After a little rest I went off and started exploring the city and saw the “must see” Pagoda in Mandalay. After seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda I don’t think any pagoda in the world will be as spectacular, but it is worth seeing if you have the chance. I actually even got in and out without paying. I think I remember reading somewhere that that is possible and many foreigners do it to avoid paying the government.
Then I headed to the Zegyo Markets in the hope of finding some souvenirs. But alas the market was basically just clothes and fabrics. A couple floors were actually selling Western products. After about half an hour without seining another foreigner or something interesting to buy I decided that maybe these markets weren’t really for tourist.
So first impressions on Mandalay….If I thought Yangon was a rundown city Mandalay takes the cake. I’m not even quite sure it should be considered a city were just a mere population of a million. There are no tall buildings; most are between 3-5 stories. I imagined it like a cowboy town, a really big one. Like the city, my accommodations pale in comparison to those in Yangon. I’m writing this on the roof because for one my room is not the coolest place to hang out and two there isn’t a room for guests to hang out and talk.
After I finish up here I plan on heading to Mandalay Hill to catch the sunset. So just one final thought before I go for now. I think I’m ready for home. I say this because some of the cultural things people do here is already starting to annoy me. I know cultural are different and everything and perhaps it’s just a little cultural shock but I didn’t expect to become annoyed like this. I’m not sure. Not really finished on this topic, but I’m losing sun and still have to get to the hill and eat some dinner.
So the keep the theme of firsts alive I had another first today. I rode my first motorcycle. Because this city is quite a metropolitan there aren’t many car taxis here. And after getting tired of waiting I decided to take a motorcycle taxi to the hill. Apparently, as I was told by my driver, I was too late to reach the top of the hill by sunset; but that he would do his best to get me there as quick as possible. At first I thought that was a good thing, until I got on and we started driving. After I got over the fear of crashing and dying I gotta say that the wind in my face was quite relaxing – don’t worry, still not enough to make me want a motorcycle of my own.
Well as I found out climbing the hill, even running up it at parts, I did cut it too close and only reached the halfway part before I stopped and cut my losses and shot what photos I could of the dropping sun. They’re good, but probably not nearly as good if I made it to the top. Hopefully I’ll get better ones while I’m in Bagon. But I think it all worked out for the better because I got to talk with a couple locals. The first local actually wanted to discuss a little about the political situation for a bit – which was a special treat because it’s actually quite dangerous to talk about sensitive stuff like that. The second local was actually a Buddhist monk. After talking for a bit he offered to take me to his monastery. At first I was little apprehensive because the situation was a bit sketchy. Local meets tourist at tourist spot and invites him to unknown location, at night nonetheless. Probably not the smartest or safest decision I made, but I decided to go with him. In the end, it’s safe to say that I’m perfectly alright and that it was a unique experience that I won’t regret.
The monk’s name was quite difficult to pronounce and by the time I got back to my room to write this I completely forgot again. But I do remember that his name’s meaning meant “intelligent.” His monastery wasn’t quite what I expected. It was basically a small gated run-down housing complex. After meeting the monks he lives with and touring the house he sleeps in we decided to go to the local pagoda that they go to usually. On the way we met three fellow monks from his monastery returning from English class. They decided to join us and show me their pagoda. It was a very small one; tourists probably don’t usually visit this particular one. It was nice though with the monks enthusiastically showing me around, pointing at things, saying take a picture of this or that. It was really enjoyable. What’s really cool was that for a parting gift they gave me authentic Buddhist monk robes. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything to give them and they wouldn’t accept any money.
So after much thought throughout the day I decided that instead of spending another day in Mandalay I would head to Bagon so I could spend more time there. I planned to travel by ferry, but all the tickets were sold out so I’ll have to take the bus yet again. Early morning tomorrow so I better get some sleep.