I was thinking, I should have tried for a job in Mandalay, not Yangon, back almost three years ago. But then, internet was really sketchy and there were no flights out. On the other hand, there are, and were, motorcycles…. changing everything.
I was planning to go and visit for a weekend for two years, but something more important always came up. Like, catching up with sleep and lesson preparation. I never made it until last week.
Mandalay and its vicinity are home to the “world’s biggest book”, the world’s longest teakwood bridge, the world’s biggest uncracked bell, and the world’s biggest, albeit unfinished, Buddhist pagoda….
That “book” is actually the entire body of Buddhist scriptures and explanations carved on stone slabs, each housed in its own little white-washed pagoda…. almost 3000 in all in the two separate but adjacent temples. And they are real temples, still alive, with people having a quick nap on the floor, little girls selling jasmine garlands, couples making out in the hidden corners, young monks picking star flowers and chatting well hidden in the trees, kids climbing the buildings as if they were monkey bars at the playground.
Unfinished, shattered, cracked, impressive…. and of course, climbed by all, right next to a huge sign asking people not to, hoping that the next earthquake is not scheduled for today. Amazing structures like this make me wonder when I look at my 4-year-old school building falling apart, where did all the knowledge and craftsmanship go, these people were building pagodas nine centuries ago that are still standing, and this huge one is merely two hundred years old, and their descendants, well…. not really proud caretakers of a noble heritage.
This one, not cracked, just so badly graffitied…. and another moment of hope that this is not earthquake day. The Burmese also have a much larger, legendary bell that their archeologists are still relentlessly looking for.
And of course a bridge is just as good a place to sleep as any other. Or to go to school, sell food, fidget with your mobile (there is good signal here – good for Myanmar, at least), and take selfies. Famous, but still very much a community space.
Too many photos, I will need to continue here some other time.