A Real Gentleman Will Never Tell You What He Wears Under His Longyi

Today was a bit of a quieter day, which was a nice way to end our time here in Mandalay. I think its due to the fact that I was feeling a little nauseous AND we pretty much ran out of things to do here in Mandalay.

We got a little bit of a late start to the day as the weather forecast (and my stomach) put a bit of a damper on things. I rallied about noon and we grabbed a cab to take us to Maha Muni temple (yes, another Buddha statue) and the U Bein bridge (we were originally supposed to go later in the day, but alas the weather forecast didn’t like that).

We hired a driver to take us to those two places, but he was amazing and ended up showing us a few other places along the way. We headed to Maha Muni temple first as it was closest to the hotel. It is the second holiest site in the country after Shwedagon in Yangon. What I found to be fascinating at this particular temple is that the men (sorry ladies you aren’t allowed) will walk up to the statue and put gold leaf on it. It looks like this has been a tradition for some time as the statue of Buddha is now sort of an amorphous blob – with a VERY shiny face (it is the only part of the statue that is polished, which happens every morning at 4am by a team of special monks). It was interesting too as I didn’t wear pants to most of the temples in Bagan and no one said boo – but here I was forced to put a Longyi (think a longer, less cool kilt) on. We did the obligatory tour of the temple and then on our way out stopped to buy a few prayer flags. These will definitely be an amazing addition to the ones I have from Nepal!

On the way to the U Bein Bridge (our next stop), I asked our driver where to get a Longyi. I have no intention of wearing it at home – but the fabrics are amazing and would make a nice blanket at home. Grandma, if you’re reading this – please help me. Our driver ended up taking us to this place called Shwe Sin Tai where we could see the process it takes to make these textiles. I splurged a little and got 2 longyis and Katelyn got a skirt. It was really neat to see how they handmade these garments using an old fashioned loom, which definitely played a part in my overzealous spending (if you can call $30 overzealous).

From there, we headed to the U Bein bridge which is supposedly the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world. It spans about 1.2 km and Katelyn and I walked the entire thing. It wasn’t like anything we have at home as there were small gaps between the planks and the thing definitely wasn’t level! After walking across and back, we had enough walking and headed back to the car. On the way, we were handed free energy drinks as there was a street team giving them out. As soon as I started drinking, a few of the people working the tent pulled out their phones and started snapping pictures of me drinking the energy drink (which didnt work at all). I guess I can expect my modelling fee in the mail anytime now.

Before we headed back to the hotel we stopped in the Gold Pounders district to see how gold leaf was made. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me as I found it incredible to see these hand made. They start out with a larger piece of gold which is cut into six pieces then hammered for a 30 minutes to increase the size. They then readjust the leaves and then are pounded for 5 hours. The pieces are then packed onto straw paper and sold. The rhythmic pounding of the Gold Pounders was almost hypnotic and I zoned out for a few minutes listening to it! There were some amazing works of art that the staff there had made, but alas backpacks are not conducive to carrying things like that around!

We made it back to the hotel and napped for a bit before going to the Sky Cafe at our hotel for dinner. It was incredible to see how flat the city is and even though it was very overcast we could see for a long distance. We both ate the “Myanmar Housewife” set menu which consisted of Green Tomato Salad, Lentil Soup, A traditional Chicken Curry and Fresh Fruit for dessert! It was a great way to cap off our stay in Mandalay.

Alright back to attempting to pack my backpack. No gracias.

Making Friends is Fun and Exciting

So, Katelyn and I finally met some wonderful backpackers and spent an excellent evening with them! Yay for making friends.

We got a little bit of a late start to the day (and missed breakfast..oops!) but decided to head out for a few of the sights around Mandalay today. After we were ready for the day we grabbed a cab and headed for the Golden Palace Monastery. The cab ride was a little suspect as the driver had TV on his GPS and was constantly checking it.  It was so neat to see such intricate carvings made out of wood, and preserved for so many years.

After that we decided to take in the Kuthodaw Pagoda – which some say is the world’s largest book. The pagoda features 723 separate slabs each engraved with separate parts of the story. It begs the question though – is it really a book? Like really. But oh well, it was really neat to see.

After that we had our courage up and decided to head up the Mandalay Hill. It wasn’t a true “hike” per se, as it was stairs the entire way. Lots of pagodas dotted our way to the top – but you can only see so many Buddha images in a day before you get a little tired of it. We didn’t even make it to the top as we got to a point which we thought was the top , but it turns out it wasn’t. Classic Burma. We honestly weren’t too broken up about it as the view from where we ended wasn’t that great.

