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Published: March 1st 2009
Mandalay is a harmless city with a fantastic chapatti stand (one chapatti and veggie curry is less than 35p). We were there few a couple of days and took the boat to nearby Mingun, where what would have been the largest pagoda in the world stands uncompleted and cracked (from the big earthquake in 1975 which seems to have damaged everything in Myanmar).
The boat left at 9am, and we were on it after a brief argument with a highly suspicious guy claiming to be the owner. Turns out he was, but he needs to work on his people skills. The trip was only about 30 minutes but it was nice to see the Ayeyarwady river. The 'guidebook' goes on and on about week long trips down it, but what we would do for that long I'm unsure. Our brief idea of going North to Katha, where Burmese Days is set, faded away after realising the bus journey would take all day and the trip back by boat would take several.
Anyway, you have to pay the absurdly corrupt government 3 US dollars to go to Mingun. Lucky for us we're wiley and managed to avoid the ticket guys
and climb up a pile of rubble to see the top of the pagoda (we also avoided the 10 dollar fee in Mandalay in a similar way). We take back all the bad stuff we've said about pagodas in the case on this one. It's incredible in size and aesthetics. Is there a more picturesque structure in the world? Not fancying the terrifying climb of doom and execution, Laura walked around the base of the pagoda. Kicking a stray football back to its owners she was invited to come and see their 'free computer school' and meet the teacher, Mr Pancake.
The school was a tiny building with three rooms and 30 computers for 250 students. Putting one students through the school for a year costs 35 dollars, but is free for the child/adult. When the others returned from their romp we all had a chat with Mr Pancake and the two of us made a donation. It turned out that Dom had been caught ticketless but escaped with a promise of finding his friend the ticket holder. However they were all followed by two guys, only escaping by hiding in someone's garden. Ha! Take that Myanmar militocracy. We
all decided that we wouldn't bother going to see the various other small pagodas in town, or the 2nd biggest bell in the world, and had some lunch at Mr Pancake's place, after he told the ticket guys to leave us alone because we were 'with him'.
Mr Pancake was taught the fine art of making Pancakes in Germany on computer training camp, and got his name teaching locals the skill of mixing three ingredients together and frying them. Awesome.
We then bought the coolest two traditional Burmese puppets in the world, not stopping to worry about the law, which says that you need an official government endorsed certificate of purchase, for some reason, to take them out of the country.
Back in Mandalay, we took a walk up the famous Mandalay hill for sunset, but it was a long walk for a cloudy event, and the elevator and escalator were switched off. However we did get to teach a monk some pronunciation skills in English, which is always nice. We also took a trip, for another sunset, to U Bein Bridge - the longest teak bridge in the world (also 500 years old). It was nice
- scenic and pretty - and we got to chat to some locals bracelet selling girls. they seem to be attracted to us, and chatted away happily for over an hour. maybe they just knew we would buy something if they were nice enough. The duck farm nearby was also an interesting sight as hundreds of ducks made their exit from their coop to the water!
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