Mandalay is very similar to Yangon, with a difference that it feels less crampt. It’s still hectic, and the humid heat is stifling. The pavements lull you into a false sense of security – massive holes lay in wait for those who don’t pay attention, and believe us when we say you don’t want to fall in them.They seem to lead to the sewer below!
We took a day trip across the Ayeyarwady river, to the town of Mingun. We cycled to the pier, which was only 15 minutes away from our hotel, but it was a bloody scary cycle ride (for me at least, Paul seemed to be enjoying himself – he’s crazy). The traffic is just as conjested as Yangon, and i don’t think there are many rules here. I had huge trucks taking me over within centremetres of my bike, i’m not exaggerating! Then the exhaust lets out black fumes in my face, it was not pleasant! We ended up attempting to cycle through a very busy market which really wasn’t vechicle friendly either, and i nearly collided with a man carrying his own body weight of onions.
We thankfully made it in one peice to the pier with minutes to spare before the boat left.
The riverbank was packed with people and boats, and i saw many people bathing in the brown water, as well as doing their laundry. How lucky we are to have clean water to wash in.
The hour journey across the Ayeyarwady river was pleasant – a nice change of scenery compared to traffic noises and fumes.
The main attraction at Mingun is the world’s ‘largest pile of bricks’ (apparently).
The story is King Bodawpaya started to build Myanmar’s largest pagoda in Mingun, but unfortunately he didn’t budget properly so the whole project disintegrated. What a mistake to make! So the bricks have just stayed here, and even survived an earthquake (you can clearly see a huge crack down the middle).
We climbed up to the top, and enjoyed a brilliant view of the surroundings.
There were also a pair of ‘lions’, also built by the King, unfortunately these guys had also been damaged by the earthquake, but they make for an interesting ruin.
We continued exploring Mingun, coming across the very beautiful Hsinbyume temple .
At the top there was a statue of the Buddha, and interestingly people were hanging Jasmine flower necklaces on the statue, which we’d not seen before. Jasmine and incense make for an exotic aroma.
After a leisurely boat trip back to the pier, we set off again to brave the Mandalay traffic back to our hotel.
That evening i must mention a very weird/hilarious encounter we had with a local man. He was sitting on his plastic stool watching the world go by when we walked past him, and he called us over. We had the usual questions of ‘where are you from’, ‘what are your names’? Then he came out with ‘i like men, i am gay’. Ok, didn’t expect that one! He then pointed at Paul and said how handsome he was, and indicated his chest and said he could tell he was in good shape (bare in mind this guy looks around 50 years old). He shook Paul’s hand a few times (Paul tells me he was tickling his palm when he did this). He asked how much for the night, haha!
We politely tried to extract ourselves from the conversation, at this point he wanted a kiss from Paul, who politely declined. Then suddenly, he moved like a ninja and tweaked Paul’s privates! Oh my God i was laughing so much, poor Paul looked in shock. I’m chuckling now just writing this!
Anyway, don’t worry, i kept Paul safe from his Burmese admirer!