After Inle, our next destination was the city of Mandalay, the second largest city in the country after Yangon. Again, once we hit the road there were plenty more farms, markets, monasteries, and temples to see along the way.
The most impressive sight, though, would have to be the Kekku Pagodas. This location consists of thousands of pagodas, believed to have been built in the 16th century, clustered together creating a peaceful, mysterious attraction. I loved the way bells would ring in the breeze at the top of every stupa, they were a lot of fun to walk around and get lost in.
There was plenty to see in Mandalay once we arrived, including workshops. My favorite was one that belonged to woodcarvers, their shop was filled with tons of traditional Burmese marionettes, called yoke the.
Aside from the workshops and markets, one of the most popular attractions in Mandalay is the U Bein Bridge. It is known as the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in existence. Built in 1850, the bridge still stands strong as it was completely covered in tourists and souvenir vendors.
This made it a little difficult to get the perfect photo, but we stuck around long enough for the shot Fabes was after.
You can even rent a boat paddled by a local to the middle of the lake to watch the sunset, like we did with all these tourists.
Speaking of boats, let’s talk about our first Valentine’s Day together! We were able to rent a private boat for a two hour cruise for under $30.
The boat took us to the Mingun ruins, which I enjoyed much more than any other temple. We still had to take our shoes off to climb around on the Mingun Pahtodawgyi and ascend a really steep, brick staircase to get to the top… But it was worth it.
The temple that it could have been, would have been the largest in the world, but King Bodawpaya put a stop to its construction after an astrologer foresaw the death of the king at its completion. The partial remains are pretty cool looking, especially with its giant cracks from an earthquake in 1839.
This was one of my favorite days in Myanmar, the boat ride was really nice… Even hopping from boat to boat to get to the one we rented was fun…
But the area we caught the boat at was a little depressing… The shoreline was covered in trash and there were groups of very small children begging for money. Hopefully the amounts of tourists pouring into the country now will do some good for these families.
While the ruins did provide us with a great view, to see even more of the city we made a trip to the top of Mandalay Hill.
On our way out of Mandalay there was still a lot of stops to make, one that was a little too popular for us was the Mahagandayon Monastery.
For some reason hundreds of tourists come to this location to watch all the local monks line up for lunch, while it is a lovely sight… It was very strange to see the monks surrounded by all these white people taking their pictures.
I hate to be so blunt about it, but it almost felt like a zoo, and the monks didn’t seem too happy about all the lenses in their faces. Needless to say, we didn’t stay here long.
Right around the corner though, we did find something even more interesting. We were distracted by some bright colors shining in the sunlight and when we got close enough we realized it was a woman sorting through little bits of plastic… Like TONS and she was working ALONE! We don’t really know anything about it, we couldn’t really ask since she didn’t speak English, but it was one of those astonishing moments. I recommend searching this lady out instead of stopping at the monastery previously mentioned.
It was a long walk to the top, especially without shoes… But the scale of these statues is so impressive it’s something you have to experience.
Another great temple was one inhabited by little monkeys, called Grottes de Po Win Duang.
Locals will try and sell you monkey food to feed them, but we decided to keep our distance. This location is also in ruins which I liked and includes some pretty notable caves.
Now to end this extensive article with my favorite moment of our Mandalay adventure. That was when we stumbled upon a parade coming down the street, and followed the celebration into a small village to see what was happening.
Turns out when a boy turns ten in Burma, he becomes a man… which is accompanied by a huge party, a lot like a Bar mitzvah in Judaism.
The family celebrating was very kind and welcoming to us and the children were so cute and amazed that they followed us around the entire time. It was definitely a highlight of our Myanmar experience.
Now that you’ve read about 1,000 words I’ll give your eyes a rest and end this article by saying the people of Mandalay know how to party.