February 4-7, 2018
Our driver with Stray Asia picked us up at 8:30 am on the dot and we soon found out why it would take 7 hours to drive to Mandalay from Inle Lake (See previous post). Traffic is fun with such an assortment of vehicles sharing the rough roads. Tuk tuks, electric cars, vans, buses, horse and buggies, motorcycles and even transport trucks all use their horns to communicate intentions. It’s interesting!
I thought I could spend the time editing photos but the drive through the mountains was beautiful with ever changing scenery and so much going on. That and the winding roads that switchback and forth up and down and around the mountains made anything BUT looking out the window impossible. We passed teak farms and villages still using elephants for work as well.
A flat tire held us up for an hour or so and I used the time to stretch my legs, walk a bit and watch the locals. On one side of the road some appeared to be fishing. Farther along a man was digging about preparing a field for something. Two young men were gathering watercress which they said was for the pig. We watched them load two large, dripping bags and bungy them on the motorbike then climb on themselves.
A man fell off his motorcycle and several folks stopped to help. Another young man drove our driver back with the repaired tire plus the spare….all on his motorbike. It’s amazing what they can fit on a bike in Myanmar! One woman was talking on a cell phone while holding a baby and driving the bike. Often there are entire families on a motorbike or a couple with loads of produce either on their way to or from the market. Women rarely straddle the bike but ride on the side. Scary!!
One day was spent touring Mandalay with our guide San and a private driver. We covered a lot of ground in one day! More pagodas, the world’s largest book and many other sites. We finished the day at the U Bein bridge, (which is the longest and oldest at over 350 years teak bridge in the world), and walked the whole thing. Many locals were also walking. One young monk approached me and asked if we could talk so he could practice English. Later a couple other young men asked the same thing. They asked me questions and I did my best to help them. It’s kind of nice to be able to help out a bit in little ways.
We said good bye to San, who was our guide for the past 10 days with our Stray Asia tour. She really is a fantastic guide and we all wished the best for her.
The next day we said goodbye to Ida and 3 of us headed off with a our tax for the day for a visit to Pyin Oo Lwin, a town about a 2 hour drive from Mandalay. There we visited another pagoda, a waterfall, a colonial house and Catholic church. The town is very different and there are several colonial homes, leftovers from the times when Myanmar was a British colony. The Botanical gardens were really nice and different from any other I’d visited. It’s a lake surrounded by various gardens, some what we’d called beds of annuals. The orchid gardens were nice and the butterfly museum interesting. I was disappointed to find not a single lotus.
We said good bye to Lena after a nice dinner at the noodle place down the road and had an early night.
The next day we loafed about, enjoying a leisurely breakfast before packing and checking out. We visited the market which is like a huge, disorganized, crazy shopping mall. I decided to wear my longyi since it’s likely the last time. I felt people laughing at me and assumed they were saying “look at that crazy white lady thinking she can blend in just by wearing a longyi!” I came upon one group of ladies who pointed at my skirt. I stopped and asked “Is it wrong?” while pointing at my longyi. One lady stood up, undid my skirt and totally rearranged it for me. Yep, I was wearing it wrong. I’d done it up on the wrong side. I said “tersuba (thankyou)”, we all chuckled together and we left, now confident that I was properly dressed. From the then on the looks and comments I got seemed encouraging, like they were happy I’d chosen to try to look Burmese. Some even pointed and said “beautiful”. We got big smiles when we greeted folks with “Mingalabar (hello)” and everyone was friendly, some even encouraging their children to say hello. One even blew me a kiss!
Although we got totally lost it was easy to find our way back as the streets are numbered.