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.

_N7A0621

Mingun Pagoda

_N7A0628

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

_N7A0629

Sending big prayers to heaven

_N7A0635

Our travel group before Settawya Pagoda

_N7A0639

Ruined haunches of leogryphs intended to guard the Pagoda

_N7A0643

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

_N7A0648

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

_N7A0649

Our caravan of carriages.

_N7A0670

Entering the old gate of Ava

_N7A0674

Guardian lion is not a warm fuzzy creature

_N7A0675

Mei Nu Oak Kaung Brick Monastery

_N7A0676

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:

_N7A0665

_N7A0672

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.

untitled (978 of 3)

untitled (972 of 3)

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.

_N7A0772

_N7A0767

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.

_N7A0768

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

_N7A0770

This is one packet of gold leaf pounded by hand.

_N7A0771

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.

_N7A0714

Servers from our ship hand out cold champagne

_N7A0686

Zoro, Chief bar tender, Irrawaddy Explorer

_N7A0709

Many pedestrians are passing overhead

untitled (971 of 1)

A monk on the way to prayer

_N7A0740

Our sampan rower

_N7A0712

The U-Bein Bridge

_N7A0718

The U-Bein Bridge as sun sets

_N7A0744

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.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s