While the line of young monks slowly moves up, you will move towards a different vantage point that allows you to view parts of the dining halls. Burmese families consider a monk in the family as the highest honor. You will start exploring the massive dining halls at a covered outdoor hall which will be occupied by a group of very young boys dressed in white robes. They are not part of the monastery, and are brought here by their families to get acquainted with life in the monastery.
At Amarapura you also have the option, if you so desire, to observe the local specialty, traditional silk weaving. The craftsmen meticulously design and manually create the silk garments that are worn by Burmese for special occasions like wedding ceremonies, graduation or major cultural and social events.
After a break for lunch you will cross over the historic AVA Bridge (built in 1927 by the British Occupiers, then partly damaged during WWII, before being renovated in 1954) to Saggaing. Saggaing Hill offers a panoramic view of the Irrawaddy River and the hills on the other side. After admiring the view, you are driven to the bottom of the hill and you will now visit one of Myanmar’s unique nunneries. According to local belief, the direct lineage of the women monks in Myanmar’s prevalent form of Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, died out in ancient times. The governing council of Buddhism in Myanmar has ruled that there can be no valid ordination of women in modern times, and Buddhist nuns are not held in anywhere close to the reverence that male monks are; actually, it is quite the opposite. At the nunnery you will learn about the unique lifestyle of Burmese nuns and their beliefs, while you observe some of their daily activities.
After this you will head back toward Mandalay, and your last stop today is a very unique bridge that offers amazing photo opportunities. The 160-year-old U Bein Bridge is the longest teak bridge in the world. Enjoy a walk along part or all of the 1.2-kilometer-long bridge. Please note that the bridge is always full of locals and tourists, and so, rather than walking the whole bridge, we recommend a partial walk, and then the following sampan ride. You have the option to board a Sampan, which is a small wooden rowboat, so that you can cruise along Taung Tha Man Lake and admire the bridge from a short distance, especially as the sun sets over the horizon.
Day 6: Mandalay (B). Start your day with a drive through the rural countryside. You will arrive at a jetty from where you will board a private boat to cross the mighty Irrawaddy. The cruise takes about an hour and you will go by tiny fishing hamlets on islands in the river. If you are fortunate, you may get to see river dolphins on this cruise, although they don’t often venture this far south on the river.
As you approach the banks on the other side of the river, you will be greeted by the sight of the massive unfinished pagoda that awaits you at Mingun village.