The road to Mandalay

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End Feb 06, 2013

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, Mandalay,
Saturday, December 1, 2012

.... is a river. In our case at least.
Getting up very, very early, because check in time of the Malikha 2 boat from Bagan is 5:30 AM. We might even get good at this :-). It's a big boat with only 6 passengers. We later learn that the more popular route is Mandalay to Bagan (up to 100-120 people) so we are lucky and so is the crew.
Over coffee we get to know the other passengers (except one loner who does not appear interested in contact): a German couple and a British guy, and we hit it off right away. So the first 6 hours pass quickly, talking and talking. There is not much to see, the land is very flat and the sky stays gray untill sometime in the afternoon. Some parts of the journey we see a shiny gold stupa every 100 meters, or so it seems; then we see straw huts on the river bank, which look so poorly that you can hardly believe that people ar living there, but they clearly do. The contrast between the gold and the straw huts is really too big. A nice lunch of noodles/ fried rice is served, leaving us all to wonder where it came from and how they manage when they have 100 people on board.

Around 4PM we start seeing hills and more and more stupas on them, then 2 big bridges and then the city. We share a taxi with the 5 of us and we get dropped off first at a not really very applealing looking hotel with no name in English. I silently hope this is not our hotel, but yes it is. We are greeted warmly and then led up to the 5th floor (no lift, aiai) passing creepy hallways with moldy carpet to finally get to a crappy hotelroom with tile flooring, thank god, not very clean sheets and towels and a view of the roof filled with empty plasic bottels and other trash. We keep the curtains closed for the next 4 days and nights. The bathroom is clean, and that is what counts..... although the drain of the bathtub ends on the bathroom floor. Interesting. It takes some getting used to.

We find out that Mandalay has no streetlights to speak of and the ones they have are not on, so it is pitchblack outside when we go out to find a meal. This is quite unnerving, walking around in an unknown city where you cannot see where you are going. We have actually given up trying and decided to go to bed without food when we find a small Indian place which serves excellent food, close to the Hindu temple on our street.

Note: when we first arrive at the fabulous Galaxy hotel, Something bad happens. When Esther puts her backpack on the other sied of the bed, she accidentally hooks the little toe of her right foot on the bed. We both hear it breaking. AU!! The pain is not too bad at first and walking is possible after we tape it to the toe next to it, but it turns all colours purple and blue in the next days and is not really comfortable. Long live the flipflops that we walk on here every day. That makes it a lot easiser to bear than normal shoes.
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