After spending a day in the ancient Burmese city of Mandalay I had grown comfortable with my bearings in the centre of the city and had learnt a lot about the pagodas and main sites on the usual tourist trail. It was time for me to discover some of the spectacular and unique attractions located outside of Mandalay’s city limits. My fantastic tour company suggested that I experience the exquisite tourist attractions of the area by taking a day tour to Amarapura, Ava and Sagaing.
The following day after booking the tour, I was met at the hotel by a guide who took me to the first destination, Amarapura. Amarapura is located at the southern tip of Mandalay and was once the capital of the country. Today, the city is famous for its silk production, which is noticeable throughout the town by the distinctive clicking sound of the weaving looms. Amarapura is home to the U Bein Bridge – the largest teak bridge in the world, stretching 1.2 kilometres across the Ayarwaddy River. It was an amazing site to see locals cross the bridge on bicycles, on a wooden structure which was built in the 19th century.
After enjoying the sights and sounds of Amarapura, I was back on the road and ready to arrive at the next stop, Ava. Located 22km to the southwest of Mandalay, Ava, known as the ’city of gems’ is built on a man-made island and features a long and rich history dating back to the 1300s. My tour guide told me that Ava was the capital between the 14th and 18th century. As I arrived in Ava the historical significance of the place was obvious. I also noticed that not much changes here, as horse and carts were still a common method of transportation for the locals. My tour brought me to some of the incredible historic sites of Ava including the remains of the Royal Palace and fort, as well as the Bagaya Monastery. As I left Ava and made my way to the next stop, I thought it was interesting that this small town was once the capital for an entire civilisation for 300 years.
My final stop on the tour was Sagaing, known as the living centre of Buddhist faith. Like many locations in Myanmar, this sleepy village featured a backdrop of picturesque pagodas scattered across rolling hills – A sight I couldn’t get enough of since I first arrived here. Although the town is small, the tour stopped off at a number of interesting places, such as Kaungmudaw Pagoda, Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, U Min Thonze Pagoda, as well as the Tilawkaguru Caves. I was also fortunate enough to visit Ywathaung Village, a town famous for its fine craftsmanship of silverware. The people of the village still use traditional methods to melt and shape the silver.
After a long day on the road, I must say that I had come to experience and learn an incredible amount about the history and culture behind life outside of Mandalay. Returning back to my hotel for a night’s rest, I felt happy that I had the chance to take the tour, as I learned and had the chance to experience even more of this beautiful country.
Sagaing, 31 August 2009