24 hours in Mandalay


At the end of my 10-day trip in Burma, I found myself alone and with only a day to visit Mandalay. What does one do with only 24 hours in Mandalay?

Bike to Mandalay Hill

After checking into to a mediocre room at the Nylon Hotel, I quickly grab a bike for a dollar and head for Mandalay Hill. This means biking around the giant fort walls of the Mandalay Palace in the slow lane, flanking old ladies with their pretty flowered longyis and staying out of the way of dirty city buses.

I figure that I will be able to see the rows of souvenirs stands and then I will know, this is where I go. Instead I pass monasteries, a golf course and then… houses. I had apparently navigated to the road less traveled (shocking, I know) and ended up… lost.

Time for me to get out my map and put on the classic “help me I’m a confused tourist!” face. As if consoling a puppy, a kind woman with an extremely large goiter amassed on the left side of her neck assures me that yes, I’m in the right place. Just a little ways further.

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Traveling Solo in Myanmar (Burma)

20 pairs of Burmese eyes stare at me as I stumble on a public bus in Yangon, Myanmar. I point to my crumpled photocopied map and smile big, “Shwedagon Pagoda?” The bus attendant shoos me forward and makes some sort of joke at my expense.

I curse myself for being too cheap to take a taxi.

As soon as I pay the $0.10 bus ticket, a shy young woman with very good English informs me that I am on the completely wrong bus. So that’s what the joke was about. She points to the other side of the street and instructs me to take the #28 bus. The advice is well-intentioned but utterly useless given that none of the city buses have roman numerals on them. All I see are the loopy loops and defined curves of the Burmese alphabet.

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