In the beginning last October, I have got a very good chance that I was invited to travel by initial flight of Thai Smile. The route is Bangkok-Mandalay... Hmmm, I only once step to Myanmar when I go to Mae Sai so this time I can't deny travelling to see the olden capital city of Burma or Myanmar.
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Since I have to travel from Phuket, so I have to find an accommodation near Suvarnabhumi Airport that I don't have to wake up so early on the traveling day...The accommodation name is Thongta Residence. It is 10 minutes far away from Suvarnabhumi Airport, the price is 850 Baht (for 1-2 people). Including car service to airport which departures every hour but since I go there so late, Thongta tells me to call them when I reach there. I wait for only 10 minutes then the car arrives. It is better than ride on taxi to the city...This accommodation closes to 7 eleven. In front there are many restaurants nearby so it is quite suitable to stay here to wait for transfer the flight to other destination. The room size is wide enough. Its cons is a loud noise makes from cars passing all night. I don't recommend people who have difficulty sleeping, but it is okay if you sleep easily like me, haha.
Staying in the accommodation nears airport to wait for the morning flight.
On 8:00 am., I reach Suvarnabhumi Airport on time. I get the travelling program from the staff who take care us for this trip then I check in and load the luggage. After that it is time to walk around the airport before I leave by the flight WE309 which is an inaugural Flight of Thai Smile to Mandalay.
Today is a little bit special because it is an inaugural flight, so they provide a welcome drink, it is a tamarind tea serve to refresh ourselves before departure and when the plane take off to the sky for a while, there is a snack serve on the plane which is a Tuna spicy salad with Spinach Rolls.
It takes around 1:45 hours to travel from Bangkok to Mandalay and the local time is 30 minutes slower than Thailand ... I sit and observe the landscape below. The plane flies through a high mountain rage,insert with a big opaque river . I think it should be located around the boarding of Thailand-Myanmar. Maybe it is Salween River.
The river below might be Salween River, I guess.
Passing through that area, I can see a large flat area intersperse with low hills which is the terrain central of Myanmar which indicates that we are going close to Mandalay now. And I clearly sure about it when captain announces that the plane is going the landing to Mandalay airport. The more the plane landing down, the more flat geography intersperse with a small shrub and palm are clearly seen.
Since it is a special flight so a group of managers from Mandalay airport and senior officers come from Thai Airways and Thai Smile to pick us up and wait to provide a warm welcome.
The moment I step off the plane, I cry out in my mind because I imagine that this trip I will face with a cool weather (I plan to take a thin overcoat with me too) but the weather is so hot here, hotter than Phuket, my hometown. I would feel so embarrassed if I wear a thick overcoat on the plane.
We get a warm welcome ... I should say a hot welcome not a warm welcome hahaha.
After finish shooting a memorial expedition, we then enter the immigration process, receive the luggage and custom process which nothing is complicated but what was suffering me is they not turn on the air-conditioner or maybe air conditioner not cold enough because it makes me sweat.
I get the luggage and go out from the hall building. There are many stores similar to the airport, including exchange counter. You have to prepare Dollars for exchange to Kyat because they might deny to receive Baht or you might get a bad rate ... another thing that you should know is that the store might not receive a folded Dollars. There is a bus waiting for us at the airport. I choose to sit in the front row to clearly see the route. It takes around 45 minutes - 1 hour from airport to Mandalay which seems to take a long time because of the limitation of driving speed. ( the distance is nearly from Phuket airport to the city hehe).
The view along the way mostly is a lowland and hills periodically..The bus takes us directly to the restaurant for today's lunch named " Tom Yum Kung ๒" which the owner is Thai people and certainly the main food is Thai food ...and I just know that the taste is adapted to Myanmar people, not delicious for Thai people. So, Thai tour guide prefer to find a Thai or Chinese restaurant to welcome tourism.
