Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Myanmar part 4 - Mandalay (1), Capital City of the last Burmese Kings


We left Mogok and drove back through Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly Maymyo), which is something of a resort town. British soldiers stationed in Mandalay went there to escape the heat and humidity.  There is still a lot of British architecture as well as a very lovely park and botanical gardens.  


Orchid Garden at Pyin Oo Lwin

Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar after Yangon. After the British conquered Lower Burma and made Rangoon their capital, the Burmese King  moved his capital to Mandalay. In 1885 the British captured Mandalay and sent the King into exile. Mandalay now has a large population of immigrants from China, many hotels and businesses are Chinese-owned. There is also a direct road from Mandalay to Yunnan province choked with trucks shipping goods back and forth.


An important export for Myanmar is jade, and most of that jade goes directly to China. Mandalay's famous jade market was our first stop. It was hot, crowded, noisy and fascinating. 


These young men are cutting the jade into simple shapes:  slabs, disks, cylinders.  These are sold to China where they will be carved in finer detail.




Here is some betel nut for sale.  It is actually betel leaf and areca nut; both are stimulants and chewed like tobacco.  It stains teeth red and the dark red stains all over the ground are from people spitting out this stuff.  


Mandalay has wonderful arts and crafts.  This is a woodcarving shop.



Wooden marionettes, the bodies and clothing are all hand made.


Beaded tapestries and purses.




Weaving longis, the long skirts worn by both men and women.


Marble buddha statues.  The marble is from Myanmar but these statues are made to be shipped to China.  The faces require a master carver and will be finished later.


A young man working on a buddha statue.


So many buddhas.


This is very interesting.  The gold leaf that is applied to buddha statues and pagodas is mined in Myanmar.  In Mandalay it is layers between bamboo paper and pounded into thin sheets.  You find the gold for sale at the temples.


video

The gold leaf is pounded by men working in shifts and it is a bit of a production for the tourists.


This is Mahamuni temple, it contains a very ancient buddha statue that was stolen from Mrauk U in Rakhine State by King Bodawpaya.  The statue is believed to be around 2000 years old.  It is famous for a face-washing ceremony performed by monks every morning at 4:30 am.


Unfortunately we saw these signs a lot.  Women are not allowed into the most holy temples.  We were able to enter many of the temples in Bagan but in Mandalay we were frequently banned entering, or from entering certain areas within the temple.  Women cannot apply the gold leaf, touch a buddha statue, touch a monk, be higher than a buddha statue, or enter the large temples like Shwedagon in Yangon.


We wanted a picture of this gold encrusted buddha so we gave the camera to Tony.  Men can enter but they must be dressed modestly, Tony needed to cover up!


Buddha from outside, it has a knobbly texture from all the gold leaf.


Men applying more gold leaf to the statue.


At Mahamuni are several bronze statues originally stolen from Ankor Wat in Cambodia.  Bodawpaya brought them along to Mandalay.  People rub the statue on parts of the body that correspond to their own health problems.


At sunset we visited U Bein bridge over Lake Taungthaman.  This is the worlds longest teak footbridge.  It was a little wobbly but the view was gorgeous.

Sunset over the lake.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Myanmar part 3 - Mogok (2)

... and continuing our Mogok tour!

November 12


On that day, a few of us woke up early for a 1:30 hour drive to the town of Bernard (named for a British army Captain). It was a beautiful drive. Here are some pictures taken along the road.

 This magnificent scenery was taken just at the entrance of the Bernard town.

Before visiting some mines, we went to the local traditional market. The market was similar to CA farmer's markets, the vegetables were mostly familiar. There were also fish from the river and live pigs and chickens. There were small food stands with some delicious looking donuts and shan noodles
Overview of the Bernard's market.


Men gambling at the Bernard market.

A family leaving the market, with all fresh produces, including a live chicken.

We did a very interesting stop at an abandoned mine called Bernard mine. Nearby in some overgrown brush was a British military cemetery. The graves dated from 1883 to 1899, so right at the time the British conquered northern Burma and took over the ruby mining. I'm glad Kyaw Thu knows it is there, it's completely hidden from view.

Next to the cemetery, there was this alluvial abandoned mine. Sapphire, ruby and spinel were weathering down from the marble hill above.


All in all, we came here to visit the Pyaung-Gaung Peridot mine. And we were not disappointed! The mine is owned by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd.
The entrance of the Pyaung-Gaung peridot mine.

Explanation by the geologists on how the peridot formed in this area. Tony is doing the collision of 2 continents with his hands.

At the entrance of the peridot mine, some nodules of gem peridot.

The mining area goes 200 feet down. A few of us decided to go down.

That's what it looked like going down.
Descending into the Peridot mine was tricky, we held on to the rope pulley that is used to haul up buckets of rock.  
Going down with the buckets.

Once down 200 feet, the tunnels are pretty wide and comfortable to walk in.

Gemmy recrystallized peridot is found along columnar joints in the host rock which is an altered peridotite. And here, Tony and Joanna trying to look for some!

Who knows why Eloïse is destroying the railway?!

After the peridot mine, we stopped in the village nearby to have a look at some of the miner's rocks. Unfortunately, the peridot production was already out of the area, and didn't get the chance to find some good peridot samples. But it was a good resting time, and a few of us bought some cool minerals there.
Alluvial topaz crystal from the Pyaung-Gaung area.

On the way back, we stopped at a small family owned secondary sapphire and spinel mine, somewhat hidden away from the road.  
Tony modeling in front of a family owned mine in Ohn Gaing.

