The Roads of Mandalay

The Roads of Mandalay
Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay, Myanmar

Took a 9.30am Yangon Airways flight from Yangon domestic terminal for Mandalay. It reminded me of Bangalore airport 10 years ago without the makeover. But the staff were really helpful and the coffee bar nor bad even though the prices, by local standards, were insane. 2000 Kyat/$2 for a coffee. We were concerned at the thought of flying Yangon Airways as none of Burma’s airlines meet international safety certification but we needn’t have worried. The plane was fairly new and the crew highly professional. Arrived in Mandalay after a touch down in Bagan so the flight was about 2 hours in total. Mandalay has a largish international airport, clearly a play thing for the regime, all it lacks is passengers. Paid 18,000 Kyat for the 50 min ride in from the airport in a 30 year old Toyota with no suspension. You can probably bargain better than I did. The journey can take an hour but our driver was jazzed up on Betel leaf so went a tad faster. Tip for a speedy transfer – find the drivers with the red teeth. We were staying at the Hotel by the Red Canal. A small boutique hotel for $100 US night. A lovely hotel with a great restaurant and a very well designed, small garden. The chef is particularly strong on Indian food but beware the drinks are expensive ($9 for a top end cocktail). It’s highly rated on Trip Advisor and for good reason. Elly had a bath and I jumped a ‘blue taxi’ for a small bit of exploring. Blue Taxis are tiny 60 year old, open sided people carriers about the size of a micro van manufactured by car companies long since defunct. Mine came with a guide and driver. A note of advice, they cannot drive up Mandalay Hill so be warned. Went to the Kuthodaw pagoda home of what is termed the world’s largest book, the complete writings of Buddha on 730 marble tablets. It is well worth a visit and then to Mandalay Hill. One quick observation on currency. Dollars are the default currency for hotels, taxis, entrance fees etc but everyone is paranoid about them being clean and free of marks and blemishes. I spent too much time swapping clean bills for ones that had creases in. Most hotels won’t accept money that has marks on so beware. I was refused entry into a temple because my currency didn’t pass government regulations. Then to Mandalay Hill. I had romantic notions of climbing the hill to see the sunset. Mandalay Hill has a lot of steps, over 1700 to be precise. I got to about 1200 and lost the will to live but the pagodas and shrines on the way up are interesting but my advice is to give the hill a miss if you are short of time. If you are fit, under 25 and American you can run it in 20 minutes.


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