An hour by boat on the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay stands the village and great unfinished pagoda of Mingun, as well as other sites of note. Boats depart Mayanchan jetty every morning around 9:30 or 10:00. The massive rock temple ruins of Mingun, intended by mad King Bodaypaya to be the largest pagoda in the world at 152 meters in height. Between 1790 and 1819, thousands slaves slaved slavishly, while both common folk and the ruling class shook their heads in dismay over the enormity of the burden. A prophecy emerged, stating that as soon as the pagoda was completed, the country would be finished! Bodawpaya’s death in 1819 stopped construction, only a third complete. Then in 1839 a massive earthquake toppled much of the massive brick edifice. What stands today is 50 meters tall by 72 meters wide.
The Mingun Bell was cast in bronze in 1808 by King Bodaypaya, or rather his craftsman, whom he had executed once the job was done to ensure he couldn’t make anther one for someone else. No good deed goes unpunished! At 3.7 meters tall and weighing in at 90 metric tones, it is the largest still functioning bell in the world. Moscow’s Kremlin Bell is larger, but cracked and non-functioning.
The bell is visited daily by nuns in pink and monks in maroon, children and families and tourists alike. Inside the bell are myriad messages written in various scripts, prayers or versions of “Kilroy was here”.
Hsinbyume Pagoda, also known as Myatheindan Pagoda, was built by the grandson of mad king, King Bagyidaw in 1816. It’s modeled after Sulamani Pagoda on the mythical Mount Meru, the center of the universe in the intersecting cosmologies of Hindu and Buddhism. There are 7 terraces representing the seven mountain ranges of Mount Meru, as well as Naga serpents and Burmese spirits know as Nats, that stand guard.