Amarapura, City of Immortality
Amarapura is 11km away from the south of Mandalay. Amarapura city was the capital city twice out of five times shifting during last Konbaung Dynasty of 133 years. In its heyday there lived some 200,000 inhabitants.
There boosts the longest teak bridge of the world, popularly known as U Pein’s bridge named after the town mayor of the time when the bridge was built. It was constructed in 1849 using up wood salvage from the old palace in Ava, which had been dismantled when the royal city was moved to Amarapura.
Although a bit rickety in some parts, the bridge built of 1086 teak posts has withstood the storms and floods of over two centuries. This (1.2km) long teak bridge passes over rice fields during the summer days or span over flooded Taung Thaman lake during monsoon, heading towards KyaukTawGyi Pagoda.
It was built by king Pagan in 1847. Its architecture was supposedly inspired by massive Ananda temple in Bagan. Its poor reproduction of Ananda temple in Bagan. Instead of perfect vaulted roofs of the Ananda, the KyaukTawGyi has wooden beams and rafters covering its ceiling. In the middle of the Pagoda sit a huge Buddha image cut from a single marble slab, while all around it,row upon row of smaller seated Buddha images are lined up on its walls. Mural painting depicting daily life in Myanmar and various pagoda in other parts of the country decorate the sides of its four entrance porches.
Nearby is a very big monastery complex called Mahagandayone Monastic education center with more than 1000 monks live there. Between 10 am to 10:30 am monks come out from their monastery buildings to have the final meal of the day. It is a good place to study monastic way of life.
Apart from pagodas that have survived, the ancient art of silk and cotton weaving, using handlooms is very much alive. The Acheit-Htameins , the intricately patterned open- skirt worn by the Myanmar ladies on ceremonial and special occasions. You could stop at any workshop to experience the weaving.
Mingun is a beautiful village located at the northern end of Sagaing Hill. It is about 7 miles north of Mandalay, and is easy to reach by river boats which leave Mandalay daily, as a regular ferry trip or chartered trip. It take approximately one hour. There is the largest bell of Myanmar and also the largest ringing bell of the world.
Pahtodawgyi or Unfinished Pagoda
It was built by king Bodawpaya in 1790. He had completed 1/3 of total structure when he died in 1819, left unfinished and was damaged by 1838 earthquake. The present height of the pagoda is about 60 m tall at the base is 137 metre.
The pagoda is a solid mass, bricks after bricks and no hollow inside. It is said the foundation bricks are of solid gold and silver. The entrainments are the tooth Relic of Buddha presented to the king from the Chinese Emperor, thousands of Buddha image made of gold, silver and bronze Hundreds of gold and silver figuring..
The pagoda has four shrines, one on each side, but the three shrines were badly damaged and only on the east side shrine has a Buddha image.
The bricks of 18th century are flat, thin and long. In the olden days, stucco was prepared of sand, lime, water and molasses instead of cement. Sometimes the stick flesh of bale fruit was used together with molasses.
The Model Pagoda
The king had wanted to build the big pagoda exactly like this model pagoda. If it is completed it would be of (160 m) tall. But he had only completed 1/3 of what he had intended. After 15 year of constructing the pagoda he died and left unfinished.
Nobody had ever tried to complete the pagoda even the king had more than 200 grand children.
Min Gun Bell is now the biggest ringing bell of the world, 90 tons in weight, 3.7 m in height and 3 m wide at its mouth. It was cast on the opposite island called thun lun, which means bell casting island. It was moved from there to here during the raining season when the water level was high.
The bell was cast of alloy-gold, silver , bronze, lead and tin. Before melting the metals , the workers had to weigh it. It was of lost wax method. After the bell was cast, the canal was dug under it and the bell stood on the raft, only when the water was height enough, it was moved here. Originally, the bell was hung on teak pillars, But then in 1838 the strong earthquake took it down to the ground and if lift it up on the iron beam.
The two lions in front of the Buddha were built the same time of the pagoda. They are 30 m tall and 40,000 bricks were used. The eyes are marble, twenty men are needed to move an eye. Damaged by 1838 earthquake.
The lions are look like elephants from the back. Because of the hugeness, it was not so proportionate. The king’s count jester used to make fun of the king. He said to the king “ Oh King your lions look like…….” The King asked him did he want to say something wrong of his lions. He answered “ No…No….King….. your lion are going to jump to the other side of the river.
Hsin Byu Me (or) Mya Thein Tan Pagoda
It was built by king Bagyidaw 1816, when he was yet a prince, in memory of his senior wife Sin Phyu Me. It is said the emerald studded cradle of king Bodawpaya or his emerald ring was enshrined.
It is of a circular construction with 7 concentric terraces designed to represent the 7 mountain ranges surrounding Mount Meru. The legendary home of the gods. There are four flights of steps on the four sides and the white marble figures in the niches of the balustrades are supposed to be the mythical monsters who stand guard on Mount Meru. There are three ways going up to the shrine on top of the pagoda . The middle way for the king and right for sons, left for the Queen and daughter.
Home for the aged. Founded by a Buddhist nun, who is the only daughter of silk merchant in 1914. Old people no relatives can come and stay. They have medical care and fund raising is by the public. She set up five aged homes from the heritage from her parents.
The city of Innwa (ava) was founded by king Thadominpya in 1364, on the junction of arrawaddy river, and Dote-hta-waddy (Myintnge). Innwa remained the seat of Myanmar kings for four hundred years, serving as the capital for about 30 successors to the throne.
Unlike most other royal cities in this country, Its city wall is not square, but is shaped like a sitting lion, such as those found in front of Pagodas and Temples in Myanmar. Only some parts of the city wall stands,the northern gate (the gate of hair- washing ceremony). In the king times, the king was require to wash his hair at the gate during the water festival (Myanmar new year).
Okkyaung, also known as Maha-Aung Mye-Bonzan monastery was built in brick structure by chif queen of king Bagyidaw in 1818. Nan myint ( watch tower) also known as the leaning tower and the old teak Bagaya monastery is was built in 1834 A.D. During the reign of king Bagyidaw, the monastery has 267 gigantic teak wood posts . It is a storehouse of Myanmar cultural heritage, representing ancient architecture and sculpture in several artistic objects which are rarely found in the monastery of the present age.
After the fall of Bagan kingdom, the Shan chieftain Athin Khaya founded his own kingdom making Sagaing as his capital in 1322. The capital was moved to Inwa in 1364.
Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda
Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda was built by king Thalun in 1636 when AVA became the capital for 2nd time. It was modeled after Maha Ceti in Sri Lanka. The dome Shape represents the heap of paddy. The enshrinements are the hair relic of Buddha, the tooth relic and the alms bowl of Buddha Gautama. The height of the pagoda is about 188Ft (60 m). The circumference is about 880 Ft (300 m) at the base. There are 120 niches fill with the statue of guardians. The pagoda was surrounded by 1000 posts for candle offering. The festival of the pagoda is at the end of the Buddhist lent in October.
The living centre of the Buddhist Faith, where the parents bring their sons to received Buddhist order. And those who are tired of daily life and worldly affairs, they come and retreat to Sagaing Hill. There are about 900 monasteries and nunneries with about 6000 monks and 3000 nuns. The monasteries were originated as 9 monasteries in the 14th century when monks wanted to stay far from the people. They went out to the hills and dug out caves from the rock for meditation.
U Min Thone Se or 30 caves Pagod
It was built by the King’s teacher who was chief of the Sangas (monks) in 1300 A.D. There are 45 Buddha images inside the artificial cave which is dug out from the rock of the mountain.
Soon U Ponya Shin
It was built by Minister U Ponya about 700 years ago. Sometime crowded with local visitors and during the Pagoda festival people try to get up very early morning to offer alms foods to have a chance to become the first, but there is always early offerings. It is also a vantage point for the panorama and one can have magnificent view of surrounding Sagaing hill.
Pyin U Lwin
Apart from ancient cities, Pyin U lwin is best known for hill-station and summer resort. It is located on the slop of Shan plateau and 42 miles away from Mandalay, about 3500 ft (1070m) above sea level. It assume the European city for its temperate weather and beautiful horticultural flowers with terraced city plan. One can enjoy pleasant cool weather here. It has 97F(36C) at the highest and 35F(2C) at the lowest and the average annual rain falls of 63 inches. It is figuratively called “ the city of flowers” as flowers bloom here all the year round.