 And a quick lunch at the "Ruby House"
That was the cheese ice-cream that Alyssa is trying.


We continued our day with the Garden Gem Market in Shwe Bon Thar Garden, in East Mogok. It gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, but the atmosphere was still great.
At this point we are starting to recognize the same dealers and seeing stones we have already rejected several times!  Still many people found things to buy.
The setting of the garden market: tables and chairs are already on site. Umbrellas are open when there is a possible deal going on.

This woman was selling some star sapphires.

We visited several houses after the market. Much quieter settings, in which the minerals are either brought to us on trays on tables, or are exhibited.
Above: Skip and Karen looking at some goodies.
A quick visit to the home of the owners of the mine that produces the "mushroom" tourmalines:
This dealer is the owner of the mushroom tourmaline.
Pink oil for the tourmalines, nice.

And some spectacular petalite.

And it looks like a twinned hambergite.

In each house, there is a more or less elaborate area dedicated to buddha. This one was on the more elaborate side.

In the next house, we found something that made Skip very happy!
Skip modeling some materials from a pegmatite pocket found years ago, it was fun to see!


November 13

Thursday morning, we began the day with the famous Cinema (Ladies) Gem Market. Compared to other markets we've been to, this gem market has booths where minerals, gems and beads were exposed. Much easier to look at than having to wait for people to show us stuff. It was also cheaper material overall.
Trays of spinels for only a few dollars. We saw some nice gem zircons, and there was a lot of fossil amber from Kachin State.

These ladies are mostly Gurakha people, originally from Nepal. Many Gurakha came to Mogok to work in the mines during the time of British rule.

Our first mine stop of the day was in Kadote Tat area. It is a primary ruby mine at the base of the Baw Pa Dan anticline, owned by Hlan San Company, which is State owned. This is a mine that has a lot of production and has been worked for a long time.  Kyaw Thu suspects the museum's Hixon Ruby may have been mined at this locality in the early 1970s.
In the Kadote Tat area, there are several miner owners. This is the entrance to one of the mines we visited.
This mine had 20 adits, up to 800 feet deep.
 Looking down at one of the adits!
We were at the very beginning of the dry season. The pumps are running 24 hours to get the water out of the underground mining. As all the mines are in succession in the anticline, they must all pump the water at once. At the time we visited, they managed to get down to level 200 feet. Another 600 feet to pump! Above is a picture of the water that is let out of the mining area.
Again, we had the head geologist explaining to us the mining process in Kadote Tat.
Oh, and look at what we found! Triplets!

 As we were driving along the mines, we stopped to look at the host rocks. The contrast between the white marble and its black weather is striking.

Overview of the mining area in Kadote Tat.

At the top of the hill, women are working the dumps in hope to find some small size rubies.

The next mine was visited was not far away, in the Baw Padan anticline. It is mined by the Mogok Pride Company, which is state owned.
Entrance of the mine: the Mogok Pride tunnel.

There is a very good irrigation system in the mine. We went in horizontal for 200 feet with the water stream running in the center of the tunnel. Some of us then went down 200 feet on the latter.
 200 feet to go down.
Edna was the first to go!
 
After going down, there are some large tunnels.

With... sophisticated electricity!

and an surrealist shaft going 400 feet down.


Going up again to see some more tunnels.

At the top of the scary latter, some interesting pieces of wood holding the rocks together. We were not allowed to go in there though!

More shafts.

Tony pointing out the contact.

Eloïse with the mine owner. She was wearing flip flops to go down the slippery latter.

After visiting the tunnel, we saw the sorting area. Here are all the bags of rocks to analyze!

After the crushed rocks pass through the jig, two women make sure that there was no big rubies going out to waste.

It was time for a lunch break. A mineral dealer was at the restaurant, and showed us a fun ruby specimen (at an unreasonable price!).
 Above: lid on. Below: lid off to discover a nice ruby!

We spent the rest of the afternoon mostly shopping around. Our first stop was at a dealer's shop. As usual, we are welcome with something to drink, very often tea.
 A mineral and tea stop at Win Gems & Jewelry center.
On the wall of the dealer. Wait.I recognize some familiar faces there!!!

We then went T-shirt shopping. Yes, we did. Some of us wanted to get the ONLY T-shirt saying: Mogok! Other interesting items in the shop as well.
Paintings with small painted pebbles.
 Even if the main religion is Buddhism, there are some Christians in Myanmar.
Because we all need it!

To end the day, we visited a few religious places, including the biggest Pagoda in Mogok. It is an ornately decorated pagoda with glittery walls and columns.
 
Those two buddha (with fun lighting on the background) have been rounded by the layers of gold people applied to them.
Here, Zach and Kyaw Thu (only men can do this) are applying more gold to them.
The Buddhas used to be on those bases, now stored in a vaulted case.
On of the bases of the golden buddha.

Details of the ornament with this flower made out of gold and rubies.

Some other interesting items in the Pagoda!

Donations include money and gems.

And back to the hotel after this very long and awesome day! We were staying at THE hotel in Mogok, the Golden Butterfly hotel.

Hotel from which we had a spectacular view!


November 14: Departure from Mogok


On that day, we hit the road to go back to Mandalay and spend a few days there. You will see more about it in the next blog post. But before leaving Mogok, we stopped to look at some more rocks, of course!

Loving those trays of small but perfect red spinels.

Fun, short tourmaline.

A clear topaz.

And a beautiful sapphire crystal.


Coming next: Mandalay and Yangon!