From Yangon, we flew to Mandalay (with my bag now in tow and the “Myanmar” shirt temporarily retired). Mandalay is said to be the country’s cultural capital. We hired a car to take us around to the main sites. We started the morning by going up Mandalay Hill, the 760 foot hill that has great views of the city and great views of monks on iPhones.
From there, we went to Mandalay Palace, an impressive 1990s reconstruction of the original palace. It contains King Thibaw’s glass-pillared four poster bed, which actually looks even less comfortable than it sounds. We also visited Mahamuni Paya, which contains a revered 13 foot tall golden Buddha statue that is believed to be 2000 years old. Male worshippers can buy gold leaf and then apply it to the Buddha. So much gold has been applied that the body of the Buddha is covered in bumps.
For a Guinness World Record moment, we went to see the “World’s Biggest Book.” Kuthodaw Paya contains 729 text inscribed marble slabs, each contained in its own small stupa. Together, they are the entire 15 books of the Tripitaka. When King Mindon had a team of 2,400 monks read the book in a nonstop relay, it took them nearly 6 months!
To keep with the Guinness theme, we saw the sunset at U-Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak footbridge. This gorgeous 1300 yard bridge is crammed full of monks, locals, and tourists walking its length and trusting the rickety planks to hold.
That evening, we went to a fabulous night market that sold vegetables and all sorts of local food. So good!