During British time, British government designated as the summer seat of government during the British colonial time in Myanmar. Pyin Oo Lwin is well-known for its colonial-style houses with large compound and pine trees, eucalyptus and silver-oak and pine trees lend magnificence to the scenic grandeur and on the slop of hills are the coffee, strawberry and pineapple plantations. Today Pyin Oo Lwin serves as a summer hill resort attracting large number of not only local visitors but also international tourists during the hot season.
National Kandawgyi Gardens
National Kandawgyi Gardens has an area of 382.46 acres, including natural forest, tiers of lakes and recreational lawns plus alluring landscapes and scenic views.
One can enjoy the beauty of fountains, cascades and seasonal flowers through the international standard ecotourism archway. Tree enthusiasts can view 589 species of local and foreign trees. According to the species, the trees are planted in 95 plots. Also one can observe Ginko Tree of Japanese origin, which is valuable for medicinal used. There are 75 species of bamboo, 75 species of croton, representative of Myanmar. Orchid lovers can enjoy 300 species of orchids collected from Myanmar forests.
Peacocks, the symbol of Myanmar and other pheasnant species are here for the visitors to take photographs as memento of the trip to the gardens. There are also rare water fowls such as Mandarin Duck, Mute Swans and Black Swans.
Flowers lovers can enjoy the beauty of seasonal flowers of foreign origin such as Tulip, Llilly, Pansy and Petunia in the garden all the year round.
Places of interest in its vicinity are Peik Chin Myaung Cave, Pwe Kauk Waterfall, Ani-Sakan Waterfall. Riding in one-horse carriage is a popular and charming feature of Pyin Oo Lwin life. One can make their journey by train to see Gokteik Viaduct built by British, considered the second highest viaduct in the world.
Hsipaw, or as it is call in Myanmar Thibaw, it is one of the oldest of the northern Shan State. Throughout history the Sawbwa or shan Chief of Hsipaw had closed relations with the Myanmar King. King Thibaw, the last king of Myanmar who reigned in Mandalay from 1878 to 1885 , got his title as a prince of Hsipaw when his father king Mindon gave Thipaw State to him to govern during a period when the state was without a Sawbaw Chief.
The town is located on the west bank of Namtu river which in its lower reaches is known as Myintnge or under its classical name Dokhtawaddy.Thipaw is 129 miles from Mandalay and only about 80 miles away from Pyin U lwin. From Mandalay the road and railway go past the spectacular Gokteik Gorge Between( 80 and 93 miles from Mandalay to Hsipaw) and on to Lashio and Muse where the China border is reached.
The road is heavily used for Myanmar – china border trade. One can make overnight stop and trekking trips to its vicinity.
Monywa(the land of giant buddhas)
A small charming town on the eastern bank of the Chindwin river ( the main tributary river flows into Arrawaddy river) located about 85 miles away from Mandalay. The river front area is active with passenger and cargo boats traveling up and down the river, making the town important hub for upper Myanmar.
Interesting sights are:
The giant standing Buddhas
It is said to be one of the tallest and which stand on a hill. The image is more than 400ft and is hollow inside. Visitors can go inside and climb up about 18 stories high. Each floor contains many galleries featuring wall paintings showing different aspects of Buddhism, including an array of horrid visions of Hell in which thieves, murders, adulterers and other miscreants are tortured by gleeful demons in variety of creative ways.
Just down the hill from giant Buddha is another giant reclining Buddha measuring 300ft and is facing west direction.
A few minutes’ drive away from the giant Buddha’s Images is the famous pilgrimage sites in northern Myanmar. It is located about 12 miles south of Monywa. It is famous for its beautiful architectural design and thousands of small Buddha images that line the galleries of the cool interior.
Pho win Taung
Across the river of Monywa is another important Buddhist site known as Hpo win Taung. One can reach by taking ferry across the river or by car.
Hpo win Taung consist of a rather large area of forested lime stone hills into which many caves were dug out 14 to 18 centuries. The niches feature decorative carvings around the outside, and most of them just big enough to house a single Buddha image. Other are large enough to contain multiple statues, and a few are adorned with detailed murals painting showing episodes from the life of Buddha.
Shwe Ba Taung
More or less half of mile away from Pho Win Taung is Shwe Ba Taung where many caves also have been dug out to house Buddha images.