The hallowed city of Kipling and Nelly the Elephant, no one could understand why we would actually want to visit Mandalay. The palace was destroyed during WWII and has only since been partially rebuilt, and the pagoda on the top of the famous hill is forgettable considering the competition that there is in country from the Shwedagon etc. Still we decided to go, as it is the second largest city in the country and a good place to get a different perspective from Yangon. But its true: there is no great reason to visit Mandalay itself. What lies around Mandalay is a different story.
The longest teak bridge in the world is U Bein’s Bridge at Amarapura, and approximately 50% of all books written about Myanmar have it somehow incorporated in the cover. In reality it is a very long jetty which people walk across (some sections are also made of concrete, but only a spoilsport would pick up on that point), and whereas it is not a feat of engineering, it at least provides the opportunity to take the same photo a hundred times (bridge with monk walking over it; bridge with fisherwoman walking over it; bridge with man cycling over it etc.).
|It's quicker to drive the long way.|
Down the road, Saigang is astounding. You cross the Ayeryarwady River, climb the hill going past many pagodas and at the summit you are able to look down across the plains and see what are apparently 100s of other pagodas. This is both visually arresting, and also a great relief as you can enjoy the other pagodas without having to actually visit them (there comes a point when all pagodas start to look the same).
|View back down to the Ayeryarwady|
And finally the town of Inwa, one of the ancient capitals of the country which lies on an island in the middle of the Ayeryawady River. The local cartel requires that you do a tour of the island in a horse and carriage, which was only marginally less comfortable that the 40 year old Mazda that we used to get between sites. And you go past more temples and pagodas, a sitting Buddha, a leaning tower and a teak monastery.
|By this point in the day we'd seen enough temples|
And then back to Mandalay. It is said that Kipling never actually visited the place that he wrote his famous poem after. When you’re in town, you can see why that is true.