8 - 11 March 2016
I hadn’t read or heard much interesting things about Mandalay so my initial plan was to only spend a couple of days here. However, arriving a day early and deciding to take the boat to Bagan instead of biking left me with 4 days. I could have gone to Bagan a day before but I preferred having my own room on a restday instead of staying in a dorm in Bagan.
Biking into Mandalay it was an easy decision to walk instead of biking around town. Like Yangon, it’s busy and hectic but here the countless motorbikes make it completely chaotic. There seem to be only one traffic rule – ”there are no rules” and everybody believe to have the right of way as long as they honk. I was not surprised to hear about the many accidents and even saw a couple – a truck and a motorbike crashing together and a girl falling over on her motorbike without anybody nearby. The situation was certainly not helped by people being on their phones all the time while driving.
So I walked around town despite the fair distances. The first day I walked along the huge moat and fortress walls to visit Mandalay Palace, which as expected was nothing special. Afterwards I - amongst other - went to Shwenandaw Kyaung with it’s beautiful wooden carvings and Kyauktawgyi with it’s impressive 900 tonnes marble Buddha. Another day close to 40C but fortunately it wasn’t too humid and Mandalay has lots of shade providing trees. Still I was fairly tired when I returned to the hotel after +30k. In the evening, I visited nearby Eindawya Paya – a very peaceful experience where I also got a chance to talk to some of the monks residing there.
My guidebook recommends a bike trip through the western part of the city but the distance was only around 10k plus a 5k detour along the river, so again I decided to walk. As always these trips a full of errors but it doesn’t matter much. I usually only want to see a few of the recommended sights and mostly use it as a way to venture in to and getting lost in local neighbourhoods. And local it was – based on the cheerful and joyous reactions, I had the feeling that few, if any, foreigners came these places. Hundreds of people waving and greeting me (especially kids), and many offering me food, fruit and drinks. As always, the poorest people are the most generous and seem happiest.
The last two days I primarily spent relaxing and updating my website. It required quite a lot of patience, as the internet was very slow when it even worked. Not sure why, but the hotel disconnected the internet many times during the day allegedly to send and receive faxes? Late afternoon the third day, I walked 14k return to Mandalay Hill to see the sunset – the sun sank into haze/clouds so hindsight I should have visited when I was nearby the first day. The last day I biked 30k around the southern part of the city including a walk over U-Bein Bridge crossing Taungthaman Lake as well as visiting a couple of pagodas in the old royal capital of Amarapura. Again I went through poor neighbourhoods with very friendly people.