March 22: Mingun

After an early breakfast, we’re given the news that 101F is expected today. Notwithstanding, we are off first to Mingun where we take a leisurely (hot) walking tour of this small town best known for the uncompleted stupa commissioned in 1790 to house a tooth of the Buddha, by the daring military ruler, Bodawpaya (1745-1819). Work on the stupa was hampered by shortage of funds, and stopped altogether when an astrologer predicted that the king would die at its completion. Had it been finished, it would have been the largest in the world, higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza. An earthquake in 1839 reduced its upper structure to rubble and cracked the western entrance. Nearby stands the Settawya Pagoda, built in 1811 to house a footprint of the Buddha,  and what is reputed to be the largest functional bell in the world.


Mingun Pagoda


World’s heaviest (97.5 tons) working bell until 2000.


Sending big prayers to heaven


Our travel group before Settawya Pagoda


Ruined haunches of leogryphs intended to guard the Pagoda


Model of Mingun Pagoda

After lunch, we travel by coach to Ava or Inwa and Amarapura ,which we visit after a ferry ride across the Myitnge River, riding on horse carts. Ava served six hundred years as the Burmese capital, longer than another other city. The earthquake of 1839 left the city structures in ruins, so the capital was shifter to Amarapura


Our horse carriage driver showing the dental effects of beetle nut chewing


Our caravan of carriages.


Entering the old gate of Ava


Guardian lion is not a warm fuzzy creature


Mei Nu Oak Kaung Brick Monastery


Mei Nu Oak Kaung Brick Monastery

The stylized peacock at the top of this and many structures in Myanmar is a symbol of royalty. Another example is this:



Nan Myin Tower

The tower above was damaged by the earthquake of 1839, and was part of Bagyidaw’s now vanished palace complex.

This remnant of the past is quite unlike the nearby metropolis where most residents make a living in workshops producing fine quality longyis and htameins, the long skirt-like apparel worn by men and women, respectively.

We bid farewell to our horse carriage and driver, and make our way to modern Amarapura to visit a silk weaving shop and comfort stop.

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Silk weaving

Note the many shuttles of different colors. The factory was busy without the sound of talking. Our next stop was at a gold leaf manufacturing shop where a few grams of gold are manually pounded into thin sheets.



Pounding hundreds of gold sheets into thin gold leaf. Each shift is 30 minutes and if two or more are pounding, there is a metrical rhythm.


This inverted half sphere has a hole through which liquid passes at a rate to fill the sphere in 30 minutes – one shift.


This is one packet of gold leaf pounded by hand.


Of course, the workshop sells items with gold leaf.

Next we are driven to the U-Bein Bridge, thought to be the world’s longest and oldest teakwood bridge, for a sunset champagne toast before returning the the ship.


Servers from our ship hand out cold champagne


Zoro, Chief bar tender, Irrawaddy Explorer


Many pedestrians are passing overhead

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A monk on the way to prayer


Our sampan rower


The U-Bein Bridge


The U-Bein Bridge as sun sets


The U-Bein Bridge at sunset

On returning to the ship in the cool of the evening, we welcomed a shower, a fine meal, and performances of traditional Myanmar Dances on the Sun Deck. Today we settle accounts with the ship’s bursor, as we will depart the Irrawaddy Explorer at Mandalay tomorrow to visit the Maharani Pagoda, Mandalay Hill,  and Kuthodaw Paya.


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