State Visit concluded in Mandalay
Today was the last day of the State Visit of Their Majesties The King and Queen to Myanmar. The King and Queen concluded their five-day visit at the former royal palace in Mandalay.
King Harald and Queen Sonja travelled to Mandalay by boat down the Irrawaddy River. It has become clear that families living in slums along the banks of the river were evicted by the Myanmar authorities prior to the State Visit.
In a comment to the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK) King Harald voiced his regret about these actions. Neither the King and Queen nor the Norwegian authorities were aware that such measures had been taken.
“These actions must be viewed in light of the fact that the country is in the midst of its democratisation efforts, and is perhaps evidence that there is still some way to go,” said the King.
The last day of the visit began outside Sutaungpyei Pagoda on top of Mandalay Hill. From here the King and Queen could admire a panoramic view of the city and the plains at the foot of the mountain.
There are many pagodas on Mandalay Hill, and Sutaungpyei sits at the very top. The name of the pagoda literally means “wish-fulfilling”, and it is said that the holy site will fulfil the wishes of those who climb up the 1 729 stairs from the ground barefoot.
Towards the end of the Second World War there were some very hard battles in Mandalay between Japanese soldiers barricaded in the pagodas, Gurkha soldiers and British soldiers.
King Harald and Queen Sonja had the opportunity to visit Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is also located on Mandalay Hill. The pagoda is surrounded by 729 smaller stupas, each with a marble slab on which a page from the Buddhist holy text Tripitaka is inscribed. Together they make up “the world’s largest book”.
It is said that on one of his journeys to Myanmar, the Buddha stood atop Mandalay Hill, pointed to the plains below and predicted that one day a large city would be built there. The city did indeed become a reality, and later a statue of the Buddha pointing towards the city and the royal palace was erected.
Final stop at the royal palace
Mandalay was the capital of the last kingdom in Myanmar, and the city is built around the former royal palace. Mandalay Palace was completed in 1857 and was the residence of the last two kings. It was taken over by British troops in 1885 and the royal family was taken prisoner. During the colonial era, the British transformed the palace into a fortress, but for the people of Myanmar the palace remained a symbol of Myanmar identity and independence.
The royal palace was rebuilt within the old city walls in the 1990s, and King Harald and Queen Sonja concluded their State Visit to Myanmar here.