Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 19, 2011

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Flag of Myanmar  , Mandalay,
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10 Th Feb

Our bus was early in arriving in Mandalay, normally this would be a good thing but not at 4 AM. The bus journey had passed quickly and we even got a couple of hours sleep. So what does one do in Mandalay at 4 AM? I don't know either. The bus station is about seven miles outside the city, so I scrambled around for a taxi and found one. Taxis in Mandalay are all blue and 40 odd year old either Datsun or Mazda pickups. I am not exaggerating either, they are all from the sixties and early seventies. Most peculiar. We shared our taxi with a couple of French lads and an English couple. I had organized the taxi so I told him where to go, I.E. the hotel Cathy and I had chosen. We arrived there at about 4:30 AM and went in. We woke up the guy in reception and asked if he had any rooms? He did and he said we could have a room straight away and not be charged any extra. Cathy and I readily agreed paid, up and went straight to bed. The others were horrified at the thought of paying 20 for a room and marched off into the night to find something cheaper, more fool them I say.
We woke up at around 11 AM and went out to explore the city. Mandalay has always sounded exotic and mysterious to me and that was what I was expecting until I read in the guide that it was a very plain city, looking like a modern provincial city in China. Ok, so now I know what a provincial city in China looks like and it aint very pretty. We headed for Mandalay fort and it was a long walk. We arrived at the west gate of the fort only to be told that the tourist entrance is at the east gate. The fort is square and each side of the fort is one mile in length, This meant we had a further two miles to walk just to get to the east gate. It was a pleasant day and the stroll around the wall and moat was lovely, if not tiring. We arrived at the east gate eventually and were shocked that the entrance fee was $10. We paid up and set out walking once again to the palace that sits in the middle of the fort half a mile away!!! Mandalay Palace was the home of the last King of Burma. It was a beautiful place and we enjoyed wandering around the site, which we had to ourselves. We got speaking to three young Monks and that was very interesting. We walked back to the east gate and flagged a taxi down. There was no bloody way I was walking for four odd miles home in that heat!! Our exercise quota for that day had well and truly reached. On dropping us off at our hotel we arranged with the driver a full day tour of the ancient cities of Amarapura and Ava for the next day. We ate our tea early and went to bed shattered.
The next morning after breakfast we headed out to the so called dead cities. First up was Amarapura this was a lovely place with a great Pagoda and the old palace ruins. We also went to a Monastery and watched 1000 monks march in for lunch. It was only 10:30 AM. Monks get up early, 4 AM to be exact. I also learned that monks can't eat after 12 noon. From here we went to U bein's bridge. This foot bridge is made of teak and is 1.2 KM long and is supported by 984 teak posts. We walked the length of the bridge and I must say the scenes from this bridge were awesome. Real Burmese picture postcard scenes. From here we headed over to Ava. Ava and Amarapura were both former capitals of Burma, both several times actually. You see whenever Burma got a new King he would move the capital somewhere else. On our way we stopped off at a temple on the Irrawaddy river just to see the views across the river. The far bank was just studded with gold topped stupas and it made the most gorgeous sight. There can't be another country on Earth that has more religious buildings than Burma. They are everywhere and all beautiful. Ava was only a short ride from here and we were soon there. Ava is built on an island in the Irrawaddy. We had to get over on a little ferry. Once across we got a horse and cart to take us around the various ruins and temples as the distances between the sites are too far to walk and horse and cart is the only method of transport on the island. This was a new method of transport for me and it was really quite relaxing. We had not paid the $10 entrance fee so we could only see the sites that were free. This was actually enough, the only things we could not do was enter the temples themselves and to me if you've been in one you've been in them all. I'd much rather walk around the outside of them. The old Burmese used to build great big watch towers that look like huge helter skelters. It was up one of these that a little girl sold me a lighter. She was only about 10 years old and she was selling these hand made petrol lighters. Her selling skills were not the best but she tried so hard. I don't like petrol lighters but I could not resist her poor efforts and I bought one. The sheer look of delight on her face because she made the sale was worth every penny to me. I will put that lighter on my shelf in my office when I get home and look upon it fondly. We must have covered about seven miles in the horse cart and evening was fast approaching when we left he Island. We had a fantastic day visiting the ancient cities.
The next day we walked down to the river jetty to try and get a boat to take us down river to our next destination Bagan. Bad luck once again, the Bagan boat was leaving in two days. This was too late for us, we would have to try and get a boat in Bagan to take us down river to Rangoon. So now we needed to find an alternative route to Bagan. We had walked for ages once again and this time we got a rickshaw each back into town. Our list of transport types was sure growing. We found a bus ticket office and booked ourselves onto a bus to Bagan for the next day at 8 AM. That night we had a good drink. Cathy went to bed and I just had to be greedy and stayed up drinking. Clearing out the mini bar in the process. Well I can be forgiven, it had been a while. Next morning bright and early we caught the bus to Bagan.
Pictures will follow when I get to a country with better Internet.
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