Whew! As a first foray into Myanmar, Mandalay is surely plunging into the deep end (although I’m not sure that there is a shallow end in this country!). We arrived via Air Asia – being the only plane at an international airport was a bit strange!
Luckily Air Asia provides a free bus for its passengers from the airport into the city, which is about 45 minutes away. We took a too-expensive taxi from the bus stop to our hotel, the Rich Queen Guesthouse, on 87th Street between 24th and 25th. The city is laid out like a grid, so it’s pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. Rich Queen is great, the room is big with two single beds (apparently that’s how they do double rooms in Myanmar!) and a big bathroom. They advertise as having hot water but we haven’t had any as of yet! The staff are lovely too, with a couple of them speaking really good English. We are paying $30 US per night, which is about average for Myanmar.
Our first outing from the hotel was a bit of a shock, we got lost a few times and struggled to cross the road – there are no traffic rules to speak of and everyone just toots until somebody yields! We found an ice cream shop that was in the Lonely Planet and had a beer and some ice cream for lunch. It’s quite hard to find places to eat here – they are few and far between.
Back at the hotel we met Soe Soe, a tour guide who I had come across on Trip Advisor and who had actually booked our room at the Rich Queen. We agreed to go on a day trip with him and one of his students the next day, on the back of their motorbikes (a daunting concept for me as I had never been on one before! Shaun was very keen).
The following day, after breakfast of eggs, jam sandwiches, bananas and some kind of deep fried donut thing (but not sweet), we met Soe Soe and his student Meow (like the cat sound, but not sure of spelling!) at Rich Queen. Off we went on the back of their scooters! It was great fun making our way through the city and we saw stone carvers making Buddhas from marble, motorbikes carrying far too much stuff, and local truck buses loaded with monks.
During the day we visited temples, a weaving workshop, and a monastery at Amarapura, a nunnery and more temples and climbed a big hill at Sagaing, and went on a ferry and horse cart to Inwa, where we saw yet more temples and a bit of rural life. At the end of the day we went to U Bein’s Bridge and saw the sun set. The day was just fantastic, and opened our eyes to what an amazing and varied country Myanmar is. Soe Soe and Meow were great guides, with fantastic English and lots to tell us about the different places we visited. The whole day cost 15,000 kyat each (about $30 US total) – well worth it! To avoid boring you with more information from our day, here are some photos:
Us and Soe Soe, our fantastic tour guide. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help in Myanmar and for a great tour in Mandalay!
We were absolutely buggered when we got back to the hotel but had to find some dinner, so Soe Soe dropped us off at an Indian street restaurant which turned out to be fantastic. It was called Nay Café, on the corner of 82nd and 27th Streets. It was cheap too, with the whole meal (2 curries, 2 Cokes, chapattis, and some other bits and bobs setting us back a grand total of 4300 kyats (about $5)).
What a day!