Big is Beautiful in Mingun

Bagun Pagoda dominates as we approach
Mingun Pagoda dominates as we approach

Day three sees the return of the Nun’s amplified chanting and Nev suggests taking a pot shot at the loud speakers set on the roof. John thinks that might kill someone if they fall to the ground.  I suggest a sniper to take out the cables. Everyone has a suggestion and our meal times are settling into laughter and serious issues as the world waits anxiously for the Brexit vote. After breakfast we take the boat across the Ayeyerwady. The muddy water seems to flow sluggishly making it difficult to guess the direction down-stream.

Mingon traders meet the boat
Mingon traders meet the boat

Ubiquitous tee shirt and post-card sellers are on hand to escort us down the shore to our boat for a leisurely and peaceful ride. The same characters are ready to meet us on the other side.

Disembarking
Disembarking

This is the site of what was planned around 1790, to be the biggest stupa in the world when finished.  The commissioning King died when only a third of it was complete, but it’s still the largest and looms large as we approach on the river.

Mingun Pagoda
Mingun Pagoda

It’s also described as the world’s largest pile of bricks.  Earthquakes in 1819 and 2012 have taken their toll and huge cracks race through the brick work and vast canyons open up through out.

Cracks
Cracks
John on the hot red steps
John on the hot red steps

There’re red brick steps up one side but in the blistering heat they burn our bare feet. IMGP6261 Local boys have spotted an opportunity and gather foliage growing out of the bricks for us to stand on for relief. I refuse this but occasionally accept help negotiating chasms in the quake tilted pathways at the top.  The boys all claim to be learning English to become tour guides – seemingly the main aspiration of young poor people.

My young guides -top of Mingun Pagoda
My young guides -top of Mingun Pagoda

They are perhaps over attentive with little real information to give out and of course they want to be paid, a contribution to their studies … maybe.  It all contributes to the local economy I guess, and they’ve been able to practice their language skills.

Down the road is the Mingun Bell, furthering the King’s ‘big’ ambitions.  Unfortunately it is now only second in the world; the Chinese have cast a larger one.

Dwarfed by the Mingun Bell
Dwarfed by the Mingun Bell

Of course we have to stand under it and get someone to beat it with a wooden stick.  Fortunately the ring is not that loud.  By now John and I are getting into doing photographs of each other on our cameras. We wander further down the road and are exhorted by a café owner to come in and have a beer. ‘Maybe later,’ is our reply?  We’re looking for a pretty white-washed temple seen from the top of the Mingon stupa.

Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays

The Hsinbyume Pays has seven layers of waves representing the sea and the stupa is Mount Sumeru – centre of the Buddhist cosmos.  One of the tee shirt women has been following me on and off for ages so I decide that if I can get the right price I will buy the sky blue one with the Myanmar alphabet that she’s been waving at me.  I look at the white one she has in a plastic bag which she wants for 5,000 Kt = US5$.  I offer 2,000 then 3,000.  As I walk away she agrees and then I choose the blue one.

Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Clive recovers with anxious looks from Mark
Peter recovers with anxious looks from Mark

She hesitates because it’s the one she holds out for display.

Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Hsinbyume Pays
Creative recycling -garden gate
Creative recycling -garden gate
Home for the Bagan elderly Me flanked by statues of old people
Home for the Bagan elderly Me flanked by statues of old people
Elderly Cigar seller.
Elderly Cigar seller.
Novices shopping
Novices shopping

The deal is done and I’ve got a bargain.  On the walk back ‘Maybe later’ calls out to us again.  John and I meet up with some of the others to find lunch and suggest ‘Maybe later’ might be good.  Some of the guys go into the café next door and outright war is narrowly averted by splitting our party between the two. It’s only fair and both owners are happy.

These trucks driven by rubber bands are the work horses.
These trucks driven by rubber bands are the work horses.

Back on the other side of the Ayeyerwady, the flower and vegetable market is just closing down.  Bundles of flowers are being wrapped in banana leaves and packed away.

Amazing they can grow roses here
Amazing they can grow roses here
Fruit stall
Fruit stall
How to carry your mobile. Wouldn't last 5 minutes in a London market
How to carry your mobile. Wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a London market
Keeping the greens fresh with buckets of water
Keeping the greens fresh with buckets of water

Our sunset destination today is Mandaly Hill and there’s a temple at the top and another bare-footed climb up steps.

Giant Lions at the bottom of Mandalya Hill dwarf us
Giant Lions at the bottom of Mandalya Hill dwarf us

We are keeping fit and hardening our soles. There’s yet another stunning panoramic view which defies photography. John is usually an enthusiast with his little digital camera but on this occasion he’s deep in conversation with a young monk. They come to tourist places in groups partly to practice their English and will often make an approach.

On the way up the hill kittch to the hilt
On the way up the hill kittch to the hilt

John takes the opportunity to ask about the monk’s robes and how they work.  He’s rewarded with a discreet demonstration of how it all works. You’ll have to ask him.  I’m engaged by a very handsome monk on the way up the steps and we chat about the usual topic.

Buddha
Buddha

‘Where are you from?’

‘New Zealand’

‘Oh.’

‘Near Australia.’

At the top while we wait for the sunset, a young photographer is trying to recreate a famous shot with three monks walking across a corridor. It’s not quite working for him but I manage to get my shot.

Three monks
Three monks
Covered walkways
Covered walkways
Nev & Richard chill
Nev & Richard chill
View of Mandalay including where the teak royal palace was before the war
View of Mandalay including where the teak royal palace was before the war
The top of Mandalay Hill inlaid glass
The top of Mandalay Hill inlaid glass
From the bottom of thehill
From the bottom of thehill
Emerald Buddha
Emerald Buddha

Clouds cover the descending sun and we go down the hill by taxi bus (Utility truck with seats on the back) to find the Emerald Buddha temple all lit up like La Vegas.Emerald Buddha IMGP6331 Emerald Buddha IMGP6334 It’s said that no one does Buddha bling like the Burmese and this temple must be one of the tops.Emerald BuddhaIMGP6338Emerald BuddhaIMGP6339Emerald Buddha IMGP6341

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