It started in this guesthouse, my fondness for Mandalay, where we were greeted with grace and elegance.
The tastefully built B&B has three floors of spacious rooms and a dining area on the roof deck.
Once owned by the mama, Wyn and wife, Sue, now run the place. With her immaculate English and years of experience, mama still plays host and entertains with grace. We asked for a good referral on where to eat, and mama volunteered to prepare our first meal in Mandalay and truth be told, hers was one of the most memorable of our ten days in Myanmar.
Talk about first impressions.
With half a day to explore the city, we decided to explore the area on foot. Good idea as we were able to witness every day Mandalay life unfolding walking along 62nd street.
The 2nd largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is not exactly pretty at first sight, but its charm grows on you as it slowly reveals itself.
Innovative plantbox sighted along the roadside.
It’s a relatively new city, built in 1857 when King Mindon was trying to re-establish Burmese prestige after the country’s defeat in the 2nd Anglo-Burmese War. If you take the time to explore, there is much to be enjoyed. You’ll need at least two days.
The 62nd Street led us to the Shwenandaw Monastery.
Made entirely from teakwood with intricately carved façade, the monastery also known as Shwenandaw Kyaung provides one of the most exceptional examples of traditional 19th-century Burmese architecture.
This is the only surviving structure from Mandalay’s Royal Palace. King Mindon initially used the building as his personal apartment and died here in 1878.
His son worried that his ghost still resided there dismantled the structure and transported beside the Atumashi Monastery.
While most of Mandalay is flat, Mandalay Hill (where the city took its name after) offers a stunning bird’s eye view of the city. We planned to walk up the hill, but we were tired of walking, so we hailed a taxi instead to take us to the lift (one could scale up the 240-meter hill by taking the long stairway up to the summit).
At the peak is the Su Taung Pyei Pagoda. On its terrace, people stay to wait for the sunset and take in the panoramic view of the Mandalay plains, how expansive the city is.
The pagoda itself I find gaudy with over the top mirrors that sparkle and shine at every turn and the LED lights that adorned the Buddha shrine.
On our way back, we passed Mandalay Royal Palace, as time prohibited us from entering the palace, we admired it from the road.
When the taxi driver dropped us off at the restaurant recommended by the guesthouse, he made us take a photo of his contact details. I found it amusing and very enterprising.
Traditional dinner and a puppet show after capped our first day in Mandalay.
The very traditional and iconic Tea Leaf Salad (must try!)
Traditional Burmese puppetry, called Marionettes, is an art form using wooden puppets to entertain Burma’s royalty.
It also served to communicate news, stories and moral lessons to its people. Today, as with many cultures, it is a dying art.
Tomorrow, we explore more of the beautiful outskirts and downtown of Mandalay.