Saga Asia | Mandalay, the ancient capital of Myanmar
This is a quick tour of Mandalay in a day and a half stay. We wanted to chase the sun, but ended up chasing turquoise waters and, once again, temples.
We arrived in Mandalay overnight after almost 7 hours of travel from Inle Lake. We settled in, reported with the family and had a drink at the hostel bar. While planning the next day, we ran into a Canadian friend we met in Bagan and we met Amelia, I no longer remember where she was from. She practiced yoga and made friends very easily. We decided that the next day we would get up early to go to Dee Doke, hike to some “hidden” waterfalls guided by a person who used to be a monk, some Romanian friends had told us about him and we were lucky enough to find him driving the van the next day.
The trip lasted about an hour and then the uphill walk to reach these blue waters was worth it when you we finally got down through lush green plants and discover these semi-natural pools.
We spent the day there, and our guide / ex-monk told us about the hardships of monk life, and also about the custom of becoming one rather than doing so by vocation. He came out of that life, but he carries with him the learning of a life without attachments, a life in peace: it shows in how he talks, how he enjoys and how he observes.
The next day Yousef picked us up very early, we met him the night before outside a restaurant where he showed up with his tuk-tuk and a book of recommendations written by people from all over the world. The tour started with a breakfast on him at one of his favorite stands. And we went to the U Bein bridge that runs 1.2km into Taungthaman Lake. It is a teak wood bridge built in 1850, believed to be the oldest of this material (and once the longest) in the world. We enjoyed the view, clouded by soaring pollution, but still, mesmerizing. The length of the bridge, its material, the people walking through it… it was a walk of peace.
We visited different temples and stopped at one that finally brought us back to the sexist land of Myanmar. A white pagoda, not the famous temple but its white marveled us as we passed through its street. We wanted to walk through it, climb it, explore it. Until we came across the sign “no ladies allowed” and it took away the pleasure of appreciating such a clean white but with such a dirty message (I apologized for that half cliché phrase). We did not leave immediately. We continued to observe it from afar, I was still perplexed by this prohibition, chauvinism had never been so irrational to me, nor so present and so current, without it coming from another person, but from a monument. I left with some indignation that I decided to let go because we did not have many hours left and I wanted to see something that exceeded that moment.
And we did. We went to the Mandalay mountain, which we went up on a motorcycle and we found the Sutaungpyei pagoda, which means “wish fulfilled.” Its decoration is mirrored mosaics, its strong colors, and it has a privileged view from the top of the mountain, at 240 meters. Each one of them explored it on their own, we walked it several times, as if enjoying the last monument of a country that surprised us, and we liked it despite so much.
We finally managed to see the sunset, even if it was at the airport. We said goodbye to the Myanmar sun to go see what the Thai sun was like.