Myanmar – alluring and mysterious. In December 2015, I was fortunate to spend 14 days travelling around this wonderful country. Here’s part 2 of my travel story…
After our day at Inle Lake (think of the iconic pictures of the fisherman, standing on one leg in their boats using cone-shaped nets), day 4 of our travels saw us taking a Taxi to Heho airport (the name made me smile!) – the smallest airport I’ve ever been to – to catch a plane to Bagan and the Su Tine San Royal Palace Hotel.
Beautiful temples, dramatic shapes and filigree, colours of the country…and hot air balloons everywhere.
This place is just awesome; there is so much one could say about Bagan. It is so rustic, has so much charm and completely transports you to a different time. Everywhere you turn there are pagodas and stupors. It’s truly stunning and once again the photos don’t do it justice. Please visit Bagan for yourself.
Fact: there are over 4000 temples in Bagan
“No matter where you go, there’s another golden pagoda”
Day 5 and Mandalay. I’ve wanted to visit Mandalay for so long that it was worth the effort to get there. After an hours ride in pick up truck, we were cramped into a bus for 5-hours with too many other people! It was dark by the time we arrived in Mandalay – just enough time for a beer at a local bar, a chicken kebab and bed!
“Mandalay is the wealthiest city in Myanmar, with the newest airport and the most disorganised chaos”
What a day in Mandalay! One of the wonderful things about this country is that the local people are so keen to share their knowledge which leads to wonderful local finds. With so many sights to see, and only a few days to see them all, Bebo, a local man, drove us around the city, explaining the sights and sounds. Places have so much more meaning when a local tells you the stories about them.
One of our favourites was Mahumuni Paya, a temple on top of a hill where we took an incongruous lift up to the top and escalators down and met a group of Arsenal supporters (we behaved ourselves!), is home to a 13ft tall, 2000 year-old image of Buddha. Male devotees apply gold leaf to the statue which means that there is a 6 inch layer of pure gold over it. This is the central shrine, with a golden roof and long passageways. Bare-footed, we wandered around browsing the stalls and soaking up the atmosphere.
Next stop was the famous U Bein Bridge. Built out of 1086 poles standing in the water, and with water lapping at the planks that balance between them, the bridge is one of Myanmar’s most photographed sites. It’s not until the rainy season that you can see why it’s needed. The whole area changes from vegetable gardens into a big lake.
After many, many photographs of the bridge and a good night’s sleep, we used our own steam to meander around the city before we would head to yet another airport. We walked along a 230ft-wide moat and well over 4 miles of crenellated (my new favourite word, it means the square cut outs that you see on the top of castles), reconstructed 26ft-high walls that form a vast square around the site of the former Mandalay citadel.
So onto our next internal flight, this time to Yangon, from where we would head to the beach and some much needed sun, sea, sand and cocktails! Another 5-hour drive took us to Nwge Saung (pronounced We Song) beach. Crazy that a cab costs £60 when a 7-hour uncomfortable bus journey is £38. Arrived at the gorgeous Eskala 5* resort, looking like something the cat dragged in with two rucksacks and a bottle of Mandalay Rum. The look of surprise on their faces was priceless. Spent the rest of the day by the pool, drinking Hawaiian Blue Cocktails and soaking up the sun. Went for a walk into the ‘village’ in the evening and had a delicious dinner at a Burmese seafood restaurant. Back to villa for a pre-bed Mandalay rum and coke, and a game of crib whilst listening to music on the beach and watching fireworks.
Life is good and I’m looking forward to the beach…
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