On the road to Mandalay (part one)
Filed under Myanmar
16 November 2014
Here we go, on the road to Mandalay! We left Hans in Bagan and Niels will join us for the first hours in the city. This picture was taken on our bumpy bus which will break the engine few kilometres later, lol. Rudy Kipling’s words don’t correspond much to reality (actually he was never there . .) : mythical Mandalay is a chaotic and stinky city with most of the streets still to be unpaved. But I like Mandalay! It has a good vibe and this is the kind of place where there is always something new to see. We will spend two days and a half in Mandalay.
On the first day we wake up at 3am to visit Mahamuni Paya, home of Mahamuni’s seated Buddha. This Buddha is believed to be 2.000 years old, is one of the most venerated statues in the country and every day at 4am his devotees wash his face in a ceremony with much fervor (they used more than 10 towels to dry his face!). I still can’t say if I liked this ceremony or not but for sure this will be one of the weirdest things that I will see during my WT, lol.
At the ceremony we will meet Eve and Nicolas, who will convince us to go to U Bein Bridge for the sunrise. Even if I preferred few hours more of sleep I must admit that the sunrise was nice.
U Bein Bridge is the longest teak bridge (1.2 km) in the world, built of wood reclaimed from the royal palace in Inwa. When I visited in 2011 the water level was very high so I could see only half of the stilts’ height. That morning the water level was much lower and the bridge was very impressive but the low water level also showed some vegetable gardens and drink stalls . . maybe I prefer the “rainy season” version of the bridge, when the whole area becomes a lake, lol. U Bein Bridge is a very important passageway for local people so it is a great place for people watching. We had an interesting conversation with a monk from Maya Ganayon Monastery on the bridge and he invited us to come the following day.
Back to Mandalay we spent half day trying to buy the bus tickets to Mrauk U but I will talk about this on a separate post. Around 1pm the work was done and I convinced Maria to go and have a look at some sights along the stinky Ayeyarwady River. Our first stop was the Jade Market. Myanmar has the best quality of jade (also called “quality A”) and this market is a wonder. Here you can see traders determining jade’s quality and negotiating its price and also workers cutting it, polishing it . . . there are even some shops to empty your wallet 😀
We also had a quick look at Shwe In Bin Kyaung, another of my favourite temples, before our meeting with Nicolas and Eve for sunset views from Mandalay Hill. That was the first of my two big disappointments in Mandalay: in 2011 sunset from Mandalay Hill was really beautiful with views over rice fields and nice water reflections. Today a golf course and some constructions around have replaced those bucolic rice fields, so sad! I am not proud of this last picture but I wanted to show you the difference between views from Mandalay Hill in 2011 and 2014. In my opinion it’s not worth climbing all those steps to the top any more, at least not for that shitty view!
Views from Mandalay Hill in 2011
Views from Mandalay Hill in 2014
My Tips :
- There is an entrance fee (10.000 kyats) to visit the Jade Market but we walked around and found a spot where we could enter for free 😀
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