One of my last full days in Mandalay was spent doing a small tour organised by our hostel. The first half of the day was spent in Mandalay exploring monasteries, universities, schools, and pagodas. The second half of the day saw us (myself and a young French doctor, the only two on the tour) on a small boat making our way to Inwa after an over-priced lunch of fried rice and soup in a nearby make-shift restaurant.
Inwa is a small island just off of Mandalay that was once the capital. Upon hopping off the small boat, it immediately became apparent that we’d been dropped off in a tourist trap area, where hoards of people sat with their horse and carts waiting to ferry us around. I wasn’t at all happy about this, given that on previous excursions I have refused and even walked in the rain to avoid being part of animal mistreatment, which is most often the case with horses such as these. Generally, they tend me to overworked in the heat all day, with little food and badly fitting equipment that causes rubbing and sores.
Unfortunately, due to heavy rainfall in the preceding days, our only way out was to walk down an extremely muddy road in flip-flops (which let me assure you from previous experience, is surprisingly difficult) and quite literally wade through waist-deep murky water.
Begrudgingly, I agreed and we got in the small cart. The surrounding landscape, despite being waterlogged, was rather pretty, with green crops sprouting from the mud, and small local towns consisting of traditional wooden buildings.
Our first stop was the Bagaya Monastery, built in the 1700’s and constructed from teak. Translated from the Mon language, it means “Starflower” monastery…
The picturesque temple has a rustic charm, the faded wooden posts lean at odd angles and the uneven floorboards creak underfoot.
Intricate carvings adorn the walls, which I tried to admire as much as possible whilst hopping from one cool patch to the other, as you must enter sacred sites barefoot, and the hot mid-afternoon sun had heated up the floor quite considerably.
I’d chosen to wear my traditional Longyi which I had been given as a gift, foolish assuming that a skirt like attire would be temple appropriate and more cooling to wear. That was not the case, and my legs were sticking together under there.
Outside, small wooden boats rested on the surface of the lake under the shade of a tree, a golden stupa just visible in the distance.
After the Bagaya Monastery, we hopped back in our cart to explore the ruins of the Yadana Hsimi Pagodas…
The Yadana Hsimi Pagodas are a small collection of stone stupas and Buddha statues that were ruined during an earthquake in the 1800’s.
Although much of it crumbling and being taken over by weeds, this small unassuming site is really quite beautiful.
We were taken by our driver (who I warmed up to despite being railroaded into using him) to the Ava Palace site, which I felt everyone had made sound much more exciting than it was…
After taking an obligatory look, we jumped back in the cart and proceeded to the last site, the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery.
To walk around the complex without further sun damage, we found a small network of tunnels underneath the structure, which it turns out were home to a lot of bats who don’t like being disturbed.
Inside, the cold stone corridors gave a welcome relief from the heat
The day was drawing to a close, so we headed back the way we had came, on the horse and cart and back over the river on a small wooden boat, and back to Mandalay city in search of the perfect sunset spot…