Today was a bit of a quieter day, which was a nice way to end our time here in Mandalay. I think its due to the fact that I was feeling a little nauseous AND we pretty much ran out of things to do here in Mandalay.
We got a little bit of a late start to the day as the weather forecast (and my stomach) put a bit of a damper on things. I rallied about noon and we grabbed a cab to take us to Maha Muni temple (yes, another Buddha statue) and the U Bein bridge (we were originally supposed to go later in the day, but alas the weather forecast didn’t like that).
We hired a driver to take us to those two places, but he was amazing and ended up showing us a few other places along the way. We headed to Maha Muni temple first as it was closest to the hotel. It is the second holiest site in the country after Shwedagon in Yangon. What I found to be fascinating at this particular temple is that the men (sorry ladies you aren’t allowed) will walk up to the statue and put gold leaf on it. It looks like this has been a tradition for some time as the statue of Buddha is now sort of an amorphous blob – with a VERY shiny face (it is the only part of the statue that is polished, which happens every morning at 4am by a team of special monks). It was interesting too as I didn’t wear pants to most of the temples in Bagan and no one said boo – but here I was forced to put a Longyi (think a longer, less cool kilt) on. We did the obligatory tour of the temple and then on our way out stopped to buy a few prayer flags. These will definitely be an amazing addition to the ones I have from Nepal!
On the way to the U Bein Bridge (our next stop), I asked our driver where to get a Longyi. I have no intention of wearing it at home – but the fabrics are amazing and would make a nice blanket at home. Grandma, if you’re reading this – please help me. Our driver ended up taking us to this place called Shwe Sin Tai where we could see the process it takes to make these textiles. I splurged a little and got 2 longyis and Katelyn got a skirt. It was really neat to see how they handmade these garments using an old fashioned loom, which definitely played a part in my overzealous spending (if you can call $30 overzealous).
From there, we headed to the U Bein bridge which is supposedly the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world. It spans about 1.2 km and Katelyn and I walked the entire thing. It wasn’t like anything we have at home as there were small gaps between the planks and the thing definitely wasn’t level! After walking across and back, we had enough walking and headed back to the car. On the way, we were handed free energy drinks as there was a street team giving them out. As soon as I started drinking, a few of the people working the tent pulled out their phones and started snapping pictures of me drinking the energy drink (which didnt work at all). I guess I can expect my modelling fee in the mail anytime now.
Before we headed back to the hotel we stopped in the Gold Pounders district to see how gold leaf was made. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me as I found it incredible to see these hand made. They start out with a larger piece of gold which is cut into six pieces then hammered for a 30 minutes to increase the size. They then readjust the leaves and then are pounded for 5 hours. The pieces are then packed onto straw paper and sold. The rhythmic pounding of the Gold Pounders was almost hypnotic and I zoned out for a few minutes listening to it! There were some amazing works of art that the staff there had made, but alas backpacks are not conducive to carrying things like that around!
We made it back to the hotel and napped for a bit before going to the Sky Cafe at our hotel for dinner. It was incredible to see how flat the city is and even though it was very overcast we could see for a long distance. We both ate the “Myanmar Housewife” set menu which consisted of Green Tomato Salad, Lentil Soup, A traditional Chicken Curry and Fresh Fruit for dessert! It was a great way to cap off our stay in Mandalay.
Alright back to attempting to pack my backpack. No gracias.