Monday, December 30, 2013

Playing Tourist in Mandalay

Like many people, I haven't taken much time to visit the tourist spots in my own city.  I decided to remedy that over this holiday.  Here are some photos of what I saw yesterday.

First stop was the gold leaf pounding section of downtown.  These guys work 9 hours a day, 6 days a week.  I don't know how much they get paid but $200 a month is considered good pay for a college educated office worker.  By the way, this is open air, not a factory.  Temperatures in the summer are consistently in the 100+ range.  Next, off to visit Mahagandayon monastery.

I saw Anthony Bourdain's show filmed in Mandalay.  When he watched the monks going to their daily meal at Mahagandayon monastery, he commented that it was part of the job that he hated.  He predicted that once the show aired, this simple daily activity would become a tourist draw.  He was correct.  It was amazing to see but disturbing.  I felt intrusive and won't go back.  I was told by a local friend that many of the monks now simply line up, get their food and take it away to eat without being photographed while they eat.

The Buddhist tradition is that nuns and monks eat only once each day, food that is provided to them by others.  The Mahagandayon monastery is home to about 1,500 monks.  Each day at about 10:30 a.m., they gather in line to walk to the dining area.

Usually, monks and nuns walk through the streets with a bowl to receive food offered to them.  Because this is a school, though, they eat food paid for by donations of faithful Buddhists.  

The young boys in white robes are novitiates.

After the leaving the tourist craziness at Mahagandayon monastery, we drove a couple of blocks to a much quieter monastery where I was the only one who saw this monk going about his business.  I was trying to get a picture of the typical house and he happened to walk out.
This reclining Buddha is enormous.

Loved the colors but am don't know the significance of this statue on the monastery compound.
Next stop - bronze casting.  Ever wonder where all the giant Buddhas and other statues come from?  This neighborhood.  They weren't actually casting because many of the staff were in Thailand, installing a giant new Buddha.  These are the beginnings of clay models.

There were Buddha parts everywhere.
A six foot tall bell.

Giant Buddha head with nails sticking out everywhere.  Looked like he was having acupuncture.
Of course, after checking out how they make the bronzes, you can check out the shop to buy one.  Think I can bring home that 200 lb, 4 foot tall Buddha as carry on? 

The next stop was to see the wood carvers, one of my favorite art forms.  Unfortunately, I was so busy talking to the carver and ogling his work that I neglected to take pictures.  This photo is of the work area at an amazing handicraft store.  The women who normally work here make intricate beaded fabrics to be used as pillow covers and wall hangings.
This is one of the beaded fabrics.  This is an old one (or made to look old) collected by the workshop's owners.

I fell in love with this carving/painting of Buddha but didn't buy it.  Craft prices in Myanmar are higher than other countries I've been to in Asia.

The store is large and filled with all kinds of handicrafts from tribes throughout Myanmar.  So much stuff it's hard to focus.  I plan to go back and spend a few hours.  The owners speak English and seemed fine with me wandering around.  They used to have stores in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Thailand, but moved home when the country opened up to tourists.  Compared to Chiang Mai though, there are very few tourists.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the pictures and the commentary, Nancy! Hope you are well.