When planning a trip to Burma, the city of Mandalay, in the north of the country, is one of the stages generally included.
The name of the city evokes exotic images and people expect to find golden pagodas and a relaxed and oriental atmosphere.
It’s not like that. Mandalay is a chaotic and busy city, a set of roads that do not have names but numbers, where thousands of cars and mopeds crazily travel around.
Looking at it on the map, Mandalay looks so neat with the Royal Palace surrounded by the river, and the horizontal and vertical paths that cross perfectly.
But there is a way to recover from the initial disappointment that causes Mandalay… just leave the center and explore the surroundings.
To do this we have rented a motorbike (there are some options in the area of the historical centre, the cost is about 10/15.000 kyat per day).
Certainly the most practical way, but also one of the most dangerous.
We often drove the moped in South East Asia, but it was never as stressful as it was in Mandalay. We recommend it only to those who are already experienced in motorcycle driving.
Despite the fact that the area of the city centre is a real chaos and crossings are jungles, as soon as we got to the suburbs, the situation was definitely improving.
THINGS TO SEE NEAR MANDALAY: U-BEIN BRIDGE
Starting from the centre of Mandalay and heading south for about 10 kilometres, you can reach a symbol of Burma: the U-Bein bridge.
It is located in the town of Amarapurā and is a popular tourist destination.
U-bein is the oldest and longest Teak Bridge (Dark Wood) in the world. Its construction began in 1850 and it was used to cross the lake Taungthaman.
Before getting on the bridge, but also on the bridge itself, there are vendors of food and souvenirs.
As soon as we got to the bridge, honestly, we were a little bit disappointed, exactly like Mandalay.
Hundreds of people walked in line, the crowd was so huge that the bridge couldn’t even be seen, but luckily there’s a solution here too.
It is enough to continue over half of the bridge to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of this place.
Tourists are becoming less and less and you can share the walk with the monks of the monastery of Amarapurā. To practice their English, they love to chat with tourist soyou may end up discovering interesting aspects of their lives. (here our meeting with a monk)
The best time to visit the bridge is definitely sunset.
The pink light of the sun descending behind the hills and fields is truly spectacular and gives this place a magical atmosphere.
To enjoy even more this wonder, the ideal is to get off the bridge and watch it light up with new colors.
And all this makes you forget the huge number of tourists, traffic chaos and city noise.
But the important thing is not to forget that the parking lot for the motorbikes, just before the entrance to the bridge (200 Kyat), closes at 19!!