Mandalay is the capital of Myanmar (Burma) in South East Asia. It may conger up thoughts of Rudyard Kiplings poem ‘Mandalay’ On my first day there I decided that the conspicuous Mandalay Palace would the place of my first adventure, seen as though it was so close. The palace walls grounds are so large, I think they must have been 1km square, with a 64 metre-wide moat forming the perimeter of the palace.

dscf3931
The moat at Mandalay Palace, with Mandalay hill in the  distance

The moat at Mandalay Palace took me around 10 – 15 minutes to walk part of the length at a brisk but leisurely pace. I turned on to East Moat Street (66th Street), hoping to find the entrance to the palace grounds. There were some security men there. The entrance fee was $10. I passed the security, but they didn’t bother me. The palace grounds were scattered with army personnel. The drive way was quite long.

The Glass Palace was rustic red with gold edgings, having a tired structure to it. All these buildings were replicas been rebuilt in the 1990’s. Most of the buildings were either burned or bombed during Japanese occupation by the allies during World War II. There were many places that were simply out of bounds. The thrown-room which was the palaces most fascinating building, with its large multi-tiered pyramid of gilt filigree. It was beautiful in its own way and certainly different to what I was expecting.

dscf3939
Replica of the Glass Palace

 

DSCF3940.JPG
Chief Queen’s Apartment, with the Myay Nan Pyathat Building with spire to the rear.

 

dscf3944
The Great Audience Hall

 

dscf3942
Palace Compound

 

dscf3943
Palace Compound

 

It was the British that eventually ejected the Burmese King Thibaw in 1885 and then demolished part of the original city for their own interests, mainly to create a parade ground and then they turned the centrepiece palace complex into the governors, residence.

dscf3947
King Mindon

In the grounds, there was a strange conspicuous looking watch tower. I was hoping that the Palace grounds would have fantastic looking gardens with possible fountains, but that wasn’t to be.

dscf3937
The Mandalay Palace Watch Tower

Much of the grounds were out of bounds so, I continued walking the outside perimeter of the palace grounds

Once outside the grounds I continued walking in an anti-clockwise direction. In total it took me two hour to walk around the palace walls. The strange thing was, was that I came across at least two wells where people were washing themselves. They just ladled water over themselves.

dscf3958
Locals at the nearby well
DSCF3957.JPG
Keeping cool in the heat of the day

Bicycles can be hired from a shop on 25th Street, which crosses 82nd Street. Although you might have to look hard for the pen written sign that reads: ‘Bicycles for Hire.’

These are old ones, using the rod-actuated brakes system rather than a calliper break design. Although research told me that these brake systems are still widely used here in Asia and Africa.

Today’s adventure would take me down to the Irrawaddy River, were I came across boats and rafts that were being constructed. There was lots of activity going on in this area both residential as well as industrial. The buildings were simple in nature, having what looked like rattan style walls and grass roofs, some incorporated corrugated iron.

dscf3959
The Irrawaddy River
dscf3960
The river dwellings
dscf3962
Wash-day by the river

After taking photographs of the fascinating area that I had stumbled across: this was somewhere off limits to the average tourists. I cycled north following the riverside road.

In some areas, the right side looked like squalor living, it almost looked like a refuse tip, I hate to say with rubbish compacted to the ground, my description my sound a little over the top, but that was exactly what it looked like. Even cows and goats were grazing here.

Away from the construction area, there are healthy rice plantations, surprisingly right on the doorstep of Mandalay. Across the paddy fields and the river, I spied many similar looking villages with their simple crude looking buildings. Obviously, they were effective. How hot it got in those, was anybody’s guess. Most of the males there just longies and nothing else.

dscf3968
Rice plantations
dscf3969
Barns for lifestock
dscf3970
Rattan style dwellings with corigated roofs

There was no discrimination between looking very dark and wanting to look white. Well, not that I came across that. Young boys played, looking as brown as berries, gaily welcoming me as I cycled by saying ‘hello.’ They were ever so polite with their gestures, to say that I was a complete stranger to them.

Later, I realized that I was cycling around Mandalay Hill. This was 240 metres high, so it is hard to miss. It is famed for having an abundance of pagodas and monasteries scattered up its stairways (saungdans) , this was the hill that had a temple on it upper peak, which had been my originally destination.

dscf3981
Su Taung Pyi Pagoda

I reached a car park, and a sort of market area, where I parked my bicycle up using the wheel lock as oppose to a chain. Then I risked leaving my bicycle there, I started to climb up the steps towards the temple summit.

As I went up I kept passing romantic teenage couples lingering there gazing romantically into each other’s eyes.

The stone steps went on and on, luckily all under cover from the harshness of the elements, up and up I went, catching my breath as I went, it was just a good job I was fit. Determined to get to the top as quick as possible I carried on at a challenging pace.

dscf3978
The 700 steps all the way to the top.

I reached the halfway mark. There in front of me was a temple, complex, a small one so I had to remove my sandals and walk across the floor barefooted.

DSCF3972.jpg

The next part of me accent seemed to be steeper, as the path way zig-zagged the contours of the hillside. Once at the top the view from the Su Taung Pyi Pagoda were relatively good, luckily the sun’s haze had not yet reached its climax, so one could see for miles.

dscf3973
The views from the top

In some places, they might charge you for taking photographs. The young lady who approached me stated that I needed to pay 1,000 K. So, I parted with the money and continued in my in shooting of this landscape. I got some strange looks by people, was it the hat that I was wearing, or was it more to do with the fact that I was wearing shorts, even though I been given the OK for wearing them.

From Mandalay Hill, you could just make out the Royal Palace, but the heat haze was now intensifying. Mandalay certainly looked different, from what I could see of it.

In these temple complexes, it is considered respectful to remove your footwear and walk around barefooted. Thankfully, the floor tiles hadn’t had the chance to bake yet, so the soles of my feet did not feel like they were cooking. Now I had the delight of descending down the 700 odd steps to the bottom.

DSCF3980.JPG
The entrance from the bottom

Once at the bottom I located my bike and shortly afterwards I set off cycling back from where I’d come from, in the that I would be able to drop the bike off and get back before it got dark.

 

Advertisements