... was founded in 1857 by King Mendon, the 2nd to the last Burmese king. It ceased to be capital in 1885 when the conquering British forced the last King, Thibaw Min, into exile in India.
The central palace is a square, 2 kilometer long per side. Most of the buildings burned in WWII; some have been reconstructed, others appear to be waiting of it.
Hotel reservations were difficult to make before the trip, and in this case, tho made on a booking web-site, when we arrived they knew neither us nor the web-site!
Somehow they did have a room for the first night...
...and although we had to change rooms, they had one open up for the next three nights as well. Pretty much the fanciest we stayed in, although most hotels, lodges, guest-houses had en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning and most had wi-fi as well.
And not matter what "star" the facility, breakfast, usually a buffet, was standard. This one had western dishes on one side, and Asian on the other.
Public transport is mostly by pick-up mini-buses, where foreigners are sometimes put up front with the driver....
...but usually are in back...
...where candid photos were possible. Note this fellow's buttons, and tee-shirt supporting Aung San and his daughter Suukyi.
Downtown Mandalay swirls around the Clock Tower. (I know, don't ask me...).
...and where public bus Number 30 passes by. We hope to find a Number 1, but not sure if there was one, we took it its northern terminus...
...which was at the foot of Mandalay Hill, a popular destination, not only by bus, but by scooters too!
Walking the steps to the top require passing these guardian "Chinthes", smaller versions of which one often sees in Chinese edifices.
Shelter from sun and rain is provided, and then, almost to the top....
...a set of escalators!
At their top, these vendors sell garlands to offer to one of the many Buddhas on the Hill.
From a look out over the city, the the sliver of water is the Ayeyarwady In left center is another sliver of water, the northern Palace moat. The big white thing? Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel.
A detail of the view showing the golden spires of stupas sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain.
At the top is the Sutaungpyei Temple...
...its multicolored tiles glinting in the sunlight.
In its center is a pagoda, with glass mosaic decorations on the outer walls.
And a Buddha inside, with an equally glittering "proscenium".
We learned about a Burmese belief that there are 8 daily Buddhas and corresponding animals. They get eight, a basic number in Buddhism, by splitting Wednesday in half. I was born on a Wednesday AM, so my animal is an elephant with tusks (by Wednesday PM the tusks are gone.) Zhufeng, a Tuesday child, has a lion. Each is associated with a cardinal direction, and said statues are laid out that way around a stupa or pagoda. A worshiper often will sit in front of the appropriate day, after pouring small cups of water over the statue, a merit making activity.
As is, of course, donating money. Donation boxes are the most common place to see 50 kyat notes (there are 850 or so to the dollar) the smallest note see, but hardly ever received. Note the strings of beads on the left...loaners to those who arrive without their own.
Near the temple are statues to two snakes (more later on the role of snakes in Buddha's story), thought to have come to the hill top to pay respects to Buddha. When they died they became Nats, and continue to protect the site. People stuff their mouths with money for good luck.
Another Buddhist story is memorialized in this statue. Why an "ogress", I do not know, but Sanda Mukhi, had nothing to offer the Buddha, so she gave him her breasts. The Buddha was so moved he predicted she would be reborn 2400 years later as a Burmese King and would found a great city (that was 1857 when King Midon founded Mandalay).
Along the route are step-side food stalls, with noodles and tea.
Further down the hill a man gaining merit by feeding wild cats.
And this man making money selling not only Buddhist items, but...
...Aung San and Suukyi photos as well.
At the base of the hill is Kuthowdaw Temple, 1862, built by King Mindon Min as part of his new city.
Although it has a worthy stupa, modeled on the one in Bagan,...
...it is famous for the 729 enclosures which surround the stupa.
They are packed in pretty tight, ...
and with the caretaker's back turned and radio bug in her ear, ...
...they make for an enticing place for couples to get lost in.
The enclosures have pretty small openings...
...and are pretty filled up with marble tablets...
...on which are inscribed the entire text of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.
Upon occupation of the city, the British turned the Palace into Fort Dufferin and occupied all the area around the Hill, forbidding citizens entry to their religious sites. When this was annulled, by Queen Victoria in 1890, the monks returned to find the temples looted and ruined, bricks from these enclosures used for roads and the gold ink removed. It was replaced with black, which was less valuable and easier to read. It took until 1932 for complete restoration of the temple.
Guide books warn well in advance of the above, but try to find $5,000 of "fresh ones"! I made visits to our banks branches withdrawing $1,000 and re-depositing $700 t0 $900, saving the best ones to be steam ironed to remove as many wrinkles and folds as possible...yes, even middle folding can cause a note to be rejected. Even so some of ours were just not fresh enough. And with few credit card merchants, no ATM's dispensing kyats, and traveler's checks unheard of, one needs to take a supply of fresh dollars or euros.
I suppose these two would take any dollar note (tho they would have trouble exchanging or using it), but they prefer 1000 kyat ($1.20) to give you a bird to release from captivity thereby making merit. It must be quite the business cycle: trap bird, take to temple front, sell for release, trap again..
The birds were in front of Shewnandaw Monastery, a major stop on the tourist trail. Built for King Mindon's palace, it was relocated after his death (1878) to the foot of Mandalay Hill (some say because King Thibaw could not cope with Mindon's ghost, and it became part of a monastery) thereby becoming the only building of the original palace to survive the war time bombing.
Peering underneath, the traditional flood plain foundation of post and beam is impressive. Raising off the ground not only helps preserve the beams and floor, but provides natural ventilation as well. Note the dragons on the outside columns, ...
...here in detail. Always nice to have an army of dragons protecting your home.
And as in Bagan, stair railings end in a water serpent spewing an impressive wave of water. The fire suppressive system of the 19th Century?
And does this need fire protection! Carved teak adorns outside and in.
The interior features gold finishes in the two main halls. One for an image of Buddha...
...the other for a smaller statue, and its dais, surrounded by carvings illustrating episodes in the Jataka Tales, stories of the previous incarnations of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha.
A detail from the lower left corner of the previous photo.
Out the streets bus stops are marked by a whiskey ad. ..
Across the street, another of those curious clock towers.
Back at the downtown clock tower, the central shopping district is clogged with traffic.
Items coming into town to be....
....sold in shops (how long will these baskets hold out the plastic onslaught?) with their wares displayed in front.
A hardware store of old and new tools, next to ...
...an electronics store with big speakers and small photovoltaic panels.
Some stores are more upscale with their offerings particularly of interest to foreign travelers.
Others are appealing to the modern women to give up their traditional "longyi" skirts...
...for something more trendy.
This store has decided to concentrate on uppers and forget "longyi" tradition, or anything else.
At least while living in a nunnery, these women will be seeking alms at food stores, not ladies' fashion spots.
So far, four out of five, prefer the "longyi".
As the weather was turning cooler, shoppers' attention was turning to long sleeve sweaters.
Could this vendor be curing favor with his female customers??
Is she hoping everyday is Valentines Day and people will give fruit instead of chocolates?
The market area had, besides all this street side activity, interior shopping "malls" as well. After all there are torrential rains at times which must dampen outdoor sales.
Bicycle parking lots are common; car lots scarce (thus the double street parking seen above).
Inside there is fish...
and friendly stall keepers...a family with Chinese background speaking Mandarin.
Not only foodstuffs for sale, but workshops as well. Binding books...
..and embossing titles in gold leaf.
A seamstress will gladly whip out a 'longyi" from cloth purchased across the way.
And of course all these people will want lunch. Pick and choose and have a plate filled up.
Or maybe just a beer is all one needs at the nearest Beer Station.