Stairway to Mandalay

Trip Start Dec 28, 2011
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Trip End Jan 19, 2012


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Where I stayed
ET Hotel

Flag of Myanmar  ,
Saturday, January 7, 2012

ET Hotel Economy Room
My bus arrived at Mandalay bus station in the ungodly hour of 4am. Hopped on a shared pickup for 1000 kyats and delivered myself to downtown Mandalay about 30 mins away. The first guesthouse - Nylon Hotel, I rocked to had no available rooms. Following behind was Annelise from Nyaungshwe and a chinese girl. They too had no luck at the other guesthouse, so I followed their pickup to ET Hotel down the road and managed to check in to the rooftop economy room for US$10 with shared bathroom. It was so small that if you fit 2 single beds, you would not be able to open the door. Small it may be but it was comfortable, not counting the climbing of stairs.

By the time I readied myself for bed, it was already 6am. First the buddhist chanting started via loud speakers echoing through the town, then followed by the mosque morning directly from the next block, so loud that I almost jumped off my bed.

Magical Spring Water
Managed a few winks til 10am before I wandered out for a breakfast of delicious mohinga and myanmar tea. Slowly found my way to the iconic clocktower and snaked my waythrough the morning market before discovering Eindawya Paya. A long walk along Bayintaung Road before I walked through some sort of flower market near the Mingun ferry jetty.

A local motorbike taxi rider convinced me that I should check Mya Kyauk Kyaung featuring a natural spring water well, said to cure the locals of many diseases, so I took up his offer for 3000 kyats. I was wary of the purified spring water at Mya Kyauk Kyaung but I drank a cup anyway. It tasted good and fresh but it was the same cup that everyone used to drink from. I was kind of waiting for stomach to react but surprisingly all was good.

Dropped by at the nearby Atumashi Kyaung but required a US$10 combo ticket for entrance so I skipped it completely. The outside temple looked pretty impressive though. There was another ancient temple housed under a huge pagoda that would require that ticket.

Steps to Mandalay Hill
My last stop which was at Mandalay Hill required me to climb its countless stairs for at least 45 mins before I could reach the top. There were so many immediate stops that looked like the summit but always lurking another gateway up to another level.  This maze-like stair ironically was more interesting than the summit view of the Mandalay town. Alright... the Mandalay views were nice but abit overrated. 

The most amazing feature of the town was the scale of Mandalay Palace behind the gignormous moat. It was reportedly built by forced labour during the 90s, enforced by the Myanmar military, so I decided not to go visit. On the north lies this huge prison complex said to house mostly political prisoners.

The descend down was slow. There were also slums in every posible free space along the stairs. Some families were already starting to prepare dinner over charcoal stoves. The trishaw ride back to downtown was shared with another elderly european traveller. We circumnavigated the northern and western part of the moat and that took almost 45 mins.

Shan Curries & Malls
Just around the corner of ET Hotel, I had some fabulous Shan curries of fish, ox's tongues and tofu with rice. Continued to the night market that largely sells books and bags. I am guessing that Burmese do love their reading. Crossing over to 78th Street, a brilliant live band was churning out some wicked instrumental rock tunes. Just along to 78th Street, suddenly Mandalay turned modern, lining the streets with high rise shopping malls and cafes and mega-supermarkets. For a moment, this felt like just like downtown Bangkok, complete with roaring traffic of noisy vehicles.

The night was cool so I walked my way back to the ET hotel. Just 200 metres north of the hotel, a local dance troupe was dancing out to some tribal music so loud and intense that I had to check it out. Back to my room for an early night but somewhere in downtown there was this super loud stage shows which went on and on with singing and music. As I finished writing this entry, the din continued on past midnight with no signs of ending.
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