Bagan & Mandalay
End of February, 2011
I am not going to deny it, I do like to sleep-in when there is no reason to wake up early. But getting up before sunrise
to witness the light emerge between the two thousand temples which are laid out randomly within six-teen square
miles within Bagan is incentive to set that alarm for 4:30am.
Denny and many others agreed that the sunrise at Bagan was one of the most memorable experience along the trail
Dawn and twilight pasted with exponential scale, a new day has risen and we had a day off, which meant heading to
Mt. Popa. Our British friend, Ali Drummond who joined us for the Myanmar part of the journey just haphazardly
remembered that morning that it would be essential for us to check out the Buddhist monastery Taung Kalat which is
on top of steep cliff. The shrine contains monkeys and according to Lonely Planet one can also occasionally bump
into a yeti, which are special looking monks wearing a cone-like shaped hat.
Bus to Mount Popa!
The Burmese people are welcoming and friendly, which I can't really say about their monkeys, they are much more
ruthless and aggressive as I imagined. Bloody noses and torn off ears were visible on the bullied-on mammals.
The widely used thanaka (face powder) is consumed by females in all ages in Myanmar for traditional reasons or to
serve as a make-up. Sometimes its just a simple stripe across the cheeks, but sometimes kids get a bit more creative
and create symbols, patterns or an outline of Mickey Mouse's face.
Myanmar is country that needs exploration. I only planned nine days in total for our fourth and final country on this
journey. We had four cities to check out, Yangon, Naypyidaw, Bagan and Mandalay. Transportation between each
city usually consisted of an eight to ten hour tightly packed bus ride with a 5am arrival in the next city without any
hotel reservations. Towards the end, the one month journey of exhaustion was visible on everyone's face. But after
76 hours on buses to Mandalay from Saigon (Vietnam), we finally reached our final destination.
Skateboarding is something that just doesn't really exists in Mandalay. Kirill dragged two complete boards with him
from home to give away to kids at the Mandalay train station. He handed them out to two selected kids who they
just took it without the big 'thank you' that he was hoping for after a month of a carrying an extra five kilos in his
luggage. He was kind of upset, but on our departure we unexpectedly saw the same kids once again doing
stomach-laid Christ airs down a hill. Kind of dangerous, but Kirill was hyped & satisfied to have made a little
impact on some kids in the middle of nowhere with wooden toys. Later on in Kirill's interview for the documentary,
he recalls this moment to be his favorite juncture of this trip.
The actions and gestures of how people try to pass time, is what is so photogenic at train stations.
Mandalay is such a bustling and buoyant city, having been the prior capital, it feels energetic and different to the
other laid back cities we visited along the way. Mandalay was not my favorite city, but the city had something
unusual about it. It might have been the Chinese influence of trade, or that the city was build on the grid system,
not sure exactly what it was but it felt unique.
Monks with possibly lottery-winning money filled suitcases.
Denny Ollie on a bump a bit outside of Mandalay on a busy bus stop.
Above the bus stop where Denny was doing his Ollie (picture above) trains were passing by around every ten
minutes. On one of the moving trains a child was jumping up and down of excitement when he saw us skating.
The next night, we headed back to Yangon via the Mandalay Express to catch our flight back to Bangkok.
As much fun it sounds to take the twelve hour Mandalay Express, it was a pretty gnarly train ride. Not that bad for
us since we had sleeping class tickets, but the former Chinese train was in very poor shape. Besides spiders & filth
and wholes in the ground which was pretty typical in all the wagons, the used train tracks lead to a very bumpy ride
back to Yangon. Comfort is not a big issue for many, just like the child above, sleeping on the ground can be the
fraction of the price of a sitting class ticket.
Be sure to check out the upcoming documentary on our south east Asian journey, it will cover more on the
experience on the Mandalay Express.
The Mandalay Express.