Mandalay, the Former Capital

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June 6th 2015
Published: November 23rd 2015
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On the roadOn the roadOn the road

A little roadstop for snacks and rest. Really friendly people and tasty food!
My third stop was Mandalay. It's only a short ride from Bagan, easily done by shuttle bus during the day. I met some new friends at my hostel, headed to lunch, and then a few of us went in search of a place that makes gold leaf. According to my friend's guide book, they show you how it's done and explain the whole process. And I'm sure they would have; we went on a holiday and no one was making anything. The lone man in the shop explained it all to us and we left with a pretty good idea what it might have looked like.

After a quick rest detour to the mall (for air conditioning and an atm) another friend and I hired a taxi to Mandalay Hill. We could have walked it, but we were hot and tired, and a ride through town to get a lay of the land seemed like a perfect solution. It turns out you need to specify if you want them to drive you up the hill, so we ended up hiring a second taxi. The second driver was kind (like everyone in Myanmar) and held our shoes for us. In reality, this is a great trick to make sure we would come back and pay him for the ride up and back down the hill! The views from the top were spectacular and we really enjoyed meeting a few monks and watching the sunset.

After sunset, our new taxi driver friend drove us to meet my Dutch friend for dinner. He was in town for one last night and we wanted to grab a quick bite before heading to the Mustache Show. The Mustache Show did not disappoint; it was hilarious and also had some great dancing. I've heard it used to be better, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We stopped for a final beer afterwards, disappointing the four taxi drivers we passed in our one block walk. At 11 the bar closed and the streets were deserted! I've never seen a city so quiet! We ended up walking back to our hostel, getting lost alone the way, and only have spotty 3G service on our phones for help.

The second day I ventured out on my own to the palace. The palace is surrounded by a huge "no-go" military area and it's a bit odd to walk through; I felt like I was walking somewhere I shouldn't have been! But the road finally led me to the palace and in I went. It's been restored quite a bit, and metal has been used instead of teak wood. This will preserve it for much longer than wood, and thankfully it's not especially noticeable unless you look closely. It was a hot day (a theme on this trip!) but it was fun to wander around and try to imagine life as it had been. I found one spot in the back, by the gift shop, that had drinking water and I stayed there a bit longer than I otherwise would have.

After the palace I made my way back along the "keep your eyes forward" road and back out to the main street. I walked along, admiring the views and finally came to a few temples, all new. I wasn't particularly interested in them and left, progressing onward. I then reached Kuthodaw Paya which was rows upon rows of white stupas, each containing part of the world's largest book! It's 729 stone tablets, one inside each stupa. As I walked through, I saw people resting between stupas, napping in stupas and the main pagoda, and just enjoying the peace.

Hot, tired, and very thirsty, I stopped at a little stand across the road for some fresh juice. After selecting from a variety of fresh fruits, I sat down on a little plastic chair and watched the juice maker's 2 year old son run around amusing himself. I've never seen such a happy kid! I enjoyed the shade and free entertainment while I sipped my orange juice. By the time I'd finished my fingers were sticky. The woman graciously helped me wash off my hands and I was on my way.

I went to see a performance at the Mandalay Marionettes Theatre . The main puppet master is 80 years old and it was really fun to watch him and his fellow puppeteers work their magic. There was also some traditional dancing to enjoy. This time I'd arranged a mototaxi ride home. During the performance, we could hear the rain sheeting down and I was a bit nervous. I shouldn't have been; my driver was early and had a nice, dry poncho for me to wear.

My last day in Mandalay was to be a day trip outside the city. An exhaustingly long one, but one well worth the trip!

Additional photos below
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Around MandalayAround Mandalay
Around Mandalay

The bottom of Mandalay Hill
Making new friendsMaking new friends
Making new friends

Mandalay Hill

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