Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin & Hsipaw

The very photogenic U Bein's bridge.

According to legend, Mandalay was visited by Buddha himself. Hence a host of important temples and stupas were high up on the regular tourist to-see list. But we were, frankly, quite stupa'd out after Bagan so decided to spend more of our time watching the workings, and soaking up the atmosphere, of this bubbly vibrant (if a little dusty) city.

We started by visiting the uber-photogenic U Bein's Bridge - the world's longest teak footbridge which crosses Taungtha Lake on the outskirts of town. The sunset was spectacular and we probably took about a million photos betwixt us. We shall only bore you with a couple more of them here.

On our second day we got back in the saddle and cycled our way around the intricate lanes and backstreets, waving at local kids and seeing Mandalay life from a different perspective.

We didn't avoid religious buildings completely mind you, visiting several later that day on the way up to and atop Mandalay hill. The ascent of which turned out to be much fun owing to meeting a young monk on the way up who was about the most curious person we've met on our travels so far.

We also went to a gorgeous teak monastery called Shwe In Bin dating back to 1895.

And last but not least, the even older Eindawya Paya, a central stupa surrounded by a kind of mini Westfield for monks, selling robes, alms bowls etc...

Cheeky monk(ey)

Next up we decided to do as the middle-class Burmese do and head into the hills to escape the heat. The place is called Pyin Oo Lwin and was founded by the British in 1896, who also created some gorgeous gardens akin to Kew.

Guess what? We went to Pyin Oo Lwin.
Show off.

Then on to Hsipaw by train, heading as far north as we would get in Burma. The train traversed some lovely countryside and crossed the Gotkeik Viaduct; a rickety, creaky construction dating back to 1901. Not for the faint hearted!

Hsipaw was a dusty old town full of trekkers and lots of nuns. Perhaps we would warm to trekking...? Alas no. But you can't say we didn't try. We did a two day trek up to a Palaung tribal village - the village was the best part, especially because we found the equivalent of the local pub. The actual walking up a dusty track in soaring heat; sod that. So we ducked out of the second day walking back and got motorbikes back to town the next morning, down said dirt track. Much more fun.

Hsipaw nuns
Our Palaung village hostess

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