Inside the grounds I was confronted by a long driveway. No vehicles are allowed in except the motorbikes for hire that belong there. After a struggle I gave in and let one rider cram a helmet on my head and off we went. There was no traffic so it wasn’t too bad.
The palace buildings are stupendous and the grounds are park-like and full of trees. The military compound buildings and King Mindon’s tomb are off-limits, but I wandered through a long series of wonderful gold and crimson teakwood halls and pavilions. I saw the ‘Glass Palace’ where the kings lived and King Thibaw’s glass bed. I thought about all the massive teak trees that had been cut down to build this; there were literally hundreds of columns made from tree trunks.
The motorbike rider collected me again, drove me slowly around the grounds, then dropped me back at the gate where my trishaw was waiting.
Burma India Map Photo Gallery
I did not go to the top of Mandalay Hill, an obligatory tourist experience, even though now there is a lift. I did that last time, the proper way. I think the karma I gained from panting up all those hundreds of steps should still be active. Instead I went to the nearby Shwenandaw Kyaung, a wooden monastery covered in beautifully carved panels. It survived the destruction inflicted on the other buildings of the Royal City because it had been dismantled and moved some time beforehand by King Thibaw after King Mindon died in it.
Next I went to Kyauktawgyi Paya and stood before its massive Buddha, sculpted from one solid block of marble in 1865 a twenty-six foot, nine hundred tonne goliath for which I bought a string of fragrant jasmine flowers from a small girl peddler.
Then, being my very favourite things, I couldn’t miss seeing the world’s biggest blog. It is at the Kuthodaw Paya and consists of the entire fifteen volumes of the tripitaka Buddhist holy text inscribed on 729 marble slabs, each one housed in its own small white stone stupa. The work on this colossal project began in 1857. A paper edition of this text is available thirty-eight volumes of around four hundred pages each which is estimated would take one person eight hours a day for 450 days to read. The stupas are lined in neat rows in pleasant tree-dotted grounds that lead to a pagoda. There I met a crippled woman who spoke fluent English. She said she had been a teacher but now lived on the kindness of others as she had no family or income. As I am an ‘other’, I offered some ‘kindness’.
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