Travel Journal

Road to Mandalay (Myanmar)

(Friday 6 April 2012) by Lynda
After the magic of Kyaiktiyo it's time to explore the north, so we took the nightbus to Mandalay. The nightbus in Myanmar is a special experience, the temperature inside the bus almost sub-zero and non-stop Bollywood movies with the volume on max. We booked by accident the luxury bus and
Mingun Paya
Mingun Paya
only had burmese Karaoke TV until midnight, must have been the cherry blossoms again. The halfway stop was bizarre, walking still asleep into the Pioneer and Famous, drinking Royal Class (local whisky) and back on the bus. Did we just go clubbing or was it really a stop in a roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere ....... still not sure.....

Mandalay, the name conjures up images of Asia at it's most traditional and timeless. Reality is a bit of an anti-climax, a traffic choked grid of interminable straight roads full of anonymous concrete buildings. We cycled around the fortress walls of the gigantic Royal Palace. Today the area within the walls is mostly a vast tree-shaded army camp and not worth visiting. Mandalay was hot, dusty and noisy and cycling around town quite an adventure.
Sunset at U Bein's bridge
Sunset at U Bein's bridge
Easy to navigate because of the grid pattern but scary because of all the Burmese overcrowding them with their bikes, scooters and loads of other unidentified things on wheels.

The historic sites around Mandalay trump easily everything in the city itself. We took the riverboat to Mingun to see Mingun Paya. The paya would have been the world's biggest stupa had it been finished but the work stopped when the old king died in 1819 and now it's best describes as the world's largest pile of bricks with several deeply cut cracks caused by an earthquake. But it's still an impressive site and the views from the top over the Ayeryarwaddy river and the other Mingun pagodas is breathtaking.

For sunset we went to U Bein's bridge, the world's longest teak footbridge (1188 meter) across shallow Taungthaman lake, creating Myanmar's most photographed site. The views of the bridge from a paddle boat are amazing, villagers and monks commuting back and forth across the bridge, the sun slowly turning into a big orange ball and sinking slowly behind the impressive bridge. Yes, again a magical day in Myanmar, a place where dreams and reality unnoticeable blend together.

Travellyn

 


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