Mandalay

Our last stop in Myanmar was a whirlwind, one day tour of Mandalay. Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar, located about 9 hours north (by bumpy bus) of Yangon. Mandalay is home to the Royal Palace, as well as the highest concentration of monks in Myanmar.

Since we had such limited time there, we decided the best way to see the city would be renting a taxi for the day (with another of Alex’s friends and a friend of his). The four of us flagged down the first guy we saw, and negotiated a $32 tab for the day. A pretty good deal, right?

That was, of course, until we found out about our taxi driver’s political leanings. He kicked off the ride by showing us a video on his phone of an Israeli parliament member espousing the evils of Islam. After a brief and bizarre misunderstanding of his thinking that we were all Muslim, he quickly backtracked and told us that he was a simple working man who didn’t involve himself in politics. All of this before 10 am.

Anyway, our first stop of the day was the Mandalay Royal Palace. In case you had any questions about who’s in charge…

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“Tatmadaw” is the official name for the military in Myanmar, which also happens to serve as the government. How convenient.

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The Mandalay Royal Palace, as I mentioned before, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Mandalay. It was built between 1857 and 1859, and served as the palace for the last monarchy in Myanmar, the Konbaung Dynasty. It was first occupied by King Mindon, and later by his son, King Thibaw.

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This is the Mandalay Palace Watch Tower:

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And here are some views from the top:

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Overall, it was a cool attraction but not worth making a specific trip to Mandalay.

Moving right along, our next stop was the Schwenandaw Monastery. It was built in 1880 by King Thibaw, who dedicated the space to his father.

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Those are teak carvings, which are commonly found in temples, pagodas and monasteries around Myanmar.

Next we visited the Kuthodaw Pagoda.

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Our last stop before lunch was Mandalay Hill, which is actually how the city got its name. This was my favorite site of the day so far, as I’m a sucker for a great scenic vista.

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We were just about gnawing our arms off at this point, and made our way to Spice Garden Restaurant for lunch. We stuffed ourselves silly with delicious Indian food, of which I took exactly zero pictures. What can I say? We ate fast.

Our lengthy morning of sightseeing combined with an enormous lunch made us quite sleepy, but we did manage to squeeze in one more stop on our tour.

If you were wondering where you could find the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world, the answer is Mandalay. U Bein Bridge, a 1.2 km walking bridge, was built in 1850 and is every bit as rickety as you would expect.

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It was a nice way to end our marathon day of sightseeing, even if we had to endure a rambling account of our taxi driver’s many illegal transgressions (including but not limited to dealing heroin and pimping) on the way back to our hotel. A colorful guy, indeed.

I’ll be doing one more post on my final thoughts about traveling to Myanmar, addressing some issues that I mentioned in my introductory post awhile back. Stay tuned!

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