Today is an exciting day – today, we get to hear from my gorgeous friend, Pip, who has been quenching her wanderlust for the past 6 months (+). She has eaten dinner with Monks, hung out with some of my favourite European monuments, experienced a winter in Paris
Her Facebook albums are now adequately filled with hundreds of jealousy-inducing photos, and making my feet itch like there is no tomorrow. So, without further adieu, I welcome Pip to The Wanderlust Scout, and why Mandalay is a must see/do/travel to!
I left Sydney August 1st 2014 with one BIG backpack and no return ticket. I had a few flights booked but no real concrete plans – it was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.
First stop was Vietnam with my mum, then Thailand, Myanmar, Europe and finally the UK to live and work. Right now I am in Paris with my half sister for Christmas and New Years after a whirlwind month on the backpacker train around Europe. I have had unforgettable memories, seen astonishing sights and partied with new friends.
One of the highlights on this journey was my 2.5 months in Myanmar where I volunteered at Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education (PDO) High School in Mandalay teaching dancing and english. My time at this school truly opened my eyes to another world and students who had so little yet so humble. I could spend all day writing about my adventures inside the school but I want to give you an insight into Mandalay the city and its dynamic and vibrant atmosphere as one of the last untouched gems in Asia.
Mandalay is home to just over 1 million people –it is a small city that has just opened up to western influence. It has the city convenience and comforts (Burmese style) mixed in with traditional Burmese life including bamboo shacks, street food and a few cows along the way. It is so home to over half the monks in the country so if you want spiritual enlightenment and a few nuns and monks – Mandalay is the place to be.
At first this city was foreign and frightening as I was the only white female, but after no time at all I felt welcome and safe and did spy a few other westerners along the way. I embraced what the city had to offer and experienced some truly unique sights and sounds – here are a few of my highlights:
- Mandalay hill – the city landmark. A giant gold pagoda that sits high and mighty with a perfect view over the city. When visiting Mandalay you need to commit and make the journey up the steps to experience the amazing views. At the top the city opens up and you can take in a 360 degree view. As the sun sets the sky turns to a brilliant shade of orange and illuminates the city down below. I made the trip up the hill with the novices from PDO. They make the journey everyday to practice their english with foreigners. Take the time to have a chat and make a new friend.
- Yankin is another holy hill just look in the opposite direction of Mandalay hill. The walk to the top is short and sweet under the cool shade of the forest leaves. Many monasteries and meditation centres take advantage of the beautiful scenery and reside at the base of the hill. If you are up for an adventure travel around t he hill on a motorbike to a monastry with many friendly monkeys (I promise they are friendly). Follow the monkeys to the top of the hill for an amazing outlook over the city
- The Royal Palace – a 30min walk from PDO. The moat and palace walls are a prominent fixture in the city. Early morning (05:30am) is the perfect time for a brisk walk, run or tai chi lesson next to the moat – the sunrise is incredible. Inside the Palace Walls the army live in a secure compound protected with armed guards. Visitors to the palace need to pass this compound before entering the Palace. A once opulent structure is now a few simple timber buildings with some gold trim and a small museum with a few royal artefacts which offered an insight into the rich history of this city
- U Bein bridge – the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world measuring 1.2kms. On a sunny day get down to the water and experience the bridge and beautiful scenary in all its glory. Be adventurous and hop in a small boat run by one of the locals for a relaxing ride on the high seas
- Inwa – make the day trip to this ancient city that was the capital of the Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th Step back in time as you drive along to find the reuins and foundations of an ancient empire. Take time to explore the grounds and watch the Burmese artists capture these magical ruins
- Mingun – just a short hop, skip, skip and jump (or swim) from Mandalay up the Ayeyarwady River. Walk the plank to a private boat for a short 30min ferry ride to the lovely island town. Chill out and live an island life or visit the three key tourist attractions: Mingun Pahtodawgyi – it could have been the largest pagoda in the world but sadly the king did not finish it. Ignore the “no tourist”sign and climb to the top but watch your feet. An incredible view from the top is not to be missed. Hsinphyumae Pagoda is another must – a white pagoda with beautiful little peep holes that give you a glimpse past the buddha statues to the world below. Finally the Mingun bell – because who deosn’t like a GIANT bell that you can hammer and hide inside.
Travelling to Myanmar? Don’t miss Mandalay. Get outside the city centre and explore the sights and sounds and along the way get to know the welcomming and lovely locals.
Do you have an awesome travel story? Want it featured on The Wanderlust Scout? Then be sure to throw me an email with your story idea, and I am happy to discuss.
Images – Philipa Grey and Svietnametravel