It was time to move on from Bagan, starting with a 6am ferry ride to Mandalay. Again, this was not a short journey but 11hours on a smooth sailing ferry sure beats that train ride! With nothing else to do but read, I decided to start on the cheap book I bought – George Orwell, Burmese Days. I have been meaning to read this book for ages and it just seemed fitting to read it while in Myanmar. The reason I bring this up is that I would like to point out that George Orwell seemed to have documented some Burmese twerking! So look at that, it seems twerking has been around for quite some time…
The first thing you will notice about Mandalay is the gold tips of all the pagodas and monasteries as you arrive. We docked and had to jump over a couple of boats to get to shore and battle our way through a mix of merchants and taxi drivers to get to our bus that awaited us to take us to our hotel.
Our first full day in Mandalay we jammed it packed full of the top things to do starting with the Mahamuni Buddha Temple which is located southwest of Mandalay. While here male devotees can opt to place gold leaf on the statue of Buddha for a small price but females are not allowed to do this.
Our next stop was to the Monastery which was a bit of a weird experience. We arrived at 10.30am not sure what to expect and it was an absolute tourist mecca. The monks were all sitting down eating while tourists with their massive cameras took photos of them. I suppose I found it weird mainly because of the amount of tourists there just watching monks eat and the monks just kind of accepted it. I know I wouldn’t like people taking photos of me eating – but while in Myanmar I suppose…
Next it was on to the U-Bein Bridge. Now I would actually recommend coming here for sunrise. We saw it during the day but we (or rather I) was quite determined to come here for sunrise so I got a little group together for the next day. We got into our seatless truck and braced the cold for our 40min truck ride to the bridge. The sunrise itself was quite amazing but coupled with monks walking over the bridge and the locals setting up their shops and starting their day it was quite an unforgettable morning.
We had a few quick stops at some workshops (gold leaf, silk weaving and wood carving) before we stopped for lunch.
After some old fashioned western food and cocktails we were ready to go again! Our next stop was at the Mandalay Palace. Once you have paid your foreigner fee you can enter into the Palace grounds. There is a short drive through the mini city that is within the palace gates before you reach the temples where you can take photos. It’s worth a stop just to walk right around and go up the tower for some nice views of Mandalay. You can even have a bit of a nap on the grass under the shade but we were on a tight schedule so our nap had to wait!
We were off to the Kuthodaw Pagoda which holds the worlds biggest book and it’s not exactly what you are thinking (ie: just some big book on a pedestal). It’s actually written on stone and each page is kept in its own little housing. I would recommend stopping here as it’s quite incredible to see this.
Our second last stop was to the Shwenandaw Monastry which is built entirely of teak. It’s not an active Monastry just a tourist stop and if you have your Mandalay card you can show it here otherwise there is a foreigner fee.
The last stop for the day was to Mandalay Hill to watch the sun set over Mandalay. There is also a beautiful pagoda up here with markets along the stairs. To avoid all of the tourists, I’d recommend heading down the stairs to the next little bit of the pagoda and away from the main one. We got to sit on seats in peace without people pushing us to take photos and we got to take it all in.
I must admit, it seems like we jammed a lot of sight seeing in but it just shows that you can do it.
Stay posted for our time in Kalaw!