Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 4 -- The Road to Mandalay (literally)

Not every day can be incredible, and this was one of those days.

We left the hotel around 8:30 and hit the road to Mandalay. The countryside was nice, but nothing to write home about (notwithstanding the fact that this is exactly what i am doing). But there were points of interest. The first was visiting a market in one of the villages. Much like those in the larger towns, it was a warren of small stalls selling all kinds of goods. What made it worth the stop, though, was that it was so rural. Clearly people had come from neighboring villages to stock up and clearly we, as Westerners, were oddities.

After the market, we hopped on a very new, large highway. Apparently, this road has taken about 10 hours off the drive from Yangon to Mandalay. Po was very proud of this highway.

The other diversion was to the snake temple, about an hour outside of Mandalay. Before we had arrived, I couldn't tell if Po, in describing the temple, meant that there were plaster snakes surrounding the Buddha statues or real ones. The answer was both. Three large boas curled around one of the buddha statues, while the remainder of the temple consisted of Buddhas sitting in front of plaster snakes. Other than the snakes, though, the temple held little of interest. So, we had a quick $2 lunch at a traditional food stall before heading to our destination.

Arriving at our hotel in Mandalay, I was at first not impressed. But there's a reason it was rated No. 1 on tripadvisor - it's probably as welcoming and charming as anywhere. Anyway,after dropping our bags off and resting a bit, we took to the streets, wandering along the palace walls, and through small dirt road and neighborhoods. eets, wandering along the palace walls, and through small dirt road and neighborhoods. One surreal experience was walking down a dirt road lined with small stalls and businesses, being followed by a pushcart selling CDs, blasting music. It was as though our walk had its own soundtrack. We were greeted with "hello" by everyone, including the most adorable 6 year old sitting on her father's motorbike coming home from school, who asked us in flawless English, "May I introduce myself? I am Kayo." We eventually found ourselves at Kuthodaw Pagoda, a beautiful temple of 700 white stupas surrounding one large gold one. In each white stupa is a marble slab with Buddhist teachings, which is why they call it the world's largest book.

Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed cocktail hour at the pool, getting to know our fellow guests from around the world before a brief dinner and bed.