I’d intended to wake really early and see the Buddha being washed at the Mahamuni Paya, but despite an early night I just wasn’t up to a 3am rise. Instead, I got up at 7, had breakfast and took a trip up to Mandalay Hill.
There are covered steps leading all the way up to the top with various pagodas on the way. A couple are quite basic, though the upper couple have some tall Buddha statues. The topmost one stands with his arm outstretched pointing to where Mandalay was to be built, and now stands.
If you’re lazy, you can now be driven up to the top via a relatively new road, but that takes the fun (and sweat) out of it.
At the bottom I snapped a picture of a wedding couple – it seems to be the season for it – and next stopped at the Sandamani Paya which contains 1774 marble slabs. Each is housed in its own mini-pagoda and is one page (well, two – they’re carved om both sides) of the Suttavinaya Abhidhamma, part of the teachings of Buddha. There’s a similar pagoda mearby which is far better maintained and which contains the Tripitaka canon. It’s also on the $10 ticket which I wasn’t wanting to pay and which my driver was happy about.
My next stop was at the university. The owner of the guest house I’d stayed at in Bagan had studied here and told me I must see the central building as it’s a great example of British colonialism – all huge columns and impressive steps. See it, I did. Get pictures, I did not. I was hastily shoo-ed away by the gate guardswho obviously mistook me for an anti-establishment oik with a penchant for blowing up educational structures with my laser canon cunningly disguised as a small camera.
It was nice, though. Honest.
I’d also wanted to go to the Shwe In Bin Kyaung in the “monk district” but my driver was after another 1000K to go there and I already felt I’d been overcharged for my morning as it was. It’s fun being driven around in a 45 year-old converted Mazda van, but the pleasure is only worth so much.
As such, I was back at the Royal somewhat earlier than anticipated. I was going to have a shower, but I’d left a near-ful bottle of gel in the bathroom the previous day and some bugger had nicked it. Instead, I walked off out to check my email, grab some lunch and organise a motorcycle to get me to the bus depot.
The bike came to 2000K, the lunch to 1800K (thick spaghetti-like noodles in a chicken curry sauce… served cold) and the internet to 800K. As it always seemed to, regardless of how long I was in there.
I finished off with a 500K orange drink from the stall I’d visited the previous day. By the time I got back to the hotel my motorbike was waiting for me. I was at the bus way before check-in time, loaded on with my luggage and we departed on the pip of 5pm.