We booked ‘OK Minibus’ to take us from Bagan to Mandalay. For around 9USD per person, they picked us up from our hotel in Bagan and took us to our hotel in Mandalay. The journey to Mandalay took around 4.5 hours with a lunch stop in between. Now we must tell you, the lunch stop was actually pretty fantastic. We walked in and kind of just took our cue from what others were doing.
We looked through the glass casing and asked what kind of meats were inside. We chose one pork curry and one chicken curry. They brought us an amazing plethora of side dishes, a soup and heaping portions of rice. They even refilled our chicken curry and rice without us asking. All of this came to around 2.50USD!!
We arrived in Mandalay and we both had the exact same feeling. A feeling of familiarity. There is something about Mandalay that reminded us of Chuncheon, South Korea (our first Korean home). Maybe it was the architecture? Maybe the sparseness of the buildings? We don’t know exactly… but we liked this feeling. It felt like we already knew Mandalay.
We pulled up to the Hotel Apex. It was really beautiful inside. They gave us a lovely welcome drink as we cooled down in the air conditioned reception. They then informed us that they would be upgrading us to a room that usually runs 70USD a night! Yahtzee!
The room was so nice! We honestly could not believe we were only paying 30USD with breakfast included.
Now that we were settled in, we needed to make a plan! What does one do in Mandalay? Since it was heading towards the end of the day we decided to order a tuk-tuk on Grab (again, a must have app) and check out the downtown area. We first made a pit stop for an afternoon Burmese tea. After refueling we walked around the bustling markets.
We made it back to our hotel in time for sunset cocktails on the roof! Hotel Apex has an absolutely incredible bar on the roof with panoramic views of the city! They also provided free drinks between 5 and 6pm. We took in the sunset and enjoyed some drinks. This bar is actually a huge hit with the locals! It gets packed. Every night of the week.
Pete had also learned about a delivery app in Myanmar ‘Mandalay Door2Door’. So we figured we would give it a go and try for some pizza. We ordered from ‘The Pizza Company’ and in one hour it arrived hot and fresh. It tasted almost exactly like Pizza Hut. We didn’t mind. Sometimes a bit of western familiarity is refreshing after months of travel.
The next day, we trekked out in search of a motorbike and a laundry service. We found both at great rates. We rented a motorbike from Mandalay Motorbike Rentals and Tours. We made a deal for around 6USD per day for 2 days. We then found a place for laundry. Master Laundry charged us 2,500kyat for 5.5kg. Machine wash and tumble dry! Honestly, cheap laundry is really hard to find in Mandalay! They have the best deal in the whole city.
After our errands were completed we grabbed some lunch and cruised down to Inwa -Myanmar’s old capital city, from the 14th-19th century. What remains are ruins of monasteries, temples, pagodas and watch towers.
We then cruised over to the U-bein bridge for a beautiful sunset.
On our third day we trekked outside of Mandalay. We heard about a teal waterfall and we were eager to find it! The ride out took around 2 hours. And it was gorgeous! We stopped at a small house/restaurant for a little lunch and a few refreshing beers.
Our conversation with the daughter went like this:
Chicken or fish?
Noodle or rice?
Spicy or sweet?
We had no idea what to expect, except ice cold Myanmar beer.
She soon brought over a couple bowls of soup. We tasted ginger, lemongrass, chili, garlic, cilantro, intestines, kidney, liver and chunks of unidentifiable beef.
Was it good?
It was SPECTACULAR!
The girl came over and asked us how we liked the soup. We told her how much we loved it. She then informed us that they killed their cow the day before and prepared this soup that same night.
That was the most farm to table meal we were so privileged to eat. She then brought over a chicken fried rice with egg. Which was not really worth mentioning.
We made it to the waterfalls and they were beautiful. We ordered a beer, swam around and relaxed before cruising back to Mandalay.
On our fourth and final day in Mandalay, we had to be out of our room at noon. We returned our motorbike and decided to have a cultural day. We explored Shwenandaw Monastery, Sanda Muni Pagoda and Kuthodaw Pagoda.
It was HOT and we were in desperate need of some way to cool down. We went back to our hotel and they were nice enough to let us hang out at the pool and bar. So we went for a swim and headed back upstairs to the roof bar for one last free cocktail. We then got ready for another night bus.
We took the JJ Bus for 12USD per person. And we must say, Myanmar is killing it with their night buses! TVs built into the seats, loads of movies to choose from and comfortable reclining seats. Think of it like how a first class seat on an airplane would be. We sank into our seats, put on a movie, cozied up with our provided blanket, bid farewell to Mandalay and rolled out into the darkness in persuit of Kalaw.
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