En Route Myanmar Sept 2014: Mandalay

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Mandalay “is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located 716 km (445 mi) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city had a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census)”

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A place i headed with the most expectations and plans.
which i checked off less than half, and yet
had the best experience, surprises, happiness and memories.


(probably why i took the the most effort in writing this post and checking the photos)

Arrived at the bus station reallyreally really early.. like what.. 4.20am?? then it started pouring so heavily and i was so hungry. thank goodness for the black gluttinous rice snack Nu Nu bought for me. but there was only one last piece left.  Stuck and hungry. i was unhappy with Mandalay’s welcoming gift. and i was so sleepy. and desperately need a shower.

20 odd mins later, the downpour finally pang chance (gave chance, take pity) so i hired the motorbike taxi and headed to my Guesthouse in the drizzle.

after a 20 minutes of going around in squares
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the driver finally found my guesthouse. i was quite grouchy by then. hungry, tired, sweating, drenched, soaked, phone batt dying… i needed a bed, a shower, food and drinks….
to make things worse, i arrived way too early and the guest house wasnt opened..
most people would be really pissed off by now. but heng la, my number one rule when traveling has always been “Jai Yen Yen ใจเย็นเย็น” meaning “chill, calm down…”  everything happens for a reason..

so i looked around and WOOHOO  just right in front of my gh is a teahouse!20140912_070521

FOOD FOOD FOOD!!!!! so i took off my soaking wet shoes, changed into slippers, sat down at the tea house, ordered food and asked if i could charge my phone.

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this is some “thousand layer pancake” so i supposed its the Burmese version of mille feuille? 555
it’s quite yummy. and i had a la’pay’ee (myanmar milk tea) . that certainly helped a lot in calming me down.

an hour later, i saw the door of my gh open! settled some check in stuff, asked for map, requested to rent a motorbike later in the day and a chat with Angela (one of the gh owners)
sorry for not sharing too much details about this gh. i can tell you more in private of course!
while chatting with her, i saw some guests who came down for breakfast. there was a group of NGOs and i saw a Thai! WOOHOO HAPPY ONLY.

anyway, i took my long awaited shower and nap..

10USD per bed during low season. 8 bedder, clean, spacious, well equipped with bathroom at the back. lagi shiok

10USD per bed during low season. 8 bedder, clean, spacious, well equipped with bathroom at the back. lagi shiok

was in a daze when i woke up again, thinking it was lunch time, i headed out for “Lunch”
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Mohinga noodles. apparently a very popular burmese dish.
not my kind of food though.. after lunch, i checked the clock.
I WAS REALLY IN A DAZE. it was only 10.30am!!
but the sun so SO BRIGHT and it was so WARM i thought it was mid noon!

so i went back to bed…
but before i could hit the sack again, i was stopped by the NGOs who were having a break from their meeting. they were excited to see a Singaporean…

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so i became “Star of the GH” for that 2 minutes. and because i was carrying a prime lens, thus this was the best picture i got…
and they invited me to try this local snack
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so with that, i went back to bed. woke up again and believing it should be a late lunch, i headed for my LATE LUNCH.

and

Shan Noodles

Shan Noodles

and i wasnt too far form my guess. it was about 1pm. late lunch?

anyway i decided to walk to town. Angela gave me a “are you sure” look and i assured her that i can walk a lot.

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manually solving the flooding issue

the flood was pretty bad. it didnt come up to the knees but it was every where..

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mini cinema along one of the small streets

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saw this and decided to go search for it.

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Bhodigon Pagoda

the weather was SO SO SO BAD. true that i am a singaporean and i should be able to tahan (tolerate/withstand) but the sun was STRONG and very dry. the kind that can give people a very bad headache.
so i went to….
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EAT ICE CREAM 555

then decided to head back to the GH to get the motorbike instead.. hahah i gave up.
ended up chatting with the Big Dad of the GH. he is a very interesting man with very deep and non-conformist thinking.

