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Published: April 2nd 2018
After travelling in rather more remote parts of Myanmar, it was quite a shock to the system to find ourselves in very heavy traffic. Mandalay at rush hour is complete gridlock and we were not really sure we liked it at first. We were dropped off at our hotel, Hotel 8,
and we were quite happy with our choice. It was a bit on the noisy side, but in such a big and bustling city we couldn't have expected otherwise. We had been told that after about 8pm the city went to sleep and we were quite surprised to find this was not very far from the truth. The main problem was the mosques. It was impossible to escape the call to prayer! The people working in the alleyway next to the hotel (no, not those sort of people!) were a problem too but the hotel managed to get them to shut up. On our first night we walked a short way to the Pan Cherry
restaurant where we were served an amazing array of Indian dishes for virtually nothing. It was far and away the best value meal we have ever had. We also discovered the Shwe Li Oo Beer Station
where we sat outside and had
a nice cool beer until it was time to go to bed.
To get around Mandalay you have three options. Rent a bike, take a taxi, or walk a LONG, LONG way. We started off by doing the latter. First we visited the Shwe Kyee Myin Pagodo
which is pretty much off the tourist trail but well worth a visit. This place has clearly had a run of luck judging by the newly restored parts. There's lots of bling accompanying the statues of Buddha and some amazing works of art adorn the walls.
Then it was time to visit the Royal Palace.
We tried to walk there but the nearest bridge across the moat led us to a military checkpoint and no tourists were allowed any further. Nor were we allowed to walk alongside the walls on the palace side of the moat. Instead we had to walk for miles on the outside. Now the views are really nice and it's not a strenuous walk but there is a limit to walking for the sake of walking. Eventually we succumbed to a taxi to take us to the gate. We still had some miles to go so it made sense. Once inside
the walls, there is a short walk to where the palace has been reconstructed. The original version had been flattened during World War II. The result is a little bit soulless and we can't deny that we were disappointed. There were plenty of buildings to explore and the museum was good, but the only real highlight was climbing up the outside of a circular watchtower to look out over the surrounding area. Perhaps we missed something, or maybe we were tired and grumpy, but it didn't really seem worth the €7 entry ticket, especially as we were not planning on visiting any of the other places included in the price.
From the watchtower we had a clear view to our new destination, Mandalay Hill. The idea of walking there was daunting indeed so we decided to hire a taxi. We had the good fortune of coming across a lovely lady taxi driver who was then to take care of us for a few days - not that we knew it at the time. She took us to a car park some way up the hill. From there we took the escalator to the top. A word of warning -
you must travel the escalators bare foot. One unfortunate Burmese lady didn't lift her feet in time and ended up with a rather nasty cut which the first-aiders were treating with tissue paper. More Buddhist bling awaited us at the top. The temple had a bit of an Islamic feel to it and was covered in shiny glass mosaics. The views over the surrounding countryside made the effort of getting there well worth it. The barefoot walk down the steps took us past an array of traders and colourful temple statues. Our driver was waiting patiently and she took us to a restaurant to the south of the palace moat. From there we walked back to our hotel via the railway station. We didn't use the entrance, instead walking along the tracks past the shanty town and its strange unpleasant smells! It was quite a relief to get into the station and then more relief that we hadn't managed to travel by train!
The next morning we had to change hotel as ours was full. The previous evening we had been to have a look at the Hotel Victory Point
and decided that it was as good as any. Don't be
fooled by the rooftop swimming pool and bar as it was just two tiny circular pools that could do with a good clean, and there was never anybody in the bar to create any atmosphere, let alone to listen to the awful plink-plonk of the live xylophone music! Having said that, we really liked the hotel and the staff were super friendly until it came to carrying our bags downstairs on check-out because the lifts were being serviced! Our taxi driver picked us up and waited while we checked in, then took us over the Irawaddy for a great day out, but that's the subject for the next blog. On the way we stopped at an old wooden temple which was very interesting, and then we called in to see some marble workmen carving out their statues in huge clouds of brilliant white dust.
Whilst we were not great fans of Mandalay itself, we were big fans of its surrounding area. So, stay tuned for the next blog!!
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