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.
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.
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.