Friday, November 25, 2016

Mandalay: World Renowned U Bein Bridge and Taung Thaman Lake

Ancient Painting of U Bein Bridge
Mandalay in central Myanmar is rated number 8 in the list of world's friendliest cities. Blessed with many ancient monuments and a number of famous Buddhist monasteries in and around, the former city of the kings has become a major tourist destination attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.

It is the capital city in central Myanmar and the hub of transportation as many motorways, railways, waterways from various parts of the country are linked. It was founded by penultimate King Mindon in 1859 and unlike many other hustle and bustle cities which in due course of time developed from the state of village or small town, the location of the city was carefully chosen by King Mindon at his will.

As a result of it, the city's plan was quite systematic forming grid pattern at its four cardinal points where crenellated wall encircled the city. Although there are a lot of famous attraction places in and around Mandalay, the wooden U Bein bridge earns its status as a must-go.

The weather is fine from October to May. It means no rain. Around 4 o’clock in the evening, the sun shone neither too hot nor cold and that made the weather very favorable. At the very moment I arrived at U Bein bridge, spanned the famous lake Taung Thaman, a gentle breeze welcomed me. At the environ around the bridge were dotted with souvenir shops, restaurants, teashops, road-side snack stalls which were always busy with visitors not just from Myanmar but from other countries as well who came there to enjoy the beauty of the bridge and the lake.

As soon as I ascended the bridge, the travelers mostly in groups but some were individuals from local and abroad could be seen. Due to the fact that it’s in the late raining season, the water level was at its full and the perfect combination of the high water level was at its full and the perfect combination of the high water level of the lake and the rickety bridge at the background struck a unique feature.

The atmosphere on the bridge was active and lively with people taking photos, studying closely the architecture of the bridge, strolling on the bridge teasing on another. As a law of nature, some dry leaves from the trees growing near the bank were fallen off by the gust of wind and swirling down to the ground. I breathed the breeze deeply which blew gently across the lake. The surface of the lake was rippling by the wind mixed with rain. Taung Thaman Lake was believed to have existed from the life time of Buddha and it was named after one of four ogres when Buddha was alive. Some boats shuttling to and from on the water could be observed.

“The number of visitors to Taung Thaman Lake has dramatically increased year after year. Even during the months of low tour season, there are more arrivals of tourist compared to the past years. The number of tourist arrivals to the bridge during high season is from 1000 to 1200 a day or more.” said a local boatman named U Soe Lin.

The most visited time here is in the late afternoon to enjoy sunset but early in the morning is also a famous time. Like the historical wooden bridge itself, the boatmen from the lake are also one contributing factor which makes this place pleasurable and favorable. In spite of the fact that a boat can carry 15 passengers at maximum, they are allowed to carry just five persons of local and two for foreigner for their safety. There are about 50 boats and they charge Ks 12,000. For the globe-trotter, photographing when they are in the boat is a great opportunity. U Bein bridge is one of the most ancient and the longest wooden bridges in the world. The construction of the bridge commenced in 1849 when the King of Ava shifted his palace to Amarapura and was completed in 1851. Teak posts and other construction materials used in the bridge were from the old palace in Ava. The purpose of building the bridge was for a good communication of villages in eastern site of the lake with Amarapura in the western part.

This 160 year old wooden bridge has withstood the test of time for so many years that it now produces screeching sound every time people walk on it. Some pranks on the floor come off and some teak posts are in a bad condition now. Although the bridge was built for the convenient transportation, it’s now an object of antiquity recognized as the world fame. It is nearly 4,000 feet long with 1,086 teak posts and 482 compartments and beside that there are four rest houses (pavilions) where passersby can take rest on the benches to enjoy the scene of the lake.

As I walked to the western end of the bridge, I’ve seen a line of (Cassia Siamea) Mezali trees growing on the bank of the lake. There trees were grown for the purpose of preventing from the onslaught of wind and wave for the bridge. These trees were planted in 1875 and it was 24 years after the construction of the bridge. Although there were 103 trees altogether at those time, only 80 trees are left for the time being.

After gazing at the Amarapura from the westernmost part of the bridge, I returned home back. Looking at the bridge, age-ridden teak posts and flooring with fading colour were sighted noticeably. As the bridge has weathered natural elements for ages, it’s of great value and priceless.

Chilling in the Taung Thaman Lake

Fishing in Taung Thaman Lake from U Bein Bridge

Fishing in the Lake

Old Teak Post

U Bein Bridge

Sunset time @ the lake

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