Thai Smile has arranged variety of foods for today's lunch which I feel so stuffed. Apart from familiar Thai food, there are a grilled shrimp, a popular menu of this restaurant...When talking about the taste, it is good even it's not that great but definitely better than Thai food in other country.When the lunch finish, we start the travelling program at Mandalay palace which is encompassed with moat and wall. The overall space is very wide in space.
A vast moat.
When the car run through a narrow gate, it's now reach the area of the olden palace which presently belong to Myanmar solider. After that they drive us to stop at the olden palace place... We use the olden palace because all the building constructions we have seen are reconstructed since the old one is damaged during the world war 2, even we can feel the spacious of the building construction and the king palace but the refinement of arts and objects can not be compared to the traditional teak house. I believe that if these building were not damaged here, it would become the great cultural heritage and very important places of Myanmar or the world which Shwedagon Pagoda is totally difference ... It is interested that Myanmar has not has enough budget to invent this place,Mandalay palace...It is pity that Myanmar in the past also doesn't has enough money to invent Mandalay palace to become beautiful as it used to be before the war again . So, we can only see shadowy figure of glory only.
When talking about war of Burmese, Myanmar history in the classroom is mainly focus on the war between Myanmar and England and Japanese. Not quite focuses on making war with Thai people and they still look at Thai people as a friend rather than enemy ... but it can be considered as good thing that I also just hear it for the first time.
I walk around to observe and take picture in difference corner in the middle of the torrid and rain clouds are formed thicker and thicker....not so long that the heavy rain falls as I expected which it makes us to travel to the next destination while waiting for the rain to stop.
Children are playing in the small trough after the rain fall behind the palace.
It doesn't take a long distance to travelling to Shwenandaw Monastery. The monastery is a whole golden teak-wood. It used to be part of Mandalay palace but after that King Mindon Min who used to use this house for meditating during his succeed to the throne. After his death this wooden house had dedicated to temple to use as monastery. So that this is the only traditional house that still in a good condition and be inherited until present time and haven't been damaged during the war.
The more I see and close to it, the more I think that Myanmar art work is delicately constructed this wooden house.
I am so pity that the rain still continuous falling with a minor light which causes an obstruction for taking a photo so I can take many pictures since the light is gone. So, we have to go to Kuthodaw Pagoda which is located nearby... This is another place that I like because the temple area is fulled of small white pagodas. The pagoda inside consist of Tripitaka Headstone which was built during Tripitaka Council in Myanmar which indicates the engagement between Burmese and Buddhist.
Actually today we plan to see the sunset at Mandalay Hill which is a popular sightseeing view of Mandalay city but since the program is delay and the rain falls so the plan has to be cancelled and go to Mandalay hotel hill which is our accommodation for this trip...
When I receive the detail of this travelling program, I take this hotel name to search on Google. The picture of the hotel is a tall building, not quite interesting but when I am at the real place, I also have to admit that the hotel looks pleasant and its lobby is beautiful and the swimming pool view behind the hotel is exquisite.
My room, even it not quite wide but the decoration is elegant, beautiful and comfortable.
For the room, it's not quite wide but with a beautiful and livable atmosphere especially a view from 7th floor in which I stay can give me a sense of Mandalay.
First thing to do when I wake up is to see the view from my room, very beautiful.
I want to name this picture "walking to an opposite direction".
The swimming pool atmosphere in the morning time.
The next morning after breakfast, we are going to Amarapura city, another old capital city of Myanmar. The first point we visit there is Maha Gandayon Monastery which is a major Buddhism school in Myanmar. So, this temple is plentiful of monks and travelers are waiting to see a picture of monks and novices lining out to receive food at the same time and take this chance to make a merit which depends on their faithful at the same time.
From Wat Maha Kandahar Yong, we then keep walking a little distance which if we drive to the car, the air-conditioned inside the car hasn't cool yet when we reach the next destination. The next destination is U Bein, a wooden bridge which is the longest wooden bridge in the world that was built from Teak woods that are left after the palace in constructed. It is 1.4 kilometers long.
This wooden bridge is built above Ta Tong Lake for crossing to another side.
