Friday, February 21, 2014

Mandalay, Myanmar.


A night train from Yangon to Mandalay.

Not exactly completely insane. But assuredly silly.

Starts off at the train station getting out of the cab. Three guys in
uniforms grab our stuff, ask which train and deposit us by a gate at a
waiting area. I go buy some more water, and soon enough our train
pulls in and the same guys come get us and escort us through security
and onto the train and into our two bed berth. comes the
bite. 5000 kyat! each they say. Now...while yes, that is only $5
American. That is also about what a 45 minute cab ride costs. Or a
whole dinner with a few beers. So no....but they are rather emphatic,
and I'm tired, so we settle at 10,000 for the three of them to share.
This is helped greatly by Michelle laughing at their audacity. Good
cop bad cop works in all languages.

They its time for the street urchins to arrive. Small
children offering to sell us water at insane prices. And the
youngest's water isn't even sealed. Nice try kid. Eventually they
get the repeated no no nos and just hang out bothering us for fun.

Myanmar is still one of those places where some kids don't deal much
with tall blondes and find us infinitely amusing.

Train finally leaves..and the roller coaster begins.

I have never been on a train that felt so close to derailment at all
times. Constant rolling with periodic slamming up and down in a kind
of driven oscillation way that felt like the car was lifting off its
springs and grounding out on the frame over and over again. Bam Bam

Needless to say sleeping was a bit rough.

But it was worth it. The scenery was straight out of...well...anytime
since mankind started farming around here until the 50s. Water
buffalo. Horse carts. Periodic fires. Almost no lights once the sun
went down.

And a rather amusing dining car which was blah food. But large
myanmar beers make train travel better. Again the classic railroad
overpricing (common world wide) but whatever. I needed beer to take
the edge off the roller coaster.

We then watched a Poirot set on a train (The blue Train) on the
laptop and went to "bed". Sleep came eventually in fits and starts.

Arrival at Mandalay was a bit early and we got a cab to our hotel who
didn't bat an I at a 9 am check in and by 9:30 we were showered and

Then we asked at the desk about renting a scooter as Mandalay is a big
sprawling low density mess. 14,000 kyat a day for 2 days ($14) and by
noon we were wandering the back streets of Mandalay in search of

Snacks were found but most impressively we stumbled upon Tingaza
Kyaung. A lovely wat/stupa but all in Teak, all 150 years old-ish and
lived in by a super nice old monk who showed us around, let us look at
old texts on thin wood and generally was super friendly!

Eventually there will be many pictures showed of this. But not via
this bandwidth. That is for sure.

Tomorrow we wander about a bit. Then Sunday 5am the Inland Waterway
Transport ferry to Bagan. The IWT was set up by the british and
hasn't changed since. So we have a long day of wending our way down
the Arawady. Heading towards the plain of Bagan, covered in stupas.

Then from there to Thazi via Mt. Popa (home of the local spirits...the
Nats, No really...They worship Nats.). Then from Thazi via slow train
(8 hours) through the hills etc to Inle lake. Then wander around in
small boats for a few days.

Then back to mandalay to fly off to Angkor Wat!

(We know....a bit silly to jet from here to Angkor, but we're meeting
up with Michelle's brother Scott and his gf Beth there so we have an
actualy schedule to keep).

After that its vaguely "go to the beach" or "go to the North".

We shall see what the future has in hold for our intrepid adventurers!

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