Day 10: Bus travel from Bagan to Mandalay. Checking into the Hotel by the Red Canal before a tour of the Mandalay Palace, followed by a happy hour and swim at the hotel.
With a morning of traveling to Mandalay, we were up and at breakfast by 7 a.m. We picked up our bus tickets when we checked out and went on the back of an open air truck to the bus station. We made two more stops at other hotels to pack the bed of the truck with passengers.
Bus from Bagan to Mandalay
We boarded the large bus at the dusty station. The ride would take about four hours and costs 7,500 kyats (~US$ 7).
It was quite comfortable and had air conditioning. The driver put on a ridiculous Myanmar sitcom which showed women being beaten, but was somehow a comedy… The landscapes out the window were much more interesting. All the villagers and farmers seemed very interested in our bus, which they showed by waving excitedly.
We did encounter some issues.
The bus continued to pick up passengers and when there were no seats left, each new passenger was issued a plastic stool to sit on in the aisle. An old lady on the stool next to me got car sick and vomited into a bag.
And then… BANG! A tire blew out.
We drove slowly until we arrived at a rest stop where they replaced the tire with a flat spare.
We took advantage of the 45 minute delay to have one of those traditional lunches with many dishes. We also bought some mango slices and betel nut chew and were on our way!
We arrived at the bus station of the second largest city of Myanmar. It was quite a mess with hoards of drivers crowded for customers. We jumped in a taxi to the Hotel by the Red Canal.
This previous capital was a large busy city and lacked in charm.
We arrived at our hotel and welcomed the cold towel and ice tea before checking-in. We were escorted to the room and given an introduction to the room and hotel.
After a brief moment of relaxation, I asked the concierge to book our flights to Heho and then rented bicycles to tour the city.
The bike ride was very relaxing, despite the busy roads and near-misses with scooters.
Arriving at the ticket office, we noticed the many military guards armed with assault rifles. We weren’t allowed to stray from the path and couldn’t take any pictures until we reached the palace. They also checked our passports before we could buy the tickets (10,000 kyats).
We were allowed to bike on the road and observed the scene around us. The area seemed to be a military residence with low cost housing and farming fields. I can see why they don’t want pictures of the area to be released.
The palace was the residence of the last kings, King Mindon and King Thibaw, of the Burmese monarchy completed in 1859. Though the British took over twenty-five years later in the Third Anglo-Burmese War and turned it into a fort.
The original palace was mostly destroyed in WWII by allied bombs then rebuilt in the 90’s. The mint and watch tower are original.
Leaving our shoes at the entrance, we wandered through the palace grounds which were very empty and could have been better maintained. We saw several thrones similar to the Lion Throne in Yangon.
The top of the Watch Tower offered an overhead view of the palace, Mandalay Mountain, and surrounding area.
We took our bikes back to the hotel after passing by an ATM downtown.
Hotel by the Red Canal
Back in our room, we had some downtime and enjoyed our fruit plate.
Then we went for a massage which was located in a room next to the reception, as the spa is being renovated. The foot massage using oil was calming and skillfully performed.
A bonus was when they applied the yellowish thanaka paste on Christina’s cheeks. This traditional Myanmar face mask is made using local tree logs ground on a stone with water.
Right after, we switched to swim gear and partook in the complementary happy hour at the hotel pool. The atmosphere was lighthearted with snacks and cocktails being served while a lady played the Myanmar harp. Not many people were swimming though.
We had a great time. In fact, we had so much fun, that when we went back to our room we fell asleep and missed dinner.
An early night was probably a good idea as we had a long day to Inle Lake tomorrow!