The bridge has a booths standing in line at the aisle's side which is not different from Thailand. They sell shrimp, fried crab and thing that are made from wood and a hand make silk.
Hak Mung is popular name of banana in Myanmar. The hotel's breakfast also use this banana too.
There is a bench and pavilion on the bridge for guest to take a rest periodically. One can decide to walk until the end or just part of it, it's depend on one's ability but for me I can walk for half kilometer and then walk back because I still have another long program in the afternoon and the weather today is too hot to walk in a long distance ... actually if you can choose time to visit here, you better come here in the evening because the sunset atmosphere is really beautiful here or you would come here in the morning when the alms take place on the bridge, I think it would give you another feeling of living in Myanmar. Beside, if you have enough time, you can also try cruising. There are many beautiful boats in a Myanmar style waiting for providing the service to customers too.
Going out from U Bein Bridge, we go to visit a famed silk store of Amarapura. This store used to offer the work to boss in the palace in the past. The name is Shwe Sin Tine. There are variety of silks which offer affordable price up to expensive price, depending on quality of the work. Moreover, the opposite store is a weaving factory that opens for tourist to visit and see the weaving silk process too.
Weaving factory of this store opens for tourist to see the weaving silk process.
Myanmar silk is unique in a striped pattern, the pattern unlike Thailand.
After enjoy shopping according to the concept of Thai tour, we then visit a gold leaf store which they still use an traditional way to produce thing which is a man power. The man gradually hammer on 100% gold sheet until it becomes slim enough ... Moreover, pads are made of original wood pulp which takes a very long producing time...it is emphasize clearly that religious is an important matter to Myanmar people.
We have Thai food for lunch (again) at Ko's kitchen on the edge of the moat beside Mandalay palace. The food menu is similar to yesterday. The taste of food is ok.
In the late afternoon, we have cruising program at Irrawaddy river to visit the historic city, Mingun... I am a little surprise when I arrive there and get on the boat because the boat is bigger than I imagined. The boat can accommodate hundred of passengers, I suppose the size with my eyes. Moreover, there is a room for overnight cruising passengers too.
The river side atmosphere.
We cruise through Irrawaddy river. It is the main river, of Myanmar. The atmosphere of the two sides of the river. It preserves a countryside style. No new construction and biker but full of pinnacle.
We take some moment cruising and sight viewing until we reach Mingun city and to feel like a local people so we take a local bus to the tourist spot of this city.
Now we arrive to Mingun and this is our boat.
Riding around to see the city
The first point is Hsinbyume Pagoda, it was built as a memorial of love of King Bagyidaw to his wife and it was denominated as Taj Mahal of the Irrawaddy River.
You have to take off your shoes and socks before visiting the pagoda, same like visiting temple and other religious places of Myanmar ... the way to upstairs is fulled of kids that undertake of keeping the shoes, fans and include selling flowers to worship Buddha statues that are placed on the pagoda.
Before going up to the top, I walk around with bare feet and find a beautiful viewpoint which it makes me feel the feet pain because the walk way is not suitable to walk with bare feet and the surrounding atmosphere seems like it hasn't been taken care enough. I feel a little pity about it because actually the pagoda looks very beautiful and unique.
Buddha Images are placed on the pagoda and people are keep telling of its sacred which means you can get whatever you request from it, until people are afraid that enemy will pray for thing that would threat the city so they bring another Buddha image overlay putting in front of that Buddha image ... so if you want to pray for something, you have to pray with the back Buddha image.
Then we go to see Mingun Bell, the biggest bell that is built simultaneously with Mingun Pagoda.
We are heading to Mingun Pahtodawgyi or Emperor Pagoda. It is said that the emperor wants to build a bigger pagoda in Suvarnabhumi including Thai's pagoda but another legend narrate that the emperor wants the pagoda to be very huge so that they can see China to detect aggression from enemies. But, anyway the pagoda does not reach his building objective, 152 m. but only base of the pagoda is finish building. It's 50 meters (Can compare to at least 15th building floor) because labor have to face with sweat that they have to escape and group up as a thief and come back to attack Myanmar which they believe that England is a great supporter and that causes the war and colonization of the city in Myanmar.
