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start reading from the beginning Myanmar 1: Yangon
Our first thing to do when arriving in Mandalay was (as usual) finding food. John had already done his research and we headed towards an Indian restaurant right before they were about to close. Thank god that we were finally in an area with Grab Taxis again! After rushy eating a bunch of Naan bread and chickpea curry we headed back to the hotel. Oh god, the Hotel. Nice and comfortable beds, a clean bathroom and a modern interior. Something we hadn’t seen in a while. No Need to say that we both slept like babys.
The next morning turned our to be more eventful than we thought. Actually we just wanted to quickly drop off our laundry somewhere before exploring the city. Our hotel had a laundry service which we found far too expensive. They were charging the same amount of money for 2 pieces of clothing that we before paid for our whole laundry of 10 Kilos before. It had just been Chinese new year and most shops that we were cycling to were closed. We eventually found a place in a backyard that we only crossed after driving away from stray dogs that were chasing us. That laundry place was owned by an Indian family and they didn’t even have a washing machine. They were actually still washing every single piece of clothing by hand. We watched the women doing the tough job for a while and decided to head to a place with a proper machine because our clothes were soaked in sweat and dust from our trek in Kalaw and several gym visits. I think we were already cycling for hours when we finally found a place somewhere in the suburbs having a washing machine. The woman owning the place and the family living there was more than surprised to see foreigners coming to their place. They didn’t speak a word English but they were really nice. We left our laundry there and drove a few kilometres back to the city centre.
Half the day was over already and we hadn’t seen much yet. Our first stop was the king’s palace. To be honest, not the most impressive thing I have seen so far. Most areas inside the walls of the palace building were guarded by the military carrying around heavy weapons. Next on our agenda was the largest book in the world. A temple with the 1170 little pagodas with the inscriptions of Buddha. A truly amazing site to witness. And to our surprise we were the only tourists there. We spend a while walking around the complex before heading to the largest hill in the city which was only a few minutes away. On top of it a temple. We parked our bicycles and headed upstairs. I don’t even know how long we were walking upstairs but it probably costed us about an hour including stops. Totally exhausted we realised that there is actually a street going up the hill. Yet again we were the only tourists here which was really surprising to us. Even when we drove towards the local market we saw no one else. A lot of rubbish and stray dogs were everywhere to be found though.
I am not sure how many kilometres we were going on our bicycles that day but my butt was saying it was too many. After another great dinner we headed to bed early (as usual) to be fit for our trip the next morning.
That morning we planned to take the ferry to Mingun, an old complex with some of the most amazing temples one can imagine. To our surprise this tuned out to be the place where apparently all tourists were gathering. We waited with probably 100 other people for our boat to leave. The one hour drive on the Irrawady river was super relaxing and we got seats on the very back where we were able to enjoy the warmth of the sun.
The temple itself was different to what I had expected. No matter where you went there were people trying to sell you stuff, similar to Kuta in Bali or Khoa Sarn Road in Bangkok. There were street stalls everywhere. Apart from that, a few of the buildings were really breathtaking. We kind of regretted not renting a motorbike and going there by ourselves though. There were way more temples going up all the way to the mountains but we only had about 3 hours time and decided to just explore the area we could easily reach by walking. Nevertheless still a great experience. We got back to Mandalay in the early afternoon and had to pick up our laundry. This time we decided to rent a motorbike instead. While I was navigating, John tried to get through the traffic of the busy city. To our surprise we saw a super new looking gym near our laundry place where we stopped for a quick workout before heading to a super modern juice bar nearby. Again something we would have never expected. John’s mood was better than ever before after getting his long wished protein shake and even I kind of enjoyed being a bit active again.
In the evening we found a nice place for dinner just around the corner of our hotel. It was located on the walking path on a big intersection. The owner spoke English fluently and sat down with us to tell us some interesting stories and share some travel tips with us that we were super thankful for. We definitely had a great time in Mandalay and were already looking forward to travelling to Bagan the next day. A town we both were really looking forward to see right from the beginning of our trip.
THINGS TO DO IN MANDALAY
World’s largest book: One of the prettiest things to do in the City for sure. Kuthodaw Pagoda is the actual Name of this place.
Mandalay Hill: The way up is super exhausting (unless you are in a car or on a motorbike). I would still recommend Walking up all the way, there are some nice shrines and buildings to see on the way up that you would otherwise miss.
Palace: Not the most spectacular Thing to see but still quite interesting. There are books about Myanmar being sold and there is a Tower from where you have a nice view onto the whole complex.
Mingun: A must-do when coming to Myanmar. Even though it was one of the more touristy Areas it’s still totally worth going there. Best way to get there is by motorbike. There are plenty of temples that you can’t reach Walking and most tours don’t offer you enough time to really explore the greater area. If you just have half a day, the boat tour is the way to go. No Need to rent a taxi once you get to Mingun – you literally have to walk 100 Meters to get to the first temple. There is a small entrance fee you have to pay which is around 5000 Kyatt.
HOW TO GET THERE
Mandalay has an international Airport as well as a Train Station. There are also buses coming to the City from pretty much all over Myanmar.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Getting around town is quite easy. Even though the traffic is quite bad compared to the rest of Myanmar (except for Yangon which was way more crowded), you can easily get around with a bicycle. The Palace, Pagodas and Mandalay Hill are all located in the same area and there is even a good Walking and cycling path going around the Palace which leads you to most attractions.
There are also plenty of Tuk Tuks and Taxis in the City – even Grab is available!
There is a fee of 10.000 Kyatt that you have to pay at the entrance of the Palace allowing you to enter all sights in that area for three days. Take your ID or passport with you (only one Person usually Needs to have it). While you are in the Palace, guards will Keep your ID and return it to you once you are leaving.
We also needed our IDs when we were booking our boat tickets to Mingun and when purchasing Train tickets.