Trip Start Mar 04, 2006
Trip End Apr 13, 2006

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Flag of Myanmar  ,
Thursday, March 30, 2006

We left Nyaungshwe for Mandalay in the back of a pickup with 20 or so locals, headed for Shwenyaung, a town on the main road where you can grab a bus. We spent a couple of hours sitting in the dirt at the side of the road, people watching and whining "where's the bus???" repeatedly. It's more fun than it sounds. Really.

When the bus did arrive and we cleared up some initial confusion about whether we in fact did have seats reserved, Karen quickly demonstrated her "determined sleeper" abilities, and I stared out the windshield wondering how two lanes of traffic could manage on a twisty, one lane mountain road. In the dark.

One flat tire, three rest stops, one armed checkpoint and 9 hours later we rolled into the dusty highway bus "terminal" in Mandalay at 4 am. A quick taxi to the guest house, some banging on the gate, and we're right back to sleep.

We spent hours walking around Mandalay that day, slowly wilting in the heat, cursing the lack of street signs, and figuring out why many travelers skip Mandalay. It's hot and dusty, and lacking in the colonial charm of Yangon. We took shelter for a bit in an ice cream shop, then headed for the jade market. Thanks to the lack of street signs, and our steadily losing interest due to the heat, we never made it there, but we did see quite a lot of the city.

While wandering we managed to actually find something we had set out for, and picked up tickets for the ferry to Mingun for the next day. Mingun is a never completed monument standing about 150 feet tall, best described as one impressively large pile of bricks. We climbed it, enjoyed the view, then went for shade and cool drinks. Have I mentioned the heat here? It's truly oppressive.

That evening, we took a trishaw to see The Mustache Brothers, a local comedy act that the government has banned from performing for the locals due to the satire they aim at the generals in charge. Two of the three spent 7 years at hard labor for that particular crime. They're a nice bunch of guys and their wives who put on a unique show in their living room that's worth seeing if only to support some of the only open critics of the government. You'll also learn a bit about the graft and corruption in the country.

We've now left Mandalay for Bagan, as Karen hasn't been yet and I missed out on cruising down the Ayerawaddy River when I went. We should be arriving in a few hours so, more soon.
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