At a gigantic monastery for novices, thousands of monks had their one meal of the day at this time. Poor things. I imagined how I would feel with only one meal a day. Having tourists gawk at me as I ate this meal would have made me feel even worse. Busloads of tourists are brought here to witness this treat.
Along the shaded pathway of the monastery, two very long rows of monks were lined up waiting to go into the refectory. The tourists stormed in, cameras ready to photograph them while they ate. How disgusting. I would have none of this. I left. Would they like a busload of Japanese tourists descending on their homes at tucker time and photographing them like animals in the zoo?
We visited more temples and monasteries, where I was pushed out of the cool sanctuary of the taxi to trudge about in the heat barefoot. Where was this drive in the countryside I had set out on?
Burma Myanmar Map Photo Gallery
We arrived at Sagaing, an ancient capital of a Shan kingdom that had arisen around 1315 after the fall of Bagan. It is now a major religious site with five hundred stupas and six thousand monks and nuns. We drove, thankfully, up Sagaing Hill on a high, winding, narrow road lined both sides with low white stone walls. Where the road ended the steps began. I climbed up many, many steps to look down on to a wide vista of green hills, their slopes dotted with a multitude of gold or white pagodas and stupas. I climbed slowly, stopping often at the seats provided to absorb the restful atmosphere the close growing gardens and overhanging trees afforded. Not to mention to absorb more oxygen into my complaining lungs.
Near the top of the hill, forty-five colourful Buddhas sat in a peaceful crescent-shaped colonnade looking down to the distant river. Further up was the ninety-seven foot high Soon Uponya Shin Paya that was built in 1312. I liked its donation receptacles waist-high bronze frogs that I couldn’t resist stroking.
At Amarapura, City of Immortality, the royal city before Mandalay, not much could be seen of its former prominence. Most of the palace buildings had been dismantled and moved to Mandalay when it replaced Amarapura as capital. The main attraction here now is the wonderfully picturesque U Bein’s bridge. The longest teak bridge in the world, constructed of sixteen hundred sturdy teak posts, for two hundred years it has provided a way across the wide, shallow Lake Taungthaman to the village on the other side.
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