We arrived on an evening flight, so after collection were taken to the Dingar Hotel in the city centre, once the capital of Burma and now a sprawling, booming metropolis of 2 million. If we thought traffic Yangon traffic crazy, Mandalay topped it!
Mandalay is built on a flood plain, with the Irrawaddy flowing close by. The Shan hills are on the eastern side of the plain, with the Sagaing mountains to the west of the Irrawaddy. During the rainy season the Irrawaddy floods the plains, making it very fertile for growing water melons, honey dew melons, ground nuts and maize during the dry season. The difference in water level can be up to 30 metres!
The next morning we were met by our guide, WannaSoe, who turned out to be excellent and a fountain of accurate knowledge, which was very refreshing! We set off to Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery to watch hundreds of monks queuing up to collect their lunch and snacks for the day, before returning to their rooms. This was our first experience of a monastery on this scale.
On the itinerary were the ancient cities of Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing – all a revelation!
We finished off the day with a visit to the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge at 1.2km built 200 years ago. After walking across it we were then picked up by a small wooden boat and rowed under the bridge and back to watch the sunset – impressive and atmospheric!
The next day we were taken to the banks of the Irrawaddy and boarded a very comfortable motor boat to visit the pagodas at Mingun.
Handicrafts and sunscreen!
In the afternoon we were given the opportunity of seeing the rest of the sites in Mandalay ending the day with a meal out on our own and an entertaining marionette performance at the local puppet theatre.
On our final morning we were picked up and taken south to the Irrawaddy to join the boutique cruise boat, RV Paukan, for the overnight trip down the Irrawaddy to the city of Bagan. What luxury, which exceeded expectation by far! We could have stayed on for another day or so. An upper deck cabin with aircon, ensuite bathroom and shower, sliding doors and wooden blinds looking out to the river. A lounge or saloon for all guests; dining room serving delicious food and a selection of wines including a Myanmar red (!); top deck sun loungers and bar, and a cinema room where the film ‘The Lady’ was screened; about Aung San Suu Kyi, depicting the political scene, her house arrest and release. Well worth watching.
For those interested, the following BBC reports provides more useful up to date information. What is so tragic is that the government appears determined to remain in unelected power whatever happens, and in the meantime Myanmar and its people are denied basic human rights, and the ability to bring the country forward into the 21st century.