Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura, Mandalay, is one of the largest monasteries in Burma. At around 10 in the morning, all 2000 monks who live there form lines to enter the eating halls and take their lunch.
It's an impressive sight, but also one that's firmly on the tourist trail. I'd been in the area photographing sunrise at the nearby U Bein bridge andymumford.deviantart.com/art…
and decided to see what it was like.
I arrived pretty early and had a pleasant hour just wandering around the place, but as it got closer and closer to 10am, more and more tour buses pulled up and hordes of tourists got out.
By the time the monks arrived, there were hundreds of people lining the street to take photographs. I was pretty surprised, as I'd been to various monasteries in Yangon, Inle, and the previous day in Sagaing, and had always found them quiet, peaceful places, where it was easy to engage the monks in conversation and few tourists ventured. This place felt a little bit like a zoo, as tourists jostled each other and occasionally the monks, to take photographs. I picked a spot on the sidewalk where I felt I wouldn't be in the way and could just sit and wait as the monks passed me, but I regularly had to stop shooting as someone came and stood in front of me or attempted to push through the lines of the monks.
So it was a mixed experience really. While it's an undeniably interesting place, and seeing the long lines of monks in their deep red robes is incredibly photogenic, the attitude of many of the tourists I saw there was a little disappointing and made the whole place feel very different from every other monastery we visited in Burma.