Asia / Burma

Mandalay. Bits and bobs.

Let’s go to Hpa-An. It’s such a peaceful place – you’re gonna love it! – everyone says. We have 2 more days before the end of our trip so we could go wherever. Burma is our oyster! Well… not really. It turns out there is only one direct bus from Inle to Hpa-An and it takes 18 hours. Option A has been ruled out. Option B (flying to Ngapali) and C (going to Pyay) drop like flies, one by one. Finally we agree on visiting another big city. Mandalay, here we come!

My Snow White on his steed!

We arrive in the afternoon. Yet again instead of promised 5 hours the journey took 7. The air is hot and dusty. This is how I’m gonna remember Mandalay, for its dust bursting into my lungs and eyes. We drop our backpacks in the hotel and go out to prey on delicious Burmese food. It gets dark really fast. It feels like someone turned off the light. Out of a sudden – it’s pitch black. We find a decent place serving Burmese buffet and finally the city feel like home.

A new day, a new beginning and a new adventure as we get a motorbike! I always say that the motorbike trips are the real creme de la creme of our travels around Asia. Mario loves mopeds! We draft a simple plan. 4 things to see around Mandalay. The city itself is too big and we don’t want to lose time stuck in traffic jam. Off we go to the first beautiful place!

Sagaing is another of Myanmar’s ancient capitals, famous for hundreds of white, silver and gold pagodas and monasteries that dot its hilly landscape. The main temple on the top of the hill is one of the best I’ve seen in Myanmar.

When we get back to our moped I notice that the back light is broken and it’s now hanging on a thin cable. The plastic bit around it has fallen apart. How did it happen? Houston, we have a problem here. A big one. We are seriously worried, let’s see if they ask us to pay for it. I hope not!

Sagaing – the main temple is indeed beautiful. 
On our way back from Sagaing we got lost and found a little temple where some Burmese guys were playing cards.

Off to Mingun. We’re on a moped on a hot day with a pleasant breeze cooling us down – every backpacker’s dream! As soon as we reach our destination we are caught by some sort of local guards. We have to pay to enter the village to see… what? Well that’s a good question. There are some ruins of a gigantic unfinished stupa which was meant to be the largest in the world (but it’s not, so what’s the point of saying that?!), the biggest bell in the world (but you can’t get close to it – or perhaps it was closed when I was there) and a pretty white temple. We walk around when suddenly I notice a small stall with longhis. Do you remember how crazy am I about longhis? I actually can’t wait for summer to wear them in London!! I buy 2 skirts and Mario gets himself a t-shirt and now there is a queue of street vendors wanting to sell us their products. We have to run away!!

We are starving! For lunch we stops at a small local eatery. The place is a bit dodgy but show me an eatery in Asia that doesn’t look dodgy… We order a curry and the curry is also dodgy. It’s cold. I share my portion with a stray mongrel. It doesn’t seem to have any concerns about the quality of the food. 

Ruins in Mingun – this one looks like an elephant’s bum.
Street food in Burma. 
It was the first time I tried lychee. We bought a handful from this lady with beautiful eyes. Do you like lychee? 

Time flies and now we are rushing to Amurapura to see the famous U-Bein bridge. It’s a beautiful 1.2 kilometre-long structure built from teak planks and said to be the longest of its type in the world. It’s not only a tourist spot but also where the local crowd likes to hang out so you can see young fellas taking selfies, august monks hiding under umbrellas and there is even a palmist! More people come for the sunset as it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful views in Burma.

Let’s face the truth. We won’t get on time to Mandalay to climb the hill. We take it on the chin. It’s getting dark and we need to go back to our hotel now as our bus to Yangon leaves around 10pm. We navigate back using my mobile but at some point the battery dies and we are lost!! Luckily I have a leaflet from our hotel but trying to understand the locals is challenging! I’m telling you at some point we were like… whatever, Mandalay is cool we may as well stay another night. 🙂

One of the monks from U-Bein bridge.
Burmese guys playing chinlone. Just look at how their wear their longhi wrapped around like a loincloth!! 
Beautiful colours – Irrawaddy river.
U-Bein bridge is a busy place but totally worth visiting.
Irrawaddy river.
This is my shot of the day – a man thrusting through nenuphars. 
U-Bein bridge is like a shopping mall – you would be surprise what you can buy there.

10th time lucky and we finally bumped on someone speaking decent English. We get to our hotel around 8pm. We ditch the moped, hoping that the owner don’t ask us to pay for the damage (he didn’t). We grab our luggage and go for food and drinks before we leave the city.

All good things must come to an end. Such a cliche, but it’s so true. 2 weeks in Burma – gone. I wish we had 2 more… or 3. Burma is wonderful! Even though I was unpleasantly surprised by heavy rain every single day I think it’s still worth going there in rainy season as it gets so green. Burma is quite popular these days so perhaps leave your explorer hat at home (unless you travel off the beaten track and I hate you for that!!). However saying that, it still is one of the best countries to visit. Why? Are you seriously asking my WHY after reading all of my posts? Well, I will tell you why…

BURMESE CHILI CRISPS ARE THE BEST CRISPS IN THE WORLD!!

Without further ado. I’m off to travel the world but will be back with more Wildest Tales in May. X

Good bye Burma!