Amarapura, the Myanmar Capital in 1783. Amarapura is the site of the world’s longest teak bridge and a very special sunset – our favourite with special cocktails made just for us ….
After a very special sunset, with cocktails to match, we headed back to our boat. Our journey on the Ayeyarwady had not yet finished, we had a couple more magical days still ahead, including NYE.