The last post in Mandalay

 

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Rest time over, out we went again into the late afternoon sunshine to see one of the principal sights of Mandalay - the huge wooden structure called the Shwenandaw Kyaung – the Golden Palace Monastery.

 

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Beautifully built from intricately carved teak, it had been the residence of King Mindon and originally as the name suggests, it would have been completed gilded with the gold leaf we’d seen earlier.

 

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Now, very little remains of the gold but the intricate carving still shows all the small details in spite of the age.

 

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There were quite a few visitors from Thailand here, including this monk wearing saffron robes rather than the deep red of the Burmese brothers.

 

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There must have been quite a large group of them and I was surprised to find them capturing images of the Buddha on their iphones rather than praying.

 

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Well, it is a spectacular sight and inside, most of the gold is still in place.

 

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Even so…

 

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Just a few small hints remain of what must have been an awe inspiring structure in its day.

 

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Then, rather than join in the mass phototaking session which seemed to be going on all over, we crossed the road to view what Sanda had promised was the world’s largest book.

 

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Not forgetting our shoes of course.

 

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The gates of  the Buddhist University were just across the road and next door to that was the Kuthodaw Pagoda.

 

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It’s a World Heritage site and so we suspected we were in for a treat.

 

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No kidding.  In the grounds of the pagoda were 730 small stupas, each painted white and each containing a page from the Fifteen books of the Tripitaka. 

 

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In the afternoon sun, the rows and rows of these small white structures looked gorgeous.

 

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So photogenic, and yet it was hard to get the whole picture.

 

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We were glad to come across a model which showed the arrangement of the grounds around the pagoda

 

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We were pleased, too, to manage to find one without anyone else around so we could have a look at one of the pages.  So detailed, so intricately carved, too.

 

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We walked around the base of the pagoda itself, admiring the small Buddhas here and there, mostly gilded for reasons we now understood!

 

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We admired the old Starflower tree, supported by decorative props here and there.

 

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But most of all, we admired the pagoda itself, shining in the fading light.

 

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I quite liked the fading paint on this gateway, too.

 

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and we all loved the sound of this gong; a flat sheet of shaped metal which made the most glorious clang, then when spun around on the piece of string, continued to reverberate for several minutes.

 

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Time to go then,

 

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not forgetting our shoes!

 

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Past the enormous lions made from Mandalay marble which stand guard at the entrance to the Kyauktawgyi Paya which has a 12m high marble Buddha inside.

 

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His claim to fame?  His eyes were painted by none other than King Mindon himself.

Having seen this one last spectacle, dusk was falling outside and it was time to return to our comfy hotel to shower and change before meeting some friends from Ananda for dinner.  Throughout the day, we’ve bumped into a few of them and it’s been strange to see a familiar face so far from home.

There’s one last surprise in store – our hotel is temporarily home to over a hundred of the Solar Pulse Team, together with the two pilots.  They landed in Mandalay a couple of days ago and are awaiting improvements in the weather over China, spending their time giving lectures to schools and college students about environmental issues.  As a result, there’s quite a buzz about the place and we too find out a little more about the project and feel rather inspired to follow their progress further

Time to pack up again, then, because we have what we hope will be the last of our early starts in the morning: an 8am flight to Heho.  See you there in the next post.

A short diversion in Heho

The Village Buddha