I asked Angela for a favour to ride me around the area to let me familiarize myself with. (the road direction is opposite of Singapore). was only hoping for a 5-10 mins ride. but she rode and rode and rode and rode… and..
she took me to Mandalay Hill! just in time for the sunset!

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Angela! one of the 8 VERY NICE gh owners.

She not only rode us there. She went up to the top with me! a very tiring 30 mins climb.
told me a lot about their family, the country, the food… i basically had a personal guide!

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we went down the hill and i caught the really beautiful dusk.

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after that, we headed back. i had my dinner and talked to them more before heading back to sleep. because i was gonna wake up at 3am to catch the Washing of Buddha’s Face and sunrise at Ubein!!

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ended up… i woke up at 7am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  and angela was supposed to open the gate for me at 3.30am!! OH NO!!!!!!!
went down and she was laughing. together with the Big Dad. she wasnt at all angry. but just told me “it’s okie hahhahahaahah!!!” so i went for my breakfast and was feeling upset for not checking off my plans as intended. i had no other plans for the rest of the day until sunset… =[ maybe Mandalay just didnt welcome me afterall..

then the Thai guy i saw the day before came down. he was quite surprised i could speak thai. hee hee hee. and me being me…… i asked what his plans were for the day and if i could join him. 555
he said Yes! (YES to joining him not “yes i do” that yes)
so we met again an hour later.

his plan for the day was really really interesting. for some confidentiality issues, i will not mention too much. but because of him, i was able to visit a local’s house!

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here’s P’ Thee at work!

after he was done, we headed to the english school of his friends Adam and Emily. and they made us lunch!!!

Mine was Special Edition!

Mine was Special Edition!

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so cute!

after we were done P’ Thee asked about my plan and said he could accompany me!
so.. to U Bein we went!! shiok again because he rode, i pillion. hee hee
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then we went to the Village at the other end of the bridge.. WOW! and we saw Nat Performances!
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Nats are the Medium who performs seance to contact spirits for the people. they are usually transvestites or gays.

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not missing any chance to capture anything interesting!

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these musicians are so spontaneous! ever ready in striking poses for me. haha

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people bring in offerings like money, fruits, other food products (except pork). which the nats will divide amongst themselves, the musicians, the temple and the people working there. then give the rest to the devotees. and we were so lucky. we each received a can of drink. and the nat pointed at me to receive another blessed item from her!

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a pear almost as big as my face!!! the locals were all so happy for me, saying “lucky lucky!!”

Mandalay does love me afterall. 555
with that, we headed back to the main town, where P Thee headed for his game of Chin Lone with the locals and i went back to SLEEP. 555 oh i actually had a private piano concert performed for me by Angie!!
i went back to the Royal Palace to catch some sunset. (and got lost on the way there and back… argh)
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P’ Thee and i met up again after his game. headed for dinner at the local night market.

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rushed through dinner to go catch the Moustache Brothers

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The Moustache Brothers are a comedic trio from Mandalay, Burma known for live performances that combine screwball comedy, classic Burmese dance, and sharply satirical criticism of the totalitarian Burmese military regime.

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i think the whole family was involved la. his wife, his sister in law, this one, that one..

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mandalay moustache 1

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hmm… what we both felt was.. 10000k for this is way too expensive.. and we had a higher expectation…
but yeah, never come, never know.

after the show.. we were both FAMISHED. so wanted to get some food. but.. this wasnt Thailand. there seems to be no ‘life’ anywhere. it was only 9.30pm! (sg time 11pm, bkk time 10pm)
we rode around for 30 mins.. NOTHING. almost giving up when we finally spotted a beer garden of sort.
satisfied ourselves with some grills and then… headed back.

P’ Thee was really nice. he knew i had plan to go for the Washing of Buddha Face and sunrise at U Bein. and that i was going alone. so he ‘volunteered’ to accompany me. (it’s his second time in Mandalay)

so we headed back and had an early night. well, not very early.


this time round i didnt wake up late. hee hee
we headed to Maha Muni temple to watch the face washing. thank goodness for him. if not i would have gotten lost and could still be in Mandalay today. =S

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females were not allowed inside. so they had a few screens showing the action live.

