Yangon & Mandalay
We're currently in Myanmar, taking a couple of days to explore and relax by Inle Lake. We arrived in Yangon almost two weeks ago and spent a few days in two major cities of Myanmar.
Yangon didn't really steal my heart, it's a typical, busy Asian city with most of the life happening on the humid streets. We spent our time there exploring the crumbling, colonial architecture in Downtown Yangon and finding nice coffee and foodie spots to escape our tiny hotel room.
One of my favourite finds was the Yangon Yoga house, which is hidden away down a back alley and offers a number of yoga classes and a white-washed vegan-cafe. This was my haven in Yangon and I'm looking forward to returning to their Bliss Beauty Bar when we spend the day in Yangon on Wednesday. (All their beauty products are cruelty free :)
It's worth spending a day or two in Yangon; you can explore the flower markets and the various Buddhist temples dotted around the city. The restaurant and bar scene is pretty varied with some of our favourites being; The Rangoon Tea House- a marble infused restaurant that reminded me of Dishoom in London & the beautiful Japanese-influenced Gekko ltd.
You should try Shan food whilst in Myanmar, we have fallen in love with their spicy and sour flavour combinations, I'd highly recommend Shan Yoe Yar in Yangon for a romantic dinner.
Mandalay is a bit more laid-back and relaxed than Yangon, the streets are wider and you can (just) about walk around the city, although the distances from sight to sight tend to be long!
We ticked off some tourist hot-spots such as Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Hill, the largest book in the world and the longest teak-footbridge in the world. We also saw a traditional puppet show that despite being super touristy, was actually very enjoyable.
Mandalay Palace is set in the middle of the lake and was only in use for a short period of time. The buildings are pretty from the outside and dull on the inside. There's not much left in any of the buildings, although there is a museum with some historical artefacts to put the palace in some sort of historical context.
The climb up Mandalay hill is quite long and you encounter endless Buddhist pagodas on the way, at the top you have to pay to enter the Sutaungpyi Pagoda (even though it's supposed to be included in the archaeological tourist ticket we bought previously... oh well!).
The views are worth the climb up and I'm sure it's much more satisfying than being driven up the hill to see the view...
As a bibliophile I was quite excited to see the longest book in the world. It's enclosed in hundreds of white stupas and each of the 729 slabs are inscribed with words of the Buddhist canon Tripitaka. If you read for 8 hours a day it would take 450 days to finish the book... what a sight!
Like the good tourists we are, we dutifully made our way to the U-Bein bridge (the longest teak footbridge in the world) in time for sunset.
We were accompanied by hundreds of other sun-set lovers all wanting to get that perfect shot of the bridge as the sun went down. I've never seen so many fancy-camera-wielding people in so many tiny boats before. I was more interested in capturing that phenomenon than the sun-set.
Our favourite sun-set spot was from a roof-top bar on at the Ayarwaddy River Hotel, where they also put on a traditional puppet show. Worth a trip slightly out of town for the views, the free cocktails and the tasty food.
There's enough to see and do in Mandalay to keep you there for a few days, it's worth taking your time and not rushing straight to Bagan like many tourists do.