Yangon had proven to be a fascinating city, with an array of excellent foods. My next destination would be Mandalay (the ‘capital of the north’). I boarded the train where I kept my Dbz Backpack on the deck and started my journey from Yangon, built by the British over 50 years ago. This train journey in particular is notorious for being bouncy but surely, I thought, it cannot be that bad?! I had booked an upper class sleeper for the 15 hour journey, costing about £7. The classes below this would allow me to have a wooden seat which, I decided, would not be fun for 15 hours.“… lifting off the bed…”
The train departed extremely punctually, and immediately I was treated to the bouncy castle experience. I am honestly not exaggerating when I say that the man on the bed next to me, who was lying down, was lifting off the bed due to the bumping on the train. I attempted to write a blog post but gave up when my keyboard repeatedly flew off of my lap onto my bed, or worse, the floor. This was genuinely quite a fun ride, although did leave me with a few bruises by the end of the journey! I headed towards the dining car the following morning for a cup of coffee (surprisingly difficult to drink on a bouncy castle-like train). The dining car itself was like a traditional British cafe, metal tables and all. Not quite what I had imagined, but a blast of the past for sure!
Want to feel like a British Army Officer? Travel on Burmese trains!
Once the train had arrived in Mandalay, I rented a motorbike to explore the cities outside of Mandalay. I’ve rented bikes on multiple occasions throughout my trip in various different countries, but I was entirely lost on this trip. I eventually bumped into two Germans from my hotel, and connected with them as they had a map (and I didn’t). We headed to numerous sights outside the city including the ‘worlds largest bell’. Technically, there is a larger bell in Russia, but it is damaged, so Myanmar claims it doesn’t count. I’ll give them that, on the basis the other bell is Russian. Interestingly, the creator of the bell was killed after refusing to build an even larger bell – who’d have thought a bell would be so important?
We also visited a giant temple, which supposedly houses Buddha’s tooth, although I seem to have been told this at every Buddhist monument I visit, and I didn’t realise that Buddha had more teeth than there are years in a century. Nevertheless, the main attraction to this temple is that it is built as a cave inside a giant rock, and yes, you can go to the top of this rock for amazing panoramic views – well, technically there is a (hilarious) sign stating you cannot go to the top, but there are steps… so that is an invite, right?
Please kindly requested.. just don’t go up, got it?“…waking up on the floor, surrounded by locals.”
I enjoyed spending time with them, however they ultimately rode slightly faster than I would normally go myself. Unfortunately on my way back to the city I was involved in an accident; I do not remember what happened at all; I remember seeing the worlds largest bell in Mingun, and then waking up on the floor, whilst surrounded by locals. Suffice to say, my helmet shows the result of the accident (I got off relatively lightly!). I’m not going to start a rant about ‘bikes being dangerous’; this is not necessarily the case at all, and you’d be wrong to stop people riding bikes for that reason. Some of my favourite days on this trip have been whilst on a motorbike; and I don’t regret that at all!
This could have been my skull.
The next two days in Mandalay were relatively mundane. This is, without a doubt, an incredibly boring city. My advice to anyone going to Mandalay is simply to rent a bike (or taxi) to get out of the city and explore the nearby sights. I was honestly a little confused at what I could spend time doing in the city, and I was not alone in this feeling either, with other travellers feeling the same way.
A few hours before leaving the city, I ventured to a Hindu temple and started talking to the priest. After a long conversation, I was even given some food that was donated ‘to the gods’! Two samosas, and one Laddu (Ganesh’s favourite sweet, apparently); I find it genuinely unbelievable that people give food to statues, particularly when it is evidently eaten by the priest and other members of the temple. Still, never turn down Laddu (a fantastic Indian sweet!).