Travel to Mandalay – Land of Pagoda’s

Travel to Mandalay – land of Pagoda’s, color and exquisite beauty…

This city located on the banks of the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River is the economic and religious center of upper Myanmar.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

Travel to Mandalay: by bus

As we travel to Mandalay we are on a bus with a group of crazy college student returning to Mandalay for school.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

They have speakers blaring music and we join them for a dance party. The driver doesn’t even care that 30+ people are breakin’ it down in the isles at the back of his bus as we travel to Mandalay! (:

Our bus winds up and down mountains and I long for daylight to see the view, which I am sure, must be spectacular.

Travel to Mandalay: the journey’s end

We arrive in Mandalay at about 4am.

The streets still dusky with the damp of the night are a-wash with rich-burgundy, plum-purple and deep-orange clad, monks swinging their black pots; bare-feet lining up to receive food from their faithful followers.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

Where to Stay in Mandalay

After some searching we find the Garden Hotel No. 174, 83rd St. bet: 24th & 25th St. Mandalay. 02-31884, 66584, 65707, 22733 gardenhotelmdy@gmail.com: Rather plain but the staff is pleasantly friendly and the rooms, four floor up, are cheap ($11/dbl w/breakfast) and descent.

We eat a delicious Myanmar breakfast of flat bread and chickpeas and then head out by tuk-tuk to see the town.

Our tuktuk (‘auto-rickshaw’ or small taxi) driver first takes us to MahaMuNi Pagoda – big gold Buddha coated by many layers of gold paper –

-(only men are allowed to touch/apply gold paper to Buddha’s).

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tipsThen we go to see a massive feeding hall where hundreds of monks sit in silent, red rows eating their lunch – monks are not allowed to eat after 12pm.
travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips


travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

While there, we are approached by a monk inquiring after the meaning of “silly-billy” – he had heard it in a movie.

This monk is an unconventional monk with liberal views-

– he admitted to sometimes eating after 12pm, and shook my hand – monks are not allowed to touch woman.

His dream is to be a great monk!

We talk to him for about an hour.

View of Pagodas +Temples

Next we head to the outskirts of town.  If you travel to Mandalay, I highly recommend getting a great view from the Mandalay Hill.

Crossing the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River gives us a spectacular view of Mandalay Hill – cluster of hills really – studded with spiny Pagoda of every shape and size.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

We climb one of many, stone staircases that link together the pagodas and temples of the Mandalay hilltops. Our staircase winds us up through thick forest enveloped by the cool fog of the day.

Reaching the top of the hill we are rewarded with stunning views of the river valley.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tipsThe Island of Innwa (Ava) Temples

We then take a boat across the fast flowing Myittha River to an island where we visit the temples of Innwa.

The only way to get around the island is by horse and buggy.

-quite pricey but it is the only way that the residence of the island make any money from visitors

-the rest of the money goes straight to the governments pocket.

Swimming Across the Flooded Myittha River

On the way back my longing for my jungle days got the better of me and I decide – much to the horror of everyone – to swim back across the Myittha River, rather than take the boat.

It is rainy season and the river is flowing madly with all kinds of logs and debris from the flooding upstream. I am not sure what possesses me…

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tipsI know I am a strong swimmer and I grew up in fast flowing jungle rivers – but is has been a while since I have swam and I have never swum across a river quite this big nor flowing quite this fast.

But my urge and comments of “whatever you are not really going to do it” drive me, skirt and all, into the water.

I say I am just testing the current but before I know it I am swimming – I set out strong heading at an angle up stream so as to over come the current and reach my destination on the other side.

Half way in my mind begins to freak out but I calm myself down – it is too late to turn back and I know that if I just keep my cool I will be fine.

The first three fourths of the swim are uneventful but as I near the other side I failed to remember that my destination is on a slight bend in the river.

The water hitting the bend is then repelled quite forcefully back to the center of the river. My swim is suddenly met with great resistance as the water rushing around the bend begins to force me back to the middle of the river.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips
I increase my power and stride trying to keep my cool – I see my destination right in front of me but the water is pushing back hard.

Finally I beat the outward forces and reach the eddie – backflowing current where the water is buffered by the bend – and am able to swim in the rest of the way.

Miraculously I even hit my destination.

I am shocked at how tired I am and have to wait a few minutes before I can pull myself out of the water.

There are astonished cheers all around and I am for the moment exhilarated by my accomplishment.

It is not until the next day, when on the boat to Bagan from Mandalay, that we pass the river I had swum across and to my horror I realized that directly down stream from where I swam across, the Myittha River flows into the Ayeyarwaddy River…

If I had not overcome that current I would have been immediately swept into the powerful mixing of two great rivers! Where do I get my crazy urges???

U Pein Bridge crossing the Taungthaman Lake

Wet skirt and all we then load back into our tuktuk and head to U Pein Bridge for sunset.

If you travel to Mandalay, be sure to visit the U Pein Bridge. This 1.2 km (3/4 mile long) footbridge is the longest wood teak bridge in the world and spans the shallow, lily padded Taungthaman Lake. It has withstood storms and floods for over 200 year and is pridefully respected by the citizens of Mandalay.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tipsEvery evening (and morning) the monks walk the bridge in search of peace and exercise.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips

We meet our friendly, liberal monk from the morning and once again sit and talked with him and his friend as the sun sets over the calm waters of the Taungthaman Lake and the moon rises out of the same – what a beautiful city!

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tips
Fearful that our tuktuk driver will be angry with us for taking so long, we walk back along the bridge.

We begin the ride home in the dark but along the way we pass a commotion and our driver stops to let us take a look.

travel to Mandalay, mandalay pagoda, visit Mandalay, mandalay Myanmar, myanmar travel tipsIt is a greased pole and, with amusement, we watch many young men try to climb the pole to the money reward at the top.

We end our perfect day with a delicious dinner of Indian influence Myanmar food at an outdoor restaurant just down the street from Garden Hotel – delicious!!!


Travel to Mandalay – Land of Pagoda’s RELATED LINKS:

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Travel to Mandalay – Land of Pagoda’s was a beautiful part of Myanmar and I enjoyed the cultural diversity.

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