Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Big Buddhas en route to Monywa

From Mandalay, we set off for Monywa. Unfortunately, neither of us was feeling great this morning, with Nic especially worse for wear; initially, we put this down to the amount of rum we had consumed the previous evening, but as we later realised, alcohol was not the culprit. It turned out that just about everyone on the truck felt dodgy to some degree either today or over the next few days.

Our first stop was a silver smiths, that we had intended to visit on our first day, but ran out of time. We watched them carefully drawing on the designs, beating out the reliefs and engraving the items in very intricate detail. The work really is painstaking, and the finished products are excellent quality.

 Because he wasn't well, Nic had made the mistake of letting me go in alone, so when we got to looking in the shop, I spent some money. I was relatively well behaved though, I just picked up a couple of charms for my bracelet - a dragon to represent China and unsurprisingly, a Buddha for Myanmar.

A short way on we stopped in Sagaing, which is where Myo did his childhood stint in the monastery, to see the Kaunghmudaw Paya, a pagoda that is some 150 feet tall and shaped like a huge breast.  It was built in 1636, and legend has it that the king was struggling to decide what style of pagoda to build, so his wife took out her breast and said it should look like that. Experts apparently have a rather more mundane opinion that it may in fact be based on a similar shaped stupa in Sri Lanka, called the Suvarnamali Mahaceti.

We drove until lunch time, where I realised I was in a bad way when I couldn't even manage a coke, let alone any food, so once back in the truck I went to sleep. When I awoke, it was with an immediate and very urgent need to be sick. There was no time to move, and I daren't open my mouth, therefore I was most pleased that Nic quickly understood my frantic gestures and got the window open for me, so that I could stick my head out and do some quite impressive projectile vomiting out onto the road.  As Nic said, it was just as well that there wasn't someone alongside on a bike or moped, as they would have been pretty surprised and doubtless quite angry!

I think Helen (and our fellow passengers for that matter) was quite relieved that I had managed not to get any in the truck, but she still handed me a bucket, just in case. Thankfully the rest of the journey passed without any further incident.

Sadly neither Nic nor I felt up to getting off to see the next batch of Buddhas at Bodhi Tataung, but he did take a few photos from the truck. It was a shame, as this was quite an impressive set of sights.

The first was a huge area filled with neatly planted bayan trees, each with a small seated Buddha image underneath it. Apparently the aim is to have a thousand, and they are close to that number now.

The other two Buddhas are enormous. The reclining one is 312 feet long, and the standing Buddha is 424 feet tall, which is the world's biggest. On the inside of the standing one, the different floors have images representing the various levels of the Buddhist heavens and hells.

Further on, and Nic had recovered sufficiently to venture into the caves at Hpo Win Daung. Whilst everyone else was away, it was quite amusing to see the local men all looking around the truck, checking out the panels and tyres.  The local monkeys had a quick look too.

Our overnight today was at a resort style hotel in Monywa. It had a nice bar and pool, and spa facilities, so had we been feeling OK, we might have made use of them, but as it was, we just collapsed into the room, thankful for a comfortable bed, air conditioning, and an en suite bathroom!

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