Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 4 - January 9, 2008 - Mandalay, Myanmar

Day 4 - January 9, 2008 - Mandalay, Myanmar

"A very productive day even though we were licking our wounds after last evening's accident."

Up at 7:10 and downstairs at 7:45 following some "treatment". Good B-fast. Briefly talked to a young guy from Alabama - a perfect Southern Gentleman - and his German wife.

Decided on plan for next three days
  • Today: Mandalay Hill, Palace and surrounding sites by trishaw
  • Tomorrow: Three Ancient Cities by blue Mazda taxi at 19,000 Kyat total
  • DAT: Shared taxi to Pyin Oo Lwin
Made arrangements for the transportation at the front desk while also buying 2 bottles of H2O for 500 Kyat and paid 1400 Kyat (about $1.25 US) for 6 pieces of laundry.

Out the door at 9:15 and hired two trishaws (bicycle rickshaw; that is, a bicycle with a side-car) to take us to Mandalay Hill for 3000 Kyat total. It's a nice coolish ride through light AM rush hour traffic to Mandalay Hill going east along 27th following the corners of the Palace Moat.

Arrived a M-Hill about 10 and began the ascent from the SW stairs - the main entrance - leaving our shoes at the bottom for 100 K each.

The entire path up is covered. Makes for good walking year round - rain, shine, cold, heat. And there are benches on the sides of the slopes. Nice. There were vendors selling food that was cooked and packaged and some operating "almost restaurants" with a table or two, chairs, and free tea - full service. ;-). Dogs and cats lay in the sun. A few craftsmen hawking figurines.

There were many shrines and temples on the way up. The guidebooks describe them all. I won't. Sun-Ling liked the big Buddha that points down to the city - not a standard mudra (hand position).

After a leisurely stroll we made it to the top about 11:30, hung out at the top for 30 minutes, enjoyed the 360 view, tried to take a self-portrait, and tended to Sun-Ling's bleeding shin. I sacrificed my bandanna as bandage. Effective for awhile.

There were lots of locals making the trek up, but not jam packed as the sacred hills and mountains in China. Not even close. Families, school girls, families with a monk, guys, girls, and western tourists. One western guy was speaking Burmese - with only a small amount of help from his pocket dictionary - with the locals. Impressive. Wow!

Bought some snacks and watched a couple of Chinese guys filming themselves making a speech about a hydro-electric project they were working on in Myanmar. They had a local guide/translator with them.

There is a $10 US fee to visit Mandalay Hill - good for 5 days - and surrounding sites but we were not asked to produce ours or buy one. We did have to pay a 300Kyat camera fee at the top.

The front of the Mandalay Archaeological Zone ticket is ho-hum, but the stamps one gets on the back are way cool.

Stopped on the way down at one of those "almost a restaurants" for 2 bowls of fried noodles + lemongrass soup + fresh tomatoes for 1000 Kyat.

Passed souvenir vendors on the way down selling thanaka wood and stones, T-shirts, and turtle boxes. At one stall, a TV was playing a music video of a Burmese Country and Western song. Unexpected.

Arrived at 6the bottom, retrieved our shoes, and headed on foot to the surrounding sites - all covered by the Mandalay Combo Ticket- in this order:
  1. Kyauktawgyi Paya
  2. Kuthodaw Paya
  3. Sandmuni Paya
  4. Atumashi Kyaung
  5. Shwe Nandaw Kyaung
  6. Mandalay Fort and Palace

Kyauktawgyi Paya

"Relaxing" says Sun-Ling. Cool and shady with 80 surrounding small stupas, each housing an arhat/lohan statue.

Kuthodaw Paya (Known for its 729 tablets of Buddhist scriptures)

On the walk over, two very cute and sharp young ladies about 10 or 12 years old tried to sell us some postcards.

"But I take my own photos."

"Not the same" said the sharper one in good English.

"I will be unhappy if you do not buy my postcards" she continued her spiel.

"You should be in school" I said.

"My family is poor. My mother and father are poor". She rolled her eyes when she said "father" making me think that she meant her father was nuts.

We did not buy any postcards.

Most children in Mandalay seemed to be in school as we often saw them in their uniforms - green longyi and white shirts - headed home for lunch carrying a one strap bag over their shoulders. And as we walked around town we heard young kids in school reciting - shouting - their lessons.

Another aside. Several young business women have asked us "What do you WANT?" which, with the emphasis on "WANT" seems unfriendly to the American ear, but that's just the way it comes out. ;-)

Back to the Kuthodaw Paya. We finally had to hand over the $10 dollars for the combo ticket and we were harassed a bit by the shoe keeper and postcard sellers.

Sandmuni Paya (with more tablets)
A small boy says "Money".

Atumashi Kyaung (Newly built and skippable.)

Shwe Nandaw Kyaung

Another teak temple/monastery/ship. Very cool. Shared the site with a group of French tourists (or maybe Swiss).

Mandalay Fort and Palace

Walked across the moat bridge, had our papers checked, walked down to the oval past Army Band practice to the reconstructed Mandalay Palace. We were both surprised to see houses, small gardens, vendors, and trishaw drivers. We guessed it's the families of soldiers - later confirmed by LP. It was approaching 5:00 PM closing time so we walked up the Watch Tower for some cool views, checked out the reconstructed Glass Palace, had a brief rest and caught 2 trishaws (3000 Kyat) in the rush hour traffic to Nepali Restaurant @ 81st and 26th/27th where we each had a Thali: rice + chapati + curries + soup +beans + refills for 3000Kyat total.

Changed another $100 at Seven Diamond Travel @ 1250 to 1.

Back to RCH. Shower.

SLOTHD: All the small white stupas
JHOTD: Trishaw ride

The Palace Moat with Mandalay Hill in the background.
Palace Moat - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Buddha pointing to Mandalay
Standing Buddha - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

The two of us atop Mandalay Hill.
Week Two - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Preparing our lunch.
Burmese Kitchen - Mandalay, Burma

Kyauktawgyi Paya - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Stupas - Sandamani Paya - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

The reconstructed Mandalay Palace.
Old Royal Palace - Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Trishaw driver.
Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

The trishaw ride

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