Mandalay

19/03/07

It was hard to wake up, but we had a nice breakfast amongst a horde of Germans, and then set out for Mandalay Hill, pied. It was a much easier climb than we thought. We carried out shoes, because we had to remove them at the base of the Hill. We assumed, erroneously, that the steps would be reasonably clean, but they and, subsequently, our feet, were filthy. The climb was really interesting, with the usual handcraft stalls and two amazingly large wooden, gilded Buddhas. I bought a sandlewood comb, but, when I realised that it was stored with the sandlewood beads, I suspected that it might be a plainer wood. Time will tell if it keeps its scent. Towards the bottom, we went a different set of stairs, and an old bloke motioned us into a chamber that contained a large, reclining Buddha.

We returned briefly to the hotel, to clarify our plans, and then set out for the city by trishaw. Unlike Indonesia's "becaks", the passengers sit with one facing forward and the other backwards. Our first stop was at an Internet caf, where we eventually sent some emails - the operator had some software to bypass government censorship. Next stop was the zeigyo, or central market, along a section of 27th street that reminded us of Mumbai. There were hundreds of fabric stalls, and we bought a number of longyis, to have made into other garments. From there it was a fairly hard peddle (not for us) to a shop where Helen bought a tapestry for our lounge room. A bit further along the way home we bought a puppet, and then had lunch at a Black Canyon. Our trishaw brought us back to the hotel and we changed, then went to the pool to swim, relax and have an afternoon drink.

At Helen's instigation, we undertook a 40-minute trip in the back of the previous evening's vehicle to Amarapura, the capital, more than 200 years ago. A 1.2km teak bridge, resting on most of its 223-year-old, original pylons, provides a fabulous vantage point for watching the sun set behind a temple in the marshes. The German contingent was out in a flotilla of gondala-lke boats. Most of the other watchers were locals. One little girl, who hung around us trying to sell us a necklace, told us she could speak some English, Italian and French. I noticed, on the way there, that the many cyclists move along at a fair clip. Unlike in Yangon, there are also motorcycles, and, because the main roads are fairly wide, the traffic flows at more than 50km/hr. On our return journey, Helen had the first turn in the cabin, but the exhaust fumes were not lessened very much. I sat there for the second 20 minutes, after it became dark. It was "exciting" a couple of times as we narrowly avoided collisions.

We showered and changed, and rode the same vehicle back into town. We ended up at the Italian restaurant at the very flash Sedonna Hotel. I didn't hear Helen's order, so I didn't really notice when she smothered her pizza with parmesan cheese and pepper. When the second pizza arrived, with what was clearly spinach all over it, the penny dropped. The evening ended up being fairly expensive, but the pizzas were as good as we have eaten in Asia (even with Helen's extra "topping"). The hotel minibus was the first clean, modern vehicle we had been in in Myanmar.

Next

Home