Backpacking across Burma, Mandalay

2:04 PM

The bus to Mandalay was thirty minutes late.

If there was anything that we’ve learned of the Burmese so far, it is that they are always on time. This tardiness should’ve worried me some, that something must’ve gone wrong, and I should’ve taken it as a sign of things to come.

Buses stop in front of the Eden Motel as it's along the main road. 
He's the "bell boy" at Eden Motel. 

The six-hour trip to Mandalay was of Burmese covers of Phil Collins’s greatest hits and much yapping in some slapstick comedy movie on the telly. I usually don’t mind being up while in transit. In fact, I rarely sleep. But I hardly slept the night before, worried that I would miss the bus, and so thought I would be napping for most of the ride. Oh, was I so wrong.

Lunch stopover was at a roadside eatery which overcharged us for three measly pieces of chicken curry. As a sort of protest to such audacity, we opted to move to the shop next door and I bought some bread to satisfy the hunger pangs.  Surely, we would’ve had a proper meal in Mandalay in about two hours. We were proven wrong when the bloody bus refused to start. They finally got it running again after an hour but somehow not entirely since the A/C hardly let out any cool air.

Liwayway Food Ind., Ltd, a Filipino company, has gone multi-national!

We finally managed to get to Mandalay a little shy of four o’clock and were pounced on by the usual people at the door of the bus, trying to get our business. We had to shove our way through and take a breather at the terminal. If we didn’t know any better, the bus station in Mandalay could’ve been a dumpsite for the piles of rubbish around. But heck, we’re just so glad that the horrible ride was over that we didn’t really mind the awful sight.

We're on a pick-up truck and off to AD1 Hostel. 
Hello, Mandalay! 
Young Burmese ladies crossing the street. 
Zeigyo Clock Tower in downtown Mandalay
It's a miracle motorists in Mandalay go through a day unscathed.

After settling in, we didn’t have enough time to go up to Mandalay Hill so we just consoled ourselves with ice cream and lassi at Nylon Ice Cream. With not much left to do, we watched and were amazed at how locals hop on their motos, go about their business, without killing anyone.

Look at those yummy icy choices!
A rare moment when no one seems to be in the ice cream shoppe. 
Taro and strawberry ice cream

The next morning, we went up to mountain town Pyin Oo Lwin which was a two-hour drive from downtown Mandalay. We were surprised to find that the local national park, National Kandawgyi Gardens, to be a bit of an English garden being run by Singaporeans. There was also an aviary where we had quite an adorable company having our visit coincide with a field trip. We ended the morning with a climb of the watchtower which afforded us a majestic view of the town.

Here's a double-deck pick-up climbing up the mountain. 
The gardens are very reminiscent of the ones in Europe since it was patterned after the Royal Botanical Garden in Kew, southwest London. 

Look how tall these trees are!
Strike a pose!
Peacocks roam freely inside the aviary. 
A young boy with his face smeared with thanaka, the traditional sun block. 
Look how bashful these kids are. 
I love it that this one is not shy at all. 
Steps wrap around the watchtower and affords lovely views as people climb. 
Here's a view of the lake from the watchtower. 
Vandals climb up armed with a white pen. 

A real live black swan!
Cabinets are delivered by motos. 

After lunch and free Wifi, we followed the trails to two waterfalls where the latter, Anisakan falls, warranted a 45-minute trek.

We had to navigate our way down to get there.
The waterfall was so powerful that we were sprayed even when we were meters away.

The path was trying to someone who’s pudgy as me but was a breeze for the swizzle sticks I came with. It certainly earned me a hearty supper, not to mention a drink, which I immediately sought out when we got back. Bumped into hostel mates Sam and Chris when we were just about to step out and thus invited them to join us.  Found ourselves, though, walking across town, looking for a Chinese restaurant The Golden Duck. Evidently, the boys met three Thai ladies during their day tour and were invited to join them for supper.  

Raffy, Cathy, and I left the boys with their dinner dates and had supper at Ko’s kitchen, a Thai restaurant and another lonely planet recommendation. I eventually did have my drink at a roadside beer station but now with new acquaintances from Thailand. We later carried on at Kipling’s, Mandalay Hill Hotel’s bar, when the beer station closed at 11:00 pm.

Beers at a roadside beer station. Photo by Raffy Vicente
16 drunk Austrians trying to get inside this wagon. Photo by Raffy Vicente
Hamming it up with Chris at the Mandalay Hill Hotel. Photo by Raffy Vicente
Savoring our ridiculously over-priced beer at Kipling's. Photo by Raffy Vicente

The next morning, Chris left the airport while Sam and I looked for a massage place. We were directed to a rather dodge one – on top of a beauty parlor with mats covered in stained sheets! Eeek! We walked off the shock admiring old buildings before heading back to the hostel where we lazed away the hours until it was lunch time.

Sam and Simrit on a rickshaw as we headed to Too Too Restaurant for lunch. 
Just one of the many lovely colonial homes in Mandalay. 

Afternoon began with a trek to Mandalay Hill where we enjoyed a 360 degree view of the city and then took a van to Amarapura, to U Bein Bridge, where we waited for the glorious sunset.

The temple on Mandalay Hill glistens at any time of the day, thanks to these tiles. 
Mandalay Hill afforded us a view of Mandalay city and beyond. 

Quite high from what’ve we’ve seen, we headed back to the hostel only to drag Sam to a sidewalk stall for supper. The noodle soup cost Kyat500 and proved to be our most satisfying and cheapest meal yet. After which, we said good bye to Sam and caught our bus back to Yangon.

Farewell supper with Sam at a roadside noodle stall. 
The noodle soup was prepared right in front of us. 
Our most satisfying noodle soup yet. 
Quite happy to be spending the night on board this very comfortable bus!

*Next post: the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura

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