Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Road to Mandalay and on to Bagan by boat

April 4

On March 31 we took the road to Mandalay by plane this time. We have walked around the streets, everyday feeling more comfortable with the place. It is very hot, dry and dusty, with a heavy smog enveloping the city as the day goes by. The sun is a burning ball of fire just before sunset . The land here is very flat.  Mandalay Hill seems to pop up out of nowhere. We climbed the 760 steps, barefoot, to reach the top. We were alone on the walk up but at the summit, there were hundreds of other tourists, mainly from Asia, who took the bus up!
At the top of Mandalay Hill there is a large pagoda. It is said that Buddha climbed up the hill thousands of years ago and predicted that a great city would be built here. Many years later, with the royal city established in nearby Amarapura, King Mindon decided to move the palace to Mandalay where it stood until it was destroyed during WW11. By then, the British had already begun to unravel what was the existing Burma and removed King Thibow, the last king of Mandalay, to India, taking  the palace as their headquarters.
The history is fascinating and as we walked through the mainly empty palace, we could almost feel the ghosts.
Food here is very different…curries are delicious but more oily with less spices so a little easier  for Western palates. Our best meal was one with our driver in Pyin Oo Lwin, a former hill station where the British moved their administrative offices from Mandalay during the hot months. Here we ate  delicious Myanmar cuisine, washed down with good beer which is about the best thing to drink here other than bottled water.
Pierre has already had one bad experience with spicey food  on the streets in Bangkok…..he who loves really spicey food, hit something so firey that it burnt his lower lip. He had a huge blue lesion over an already sensitive area that his dermatologist  has been watching. For the last few days he has walked around with a fat lip covered with white sun screen. What a sight!

                                       Life on the Irawaddy, scene from the ferry to Bagan

Yesterday, the boat from Mandalay to Bagan took 11 hours…it gave us  an opportunity to observe life on the river banks of the Irwaddy River that flows from the north down to Yangon. This is a major transportation road for wood, stone and other goods.  There are people living on the banks of the river, some in little huts, some in tents, with no access to water or electricity. This area was detroyed during the 2008 hurricane Nargis.

                                                     Boat on the Irawaddy River

What a relief for us to arrive in Bagan, surrounded by thousands of pagodas built in the 11th and12th centuries, and be able to cool off in the hotel pool. On the boat there were tourists from France and Germany. There are few Canadians visiting here. When local people ask where we are from and we say we are Canadian, they invariably fist pump the air. Canada seems to be a place people have heard about .

                                                     The slow boat from Mandalay to Bagan

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