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Mandalay and the old capitals

MYANMAR | Wednesday, 26 August 2015 | Views [516]

Because of the Kipling’s poem I also initially thought of Mandalay as of this charming, long forgotten Asian city… Luckily I did consult people before going there and one thing became most apparent: the best thing o do in Mandalay is get out as soon as you got in.


Our night bus journey was surprisingly quick. We were meant to get to Mandalay at 5am but arrived at 3am someone confused as to what to do now.

As always a bus was met with lots of touts but we hooked up with some other travellers also in need of hotel and managed to negotiate a fair price for the ride to centre. The hostels listed in the lonely planet were awful, really, really horrible (dead cockroaches on floors, sheets that have not been clean for I don’t know how long…) but we finally knocked on the door of a random place and the rooms where respectable, even with aircon.

Which left us negotiating the price… As we arrived in the middle of the night they wanted to charge us full whack but after a bit of a standoff we agreed to half price (if you are on a tight budget, stand firm, the hotel owners are more than likely to change their minds). We ended up paying $20 per night which was the cheapest we had paid so far.


Having arrived much earlier than expected we decided that the best thing is probably to just stay one night see the sights and head out the next night to Bagan.

So after a quick sleep and hotel breakfast we decided that even though it is possible to see the sights by public transport, and realising that the temperature outside has reached 40 and it was only 9am, we decided to hire a taxi for a day to see all the sights.

Right move!!!! It was $23 for day for both of us but air conditioned, taxi driver spoke English and was a brilliant tour guide. He also managed to save us a lot of money on visiting sights as he stopped at local entrances were tickets were not needed.

The best bargain ($5 added to the overall hire charge) was at Inwa as it turns out that you can actually drive there , therefore avoiding the rip off horse cart issue and allowing you to visit many more sights!

All in all I would say it’s all well  worth it and gets you away from the hellish heat of Mandalay.


The tour starts at the Buddist school, the biggest one in Burma, where tourist queue to see monks form an orderly line before heading for breakfast. It is a very bizarre experience as if being in a ‘monk zoo’ and really best avoided even though the school itself is a lovely setting.


From there we headed to Sagaing Hill and bravely climbed the Soon U Ponya Shin Paya. Now, there are elevators and an easier access but we were dropped off at the ‘local’ entrance which meant no fees but a very, very steep climb.

The views, once you have caught your breath, are stunning at it is a beautiful temple. From the top you cans see the dozens of golden rooftops of other temples.


After that it was time to visit the old capital – Inwa.

As I mentioned, we got a real bargain here and managed to see a fair few palaces, temples and forts around the village. It is really beautiful, with the air of a culture abandoned. The main sight is the princess palace with the Brick monastery inside. We were advised by our guide that even though the exterior of the monastery is impressive, the inside is not (once you have seen some temples) and there is hefty fee to go in, so we just looked at it from outside.

Very impressive indeed.


After that we drove back to Mandalay and having a fair bit of time before the sunset (to visit the bridge) we visited a more local temple which had a miniature Golden Rock. After seeing the miniature, I have decided that I have an idea of what it is and therefore no need to make the journey – will opt in for more days on the beach instead J


The market around the Amarapura bridge (U Bein’s Bridge – at 1.2km, the longest teak bridge in the world) is actually quite pleasant and having still fair amount of time we settled in for some beers at the riverside restaurant. Food there was not very appealing but beer was cold and the views were good.


At the right moment we did the sunset walk, which I think is far more romantic when you do it with a partner rather than a mate but the sky was beautiful and it was a lovely way to finish of the day.


Our driver has also helped us find the best bargain bus to Bagan – it was actually a minibus but as the company just started they had promo prices and they did do hotel pick up, they are called OK Bus. We decided to head to Bagan next afternoon and as the journey is not too long we were going to get there around 11pm.


After getting much needed sleep we decided to spend the second day in Mandalay trying to get to the famous Mandalay hill, by public transport. I am pretty sure that there is a much more direct bus route that what we have done as it took about 45 minutes to get there. The first bus drops you off at the bottom and you need to get another truck to go up. Please bear in mind both should be roughly the same price, they will try and charge you more to go up but stand your ground it’s a normal price.

It is a nice view from the top, but nothing spectacular, and the temple itself is also not that amazing.

We did not go to the palace as didn’t really have the energy, was too expensive and didn’t get that great reviews.


After getting down from the hill, we tried to find a bus to get us back to hotel but it was proving too complicated and we were just too tired, so found a cheap taxi instead. Back at the hotel we impatiently were awaiting our Bagan pick up.

Tags: burma, hill, inwa, mandalay, myanmar, on the road, temples, u bein bridge


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