This gent was learning how to climb telephone poles in Mandalay. The hooks were giving him a bit of trouble on the ground.

Mandalay Hill

Make that a party

Mandalay Hill Monks

…but it’s always better with a friend.

Mandalay Hill Reflection

A nice evening for some solitary reflection.

sunset pots

Twenty minutes and one right turn after Friday’s picture, and the light had already shifted. The clay pots on this lovely stand cool water for travellers.

Mandalay Hill Mosaics

Where the ancient temples went for frescoes and the newest prefer gilt, the interior of the temple on Mandalay Hill is almost completely encrusted with mosaics. In some ways, it reminds me of a mosque, with high archways and columns covered in bright geometric patterns. The arrangement of the arches on the highest point in the valley allows the sun to light a different angle and set off a unique pattern of reflections within the walkways every hour.

It makes a much better timepiece than the bells, which you strike whenever you send out a prayer. Like clapping before a Shinto shrine, these are a sort of celestial doorbell, saying “hey, Buddha. A little help here?”

Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances

This issue of Behind the Scenes takes us east from Mt. Popa to Mandalay. Temple traffic is heavy in the cities, and especially up Mandalay Hill. Its commanding view of the valley makes the temple an attractive spot for tourists – especially now that one can drive most of the way. This in turn attracts students from the nearby monasteries, guide schools, and university, who make the fairly arduous trek up each evening in hopes of meeting people with whom they can practice their English.

When I was there, I got handed off between several groups of rather shy students, hearing about where they grew up, what they were studying, who their best friends were, and what were the easiest & hardest accents to understand. When learning a new language it’s tough to find sympathetic listeners – people who will let you speak slowly and make mistakes or get things almost right – and that’s especially true for English. A lot of Brits and Americans assume that proficiency correlates with intelligence and don’t really appreciate the effort that goes into it (probably because so many of us are monolingual). Given how risky it was for people to learn English under the junta, and how few schools there are still, I was more than happy to sit back and chat while we watched a magnificent sunset. Should you ever find yourself in the area, I’d highly recommend it.