Sunday, April 2, 2017

MY BOAT TRIP TO MINGUN

Having read about the massive pagoda, or what's left of it, upriver at Mingun, I certainly wanted to make the half day trip by boat. However, I wanted to get there when the light was best in the morning and not wait until 9am when the tourist boats leave the jetty in Mandalay. 

So, I got onto a motorcycle taxi early in the morning and had a pretty chilly drive over to the river. Most of the boats were still tied to each other at the jetty and I had to first find a boat owner who was willing to take me up the river. The fee for the tourist boat is 5.000 Kyat, while chartering the boat for myself was 30.000 Kyat. Considering the flexibility and convenience, I thought it was a good price!

Within a few minutes I was led over the wooden planks of several other boats before taking a seat in one of the wooden chairs on top of "my" boat. Of course I also did not think of the chilly temperatures in the morning hours and thus the ride on deck was also a bit too cold  for my taste. But it was a nice and quiet ride up the river for an hour, passing fishing boats and sleepy villages. Approaching Mingun by the river offers spectacular views of the huge pagoda. 

Coming this early was also good in so far as the hawkers were still asleep. Only a handful of people with their ox-carts or tuk tuks were standing by the river when my boat arrived. I bargained the tuk tuk driver down to 5.000 Kyat, since I was not in the mood for a bumpy ride in the back of an ox-cart (after the horse cart ride the day before). Coming alone also meant that I was checked for my ticket, so I had to pay the 5.000 Kyat entrance fee to the Mingun-Sagaing Archaeological Zone. Since it is only good for one day, a combination between the two places was not possible. 

As it often happens in Asia, an overly friendly guy joined the short ride from the boat jetty to Mingun Pagoda, who turned out to be a self-proclaimed tour guide. When I told him that I don't need a tour guide, the answer was that he was a student who just gives out information but not a tour guide. But after a few more verbal exchanges he got the idea that I was really not interested and left. 

Mingun Pagoda is huge and the only person I met there was an older monk on his alms round around the pagoda. Time for my own donation, of course! The way up to the top was closed-off after the damage caused by the recent earthquakes, but I would not have walked up the crack (caused by the earthquakes) in the ruin to reach the top platform anyway. The "NO SHOES NO CARRY" sign confused me at first, but obviously tourists will feel uncomfortable to just leave their shoes at the bottom of the pagoda in the dirt and my guess is that the locals have developed their own little business in "watching out" for your shoes. 



Mingun Bell was next on the list, which was rather un-eventful, so we went on to Hsinbyume Pagoda, the most sacred pagoda for wishes and which represents Mount Meru. The pagoda seemed to have just been freshly painted in white, which I loved. The fresh colour and the deep blue sky was just what I was waiting for. The white color on my soles on the other hand did not come off that easily!

We had a quick stop on the way back at the "Lion Brothers", which were two enormous brick lion statues by the river. However those were heavily damaged by the earthquake back in 1839. So, if you don't know what you are looking at you would not think it represents huge chinthe lions!

Settawya Pagoda with it's white stairway down to the banks of the river and Pondaw Pagoda, which is a model for what the huge Mingun Pagoda would have looked like, were stops on the way back. 

As we drove back through the village of Mingun I spotted the first tourists and the first tourist shops and food stalls seemed to open. Luckily I did not have to go through much of the annoying activities by the hawkers during my two hours of visiting Mingun. Two hours was also the time I had agreed with the owner of my boat and it was plenty of time to see all the sights without spending any additional time to shop around. 















Chinthe lion statue






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