So we were up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am, for an hour and half journey to the airport, it was a long time due to the road blocks and protests, we were a little groggy from the night before, but excited to be on the move again! The excitement waned a little when there were no delays and the mini van driver managed to drive through the streets of Bangkok at around 70km/hr ensuring we were at the airport in 30 mins later, a full 4.5 hrs before take off. We so could have done with another 2 hours in bed but that was not to be!! Then the flight from Bangkok was delayed by 30 mins for an ‘airshow’, at least that was the official explanation!
When we arrived at Myanmar and were greeted by the smiliest passport control officers we’ve ever encountered, then we made it through the screaming taxi drivers demanding our business in arrivals, to clamber on the free AirAsia shuttle bus to downtown Mandalay, a 46km journey which I don’t reckon Ryanair would provide. Our hotel staff were equally smiley and after dropping off the bags we went for a wander and were pleased to find everyone very smiley. Mandalay is built on a grid system so its easy to wander about but you’re in the street with the all the other traffic, be that mechanical or mammals. The area our hotel was in seemed to have a lot of industrial machinery shops and car part shops with pharmacies, restaurants and mobile phone shops peppered around.
As usual we were a little peckish, so started looking for street food, it was not so easy as Thailand, due to the language barrier we were ignored at the first place we approached, the second was more smiley. So we had steamed Chinese buns with unidentifiable fillings, and steamed wontons with fish fillings and and accompanying red chilli sauce, this was all to take away for 35p. It was delicious, if a little difficult to eat on a dusty street corner, but we managed it.
We had time to get a taxi to see the sunset from Mandalay Hill with the idea that the taxi would wait for us and take us back. The walk up was a dirty, barefoot 45 min walk up a temple, so we took off our shoes and started walking, and perspiring! There were a few tourists also doing this, we are starting to recognise a few on the circuit, and we dodged the bird poo on the floor! The views were great, and we did the walk in about 25mins, I guess the timings are for people less fit than ourselves, who have had a hard weeks training in Bangkok!!
Coming down we got a bit of pace up, and collected our shoes, whilst we were putting them on Guy saw our taxi driver drive off, literally into the sunset, with 2 people in his car, and he seemed to see us both look at him as well. OK, we were a little surprised at this, thought we should wait to see if he was just moonlighting, however with the growing buzz of mosquitoes and other taxi drivers asking for our business we decided to get a taxi home with a different driver. So, it wasn’t an all together successful beginning to Myanmar, however at least we were home, and had saved money and not got bitten!
We asked for a recomendation for tea, Myanmar food, and we got it! No other westerners were in the restaurant, thankfully they did have a menu in English, however, no prices. There are two prices in this country one for locals and one for tourists, tourists usually pay 5 times more than locals, but at least now we can pay in the local currency, whereas previously it was all in dollars that went straight back to the government.
The food was all tepid, which was odd, some of it was tasty, but compared to the balance you find in Thai food this was all fish sauce and fish tasting, even the meaty looking soup. It was interesting and as you can see from the photos, there was plenty to eat, including the raw salad of aubergine and okra! The mutton (goat) curry and meatballs were tasty and fish-less. We were well attended to, about 7 waiters to our table, and as another group of westerners came in they got the same treatment! Many people asked us where we were from, and ‘Wayne Rooney’ was the usual response, and entertaining when Guy alluded to the hairstyle he shares with him.