Myanmar, Day Nine, Mandalay
We walked for EVER. I’m grinning but we totally did, five and a half hours of almost non stop walking.
We were all at breakfast for once, not such an enthralling affair but fine enough then we grabbed a taxi, a feat in itself as there are hardly any in Mandalay, to the southern gate of the royal palace. Everyone says there is nothing to see inside so we walked around the impressive walls on the outer side of the moat. It’s a huge site with each side about two kilometres long. We veered off at the end of the North Eastern corner searching for a particular temple, wandering down empty wide lanes, the only foreigners in sight. I think all day we probably only saw about five other tourists. The locals, especially the children often enthusiastically wave and say hello, for the most part away from the tourist sites foreigners are still very much a novelty here. We found the temple in the end but they wanted five pounds each to enter each part, erm yeah no thanks, we saw the Shewdagon Pagoda in Yangon which was slightly more impressive so we were all happy to head elsewhere. On the way we passed the temple site housing the worlds largest book which is not a book at all but rather two hundred and seventy nine white Stupas with scripture from Buddha within.
Next we headed to Pan Tha Khin cafe, one of the places Wine Wyne had taken us yesterday and pointed at things until our table was covered in steamed chicken buns, savoury samosas, a sweet pastry turnover, sugary roti and steamed coconut buns. JHubz and I drank six of the tiny cups of delicious sweet tea between us, Trish and Ma settling for the undoubtedly more healthy green tea.
Hunger satisfied we wandered until we found a taxi and negotiated to be taken up Mandalay Hill and then to the Jade Market. Once at the top, shoes stowed in our bags (they charge you if you leave them with them) we were headed barefoot up three levels of extremely dirty escalator to the hill top temple. Fifty pence entrance fee paid and we were enjoying the spectacular views across all of Mandalay, which is as flat as a pancake except for this hill. It’s a pretty peaceful place and I could see myself spending a few hours sitting reading a book, looking up to admire the view every chapter or two. By the time we’d descended via the neighbouring temple our feet were black, pretty gross, especially as everyone seems to spit everywhere.
In all of the taxi price negotiations no one had mentioned that the Jade Market was not open on Sundays and we only discovered this after our driver had left us pretty much in the middle of nowhere and driven off. There were a few hugely overpriced Jade shops outside the market that we briefly looked at before looking around for a taxi. Not a one in site so we figured out the hotel was only a thirty minute walk away and off we went. Almost immediately we passed a workshop with large boulders of Jade, marked out with the outlines of up to a dozen bracelets. Some large boulders only had one bracelet outlined, the stone too covered in fault lines for any more to be safely cut. None of us had ever seen Jade like this so it was well worth the trip.
By the time we got back we were all pretty filthy and exhausted, it really is a very dusty city. Feet washed, naps taken we shared an uneventful meal and played monopoly deal cards in the hotel restaurant until the nightly puppet show started at its usual ear splitting volume at which point we decamped to the foyer for another hours playing then headed our separate ways for bed.
We have a whole day of touring planned for tomorrow and a very early start the day after that, ooh er eek!
Today would have been my Pa’s birthday, it is our first without him, although he was with us today as he is every day. He’s one of the inspirations for this adventure. Always remember how precious you are, how precious life is. You may as well love as many moments as you can, no one knows how many we get Xx