Mandalay is a flat city. During the day it is hot as a frying pan. Vertical-horizontal arrangement of the city’s streets makes it easy to find your way, so it is quite unlikely to get lost here.
This morning I’m meeting Vera. A few days ago we agreed that our roads would join here.
As soon as we meet, we hop onto a pickup truck and drive to the famous 1200 meters long U Bein Bridge in Amarapura. Notably, the longest teak bridge in the world. We walk towards the middle of the bridge, which by the way seems to be alarmingly high due to low water levels in dry season. Suddenly the sky becomes overcast, a few minutes later strong wind rises and it starts to rain. A gale breaks branches and smaller trees, puts leaves and plenty of objects flying and floods the surrounding buildings. It takes just a few seconds to be completely soaked. This is an alternative experience of the place compared to a more classic way of seeing the iconic landmark of Myanmar on a fine weather day.
The next morning I am visiting the produce market in the city. I am keen to see all that trading chaos, with mud, screams and intense smell all over the place. Most of the product stands are arranged orderly, but it’s not always the case. You walk past ten mango salesmen, then you will see massive piles of watermelons, spices, chili peppers, entire section of garlic, onions, mango again, then something which looks like grilled canaries, followed by roasted worms, fresh fish and meat. This is so interesting to see and against my odds, I even managed to get lost here. Luckily I had a compass with me to find a way back to a hotel.
I meet again with Vera and we decide to rent out mopeds and cruise along the Ayerarwady River.
We start by circumventing the Mandalay Palace. It takes time, because the palace and its surrounding area is gigantic. We head west and get to the coast of Ayeyarwady. The poorest, hopeless residents of the city live in makeshift houses cramped in a massive cluster along the riverside.
The road south stretches along the river. As we leave the urban area, the are also less people around. One of the most interesting sights along the way are a couple of policemen trying to remove the poisonous snake off the road. With lots of awkward attempts they finally manage with a help of stick to handle it.
We reach the bridge and cross over to the other side. We try to find our way through narrow winding streets of the settlement, finally we leave the bikes to climb Sagaing Hill. Interestingly, I just noticed another yet identical snake crossing our road. Perhaps it is a good idea to pay extra attention for snakes in the area.
We climb a series of stairs leading up to the top. The view let’s you discover the surroundings. Turns out that the area is mostly jungle with some irregular buildings and hundreds of pagodas connected together stairs and corridors. Someone must have had the imagination to plan and organize it. Looks as if a new pagoda was built there immediately as soon as they had cleared a plot of jungle.
We’re going to the north towards Miguin. Drive along a little less frequented roads takes us through small villages. After about an hour a giant brick structure appears to our eyes. Theoretically, due to the risk of collapse we are not supposed to go to the top, but it’s not that easy to give up the viewpoint.