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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mandalay - Inwa

Our second day in Mandalay started with a trip out to Inwa, known as Ava during the  British time, which was the royal capital on various occasions between the 14th and 19th centuries. It was finally abandoned in 1839 after a number of devastating earthquakes, so much of what is left is now in ruins, but it is an interesting change from the hustle of Mandalay.
The drive out to Inwa took us along the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River (or Irrawaddy River), where the people were busy on their boats, or on the side of the roads selling great piles of watermelons.

Inwa sits at the meeting point between two rivers, the Ayeyarwaddy and the Myitnge, so was mostly surrounded by water. The King who first established it as his capital took this a step further and had a canal dug between the rivers on the only land side, so that it sat as an island, securely isolated.

So to reach the old city, we had to leave Xara behind and get in a small ferry boat, which was simple enough in itself, but did involve running the gauntlet of ladies selling hats, jewellery and other trinkets.

They knew their sales patter in multiple languages, and were most determined. If you still said no after a few attempts, their tack changed to "maybe later?", with a request to "remember me" and her repeated promise of "I'll remember you".  At least I think it was a promise and not a threat; after all we were her "number one tourist", her "favourite customer" and her "best foreigner", and we are absolutely certain that she didn't say that to anybody else!

Having escaped across the water, and been beseeched to remember a new batch of sellers on the other side, this time mostly men selling gongs, pictures and ornaments, we now got into the main form of transport for visitors, the horse and cart. Unlike in Pyin Oo Lwin, these ponies were big enough for their two person carts and looked well treated and cared for, so we were happy to use them here.

Not that leaving did anything to stop one determined seller, who hopped onto her bike and followed one of the carts quite some way before finally giving in.

Our first stop at the Daw Gyan pagodas was, for me at least, the nicest. It was just a few old brick stupas, now in ruins, but I thought they were quite beautiful.

Back in the carts, we took a very tranquil trot through some lovely rural scenery to our next destination, which was the rather lovely Bagaya teak monastery. With 267 teak pillars, the largest of which is 9 foot wide and 60 foot tall, this is an impressive structure. It used to function as a monastic college for young royalist.

 After a slightly more bumpy ride over rutted tracks through the banana plantations, we reached the only remaining part of the old palace, the Nanmyin watchtower, which one leans somewhat precariously, earning it the nickname of the leaning tower of Inwa.

Our final stop was the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery was built in1818 by King Bagyidaw's chief queen Nanmadaw Me Nu. Once Bagyidaw himself became reclusive, she and her brother were effectively the leaders of the Burmese empire and it was they that took their country into the first war with the British.

The Burmese had, in the early 1800s, invaded parts of India, in particular Assam, which brought them into border conflicts with the British. The British supported rebellious uprisings in the annexed areas, and eventually the skirmishes led to the First Anglo Burmese war in 1824-6.  A decisive British victory resulted in a huge financial penalty to the Burmese, which significantly weakened the country.

Bagyidaw's brother deposed him, executing the warmongering wife and her brother, but the conflict did not die with them and two further wars with the British led to their eventual takeover of Burma and the end of the Burmese monarchy.

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