Madalay: The last royal capital of Burma
We took another night bus from Inle lake to Mandalay, the cultural hub of Burma! We arrived in the wee hours of the morning, which was perfect, because we rented a motorbike and headed 7 miles south to a city called Amarapura (“City of Immortality”) to witness the sun rise over the iconic U Bein Bridge on the mystical Tuugthaman Lake!! Because we got there so early in the morning, we were the only westerners there and had the WHOLE lake to ourselves!! We hired a small boat and our paddler took us anywhere and everywhere our photography- lovin- hearts wanted to go to capture the beauty of the first morning light peaking through the teakwood bridge. To top it all off, at that time in the morning, we were able to see the early morning commute of hundreds of monks and other villagers as they crossed the bridge. The raw simplistic beauty of the morning was very surreal. The U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest teak footbridge (1300 yards) and is one of the most photographed places in Burma, and for good reason! After enjoying our boat ride across the lake, we walked back to the other side on the bridge.
We then made our way to the Gold-Pounders’ District, where we got to see the process of making the one-inch square gold- leaf sheets that worshipers place on Buddha images. We saw these gold sheets everywhere, so it was cool to understand the details of how they are made!!
It’s a crazy hard process that made us sweat just looking at the men continuously laboring to manually pound stacks of gold sheets to make them super thin! Check out the pics for more info on how they are made! Best part: we got a souvenir gold leaf on our foreheads!! sweeeeeet!!!!
After an awesome fish lunch, we headed to the Shwe In Bin monastery! It was a very quiet beautiful teak monastery commissioned in 1895 by Chinese merchants. The details of the carving were very impressive!
We then traveled to the stupa-topped hillside of Sagaing Hill. As we wandered around, we saw a school. Something about this small unassuming school grabbed our hearts and beckoned us to go in…. so we did!! The school is called Aung Myae Oo Monastic Education School. They provide free schooling for the neighborhood children. Most of the children are Novice Monks, but the school welcomes any child that needs an education.
The school principal, Ven-U Vilasa, graciously gave us a tour of the school, and we tried not to be too much of a distraction to the kids as we went from classroom to classroom. As our tour ended, so did school for the day! Soon we were swarmed by 100’s of the cutest head-shaven Buddhist boys and girls you’ve ever seen!! Their enthusiasm for simple pleasures, and their heart melting smiles will be something we’ll keep with us forever!!
We have so many pictures taken just of the U Bein Bridge and of the area. But here are a few of our top top favorites!
For more of our favorite pictures, head over to Lindsay’s photo album of Manday!
Here’s what we have bloged about Burma: