All flight information in Burmese
After 2 days of wandering around in Yangon, I decided to move to Mandalay. The flight went smoothly. But it could have turned out different. The boarding gate displays nothing; when a plane leaves, someone with a sign walks through the hall, with all flight information in Burmese, of course. Even the Burmese do not always get it right. At one point I see thirty people going through the gate, to return to the departure hall 5 minutes later.
The move to Mandalay makes a world of difference
So I left the capital to move to Mandalay, and that makes a world of difference. You could describe Mandalay as more crowded than Yangon; there are a lot more mopeds for example, but the wide lanes (also in a checkerboard pattern like the capital) are still pleasant to walk around. Though I need to mention, the temperature I would describe as extremely hot. It really feels like an endurance test for my western body. I feel forced to stay in my room in the afternoon. Even when I only make a short walk in the street, I start sweating to death.
People are more accustomed to tourists in Mandalay
You notice in all sorts of things the people in Mandalay apparently are more accustomed to tourists. For example, early in the afternoon, during my first exploratory walk, a trishaw cyclist approaches me. He had already seen me arrive at the hotel and proposes to drive me to Mandalay Hill, for a price, that goes without saying. I agree to meet him again late afternoon. His English is very understandable; he is not a too big talker, but he knows what he is talking about, and with a practical mindset.
The Tripitaka encapsulated in pagodas
First, he drives me to the Glass Monastery, where I have to buy a combi-ticket for all the sights in this city. Afterward, we visit a temple complex with the complete Tripitaka. That is the entire Buddhist canon in Sanskrit; every chapter is graved on a stone tablet, and each table is encapsulated by a kind of pagoda. Very impressive to see. At this temple, Cherry, an older English teacher, addresses me; she no longer finds pupils for her tuition and therefore hangs around in this temple to guide tourists.
Enjoy the sunset at Mandalay Hill
Then we visit a temple with a gigantic Buddha of about 15 meters high; the statue is entirely carved out of one solid piece of marble, a very imposing sight. Finally, my driver drops me at the entrance of Mandalay Hill, which in itself is another temple complex, where I climb the steps, to enjoy the sunset. Rather tiring, my driver obviously stays downstairs, he even haggles some extra money for a drink. But the beautiful view upstairs is rewarding.
Too tired to join dinner
At the top, I meet the Scottish couple again with whom I shared a taxi from the airport to the city this morning. They have been staying in Malaysia for 5 years to teach English, and have currently taken a week off. I get invited to join them for dinner tonight, but I’m too tired to walk another kilometer from the hotel to reach the restaurant. So I decide to eat nearby, in an open-air resto, where I order a (too spicy) Thai soup. After dinner, I just return to my room.
Holiday feeling thanks to my move to Mandalay
My move to Mandalay evokes a holiday feeling, the reason why I came here in the first place. I am also very pleased with my hotel room; the price is higher than in Yangon but nicely furnished, spacious, and with windows this time.