Mandalay in the Morning

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is bordered on the left by India and by China on the right. Mandalay, a city of about 1.2 million people, is located almost smack dab in the middle of the country.

View from atop Mandalay Hill.

We spent three days in Mandalay, alternating between resting and sightseeing.

If you ever find yourself in Mandalay, it’s best to do your hardest physical activity in the morning. By afternoon, it’s so hot and humid, you just want to find a cool spot. Also be prepared to get your feet dirty. You’ll spend half your time barefoot as pagodas require you to take your shoes off.

Part of the Maharmuni Pagoda complex.

Ladies, it’s no surprise that neither your shoulders nor knees can be exposed if you wish to enter a pagoda. And if you want to press gold leaf on the Buddha at Maharmuni Pagoda or even get close to the statue in others, forget about it. Only men have that option.

Men pressing gold leaf on Buddha statue.

Regardless, the pagodas are an eye-full. From the rather gaudy Kyauktawgyi Pagoda…

Looks like Vegas!

with its spectacular Buddha…

to the Kuthodaw Pagoda, proclaimed as the world’s largest book. 

Each white structure houses a marble slab inscribed front and back with an insightful saying of the Buddha. There are more than 700 such structures.

Several chapters in the world’s largest book.

Mandalay was the capital of Burma during its last monarchy when the Brits invaded in the 19th century. The massive Royal Palace was destroyed during WWII, but rebuilt in the 1990s. Today, it’s controlled by the military in Myanmar.

A small taste of the Royal Palace.

While the pagodas are certainly eye-catching, my favorite part of our Mandalay visit was touring the workshops of craftsmen, everything from woodcarving to gold leaf production. The skill and workmanship was extraordinary.

Part of the gold leaf production process.

Bronze is beautiful!

Woodcarving assembly line.

The woodcarving is definitely my favorite. The intricacy is astounding. I could have looked at the process and finished products for hours.

The woodcarving is magical.

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