Mandalay Introduction to Myanmar

The first thing that hit me as I walked out of the airport were taxi drivers wearing a longyi. Occasionally I’ll see a young man wearing blue jeans, but it’s seldom. Women wear them too, but I’m used to women in a skirt!

The next thing I noticed was getting into the taxi from the airport.

Okay, ‘right-hand’ drive car wasn’t surprisingly as Thailand drove on the ‘wrong side’. But then he started driving down the ‘right-hand’ side of the road.

I was totally confused and my driver spoke no English. But I eventually found out they import used cars from Japan after they fail their road-worthy test. There is a new law that will stop that. It did make me nervous when I had a better view of my oncoming traffic death…

The next thing was betel. The first morning I headed out to explore the market close to my hotel. There was a whole lane of beautifully arranged leaves in baskets.

Curious, I did my pantamine of asking a young fellow what they were. He folded a few pieces of dried betel nut in a leaf and mimed putting it in his mouth. Then he gave a me huge smile, which was full of bright red teeth!

Of course it is as disgusting as snuff, and the bright red spit is everywhere. I’m careful walking by truck windows!

There are carts that make up the bundles with lime to make it taste better.

Another new thing was ‘Thanaka’, a compound of ground bark that (usually) women wear on their faces. Tradition, cosmetic, decorative, sun screen…

There is also new food which is lots of fun!

With traditional Burmese food you pick a curry and it comes with bottomless side dishes – rice, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, tea leaf salad, tomato curry, and two soups each.

Shan noodles, quite sticky with broth on the side

Bough se – chicken and something green dumplings with chilli oil and ginger

There was also a woman I could see from my hotel. She was there early in the morning and then later. I alway missed her when I wanted something to eat, until the last day! I have no idea what it is called, but it looked like rice flour slurry, an egg, chilies, tomatoes and something green. Delicious!

The second and third days I hired a private taxi with Mr Lin.

It was economical and efficient as the public transit is limited and sites were spread out. I also saw much more than I would have on my own!

Day one we stayed in Mandalay.

Shwe Ibin Monastery

Mahamuni Pagoda is an essential stop for families for their Shinbya. If I understood this correctly, it is a novitation ceremony where boys are offered the opportunity to become novices in a monastery. I’m assuming as they they can be very young, it is symbolic. But the processions and pageantry were incredible!

‘Gold Pounders’ making gold leaf that people put on Buddhas as an offering. One of those jobs that you tell your children about to keep them in a school. But unfortunately in Myanmar that may not be a choice financially.

Mandalay Royal Palace is in the centre of an incredibly large square in the middle of the city, surrounded by a 2 km square moat. It houses a base of the military, which controls the country. They wanted to keep my passport to enter, but since I didn’t have it with me, Mr Lin offered his drivers license as validation we would exit.

Atumashi Pagoda which has a huge ceremonial hall.

Shwenandaw Monastery was called Golden Palace because it was heavily gilded.

Sandamuni Pagoda

Kuthodaw Pagoda

And then a trip up Mandalay Hill for sunset

It was a busy day, but headed out again at 0700 the next morning. It was an hour drive to Mingun.

Mya Thein Tan Pagoda, in the process of being repainted.

Pahtotawgwgi Pagoda, the ‘unfinished pagoda’. It was started in 1790 bit halted when King Bodawpaya died in 1819. Then an earthquake caused major cracks in 1838.

A common tourist stop is to watch the monks eat lunch, but Mr Lin recommended the Nunnery School, and there were only two other people.

We arrived during prayers before lunch, which had beautiful chanting.

Then there was procession, which included removing their shoes, into the dining room.

I hadn’t seen nuns before, but there are many here. This school was for high level Buddhist study, but there are other levels too, including orphanages.

U Min Thonze Caves on Sagaing Hill has 45 Buddha images. Buddha was 35 years old when he became enlightened, and loved 45 years until his death at 80.

Then it was off to the jetty to catch a five minute ferry to Innwa. Not a fan of horse carriages, but kind of missed that in the plans until it was too late.

I did the four major sites spread over a very rural area

Bagaya Kyaung is a 1845 teak monastery

Daw Gyan

Maha Aungmye Bonzan

Tower, which you cannot climb anymore.

Last stop, U -Bein bridge. It is 160 years old, 1.2 km long, curves to,the left, and is the world’s longest teak footbridge. It is busiest at sunset, but I was happy to take some photos and go back to the hotel!

I always love the chaos and colours of the markets.

There was a whole lane of shallots.

So crazy post with so many places, but need to wrap it up. Mr Lin is picking me up at 0600 for my flight to Bagan, and my rule is to post before the next destination.

7 thoughts on “Mandalay Introduction to Myanmar

  1. Leslie, Those photos are spectacular! They make me want to book the next flight out. Loved your beautiful blue traditional outfit. You looked stunning. Happy you are surrounded by wonderful sites, food and new cultural experiences. Enjoy!
    Best, Val


    1. Thanks Val! It is only a short flight from Chiang Mai! It is beautiful and fascinating here! Love seeing new things. You will have to ask your artist friend about the marionettes, but they seem quite well known here.


  2. Hi Leslie Thank you so much for your colorful missives from Asia. How incredibly exotic it all looks. How do you find a taxi driver who will take you for several days? You pay his hotels I assume. A private chauffeur! How nice. I used to work with refugees from Myanmar! But know little about their country. Seems religion is strong there, to the least. How wonderful. I am still in Mexico, in the same little beach town. Going home to winter on Sunday. Hasta luego, Anna


    1. Thanks Anne! It seems pretty common here but very reasonable at US$40-45 a day. They pay all tolls and parking but I was responsible for admissions. So nice to have someone offering cold water and wipe before whisking you off to the next stop! Some people also hire a guide who accompanies them into sites but I just had a driver. I was given a name by another couple I met at the hotel, but Trip Advisor site Viator is a place to look. I’ve also used The tours here didn’t involve overnights so not sure how those work. Yes, very strong Buddhist country.


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