Sunday, June 4, 2017

At loose ends in Mandalay

By Sarah

“So how do we get from the airport to the city?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I think there’s a taxi or a share taxi?” Flounder answered, nonchalantly.

We were standing in the check in line at the Bangkok airport, about 90 minutes before our flight to Mandalay, Myanmar.

Beautiful teak monastery in Mandalay

How could he not know? And then because I have no filter, I asked him, “How could you not know? It’s your job to research these things!” I smiled cheekily.

“Yeah, I think I just don’t care as much. I know now that things will just work out.”

This was a shift. A shift from our early days of traveling together, when Flounder liked to plan every aspect of a trip—book every hotel, know where we were going and how to get there. But also a shift in the unassigned but assumed roles we’d fallen into in our relationship. He was the planner, the researcher. And I was the on-the-ground communicator. He did the work before the trip, I the work during.

Airports can be hectic, full of scams, and we were going to a new country.

But Mandalay’s airport was a surprise—calm, organized, plenty of agents. Our evisa was processed quickly, our customs form accepted immediately, and there was no one waiting for departing passengers, trying to usher us into their overpriced taxis. Instead, we took out money from the ATM, bought two sim cards (for a total of $3), and booked a seating in a waiting van that, for less than $4 apiece, would take us directly to our hotel.

Beehive boxes on the side of the road

The drive from the airport was lovely—about an hour through mango groves and green fields dotted with palm trees and pagodas.

It's mango season! Mangoes are everywhere

When we arrived at our hotel, the streets dark and unlit around us, I asked Flounder, “What do you want to do tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

Neither of us had done the research.

I loved seeing spotting these symbols around town

So we did what we love to do. We rented bikes and rode around the city. We rode to the jetty on the shore of the Ayeyarwady river and asked about boats (none in the wet season). So we ignored the early hour and sat at a riverside beer station, Flounder drinking a breakfast draught while we both watched the kids splash in the water below and the women wash laundry and hang it from the ropes tying wooden boats to the shore.

Action on the Ayeyarwady River

Flounder enjoys a fresh beer and pets a friendly kitty. A perfect combo!

Taking a break from cycling in the heat

We rode on a teak bridge, struggled making left turns into relentless traffic of all speeds and sizes, saw monasteries and temples, searched for a buffet serving food from the Shan region of Myanmar, ignored the Thai imported durian and bought local instead, ducked inside when the afternoon rain started, rode along the moat and walls surrounding the royal palace, and chuckled at the antics of roly babies (so many children!), their faces covered in the soft thanaka paste so emblematic of the country.

Teak bridge

An overloaded cyclist (is there any other kind in Southeast Asia?)

There were many things that we didn’t do, and some things that perhaps we could have done with advance research. But we ended the day full, happy, and with a taste of Myanmar that left us excited for more.

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed your post so much. so happy you are writing again. love you both.