The Road to Mandalay

Trip Start Mar 27, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Royal Guest House Mandalay
Read my review - 5/5 stars

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

And now we are in Mandalay and the temperature has soared since we left the mountains. It is now 40 degrees, and it is hot and humid. 

Our first bus ride from Lake Inle to Mandalay was not bad.  The roads from the mountains, as you would expect, were steep and winding.  Our bus developed alternator problems and we did the latter part of our journey almost by torchlight.  There was not enough power to even blow the horn, so the driver did well, particularly as he drove through most of the night, from 2.00am until 5.00am with limited vision.  We had to get a few able bodied men to give us a push start to get us on our way (including Arthur).   The bus was very comfortable, although Arthur always has a problem with leg room.  Asians are just not as large as 6'2" westerners, or as wide in the hips!

We have done a fair amount of walking in Mandalay, around the Palace which is now mainly used by the military and 'foreigners' are only allowed access by one gate, and access is restricted inside the complex.

We visited Kyauktawgyi Pagoda to look at the 900-tonne Budhha, 26ft tall and dressed in royal attire.  The Buddha is carved from a single piece of marble, which apparently took 10,000 men 13 days to carry from the canel to its present site, before its dedication in 1865.  It is very impressive.  We are being careful not to get 'pagoda'd out' because there are absolutely hundreds of them in every province, so we try and suss out what we think will be of interest to us.   The pagoda halls are usually decorated by using coloured concrete pillars inlaid with mirror tiles, cut to form intricate designs.  The overall effect is quite spectacular, with red or blue being the dominant colours.

Today we went to Amarapura and, yes, we did go and check out the U Bein's Bridge, which was very similar in concept to the one at Maing Thau at Inle Lake.  The U Bein's Bridge is the world's largest teak footbridge and  curves 1300 yards across Taungthaman Lake.  Because they are waiting for the start of their rainy season, the lake was quite shallow and there was vegetable gardens growing in some parts.  To us, it seemed to be built much  too high for practical use but apparently during the wet season, the water laps underneath the planks, which were about 15ft high from the floodplains.

We also visited Sagaing and, like all tourists I'm sure, we were blown away with the beautiful white and gold stupas that are dotted around Sagaing Hill, rising behind the flat  town centre.  The view from Sagaing Hill, looking down on the town and the Ayeyarwady River is quite spectacular, but it was very hazy and we don't think our photos will do it justice .  We climbed to the top Pagoda and ended up with burnt feet, walking on the red hot red bricks in bare feet (as you must - no shoes or socks allowed).  The white tiles are cool but they didn't tile the whole structure.  Soooo hot!

Today (15 May) we went for a drive to Pyin Oo Lwin, which is about 2 hours drive from Mandalay.  It was established by the British in 1896, and there are many beautiful old colonial homes, still with lovely treed areas separating each mansion.  As it is up in the hills, it is considerably cooler than Mandalay and all the tree-shaded areas add to its charm.  Some lovely views on the drive up the mountain, but the combination of heat haze, dust and smog, meant very poor pictures.

We spent almost 4 hours in the beautiful National Kandawgyi Gardens, which were established in 1915.  Our driver referred to the Gardens as being 'like England' and as one of the planners for the gardens was Lady Cuffe a noted botanist from Kew Botanic al Gardens, it does have beautifully laid own lawns, tiers of lake and flower beds, as well as natural forest.   There are also many introduced trees such as Ginko trees, and 75 different species of bamboo.  There was also a special orchid garden but only the Myanmar species were in bloom.  The park also has a butterfly display (I woudl much prefer to see the life butterfly), which also showed many moths and insects;  and a fossil and petrified wood display.   There is also a 12-storey Nan Myint Tower,  which has a viewing deck on the 10th floor, providing beautiful views of both Pyin Oo Lwin and the lake and gardens.

We were rather surprised to find some monkeys (species unknown) which were swinging around in some of the trees.  They looked a lot different from the ones we have seen recently.  Arthur thought they were howl monkeys, and we had heard screaming noises as we walked along the lake.   There was also a nice walk-in bird aviary, but we have been rather spoiled in that department by the magnificent Bird Sanctuary in Singapore.

We returned back to a 42 degree Mandalay afternoon, so it was nice to have the cooler day while it lasted.   Off tomorrow to Bagan, where I think it is even hotter!
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Kathryn on

Your adventure continues. The heat doesn't seemed to have stopped you doing anything. Are you adjusting to the heat? We are adjusting to the cold here. Frosty mornings and sunny days. Loving your blog.

Yaz and Tom on

Found you on here! Glad you made it to U Bein Bridge. Great isn't it! We're in Hong Kong now. Ever so slightly different to Myanmar! Enjoy the heat and more importantly the temples in Bagan. I've heard the hot air balloon ride is amazing if you can make your budget stretch. If you decide to cycle round, Arthur, hope your knees are ok. Keep blogging. It's a wonderful read. Love Yaz and Tom x

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