The day started early, when a small Toyota dinky-toy car drove us out of the dusty streets of Mandalay. After crossing the bridge over the Ayeyarwady river, it took us to the foot of the hills of Sagaing. After the fall of Bagan as the capital city of Myanmar, Sagaing was the capital in two different periods, first in the 14th century. What rests now, is mostly an enormous collection of monasteries, nunneries and stupas. You can climb up a seemingly endless number of steps, leading to pagodas and monasteries higher up, from where you have great views over the surrounding hills, dotted with spires of yet more pagodas, and of course, the mighty Ayeyarday river.
From Sagaing, a peaceful place, inspiring for those who want to meditate, you have to again cross the Ayeyarwady to visit Inwa, another former capital of Myanmar. After crossing a small river, you can take a horse cart to get you around the dusty and sandy roads on this artificial island. Incorrectly called Awa by the British, Inwa was the capital several times. Nowadays, this is hard to imagine. A desastrous earthquake destroyed many buildings in 1823, and you can mostly see ruins now, a tilting watchtower, more monasteries and stupas, but otherwise, this island seems mostly geared towards visiting tourists.
Another former capital is Amarapura, which was the capital twice. Amarapura has pagodas and monasteries, an attractive village on the shore of Lake Taugthaman, but it is most famous for U Bein Bridge, supposedly the longest teak wood bridge in the world. It is a very aesthetic sight, blending in perfectly with the surrouding landscape. The bridge draws a representative crowd of Burmese, as it is the shortest link between the two sides of the lake. You can meet monks, village people, school children, fishermen, duckherds, and, well, other visitors. Walking the bridge is a pleasant stroll, the strong teak posts still hold the bridge after some 200 years. Coming back by boat it a good alternative as it gives you a different, more remote view of this wonder of human craftmanship.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Royal Cities (Myanmar (Burma)). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Royal Cities.
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