In the area around Mandalay there is a lot to see, but the sights are so far apart that you will require your own private transport. Renting a car was never an option for me in Asia before, a taxi and driver for the whole day is mostly out of my imagination, so I had good reason to hop on my favourite toy of locomotion again – a motorized two-wheeler. In this particular case, an old Chinese scooter, real motorcycles could not be found. It was the same for the helmet, a real head protection like you know it from Europe is not available. The plastic bowl on the head had rather decorative character.
The vehicle was sufficiently motorized, so I made quite good progress. As everywhere in Asia, the traffic need always some time to get used to – but was a lot less hectic than in Vietnam, Cambodia or even India.
When driving through the streets in the early morning, there are always groups of young monks or nuns to be seen wandering through the alleys with metal containers in order to collect food donations or money from the faithful Buddhists.
Throughout Myanmar there are many people who have decorated their faces with a yellow paste. It is sandalwood that is rubbed on a stone with water to a smooth cream. This mixture is applied because it is fashionable, the skin is kept moist and it protects from the sun.
The U-Bein bridge was built around 1850 with wood from the former royal palace in Inwa and is therefore the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world. The bridge is an important link between the shores of Lake Taungthaman for the local population and very popular with tourists. A lot of tourist boats are available to go out on the lake and view the building from there.
Loads of tourists meet daily at 10:00 am in the nearby Mahar Ganda Yone Monastery to observe about 1,200 monks get served food. If you are there a little earlier, you can walk gently through this huge complex and watch the food being prepared.
Inwa was the ancient capital of various Burmese kingdoms between the 14th and early 19th centuries. After a devastating earthquake in 1839, the city was completely destroyed and abandoned by the population. The royal house and the entire court were then moved to nearby Mandalay. Some ruins are still preserved today and show some of their former splendour.
Best preserved is the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, which can be visited today as an excavation site and museum.
On the way north, when you cross the Ava bridge over the Irrawaddy, you will see the Sagaing Hill with its monasteries, temples and stupas for the first time.
In August 1988, a series of peaceful demonstrations took place here around Sagaing. More than 300 civilians and monks lost their lives during their suppression by the military..
About 30 km north of Sagaing Hill on the banks of the Irrawaddy in little Migun there are also a number of places of interest. Temples, figures and monasteries, most of which were destroyed or damaged by the great earthquake of 1839.