Into Myanmar, welcome to Mandalay!
28 Feb – 2 March 2014 It is the first time in all my travels that I go to a country where there is a time difference calculated in half hours. Meaning, when you come from Belgium, you need to add 5,5 hours to the Belgian time. In my case, coming from Bangkok, I turned my watch 1/2 hour back.TIP: If you fly into Mandalay with Air Asia, there is a FREE shuttle bus from Air Asia waiting for you to bring you to downtown Mandalay, it stops somewhere at 80th and 27th street. Be aware that this service is only provided at Mandalay aiport and not the other airports in Myanmar. Only a 1 hour riverboat trip away from Mandalay (K5000 return) there is a compact village along the Ayeyarwady River which is Mingun. It takes about 2 hours to see all the sites in the village. If you go by horsecart even less! At one of the sites, there is a ticket booth, where foreigners are supposed to buy a 3$ ticket that covers all the sites. But there is always a way to enter without paying that, just go around and take the back entrance
Even in Mandalay itselves you are supposed to buy a 10$ ticket for all the sites but again if you don’t want to pay that, you can choose to skip those sites and settle with having a picture of the outside. In the afternoon, after the Mingun trip, I got a motorbike taxi to take me around some sites, like the Mandalay Hill, the Mahamuni Paya and the Royal Palace. Especially the Mahamuni Paya is worth going to. You have to pass a bunch of hawkers before you see the seated Buddha image where everybody is coming for. Many locals believe it is 2000 years old. Over the centuries gold leaf has been applied by the (unfortunately only male) faithful which make that the statue is now covered in a 15cm- thick layer of pure gold.
Together with some others from my guesthouse we took a pick-up at 5am (!) to watch sunrise on the world’s longest teak footbridge, U Bein’s Bridge in Amarapura. This 1,2 km long bridge is build on more than 1000 poles on Taungthaman Lake which is named after a former mayor. Although I’m not a morning person myself, I highly recommend coming by sunrise to beat the crowd of tourists. Top!