This morning I changed hotels (checked in at 8:45am please note Korea!) to the Gecko meeting spot the Yuzana Gardens. I took a taxi northwards and uphill (to protect the blisters) and visited a huge reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda. The Buddha’s are astounding for both their scale and beautifully sculpted faces but the structures which house them are just not worthy and this location was no exception. This reclining Buddha is 216ft in length and it is the third largest reclining Buddha in Myanmar. One significant thing is that the eyes of this Buddha are made of glass and look life-like. It’s known as the “sweet-eyed” Buddha, in addition the staggering feet are decorated with 108 sacred Buddhist symbols. There are 8 shrines representing each day of the week (Wednesday is split into 2) surrounding the statue. Visitors come to give offering to the main Buddha and then payer to the shrine belonging to the day of their birth.
The Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda is surrounded by several monasteries. There are hundreds of monks studying the teaching of Buddha in the Ashay Tawya Monastery. The entrance fee goes towards the maintenance work of the temple as well as the education of local monks.
I followed this by a visit to the ferry port and the adjacent Botahtaung Pagoda with its hollowed out centre inlayed with gold. As is the norm my taxi driver was well-educated and a physicist! Gainfully employed as a taxi driver for the 14 years since his graduation he explained in detail how his earnings pay for the education of his siblings and now the future is brighter his sacrifice is worthwhile.
The Pagoda is said to contain Buddhas hair follicles. I suppose they could be anybody’s after it was flattened by the British bombers in 1948! Inside the pagoda worshippers faced walls of beaten and ornate gold, some pressing their faces against the glass which protected the sacred relics, whilst outside monks lounged on an ornate bridge over a fish pond extensively stocked with Koi.
From here I took a 40p lunch of samosas chopped and added to a wonderfully fragrant soup washed down with a pot of fresh green tea. I strolled through the dilapidated old colonial streets spotting a dog taking shade under a lorry. I stopped at a street bookstore and flicked through and Italian copy of Burmese Days “Giorni in Birmania”, I passed sugar cane pressers formulating ultra sweet refreshments and a guitar player singing David Gray! Rickshaw drivers lay motionless in the sun until at 21st I came once again to Kheng Hock Keong Chinese Buddhist temple which was still undergoing some refurbishment and preparation for Chinese New Year. A young boy nested against his fathers back and outside a woman vendor sold plastic ducks for the bath, old ladies puffed on their cheroots as they sold fresh vegetables. A group of boys and men siphoned petrol for their scooters and an old Indian guy had an Arthur Daley array of goods clinging to his body.
Next I tried to buy a hat as my top deck is somewhat brunt as they say in Bolton! Needless to say the heads in Myanmar are much smaller than mine and I was ultimately unsuccessful. We had the group meet in 2 hours, they are likely to be mainly Aussies as I booked with Geckos, this should ensure a lively evening and 19th street beckons! Good food, fine beer and live EPL!!!!!