Mandalay is much more touristy than any of the other places where we have been so far. I don't know if this is because there are more limited options or because the activities happen at certain times so the tourists are concentrated.
Over a thousand monks went by us in two single file lines.
Driving from the airport we stopped at the Shwenandaw Monastery, a large teaching monastery here. Every day at 10:15 the monk from a procession on their way to lunch. Over a thousand monks went by us in two single file lines. Unfortunately, since this is a once a day event every tourist in Mandalay was there. We were standing next to the most obnoxious Italian group in history. It make me super uncomfortable. There were so many people here that are picaresque. Almost everybody all the time. But it doesn’t feel like you should be taking pictures. I don’t want them ever to feel as if they are being treated like zoo animals. The hundreds of people taking pictures right in the monks (who were often quite young) faces crossed that line for me.
We decided to take in the sunset view from Mandalay Hill. These things are never as simple as you might expect. First: Yet again there is a crazy drive to the top of a hill. This time it is only ten minutes or so but we get caught in a traffic jam and end up walking the last portion. To the giant escalator building where you have to leave your shoes because there is a temple right where the lookout area is. Something new that I learned: Going on an escalator barefoot is incredibly uncomfortable.
You can see across to the hills over the river and down into the Mandalay Palace.
We scouted out a spot. You can see across to the hills over the river and down into the Mandalay Palace. It reminds be a bit of the Forbidden city in that it is a whole walled off collection of smaller buildings rather than one large palace. We visited it earlier in the day but I got distracted because my shoe broke on the way down the Nan Myin Watchtower. The watchtower is one of the few parts of the Palace that is original. The rest was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt. My search for the perfect travel sandal continues.
If you have ever seen a travel guide, website, or even novel about Myanmar you have seen U Bein Bridge. It is the longest teak pillar bridge in the world. And sunset at this bridge is one of those iconic images of Myanmar
This is one of those moments where expectations do not live up to reality. I mean... the bridge and it is hard to take a picture of it without it looking awesome but the atmosphere that is was expecting is definitely lacking.
Find your moment.
There is a ton of trash around and so many goddamn tourists. We walked along the bridge about a kilometer which is more scary than you would think what with the huge gaps between boards. There is a little “restaurant” set up on the island (is that what it is call in the dry season?) and sipped in coconuts until the magic moment. Because sunset only lasts about 3 minutes there is some intense competition to get that perfect shot. Carsten and I had resigned ourselves to not getting it and tried to just enjoy the moment. We got some shots with the selfie stick (judge all you want, we live in Asia) and some after the sun had hone down when the light was actually better in my opinion. Find your moment.