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the devoted side of an otherwise ‘one of a kind’ P’ Thee.

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after the processions, the staffs took their magic staff (okie not funny i know) and started sweeping the whole temple.

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at least 50 of them scattered all over.  males with two brooms. wow.

then we headed to U Bein again. and this time round, he took me to a secret hideout 555.


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not too far from the touristy U Bein bridge, this place was so much quieter. the air was fresh. we almost didnt want to leave.
i closed my eyes and listened with my heart. there were chickens, pigs, dogs, birds… and an unknown emotion. it was that moment i realised, it was all in the plan.

had i made arrangement with the GH for my very early check in, i wouldnt have known who lives in the same gh. had i woke up on time for the sunrise the day before, i wouldnt have met someone who had an unusual plan. and  didnt even have to think about the wonderful company and all these secret hideouts (oh he brought me to another secret hideout later that day)
and i wouldnt have fostered a friendship with him. (he has indeed became a very cherished friend by now)

it wasnt in my plans at all.

we headed to the bridge.
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headed back for breakfast. hee hee hee  HUNGRY.

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He was craving for this soooo much

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fried dough fritters! (memory card corrupted thus…)

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AWESOME!!!!!!!

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went back to nap and had a very short chat with other dorm mates. wow finally i had dorm mates. still in touch with one, Jackie, the girl from Shanghai.

napppppped till shiok. then went for lunch with P’ Thee again at Daung Lann Gyi

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this is the local dish. it’s quite yummy. fried beans, nuts, preserved tea leaves…
lost some photos of the food. but it was really good. especially loved this potato and rice salad. ahhh HUNGRY.


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paiseh. blurred pic. prime lens again.

after lunch he took me to another hideout.

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not really a secret place but i wouldnt have known if he didnt take me there. hehe.
once again, i felt a stranger emotion. i didnt want to say good bye. (but i had to, 2 hours later).

i fell in love with Mandalay. i fell in love with my guesthouse owners. i fell in love with the Big Dad, Sophia and Angie. i fell in love with the surprises. I fell in love with my new friend’s company. I fell in love with the sunset. I fell in love with an unknown emotion. it was so hard to say goodbye to them..

but i had to. and i know i will be back (confirmed!) very soon.
so, seated on the motorbike taxi, i waved good bye to  P Thee and Sophia….. with Melancholy already filled up inside.

M for Myanmar, M for Mandalay, M for Memories…

thank you =]

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a week after i was back, P Thee and i were talking on Line. and we both admitted.. that we were still missing Mandalay a lot. (even up till two days ago we were still talking about Mandalay!!!!)
we cant put a finger to what was so special about Mandalay. but it definitely is our favourite place in Myanmar so far..

Take away from this Mandalay journey? A lot of things happen for a reason. we dont force things to happen. neither should we get upset when things didnt happen. quoting a tarot reader who did a reading for me before “What you can see you can change. What you cannot see, you have to go through“. =] Indeed.


Expenditure

Day 1
Motorbike taxi from bus station – 2000k
Super early breakfast at 5.30am – 900k
Brunch at 11am – 900k
Tanaka + snack – 800k
Ice Cream – 1100k
Lunch – 400k
Motorbike rental +petrol – 12000k
Camera “entrance fee” at Mandalay Hill – 1000k
Dinner – 1800k
Room – 10USD
Bus to Mawlamyine – 15000K
Total for Day 1 : 67 SGD

Day 2
Motorbike + petrol – 11000k
Dinner – 1700k
Moustache Brother – 10000k
Supper – 3300k
Room – 10 USD
Total for Day 2 – 35SGD

Day 3
Lunch – 2500k
Motorbike to bus station – 2000k
Dinner at pit stop – 2000k
Total for Day 3 – 9.50SGD

TOTAL EXPENDITURE FOR MANDALAY (3days 2nights): Approx 112 SGD (90USD)
friendship fostered? Priceless.


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See you soon,
T.