Things to do in Mandalay got me a bit stuck, I couldn’t think of anything. I do remember though that the absolute first thing you should do, is cruise down the road to Mandalay, which turns out to be a River. Then I opened my diary for a refresh and I was glowing! So, for something a little different I thought I’d share you some things to do in Mandalay by posting a segment from my travel diary slightly edited that showcases my enamoured feelings for Mandalay and a list of the places I could trace back to below!
Mandalay, Mandaly, you are far more like Ho Chi Minh City than all the other cities – bikes, motos and unfortunately a bit of rubbish, but there is so much to do! I don’t think we scratched the tourist surface.
We arrived at around 5pm, the hotel was way groser than the others and I had a smoking room (a very recently smoked in, smoking room). Lin (our guide) suggested a rooftop bar for sunset and we arrived just in time for happy hour!
Happy hour here is brilliant, turns out you just get free drinks! We had a welcome cocktail of “whiskey sour” and they refill if you order entrees. A $4 bowl of chips between us led to three cocktails each!
Following this we went to every traveller’s best friend (and e-colis too) an all you can eat buffet! It was $5 for the buffet and a beer (I know, I’m drinking beer here too!) I’m not going to lie, I noticed at this point I chose mainly fried options. Fried pork belly, fried mushrooms, fried fish. I didn’t really love the veggies, but I got some spinach and sautéed morning glory. There was also a pretty glorious dark pork curry – all very rich.
They moved our hotel room while we were out to a slightly less smokey one.
Next morning I tried to eat as plainly as possible at the Lackluster breakfast buffet, but even the eggs were deep fried and the bread here is super sweet!
No one seemed to be thrilled by it so Lin took us to a traditional Mandalay Tea House. It was so exciting. As a part of this tour we often go to very western places so it was nice to be somewhere truly local. I thought we were just getting tea (which I don’t love because it’s nearly all evaporated milk, but Lin had ordered ‘tea snacks’… there were chick pea savoury doughnuts with tamarind sauce, samosas, doughnuts that I think were called two arm doughnut for tea dunking, and naan bread with chickpeas. I was in heaven! But so full.
Lin said we could go to another teashop for lunch as they had “small portions” we then headed off on our Mandalay day tour (this was not included but Lin offered to organise a local truck to make it an affordable trip).
First stop was Old Mandalay wall/ moat and the palace.
Mandalay has the biggest military presence so far and they have a base behind the old city walls. The palace is a replica because the original was destroyed in WWII but like all of Myanmar the place is gilded to the hilt! The grounds are quite large but much like in the forbidden city it’s hard to imagine much life there.
Next we went to the Kings residence which is now a monastery. After King Mindon (founder of Mandalay) died he left no heir and one of his Queens called a Royal meeting where she killed most living heirs and relatives. Lin explained as a result of this the next King (the one that the Queen chose) believed his father’s residence to be haunted. He donated it to a monastery and it totally survived all the wars! It was a masterpiece. Everything is beautifully and intricately carved on teak and the inside is believed to have been all gilded in gold (naturally).
I picked up a sweet little razor and ink painting on the way out, probs the most touristy souvenir, but hey it was $1 and I saw him paint it!
Next we headed to a gold leaf factory, which I kind of didn’t get but it was interesting. Everything is still so manual here, it’s kind of nice. People work hard. Anyway here I encountered my first squat since the airport. I totally suck – splashed everywhere! Do you flush, who knows?
Our next stop was a Temple were “Bhudda is obese with gold leaf” Apparently it was some wacky tradition to buy your own gold and place it on Buddha. This was one of the statues of Buddha believe to be alive so:
- You can’t touch his face with gold leaf (they have a ceremony at 4 am everyday washing his face and brushing his teeth); and
- Women are not allowed to go close to Buddha as not to tempt him (typical).
One of the group was starting to feel sick but we squeezed in one more stop that was amazing. It was the street they make heaps of the Bhudda images out of marble (sorry I have no idea how to spell it [it being Buddha})
It was so cool! They had all these headless Buddha’s. Oh shit, I just got blue ink on my fluffy white robe.
Then I ran away and this is the rest of my comments on Mandalay
- Went to local teahouse for lunch and discovered Mohinga and Ona Kawswe are breakfast food. Had delish dry noodle chicken curry
- Went to Mt Mandalay for sunset – students practised English with us
- Went to crap Chinese for dinner
I also completely forgot that I went to the world’s largest book – see below. It’s a gorgeous temple that has each page of Buddha’s teachings encased in each little temple.