15.01 Mandalay town, workshops, Mahamuni Pagoda and Paung Daw Oo monastery school
I left out the dawn and sunset trips to the bridge again. It was cloudy all day for the first time, so I did not really miss anything.
In Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar with a population of 700,000, one comes close to the ancient Myanmar. Here lies the cultural heart of Myanmar where the most refined traditions of art, dance, music and drama live on. Mandalay is also known for its fine gold and silver crafts, wood and marble carving, silk thread weaving and ancient tapestry.
In the morning we first visited some workshops for gold leaf beating by hand and for carving marble statues of Buddhas in all sizes. In front of one workshop the road drainage ditch was being repaired. Women were carrying broken stone and bricks in baskets on their heads! At the nearby Mahamuni Pagoda we saw how pilgrims rub the gold leaf onto the lower parts of a huge Buddha at the altar. There were masses of kitschy souvenir shops and lots of people. Just as we were going to leave a large procession of pilgrims in traditional costume arrived and paraded through the squares to the altar. It reminded me mostly of a carnival but the people had come from a village to make offerings at the shrine. Many of the figures in fancy costume were actually children.
A visit to the Paung Daw Oo monastery school in the afternoon showed us some of the everyday life of children in Mandalay. The classrooms were not so different from those in Europe but rather more Spartan in appearance.
The evening meal was accompanied by a marionette show for which the region is known.