Smiles on the riverbank

//Smiles on the riverbank

mandalaymoat.jpgMandalay was a marvellous experience, despite my qualms from the early part of the day. The sheer scale of the walls of the Royal Palace (above), stretching for more than a mile in each direction, flanked by an expansive moat were simply awesome.
Our excursion from Voyages to Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey did not actually enter the compound – little of historic value remains after it was razed by fire towards the end of World War 2 and much of the site is still off-limits to visitors.
golden.jpgWe did, however, visit the Shwenandaw Monastery or Golden Palace which was rebuilt outside the walls following the death of the king who first had it built. A feast of elaborately-carved teak, it is a magnificent structure even though the gold leaf which originally covered its exterior has now disappeared.
kuthadaw.jpgThe world’s biggest book was also on our itinerary; not a book as you and I know it, but the entire teachings of Buddha carved onto 729 marble slabs, each of which is protected by its own stupa, in the grounds of the Kuthodaw Pagoda.
Like the palace, it was the creation of King Mindon in the middle of the 18th Century; today it’s a popular picnic venue for Burmese families.
The most impressive experience for me was not one of the religious monuments or a relic from Myanmar’s royal past.
It was a dirty, dusty, busy, bustling stretch of river bank, and if that sounds unlikely, bear in mind this was the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) which lies at the heart of almost everything Burmese.
Dozens of boats were moored at the riverside, off-loading all sorts of mysterious cargoes. But this was no modern port. Where there were jetties they were constructed of nothing more substantial than sandbags and flimsy planks.
No cranes or derricks here, either. Everything from barrels of molasses to sacks of grain and salt were carried by hand and on strong shoulders to and from a fleet of primitive trucks which ploughed along the bank, sending clouds of dust billowing across the hundreds of basic shacks and tents housing the workers’ families.
They might have been surviving in the most uncomfortable conditions – the area known as Mayan Gyan Jetty regularly floods when the river is in spate, carrying meltwater from Himalayan glaciers, and they are surrounded by rubbish tips littered with millions of cast-off plastic bags – but they welcomed visitors and were happy to pose for pictures.
What a contrast to the riches on display elsewhere in the city.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:41+00:00 23 December 2012|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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