Monday, March 27, 2017


I only really had one walking tour in Mandalay. On my first day I had a motorcycle taxi drive me to my first stop in the city, which was Shwenandaw Kyaung, or Monastery. This teak wood  Golden Palace Monastery with it's fine carvings was great to see in the early morning, before all the tourist shuttles arrive. I still had it almost to myself when walking around and inside the teak wood building. An hour later, there was already a line forming at the entrance booth. This was also the place where I had to pay my initial 10.000 Kyat ticket for the Archaeological Zone in Mandalay. 

An attempt to visit the next door Atumashi Monastery failed initially because I did not have the ticket yet, and they only sold it across the street at the Shwenandaw Monastery. The Atumashi Monastery didn't look as old as it actually was. It dates back to A.D. 1877. It's a huge building with a huge empty hall inside, with the exception of a beautiful Buddha image. 

From Atumashi it's just a short walk north to reach the "Golden Book", the mid 19th century golden stupa of Kuthodaw Pagoda. Unfortunately the pagoda was under renovation and all scaffolded. The 729 marble slaps which contain the entire 15 books of the Buddhist Tripitaka are of course not readable for us tourists, so most people will just take a quick look at the long lines of mini-pagodas which contain the marble slaps. There is a lot of "selfie-craze" going on right at the entrance with the first view of the marble slaps, so walking off a bit will bring much more peace and better photos! 

Given that this was my first day in Mandalay I also had my first experience with the "NO SHOES" policy inside the temples. And unlike Thai temples, where you just drop your shoes upon entering the prayer halls, you have to leave your shoes (and socks) outside the temple grounds here in Myanmar. My soft western feet are certainly not made for walking on pieces of broken stone or hot tiles, so I had my first few "ouch-effects", and of course I worried about my shoes "getting lost" while I am on picture hunt inside a huge temple. 

Kuthodaw Monastery is nice but I actually liked the nearby Sandamuni temple more. While you can't really walk inside the long lines of their 1774 marble slaps, which are also covered with mini pagodas, the main golden pagoda was not under renovation and elevated a bit. From up there the view onto the huge temple ground is great, specially with the backdrop of Mandalay Hill.

From here it is a short but dusty walk over to Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, which is very very picturesque and it features a 900 tonne Buddha image in the center. Again, none of these monasteries were too busy or too touristy.  Mandalay Hill, or rather the long climb up the Hill starts here. I did it on a separate day, since it would have been too hot to walk up. So, I actually came here again the next day and started an early walk up the hill on it's southern route. 

Again, shoes off!!! and better take them with you, since you most likely will not walk back down but take a taxi back to the city. The walk up the hill with it's 1729 steps (more or less) was nice, not too hot and all covered. The views on the other hand were almost zero. There was so much haze, or dust, over the city in the morning that I could hardly make out the moat and the palace down below. That was a bit of a disappointment. I am sure the views are better later in the day, but the number of tourists and the heat will increase. 

Mandalay Hill
Coming back down from the hill was not as easy as I thought, since I did not arrange my own transportation. So I found myself crammed into the back of a pick-up truck with many locals. Nobody really spoke English including the driver and the guy who collected the "fee" of 1000 Kyat. Those pick-up taxis will drive you back to the hotel or any other destination for a higher fee, but I just wanted to get down from the hill and enjoy a few ceremonies in front of Kyauktawgyi Monastery.  

In theory all of this would be walkable on one day and even the Palace itself would be possible to visit that day, but the sunlight will be so bright that photography will be an issue, hence I grouped these things into three different days and visited the palace in the afternoon of another day.  


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