After a whirlwind 24 hours on the Khao San Road…..
…..we had arrived in Myanmar (formally Burma). We were starting our trip in Mandalay, the second largest city. We arrived around lunchtime and dumped our stuff, before heading out to Mandalay Hill, the hill the city is named after.
Mandalay Hill itself is filled with pagodas and is known as a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists. Entering between two lion types statues, we began our climb up the mountain.
I’ll warn you now- there is a lot of stairs (which is fine really…) but due to the free roaming animals and birds, there is also a lot of dog pee and bird poo to watch out for in parts. Don’t let that put you off however. At each stage there is monastries and pagodas, stals selling flowers for Buddha and food and drinks forvisitors. And then there’s the top…with the Sutaungpyei Pagoda,a panoramic view of Mandalay and one of the best sunsets I have ever seen, it is worth every step.
With this being our first day in Myanmar I was blown away by how friendly the locals were. On our walk up we met two young boys, telling us all about Mandalay and asking us all about English football. At the top, we met an English teacher and his students, who invited us to his classroom, and on the way down I taught a young girl the term ‘Beliber’ as she practiced our English with us.
At the bottom of the hill were lots of vibrant food stools, and a buzzy atmopshere. After trying a few bits, we walked back to our hotel via Mandaly Palace.
By the time we had showered off our feet, it was late so we grabbed some food, then stayed up all night being ill from said food (to be fair, it was BBQ meat that had been clearly left out all day- what was I expecting?!).
After scoffing down breakfast, we got ready for our day 2 of adventures in Mandalay. Borrowing two bikes from the hotel, we decided to cycle around the city and take it all in.
We started through the hectic roads of the city, stopping to look at various shops and stalls. It wasn’t long though before we got off the beaten track and into the more rural side of Mandalay. Cycling along the Ayeyarwady River, we were heading for a place Jake had found on a map (I kid you not… he had literally found it whilst geeking out on Google maps). In the heat and on the old bikes, I was soon flagging, but it was worth the cycle.A series of wooden huts on the lake was the perfect resting point……
We soon realised there was one small problem. Whilst clearly somewhere to visit, I don’t think they had quite set up for foreigners. With our Burmese skills low (to non existent…) we managed to use international sign language to order two cold beers ( appreciated after said cycle) and randomly pointed at the menu and ordered some mystery food. The mystery food turned out to be delicious curry and tempura fish, so as we sat and relaxed with our full bellies, we felt we’d had a bit of a win…
My rest was short lived as we were back on the bikes and off to the U Bein Bridge. Believe to be one of the oldest teakwood bridges in the world (I assure you this wasn’t our primary reason for visiting it), I was relieved to have reached our next break point, as we sat and watched the locals fish and the sun go down.
We’d had a perfect start to our Myanmar adventure, and after the cycle back, we grabbed some dinner,and got ready for our night bus to Bagan…