|Recent Update: 11/11/12
News of Earthquake
Bus at 8:30am to here by 3.
Good breakfast again before bus picks us up at 8:30 - Bon has a chance to ck internet (free here at Inn Wa but slow). Countryside lots of agriculture but due to considerable flooding the fields are having to be replanted and people are working on the road (single lane +, and rough) which appears to have been washed out quite a bit. Even before the flooding it is evident work was being done to improve it - see photos. I see lots of Burmese doing a lot of smiling/laughing/joking among themselves even with conditions as bad as they appear. If you smile they inevitably smile back, not so in many other places we've been...perhaps a sign of greater optimism for their future.
Bus station is 7+ km out so we must pay a taxi 6500 c to get in to Royal G.H. - LP recommended pick. A decent room, no TV, internet, and folks aren't as helpful as in
Bagan Inn Wa but room is bright with AC & fan, shower (cold), and breakfast plus a buck cheaper.
We walk around the area - pretty run down market area, trashed, smelly. We ended at Maria Min Vegetarian Restaurant - LP recommended, very good reasonably priced food. The best lassi I've had the entire trip and dhal rice and steamed veggies really hit the spot. Internet just down the street from Royal was good as well, though slow. Tried to upload photos but took way too long. Trying to figure out how to see the sights around Mandalay - bike rental okay but further afield requires a hired taxi, prohibitive without 4 to share the cost.
Wiki Info Mandalay
...taxi to Royal Guest House...
Wiki Info Volleyball With Feet
We end up opting for hired motorbikes @ $14 US each anyway, mainly due to time constraints. Not at all cheap but as fellow explained, we wanted to do/see places both in Mandalay and outside so more transport time even eliminating some stuff. Relenting in the hopes that we can leave tomorrow instead of doing in town one day and out-of-town next. See the following in order:
Swe In Bin - teak wood monastery Teak Wood Monastery
Sagaing Hill Hill Monastery & Photos
Do Tow Yurwady
It was a full day given we met up with 3 Dutch and 1 Zimbabwe (now in Hong Kong) on Inwa Island and proceeded to get 'lost' wandering around rather than paying the horse taxi price of 6,000 for 2 people. They were great company chatting the whole way...Zimbawe gal is a kindergarten teacher, a kick! Grand tour continued:
InWa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inwa" target="_blank">Wiki Info Inwa Island
Amarapura/Bein Bridge - world's longest teak bridge over 200 years Photos of Bein Bridge
Our motorcycle drivers dropped us at Marie Min Veggie Restaurant again since we were craving their great fruit lassis. Even delaying our showers for the lassi! Speaks well for the restaurant, since this has been a long and one of the hottest, sweatiest days for us in Myanmar. Now we realize how lucky we were in Bagan with overcast skies and rain!!!
Back to Royal and even after checking on shared taxi to Hsipaw (15,000) our minds are not made up as to where to go, what to do tomorrow!
Our money is going fast (since we are using our 'emergency' dollars because we found no ATMs that would dispense US $$ in Bangkok like we had hoped) here with costs for transport and accommodations totally unexpectedly high!
Today we went on 9am ferry to Mingun and saw the huge brick remains of the stupa there - surely the largest pile of bricks in the world!
href="hhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingun" target="_blank">Wiki Info Mingun
Likewise, the largest uncracked bell.
href="hhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingun_Bell" target="_blank">Wiki Info Uncracked Bell
and Hsinbyume stupa with Buddha's footprint, ha!
href="hhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hsinbyume_Pagoda" target="_blank">Wiki Info Hsinbyume Pagoda
href="hhttp://www.123rf.com/photo_3384079_water-on-the-buddha-s-footprint-near-buddha-in-mingun-mandalay-myanmar.html" target="_blank">Photos of Footprint
On the ferry over we met, chatted with Tony (Malta world traveler) and Summer (Kansas)having a very interesting discussion on world situation. Back in Mandalay our driver from this a.m. who drove us to the ferry met us and drove us to Mandalay Hill where we negotiated for him to drive us up most of the way being another hot, sweaty day!
href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandalay_Hill" target="_blank">Wiki Info Mandalay Hill
So far everything is $$$$icy. The view after passing by the lines of souvenir, cold drink vendors was most rewarding although we refused to pay the 500 kyat to use our cameras just on principle! It seems that very rapidly the people are beginning to see $$$ signs on tourists and tryi9ng to suck as much from the trade as possible. As Bon says, this could kill the goose laying the golden egg if they push too hard. Independent travelers won't come and it will only be tour groups just as we've seen elsewhere when prices get too high. The groups don't realize how much each individual visit/sight/transport costs so they aren't aware of the impact on those who try to do it on their own.
On our way down we saw the standing Buddha pointing to where he once stood and as legend has it prophesied a great city would be built here in 1857 which is when Mindon Min King moved the capital here. (see photo of moated palace grounds -size of Central Park, NYC). Amazingly, when we reached the street a mini bus pulled up and the driver asked where we'd like to go...'Royal Guesthouse'...hop in, 500 k each! Considering it cost us 4000 k
to get to the hill this is the first real transport 'bargain' in Myanmar - but this is what all the locals always pay!
Back at Royal, friend Summer cam by and we headed into a much cooler night after a monsoon rain dropped buckets the past half hour. We headed to Marie Mins again but she was closed so not to waste the walk we went across the alley for Thai food, reasonably priced but no lassi. A respectable fruit juice though.
While we ate who should come in but Gordon & Diana who were headed for Marie Mins as well - now side tracked. They had just arrived in town and staying at ET Guesthouse where Summer was also. Good to catch up, they had finally made it to Mt. Popa and saw the sunset! Another couple from Royal also came and also were hoping to eat at Marie Mins while we were still there so LP guidebook does work but needs an update telling about closures, ha! Summer did arrange for us to go in the shared taxi leaving tomorrow at 7:30 for Pyin U Lwin N. of here in the mountains. Bon's quite happy with this plan since it might evolve into a train ride over the Gokleik Gorge, one of Myanmar's most impressive journeys!