After our stop with Knobbly Knees (no disrespect but he does have a really long name and he really does have knobbly knees) we drove for an hour and twenty minutes – as the crow flies Mandalay to Mingun is just across the Irrawaddy River but you have to drive for half an hour to get to the bridge, two sides of a triangle later we pull up to our first holy site in Mingun. Hsinbyume Pagoda or Mya Thein Dan Pagoda, is really quite a stunner all in white. The pagoda was built by Prince Bagyidaw in 1816 after succeeding power from his grandfather King Bodawpaya (his father died in 1808). It was finished in 1819 which coincided with his official ascendency to the throne and he became King Bagyidaw of the Konbaung dynasty. The pagoda was named after the King Bagyidaw’s first wife, Queen Hsinbyume, whose name literally can be translated to White Elephant Queen. The Queen died after giving birth to the King’s first child.
To fund the construction, the King used 100,000 emeralds, hence the name Mya (Emerald) Thein Tan (100,000). During the destructive earthquake in 1838, the Hsinbyume Pagoda was seriously damaged but was restored at a later date.
Entrance, up the first set of stairs, across an open area, another entrance and a repeat set of stairs.
At the top was a little sanctuary that housed a happy, young-looking Buddha dressed in orange.
Outside was a walkway surrounded by pillars.
To the front, the Irrawaddy River.
Behind, a view over the countryside. No view here in Myanmar that doesn’t include a stupa or two.
To the pagoda’s left is the massive but never finished Mingun Pahtodawgyi.
We went back down to the middle open area. The pagoda has a very distinctive architectural style, compared to other pagodas in Myanmar. At the base of the structure is a circular terrace shape representing the seven mountain ranges surrounding Mount Meru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. The top of the pagoda is said to be designed according to the style of the Chulamanee pagoda on Mount Meru which is topped with a gold spire enshrining the Buddha image. (Mount Meru is a sacred cosmological mountain with five peaks and is considered to be the centre of all physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes).
Down the final staircase to the lower level and a bimble around the busy edge.
Outside the flower sellers and back onto the street.
Opposite, some really lovely paintings for sale.
Walking toward the Mingun Bell we passed hat stalls and lots of artwork.
The repair garage where the owner was having a rest with a good book.
More hats, clothes and decorative grass balls.
Opposite was the Mingun Buddhist Home for the Aged, rather nice. I yielded and bought a tee shirt for two pounds fifty and a pair of trousers for the same price – an outfit for a fiver, you extravagant thing, you. Then, there we were at the Mingun Bell.
ALL IN ALL REALLY DIFFERENT TO ALL THE OTHERS AND VERY PRETTY