After we regained our breath (and consciousness) we headed off for lunch at the Green Elephant. I had Aubergine Curry with shrimp as a main and fried Banana with Honey after. Both were absolutely incredible.

After lunch we headed off to meet our compadres at their hostel to head to U Bein bridge for sunset. The taxi that their hostel had suppposedly called was super late and by the time it got there, we were all super hungry and decided to go for dinner and drinks instead. An excellent idea if I do say so myself.

We were planning on heading to Mustache Brothers, but after reading some not so rave reviews we decided to find another bar instead. We tried asking some of the locals for help but to no avail. It seems our conclusion that the city shuts down quite early was correct as we had a super hard time finding another bar to go to.

We ended up randomly stumbling upon another bar where we idly chatted for the next few hours which was great. Katelyn (I know.. so confusing) headed back to the hotel a little early and the rest of us stayed for a bit then went out for noodles after. Honestly, Shan noodles are the best drunk food ever. Sorry poutine. You had your place in my heart for a long time.

After we were done eating, the city was pretty much dead and we decided to head back to our respective hotels/hostels. We had a hard time finding a cab and walked for a bit before a kind doctor stopped and told us he would drive us back. Thank god for him as I don’t know how we would have gotten back.

I’m still a tad tipsy so showering should be fun. Lets pray I don’t fall in the mess that is our shower.

No Caviar in Myanmar

Titus Andromedon would be quite upset by that. But, there are lots of midsized cars, which makes up for it.

(If you don’t understand the joke check this out…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6yttOfIvOw)

We had another early morning today as we were flying from Bagan to Mandalay. We debated taking the bus as it was much cheaper, but we didn’t feel like it was worth it (the fact that it wasn’t the a direct bus was the major factor).

We got into Mandalay at 8:10 am (probably the shortest flight Ive ever been on) and were out of the airport by 8:30. Thank god that flight was so short because my knees were pretty much in my ears the entire time. Oh the joys of Southeast Asia. We decided to save some money and take a shared taxi as it was $20 cheaper than taking a private one. We waited an hour for it to fill up and during that time we planned our few days here.

It took us an hour before we got to the hotel – which has WiFi in the room (it’s the little things that make me happy). We checked in and met the wonderful general manager who told us lots about the city .

As soon as we got to the room we both pulled out our laptops and posted pictures to Facebook (because, duh). We rested for a bit then decided we would head to the Mandalay Royal Palace (a reconstruction of the palace of the last Burmese King ) and then downtown.

The palace itself wasn’t too entertaining. It felt very eerie at times as we were the only ones visiting! After getting inside, I hope that they put my $10 fee towards building some English signs. We saw lots of amazing teak buildings but have no idea what they were. As we were heading out we decided to climb the old guard tower. It was an ok climb until we got to the top – the steps were quite loose and scared me a few times!

On the way downtown we met some other backpackers who invited us to go on a tour of the surrounding area tomorrow – so lets hope that pans out! After answering a few of their questions and then saying our goodbyes we headed off to the post office. It was way more difficult to find than we were expecting. Mandalay is laid out on a grid – but our maps are not the best.

We bought some stamps and were quite hungry. We stopped at a café that had been recommended by Lonely Planet but it missed the mark big time. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. We headed off to the Zow Gyi market, which was a mind blowing experience. It was amazing to see so many locals there (they got a kick out of seeing 2 white people wandering aimlessly through it too) and the goods they were selling were not what we were expecting. We saw TONS of Western brands of makeup and cosmetic products. There were also loads of fabric stalls in pretty much every colour of the rainbow.

On the way back to the hotel, we noticed that there was ANOTHER pagoda quite close and we headed there to check it out. This one was by far the sketchiest as the entrance was between two shops and was a gravel path. We entered the grounds and took a few pictures. But, as soon as I got close to the Stupa a dog started barking at me. I walked back towards Katelyn only to notice that the dog had found some friends and started chasing after us. WE RAN OUT OF THERE (the most running I’ve done since home) and some locals stopped the dogs from getting after us. We immediately deked into a mini mart to grab some snacks and return our heart rates to normal.

After that much adventure we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up for the night. Which is much needed after the day we had!

Alrighty, time to constantly check my phone for notifications.