March 23, 2013

A Quick Stop in Mandalay, Burma

After Yangon (read here), we decided to head to Mandalay and booked a VIP bus to get there. Lucky for us, it was one of the nicest bus journeys of the entire trip (cold towels, a hostess, and free water and snacks). We didn't want to get off!
U Bein's Bridge Sneak Peek
In Mandalay, we met two motorcycle taxi drivers at the bus station who were really funny and charming and who managed to convince Steph, despite her previous rule of "no motorbikes," that we should go with them. They took us to our hotel, Mother's World, and turned out to be really nice. On the 20 minute ride, Steph and her driver, Cinco, bonded so we booked them to take us around the sights of Mandalay the following day.

The next day, they picked us up the following morning and helped us exchange some money on the black market, get a new SIM card for our phone (because I lost Steph's phone and new SIM card in a taxi in Yangon. Just ask her, she'll tell you all about it.), and book a bus to Kyaukme (post coming soon). This kind of local help is invaluable. Without these guys, our errands would have taken us DAYS. Plus, we just really liked them, too. Steph, particularly, really had a great time talking with Cinco, who told us a lot about how things have changed and improved over the past year in Burma. He was really proud of his country and the direction things are moving. From my perspective, it's pretty awesome to hear the Burmese people talking like this. When I was in Burma over 10 years ago, no one felt comfortable talking about their government, in fear that they would be arrested and interrogated. People were so much more relaxed on this visit, which was really nice to experience.

Steph and Me, taking a break on the motorbikes
That day with Cinco and his friend, we went to a monastery and a stupa at the top of a mountain and to U Beins Bridge. U Bein's is a 1,300 yard wooden footbridge with a Buddhist monks walking from their monastery on one side to the village on the other side. We went for sunset which is the ideal time to see it, but comes with bus loads of other tourists. Luckily, it's gorgeous anyway and we loved seeing the sun go down behind it.

Mandalay as a city isn't really all that exciting, and we only spent a few nights there, but some of the sites were really great and it was a good gateway to Kyaukme, which turned out to be the highlight of our time in Burma. So that's something for you to look forward to. I'm sure you're counting the minutes. 

You can see all of our Mandalay pics here. A few of our favorites are below.

Me and our friendly drivers
Novice monk on the street

Steph LOVED this kid, Miu Miu, (also the name of a brand of shoes that she
 loves, which she says is no coincidence) and really bonded
with him, so she bought a bunch of crappy jewelry from him. I have to admit, he
was a really sweet kid. Steph still talks about him.
You can see all of our Mandalay pics here.

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