As we exit the doors at Mandalay airport in Myanmar, we are in for a pleasant surprise. I see a woman holding a sign for Yadanar Theingi Hotel, which I immediately recognize as our hotel. I was not expecting anyone to pick us up as I had arranged nothing and hadn’t even notified the hotel about our travel plans. Yet here they were to greet us! This is our first experience with how welcoming Myanmar’s people are of westerners.
When we walk in the doors we are even more surprised! Mr. David and Mr. Kaija are welcomed guests…..from what I understand you can’t actually even book a room together as an unmarried couple here, so I am a bit surprised by the sign welcoming Mr. And Mr., but nonetheless I turn on my most womanly composure to make sure there are no mistakes or misunderstandings! I am suddenly flooded with a memory from my childhood. My nickname as a child at school by one fellow student was Kaija Boy, but that has long since faded into history. Maybe I do look like a man……or my deep voice…..nah nah….it’s just an honest mistake! With a strange name like mine people often have a hard time telling my gender when they see it written down.
We are actually warmly welcomed, and the staff is awesome. No on here tries to rip you off. It feels kind of nice!
This mom stops us to chat. She is so happy that we love her cute baby. The first thing that we notice is that most of the women and sometimes children have this yellowish paint on their faces. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how they apply it. Sometimes they have it on their arms, too. Sometimes it is a little amount, sometimes a lot. Sometimes it is applied in streaks, sometimes in swirls.
We tried to get to the Mandalay Palace but it is too close to closing time. So we grab a taxi up to the top of Mandalay Temple Hill. The views are beautiful.
The temple is quite ornate.
When we are up on the temple hilltop we notice that it is possible to take the stairs all the way down. So we opt to do that. The only trouble is that you have to go all the way down with your shoes off!
By the time we get to the bottom our tender feet are in pain….and dirtier than you can imagine.
We hear there is a night market down the street, so we decide to give it a shot. We don our headlamps and away we go. It’s crazy dark out. This city does not have much light. And the roads and sidewalks here are pretty unsafe. There are random holes and pits and stumbling blocks everywhere you go. There are motorbike drivers zooming through the streets without headlights on, and we are pretty sure they can’t see us until the last moment. We walk down one street that is pitch black, and we find there are people sitting in doorways or alleys here and there. We clutch our bags tighter and keep close together as we try to hurry down to the end of the street where there is more light.
The market ends up not being that awesome so we head back to our hotel. On our way home a boy about 8 years old sticks his hand out to shake mine. This happens fairly often as the people are so excited to see us. I reach out to shake his hand and his family is super excited! I pump his hand, up and down, higher and higher, down low, up high, and then we both start jumping up and down in unison to our handshake. The whole family is squealing with delight!
The hotel has a van that we hire to take us out for the morning. We go to the Mandalay Castle. It is a huge complex with a fence surrounding it and a large moat. Military personnel are circling around and around.
The king and queen…..hey I thought we are the royalty!
Up the tower we go.
The views from the tower are great.
Whenever you enter a building you have to take your shoes off, which is getting annoying.
Taking your shoes off is especially annoying because the floors are dirty. Want to step in this?
And they pose for us.
Almost all the men in Myanmar wear these skirts.
We head off to see the golden Buddha.
And a quick visit to the largest book in the world. There are hundreds of these little buildings that…..
We arrive back at our hotel to check out. We had planned to take the local riverboat to Bagan, but it only goes twice a week this time of year so we are out of luck. I am pretty bummed, but our hotel staff books us on the OK Express bus, which is supposed to be the best ride to Bagan. One taxi driver offers to bring us there for $125 but we aren’t too sure about how that plan would work. Should we, or shouldn’t we?
We think it should be OK with OK, and while we wait for the bus to arrive we watch the world go by…..
In a few minutes the bus will be here. We have loved being celebrities in Mandalay! I think not that many foreigners come here and that’s why we are so special. I hope we will be just as special in Bagan! I hear the rumble of the bus and notice that our seats on the bus are assigned at the back of the bus, which means…..guess what?