January 24th, 2017:
Between the NGO visits Mandalay was on the way, so I decided to do a couple days and be a proper tourist. As busy as I had been with the NGO stuff, I didn’t really research much, I just booked a room at a place that was recommended by a friend and showed up. You know those places that every kid has that latch onto their minds while spinning a globe? Mandalay was one of those for me (along with Kathmandu and Zanzibar), I think as a 9 year old Robbie just had a thing for 3 syllable cities.
When I arrived in town from the airport, it wasn’t anything like the young me imagined… It was a packed chaotic city with 100cc motorcycles racing everywhere and traffic you had to jump out of the way for. Not to be deterred, I spent the first day climbing the 700+ steps on Mandalay Hill, taking in the Royal Palace (which required me to surrender my passport in order to gain entry), literally checked out hundreds of pagodas and finally meet up with my friend Amanda for dinner.
Amanda had been here a few weeks back and we got to talking about all the places to see within an hour radius of the city, There’s the ruins if Inwa, the giant (and never finished) pagoda Mingun, the Mingun bell (which happens to be the second largest bell in the world), the bridge at U Bein and dozens of other spots I doubt I would remember the name of without looking them up. She recommended that I hire a motorcycle and driver/guide for the next day and try to see it all. She had done the same thing on her prior visit, so she pulled out Mg Mg’s number and after some broken english phone conversation, I felt like he knew to pick me up at my hotel at 8:30am – at least until his friend No No (with better english) called back 10 minutes later, clarified everything and I then followed that with a text of my hotel address.
So that’s exactly how I ended up on the back of one of the aforementioned 100cc motorcycles for 8 hours of touristing for approximately $22. Aside from some taint chaffing, a light sunburn and dust in all my crevices from the dirt roads, it turned out to be a fantastic day exploring. Although by 4pm I was beat and when Mg Mg asked “No sunset at bridge?!”, I replied “No.”
By that point I needed a cold beer, a nap and eventually some dinner.
Lunch for Mg Mg and I ($4.07). Burmese food includes every dish in the kitchen and they bring the same amount to your table weather there are two of you or eight. Of the 15 dishes on the table, I am fairly certain I had a bite of them all and had a second or third bite of my favorites. Eating this at 1pm, probably was a major factor in me giving up pre-sunset.
The U Bein Bridge shadow. I am not totally in love with this image, but at least it’s not one of the thousand sunset shot you find on google images.