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el2995 Mingun - A travel report by USC
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Mingun,  Burma - flag Burma -  Sagaing
20012 readers

el2995's travel reports

A Trip to Mingun

  14 votes
Page: 1 2 3
The rural village of Mingun is about a one hour journey up the Irrawadi River by boat from Mandalay, and should definitely be added to your itinerary if you plan to be in the Mandalay / Sagaing region.

View of Mingun Pagoda
View of Mingun Pagoda
Mingun is the home to the world's biggest ringing (i.e., un-cracked and still functional) bell, weighing in at 87 tons, or 55,555 vis (as is depicted on the face of the bell in Burmese script). It is also home to the unfinished Mingun (Mantara Gyi) Pagoda, which was built between 1790 and 1797 by King Bodawpaya. A ruined economy at the turn of the 19th century caused Bodawpaya to halt construction of the pagoda, and its construction was never continued after the king's death in 1813. A massive earthquake in 1838 caused the upper portion of the pagoda to collapse into its hollow shrine rooms. The Mingun pagoda is often referred to as the world's biggest pile of bricks. Its current height of roughly 328 feet makes it a hair taller than Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda. The near-top of the Mingun Pagoda remains can be reached via brick steps that have been rendered from the structure at the right corner of the pagoda as you face the whitewashed front entrance; note that you are not allowed to enter the pagoda itself. After visiting the Mingun Pagoda and the Mingun Bell, be sure to check out the white Hsinbyume (or 'Myatheindan') Pagoda, which is modeled on the mythical Mount Meru and was built as a memorial to Princess Hsinbyume. The village of Mingun is rather quaint, with a mix of vendor and food stalls that you can browse through on the walk to Hsinbyume Pagoda.

Favourite spots:
View of Mingun Pagoda from Hsinbyume Pagoda
View of Mingun Pagoda from Hsinbyume Pagoda
The view of the Irrawadi River and the surrounding villages and pagodas from the top of the Mingun Pagoda is quite scenic, especially in the later afternoon. Also scenic are the views of the Mingun Pagoda and other gilded and whitewashed pagodas from the upper terrace of the Hsinbyume Pagoda, which make for some nice photographs when shot through the numerous arched lookout ports that line the upper terrace.

What's really great:
Hsinbyume Pagoda
Hsinbyume Pagoda
In addition to seeing the Mingun and Hsinbyume Pagodas and ringing the Mingun Bell, I really enjoyed the river cruise to and from Mingun from Mandalay, and especially viewing the sunset over the Irrawadi River during the ride back to Mandalay. Unlike cruising the Irrawadi River in Pagan, where you see a lot of local (rural) life along the river, on the trip from Mandalay to Mingun you additionally witness some of the daily commerce on the river, with loads of teak, bamboo and large ceramic pots being transported down from upper Burma. I also saw instances where, because of the current being stronger around Mandalay than around Pagan, people would have to walk along the banks and pull their boats upriver via long lengths of rope secured around their shoulders while one person remained in the boat to stear it. Note that the last public ferry leaves Mingun for Mandalay by 3 p.m., so if you want to cruise back at sunset, you will need to hire a private boat (as I did).

Another View of Mingun Pagoda
Another View of Mingun Pagoda
Mingun Pagoda, Mingun Bell, Hsinbyume Pagoda, Settawya Pagoda, Pondawpaya Pagoda. Be sure to walk around Mingun Pagoda, as each side looks different with regards to the degree of damage / cracking, and the varying amounts of sunlight in the afternoon; it makes for a very pleasant and peaceful walk. It's also enjoyable to spend some time at the river's edge in the afternoon watching the boats come and go, or a farmer ploying a patch of high river bank with a pair of oxen, or some local boys playing a game of chin lone, which involves volleying a woven wicker ball around a circle of players using any part of the body except the hands, with extra credit given for the artfully-executed behind-the-back heel kicks.

Ox Cart on the Bank of the Irrawadi
Ox Cart on the Bank of the Irrawadi
There are no hotels that I am aware of, though it is said that there are a number of monasteries in the hills above Mingun village that may be able to offer lodging. Travel agencies should be consulted to see about arranging a stay at a monastery (I used Columbus Travels and Tours in Rangoon, which did a stellar job of arranging my trip to the Mandalay / Mingun region, but I did not inquire about spending the night in Mingun.) Keep in mind that you would have to conform to whatever rules the monastery may impose, like the acceptable menu for meals (which may be vegetarian only), separate sleeping quarters for men and women, imposed periods of respectful silence, possibly waking at 5 a.m. to assist in offering food to the monks, or the requirement to help out with other chores. If you are able to sleep in, you may be awakened by the ringing of the gong to call the monks to the early morning meal (ah'yone zoon), or after-meal chanting of Pali sutras at an hour earlier than you'd prefer.

Mingun Bell
Mingun Bell
The only restaurants I saw were of the open food stall or open-front variety commonly found in rural Burma.

Other recommendations:
Irrawadi Sunset Somewhere Between Mingun and Mandalay
Irrawadi Sunset Somewhere Between Mingun and Mandalay
If you are touring the Mandalay / Mingun area, your trip should include Sagaing, Amarapura and Maymyo (which is a two-hour drive each way from Mandalay). I spend three days touring all of these locations, which kept me fairly busy but was manageable and well worth it, as I figured this would be my one trip to the area (as I like to try and hit new regions of Burma with each trip). Definitely check out Mandalay's Zei Gyo market (the outdoor portion is by far more interesting than the indoor dry good portion) by about 7:30 a.m., as it is still very active and a very interest thing to experience.

Published on Tuesday December 26th, 2006

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Fri, Dec 29 2006 - 06:27 AM rating by marianne

Very interesting to read. I especially liked the second photo, the view of Mingun Pagoda

Wed, Dec 27 2006 - 04:13 PM rating by rangutan

[4.1] Great rare info and a lot of tips for this area! I'm planning a trip ti Burma and India. This is GLOBO's few entry's of Burma (Myanmar) and the first about Mingun - but where is Mandalay? Should we update the databank now?

Wed, Dec 27 2006 - 08:19 AM rating by davidx

Not an area that particularly attracts me but a very good report.

Tue, Dec 26 2006 - 07:28 PM rating by horourke

You have introduced me to the largest un-cracked bell in the World. Great new experience for me. Also the issues you raise concerning accommodation potential of local monasteries are very interesting.

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