From Bagan we paid 9000 Kyat (£5.60) for a 5 hour minibus to Manadaly, the former capital of Myanmar. We were picked up from our hotel at 12:40 in a tiny open back van and transported across Bagan to our Minibus. The 19 seater bus was full, but not too cramped and set off at 13:00, the only slight problem being the bumpy roads. I’m sure if you travelled up the middle of the country from Yangon the roads would be a lot smoother, but from the small town of Bagan to Mandalay, the road was not in such good condition. The bus took a 20 minute break around half way and pulled up in Mandalay around 17:30. We travelled with the OK Bus Company who gave us free drinking water, a refreshing towel and they dropped each guest off at their specific hostel. This is great as it saves you the trek across town with your big bags from the bus station.
We only spent 2 nights in Mandalay as there isn’t a great deal to do. We spent the morning getting all our documents and forms together for our Indian Visa application for when we are back in Yangon, but i’ll go into that in a later post. We rented a bicycle from our hostel for 24 hours, costing 2000 Kyat (£1.25) and decided to explore the city. We cycled up to the Royal Palace in the north east of the city which turned out to be quite a long way, especially with the crazy traffic. The palace grounds are surrounded by an 8.25km wall and much of the palaces 35 buildings have had to undergo renovation due to the destruction by the Japanese. The main building itself has a 7 tier golden stupa on the roof and is very impressive. Entry is quite expensive, costing 10000 Kyat (£6.25), but its quite nice to cycle round the surrounding grounds inside the wall, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. When you pay you have to leave a deposit of your passport or driving licence. We said we didn’t have our passports with us, and my driving licence is back in England after having to sort out ‘going through a red light’ (it was a lie) 2 days before I left the country. I ended up leaving my diabetes insulin users card, which they took for a valid form of ID, even though they didn’t believe the 15 year old me was me. Let’s just say I didn’t have a 2 month beard back then. You then have to leave via the same way in order to pick up your ID. If you leave through the tourist gate and head towards Mandalay Hill you will come across the Kuthodaw Paya Golden Temple surrounded by a magnitude of white stupas. This is free to enter and really is a lovely sight, well worth a visit. You can then head up Mandalay Hill, the city takes its name from the hill, which has temples and pagodas along the 700 or so steps to the summit, where you can get views of the whole city. We decided not to climb to the summit as it was getting late and we wanted to be at Taungthaman Lake to see the longest teak wood bridge in the world at sunset. We originally planned to cycle there, but after cycling around 15 miles already we didn’t fancy the extra 10 miles each way. We dropped our bikes back at the hostel and caught a taxi for 5000 Kyat (£3.10) per person for a return trip. We arrived at 16:45, jumped on a boat for another 5000 Kyat per person and were rowed out to the centre of the lake. I would definitely recommend this over walking half way on the bridge, which stretches 1.2km, as you can get some lovely photos of the bridge and the local fisherman as the sun sets, the sky exploding with orange, red and yellow. We arrived back on land at 17:40, where our taxi was waiting for us in the car park, departing at 17:45 taking us back to our hostel. Don’t pay the taxi driver until you get back to your hostel, or he might not wait for you!
The following morning we caught a minibus to Inle Lake costing 12000 Kyat (£7.50). The bus was due to depart at 09:30, but we were picked up from our hostel at 08:50, arriving at Nyaung Shwezigon the town by Inle at 16:00. We were then thrown in the back of a Tuk Tuk and arrived at our hostel, in Inle at 16:30. The whole journey was incredibly bumpy and took a lot longer than I expected, however the snaking road up through the mountains near the end provides you with some stunning views.
I would love to tell you I had a great 3 days at Inle Lake, but unfortunately I was ill for the first 2 days. The only information I can provide you is from Holly’s experience. Six Imodiums later I did however manage to find a nice French Cafe, with a niceish toilet and plain food so my experience wasn’t all that bad. It was the first time I had been ill in 5 months, so personally I felt like I had done quite well, it was bound to happen at some point. Holly took one of the free bicycles from the hostel and took off on a 3 hour loop of the lake. First off she stopped at a vineyard for some wine tasting. She then continued down to the lake, paid 7000 Kyat (£4.40) for a boat ride across the lake, with her bike on the boat, sailing past some floating villages and seeing the local fisherman doing their thing. Once back on dry land she followed the lake back round to Inle, before coming to find me in my French Cafe, I’m very predictable! I may of been ill, but at least I wasn’t as sunburnt as Holly! Without me there she forgot to take suncream with her, and ended up looking like Rudolph, just 35 days too early. On the third day, before our night bus back to Yangon, I did manage to make it to the Vineyard for some wine tasting, I couldn’t miss out on that. It was a nice cycle ride up to the vineyard, where you pay 5000 Kyat (£3.10) to try two reds and two whites, with some cheese and crackers. The views of the surrounding mountains and the lake are stunning, its just a shame I couldn’t make it on the full loop.