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Royal Mandalay

sunny 36 °C

The one-time capital of the Kingdom of Burma still has the expansive Royal Palace at its core, but it’s a shadow of its former self and is now simply a collection of garishly decorated unfurnished buildings surrounded by a massive military base. More interesting is the overlooking pagoda that sits atop Mandalay Hill and houses an enormous golden Buddha. This sycophantic icon is supposedly pointing the way to the Royal Palace and the King…
But the King was deposed by the British Empire in the late nineteenth century and he died in exile in India. Mandalay may have been a glorious capital in its day but it is now a scruffy third world city which lacks the old colonial charm of its southern counterpart, Rangoon. However, it’s not lacking in monasteries and other religious edifices. Nearly one thousand eight hundred stupas each house a page of the world’s largest book – with the words of Buddha cast in stone…
And there is a fascinating all teak pagoda which was at one time covered with gold and turned into a royal palace…
Burmese teak is world renowned for its strength and longevity and this 1.2 kilometer U Bein bridge proves the point…
Across the Irrawaddy River lies the foundation of the world’s largest pagoda. This pile of millions of bricks, shattered by an earthquake last November, was destined to be just the base of a pagoda that would rise higher than the surrounding mountains…
The building may have been a touch over ambitious, but the bell designed to hang at its peak was equally gargantuan. It survived the earthquake and is now the world’s largest un-cracked bell, weighing in at ninety tons…
Mandalay’s drab and dusty streets are livened by masses of colourful monks and pink-robed nuns and we visited a school run by a monastery. The Burmese government spends just 2% of its annual budget on health and education combined, (and more than 40% on its military), so education is largely left to clerics and foreign volunteers. Buddha, on the other hand, receives a great deal of financial support – especially in gold. Male worshippers, (women are forbidden), have plastered so much gold leaf onto this Buddha that he is now worth more than the Greek and Italian governments combined…
We have now left Asia for Provence, France, but stay tuned for a final look back at the wonderful Burmese people.

Posted by Hawkson 01:31 Archived in Myanmar

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Wonderful journey....happy travels!

by Sharron

Fascinating to the end. I cannot imagine what it is like for you to return home. You are coming home to a different kind of beauty and a lot of people who love you.

by Sue Fitzwilson

looking forward to seeing you back home.

by Janet

Ah, the belle and the bell. Fine shot. Another fine shot - Jim looking so intently at the gold leaf - cat and cream. One little chip and the trips paid for! Either that or find the Spitfires.

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

by Tom Whalley

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