Monday, December 22, 2014

Myanmar part 6 - Yangon

We returned to Yangon for two nights before flying back to the US.  There was not much time for sightseeing, which was too bad, Yangon is a large vibrant city, the largest city in Myanmar.  There was a lot of new construction of skyscrapers and office buildings, so it appears they are attracting international business.
This is Bogoke Aung San market, named for General Aung San, political and military hero assassinated in 1947 (and father of Aung San Suu Kyi).  It the largest market in Yangon.  As you can see, very popular with tourists.
 Gem market at Bogoke Aung San
 Longyis for sale
 Tailoring is done on site, nice!
Colorful purses
We stopped at Macle Gem Trade Laboratory, and saw some great minerals and fossils
A feather in amber from Kachin State, Myanmar. This amber is Cretaceous, 90-100 million years old.
A selection of fossil amber containing insects and gastropods.

Fun rare minerals, this is pezzotaite from Momeik, very different in appearance from the Madagascar material.
A must-see in Yangon is Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest in Myanmar.  It contains relics from four past Buddhas.  It was covered by scaffolding while we were there so gold leaf can be reapplied to the surface

We visited at night so we could see it under the lights.
Even under construction it is still an awesome sight!
The top of the Pagoda is called the umbrella, at the top of the umbrella there is a wing shaped vane that is covered with rubies, sapphires and diamonds (all donations to the Pagoda). Here is a close up photo:

 A statue of a reclining Buddha.
Time for a tribute to the wonderful food of Myanmar!  This is a Burmese dish, fish with lemon sauce.
Vegetarian food at the Bagan restaurant called "Be Kind to Animals" 
Condiments: fried garlic, chilis and Indian style pickle
Another traditional Burmese dish: tea leaf salad. Pickled tea leaves mixed with peanuts, sesame seeds, fried garlic and fried shallots. We had it many times, delicious!

Fried fish and other dishes at a Chinese restaurant in Mogok
River shrimp curry (we were far from the ocean, all fish and shrimp came from the rivers).
One of our last meals in Yangon, more Burmese dishes including roast duck, asparagus salad, curried fish and chicken with coriander sauce.
A wonderful trip, wonderful memories, thank you to Kyaw Thu and to our fantastic group of GMC members who the trip so much fun!

Myanmar part 5 - Mandalay(2), continued

Mandalay surprised was not like Mogok but there were a lot of rocks to see.

We visited some dealers, saw more pink tourmaline from pegmatites in the Mogok area
Also visited a couple of mineral shops, but didn't find anything to buy.
We still had a few important cultural sites to visit on our last day.  First stop was the  Royal Palace of Mandalay (with its intimidating warning sign).  This palace was the last home of the Burmese royal family. 
King Thibaw and Queen Supayalat. They were exiled by the British to Ratnagiri, India.  Thibaw died in India but the Queen and some of their daughters eventually returned to live in Burma, stripped of their royal titles.
The palace was built in 1857 by King Mindon and then mostly destroyed by Japanese bombs during World War Two.  Most of the buildings were made of wood and burned to the ground.  Using the original architectural plans, the government rebuilt the complex in 1990.  
The two white buildings are the only original buildings left.
Not far from the palace is a monastery that was built in the 1700s.  This is one of the few old wooden structures remaining in Mandalay.  They are at constant risk of fire damage.  This building is maintained by students from the Buddhist school across the street.
A close up of the elaborate carvings that decorate the walls of the monastery.
This is Kuthodaw Pagoda, which contains the world's largest book!
The book has 1460 "pages" or stone tablets.  There are 729 tablets each housed in a small stupa with a precious gem on the top.
The 729 stupas surround Kuthodaw Pagoda.  Inside each is a stone tablet
This is two pages (front and back) of Budhist scripture and all together they make the world's largest book.
We saw this statue inside of one stupa. This is a "fasting Buddha".
Our final activity in Mandalay was a half-day river cruise to Mingun.  Mingun is a tiny village about an hour upriver.  There are several interesting sites there.  The tour boats line the Irrawaddy riverfront along with the boats of fishermen, who live on the beach:

Approaching Mingun, you can see the massive ruins of the unfinished Mantalagyi Temple. It was built in 1790 by King Bodawpaya whose palace was Amurapura (just outside of Mandalay). If it had been finished, it would have been the largest temple in the world at nearly 500 feet tall.
There are no cars in Mingun, this is one of the few options for transporation.
Where are you going Edna?

There isn't really much inside Mantalagyi Temple, people like to climb to the top despite the "no climbing" signs posted everywhere.
The "No Climbing" signs are there for a good reason, earthquakes have severely damaged the structure.
Walking a short distance along a dirt road we arrived at Hsinphyumae temple, on of the most beautiful buildings we saw in Myanmar!  You come around a bend in the road and there it is in front of you, amazing. The design of this temple is based on Mount Meru, the mountain with five peaks that is at the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology.
King Bodawpaya also built one of the world's largest bells, the Mingun Bell. Anyone can ring the bell, or stand underneath it if they wish.
Mingun sights

Getting back on the boat.  Notice that the the handrail is two men holding a pole.
Cold beers on the boat to celebrate a lovely time in Mandalay.
 A final sunset over the Irrawaddy River