Pagoda base still remain
The way going up to the top, it consumes a lot of energy but it worth seeing the view.
The tail of the lion statue was decayed by time, it can be seen only the remaining of its giant haunch.
After visit three interesting places, we then have to say goodbye to Mingun city and get on the boat for cruising back to the pier ... there is a special show from Thai Smile ladies and Myanmar actors along the way.
The golden light in the evening makes Irrawaddy river looks more impressive.
The boat gradually takes us to the pier but we are not yet get off it because a special meal is still waiting for us at the restaurant at the ground floor of the boat by serving a western food, the taste is yummy and we like it.
We feeling full after dinner and heading to the hotel to get to bed early because we in our program we have to departure at 3.30 a.m. to join ritual of face cleansing of Mahamuni which is one of the most 5 sacred Buddha images in Myanmar. Actually this ritual daily starts around 4.00 a.m. but if you want to see closely, you have to come and book the place in the morning like us.
While waiting for the door to open
This appareled Buddha image was built by the king in Rakhine region to pay homage to Buddha. The legend was narrated that the king dreams about the Lord Buddha that he had given him a breath to completely build this Buddha image so they believe that this Buddha Image is keep breathing which is the
source of this ritual that people to have a daily clean his face like he is still alive. After that Mandalay's king have a chance to join Rakhine activity and take the Buddha image to place at Mandalay city and carry on the ritual until present time.
People are rushing to reserve the place ... women will stay in areas farther away but for men, they can go more closer.
Before the ritual starts, there is a music start in the beginning of the ritual to encourage Buddhism to see you and worship.
After that the monks who are in charge of the ritual ceremony start to clean his face.
The ritual starts by cleaning the face, using a perfume and Tanaka mix together to brush his mouth and teeth by a golden brush before using a special fabric that righteous person offers to them and wraps his face until it dry and use a golden fan waving his face again, then the ceremony ends.
After the ritual finished, they will let Buddhism especially the men to go and put the huge amount of gold placing on the Buddhism image everyday, so the gold on the Buddhism image have become thicker and thicker until it's name " Nuer Nan Buddha ".
We are heading to the hotel from the temple to have breakfast and we still have to take more rest before check out at 10.00 a.m. to go to Mandalay airport.
Morning atmosphere in Mandalay city.
Check-in process at Mandalay airport still not operate with a full system like the big airport. It is considered to be another feeling, I think when more tourist fly to travel there, there would be an improvement about facilities soon.
While waiting for the plane to take off, I have a chance to share things with fellow travelers that each of them feel happy and impressed about this trip, and also be delighted ... Even Mandalay is not quite convenience and good facilities like other top tourism city but I feel warmed heart because I can experience traditional lifestyle, an interesting trace of history, precious heritage and the hospitality of the Myanmar people. I think Mandalay is one of the destination that you would not miss visiting it.. I personally feel that I still want to drive a car around Mandalay again so that I can take a picture of people's life on the road, including a beautiful pagoda which are all placed in ever corner of the road but after I inquire with our tour leader, I think it would be very hard because no car rental service, only a few taxi. Mostly is a motorcycle and normally driving a car on the road in Myanmar is not fun at all because they drive on the right lense but many car's steering wheel is on the right like Thailand because cars are imported from Thailand of Japan. I have to admire that Myanmar people's driving skill is really good.
Lastly, I have to say Thank You to Thai Smile again that invite me to experience Mandalay city in inaugural Flight...
For people who want to spend 2-3 days travelling to experience with a strong tradition of local people and a beautiful lifestyle that still keep the same old tradition, include going to worship an important and sacred of Myanmar... you can travel from Bangkok with Thai Smile to Mandalay. There are 4 flight per week on Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. For more information, please see in the website www.thaismileair.com
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