My helper Mr Lim had tried to buy a guide book in Penang and failed; he tried again in Kuala Lumpur; and we both tried at the airport bookshop, where they had every guide book from Albania to Zambia – but not Myanmar. We scolded them and left. We tried again in Yangon airport; and then Mr Lim, getting desperate, went round the main tourist hotels in Mandalay trying to find one. All to no avail.
Fortunately I had downloaded a few well-written pages from a travelblog, but that was the only guide we had. And we couldn’t carry it to the sites with us. Still it was something, and much, much better than nothing. From it I had found out that we could make a tour of the nearby ancient capitals of Myanmar, and in one of them, Amarapura, was a very interesting sounding temple with mural paintings.
So we hired a car to make the trip round and told the driver what we wanted. He, needless to say, had other ideas, and when we set off he immediately drove us to shop where they make – and, of course, sell – gold-leaf. We were given half-a-tour of the premises before we managed to persuade our driver and the salesgirl that this wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.
So we piled back into the car and set off for the wonderful temple with the mural paintings. Except first we must stop and have a look at – and perhaps purchase – the hand-carved Buddha statues on the way. We refused to get out of the car. So then we drove to Amarapura and to a temple where our driver promised to show us monks going pindapata. Now I’ve been a monk for 15 years and for 7 of those I went pindapata, so that also didn’t seem to fit the bill.
Eventually he showed us how to get to the island where the monastery was awaiting us. There were two ways across by row-boat or by foot. Being already tired with fighting to get where we were supposed to be going we decided on the row-boat, which was indeed a pleasant row across the Taungthaman Lake, photographs from which I will post tomorrow.
King Pagan of the Konbaung Dynasty, who appears to have been a cruel and rapacious King, built the Kyauktawgyi Temple on an island in the Taugthaman Lake in 1847 in imitation of the Ananda temple at Bagan. The exterior is quite similar to the Ananda, but the interior is very different, although the ground plan is the same, the interior lacks the two circumambulatory corridors connecting the four inner shrines, and has only one main Buddha Image.
Inside there are many very fine mural paintings showing temples and pagodas from throughout the Burmese Kingdom. They are unusual and show some Western influence, with an attempt at perspective in many of them. They are shown within a continuous landscape and have many fine cameos of monks, villagers and animals, as well as scenes from everyday life. Above it all the gods play in the sky, keeping watch over the Kingdom below.
For the high-definition files, slideshow and more photographs please see the SOURCE.