In keeping with the musical theme, another song. No special reason other than the title of the post.
So after our first adventure, we had a down day back at Chan’s house where I finished a video game I had only played about half of several years ago and we watched a film and did some reading. Perfectly relaxing. During the night we boarded a night bus to Mandalay which was an older capital of the country and home to the old imperial palace. This is where the trip was simultaneously more and less sketch than it should have been.
We had initially planned to bum a ride with Chan’s family as they were also going to the area, but his dad didn’t want us doing that for some reason. I thought, “great, sucks to lose the free ride, but this will be a real backpacking experience, sketchy, we’ll plan it as we go and maybe get lost!” Contrary to expectations, Chan’s dad set us up on a night bus, and had an old employee pick us up in a car to take us everywhere. This guy, the retired goldsmith, was adorable and absolutely welcoming, but the whole first day in Mandalay consisted of sitting in the car, driving to a pagoda, getting out, seeing the pagoda, and getting back in the car to get to the next one. Cool, but they started to blur together at times. One pagoda was freaking awesome though. Or rather the remains of it, an earthquake interrupted construction in the late 19th century and it was later abandoned. Here’s the foundation.
That’s only about a third of the height of the original plan. Climbing up that over collapsed bricks was also really fun. Anyway, then it was off to the old imperial palace which was converted into a military barracks some time ago. Not much there. Got food, slept early tired from a whole day of pagodaing, and prepared to hit Bagan in the morning.
Chan had initially said Bagan was a dustbowl and it was way to hot to go at this time of year. Fortunately the guy convinced him to go and man am I pleased for that. Highlight of the trip, do not go to Myanmar without seeing Bagan. What is it? The seat of the old Burmese empire, and it’s basically a savannah-type environment with brick pagodas for as far as the eye can see. It’s absolutely magical. Again like something out of a videogame. The upper levels of the more famous ones are closed off, but we got off the beaten track a bit and found some amazing ones, pics below.
Unfortunately it being a hot desert and shoes still being banned on pagodas meant that walking across the red bricks was similar to walking across hot coals. I learned very quickly to stay in the shade like a good vampire, or stick to the marble bits which are much cooler.
Where it got sketch was this whole time we were being driven across poorly maintained dirt roads, mountain paths, and other adventurous terrain in a Honda Fit, which has no business being in any of those places. Also we were very unsure whether or not we had bus tickets back until it pulled into the station. One much less comfortable bus ride later and we were back in Yangon at 4am, where I managed to sprain my ankle walking on a flat road (not even off a sidewalk). Better now.