A book that's Guinness Book material
Mandalay Travel Blog› entry 17 of 27 › view all entries
Today we can sleep late, our alarmclock isnâ€™t supposed to sound before 7.45 a.m.. Trudy, however, has risen and shined well before that time and opens the window to let in some fresh air at 7.15 and it doesnâ€™t take long before I am brutally yanked from dreamland by car horns in the streets below.
We take our time for breakfast and leave the hotel around nine. In front of the hotel a trishaw driver adresses us, offering his services. He asks where we want to go and we tell him we want to go to the base of Mandalay Hill, to visit some temples.
We sit down again in the brand new trishaw, that our driver has bought early January. And it shows, the trishaw shines and beams like we havenâ€™t seen on a trishaw before and when the driver talks about it he almost bursts with pride. He also tells about his house, that is made of bamboo and doesnâ€™t have any luxury at all. Still, the rent he has to pay is 20,000 Kyats every month.
We start our cultural tour at Shwenandaw Kyaung, the teak monastery that belonged to the original Royal Palace (the one that was destroyed by bombings on March 20 1945).
After dreaming of the kings of old and imagining what the entire city must have looked like in its heyday, I move on to the next item on our program.
When we get to the â€śLargest Book in the Worldâ€ť we first take a break to have a drink. We have become loyal Star Cola drinkers since we set foot on Burmese soil, because it is 4 to 8 times cheaper than Coca Cola, which must be imported from Thailand. Coca Cola doesnâ€™t directly supply Myanmar with their fizzy drink, but everybody knows (even the people at the Coca Cola headquarters canâ€™t be oblivious) that Thailand re-sells their product to Myanmar.
With our thirst quenched we now enter the Kuthodaw pagoda, where 700 marble slabs contain the Tripitaka, the holy Buddhist texts. It took eight years to carve the texts that, when written on A4 paper would be a book of 15,000 pages, into the stone slabs. Hence the nickname of the pagoda. From the moment we enter the temple complex we are accompanied by four girls that are selling postcards and they are very tenacious, because they wonâ€™t give up. On the left side of the main hallway a filmcrew is recording a television series of some sort, I guess it wonâ€™t be called As the World Turns, because that title is probably a bit too revolutionary...
When I am putting on my shoes again, the girls explain to me that the many-coloured flag with the pattern of beams and cross-beams is the old Burmese flag, but that it is officially replaced by the red and blue with stars and the wheat ear.
We go on to the Sandamuni pagoda, where another pile of walking postcards is waiting for us. It is almost unbearable to be asked â€śBuy postcard?â€ť several hundred times a day and Trudy starts a counter offensive. She tries to talk the girls into going to school, which is an uphill battle, but it takes their mind off selling for a few seconds. This pagoda is another square filled with domes containing carved slabs, the slabs here contain commentaries on the Buddhist teachings. We canâ€™t read a letter thatâ€™s written here, so we are done pretty quick and we move on to the Kyauktawgyi pagoda, the last one of today. It is not so much the pagoda itself that is interresting, but the Buddha image inside. The giant statue weighs 800 tonnes and has been cut from a single piece of marble.
When we are done we have our driver take us to the hotel and from here we walk to Mannâ€™s for a nice meal and after that to the next door neighbour for an ice cream or two. We walk off lunch while checking out the market, relax a little in our hotel room after that and finally we walk to the Hindy temple near the hotel. The temple opens at four p.m. and we are a few minutes early. When the doors open we are welcomed by the janitor who is more than willing to give us a private tour. When we tell him that we have been to India he gets even more enthousiastic, because this particular branche of Hinduism comes from the south of India and so do his ancestors.
We stroll down the night market before going for dinner at Mannâ€™s, enjoying the company of Ben, Riet, Evert and Aart-Jan.