Well this morning I woke to my last full day in Myanmar. Tomorrow, 9 weeks of Round-the-World travel comes to an end and I head back to Scandinavia knowing I have another 104 weeks before my next chance for another RTW adventure, so nothing for it but to make the most of it.
As usual my guide was prompt and we headed off to spend the day in the city of Yangon/Rangoon (literally meaning “the end of strife”). First stop, the harbour on the banks of the Ayarwaddy river delta. The river, alternatively the Burma Road, has become a re-occurring theme on my trip, having followed it on half its journey through the country. Here we stopped outside the Botataung pagoda (Pagoda of 1000 officers). According to Burmese folklore, it was on a this site that one thousand military officers of the king were drawn up as a guard of honor to welcome the landing in Burma of the relics of the Buddha brought over from India more than two thousand years ago, hence the name. This pagoda is unique in that it is hollow inside and contains the actual chamber of the relics. They actually exist and have been exposed in modern times thanks to the British RAF. During a bombing run on the Japanese ships anchoured in the river harbour, some bombs strayed and hit the temple. Among the debris at the heart of the temple, a stone casket was found, and within it a stone pagoda and within that a solid gold pagoda and within that a tiny gold cylinder and in this tiny cylinder were found two small body relics each the size of a mustard seed and what is believed to be a coil of sacred hair of the Buddha (the Burmese equivalent of Russian dolls?).
From the harbour it was a short walk up to the old colonial heart of the city passing such monuments as the Strand hotel famed as was one of the most luxurious hotels in the British Empire with a clientele of whites only, the Port Authority building, the High Court, banks, and embassies. All have seen better days but are once again experiencing a revival. Workers hang precariously from bamboo scaffolds as though they were part of a Barnum & Bailey circus act repairing the buildings. Our wanderings finally lead us to Maha Bandoola gardens and the Monument of Independence in front of the Sule pagoda and City Hall.
After our city walk it was into the car and off to the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda with its 65 metre long reclining Bhudda (b. 1907) clad in golden robes. The image is decorated with very vibrant colors – white face, glass eyes, red lips, blue eye shadow & red finger nails, it leads to a impressive site. The soles of the feet contain 108 segments in red and gold colors that show images representing the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. The image was once open to the weather but is now housed in an open corrugated iron shed.
Just across the street from the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is another temple, the Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda that contains another huge Buddha image this time a seated one. The distinct five-storey high Buddha image was donated by Prince Minyedeippa in 1558. In one corner can be found an interesting artistic installation which gives the impression of a thousand monks coming out of the wall.
Time for lunch…part 2 to follow!