14 January 2009


Mandalay was the last royal capital from 1861 until the third
Anglo-Burmese war in 1885, when Mandalay and Northern Myanmar fell to
the British forces who had already taken the rest of the country in
the first two wars in 1824 and 1853. The centre of town is dominated
by the massive Mandalay Palace and Fort. This was our first
destination on Sunday once we had recovered from the train journey
from Yangon.

The palace is deceptively large, each side of the square compound is
about 2km long and is surrounded by 8m high walls and a 70m wide moat.
To get to and around the palace we hired a couple of tri-shaws and
drivers. This turned out to be a great move as one of our drivers Zeze
has been a great friend and guide for us during our stay here, helping
us arrange our trips out and recommending the best places to visit and
to eat. Most of the palace compound is out of bounds as it is a
military base. The only bit that is accessible is the very centre
where the reconstructed buildings now lie, the original palace having
burned down during World War II. Unfortunately the reconstructed
palace is fairly ugly, being mainly made out of concrete and
corrugated metal.

From there we headed on our tri-shaws to the foot of the 230m high
Mandalay Hill, which lies on the Northern edge of the town behind the
palace. At the foot of the hill we made a detour to Kuthodaw Paya,
touted as the worlds biggest book. The temple contains 729 marble
slabs, each in their own stupa, that are inscribed with the Tripitaka
Buddhist scriptures. It is estimated that it would take you 450 days
to read all of the text if you read for 8 hours a day.

From there we made the 30 minute climb to the top of Mandalay Hill for
the sunset. The people here in Mandalay are incredibly friendly, as we
found out on our walk up the hill. Just about every monk or school
child who could speak English wanted to talk to us. Mainly to practice
their English but also to find out as much about us and England as
they could. At one point I was a surrogate English teacher to a class
of 13 students! I also had an offer to go and teach at the local monk
school, if we had time. We were quite exhausted by the time we got
back to the bottom, more so from the talking than the climb.

Some pictures of the palace should be attached to this post

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