The Royal PalaceMay 22 in Myanmar
Last night we stayed in and had some food at the hotel, we had only planned to have some cocktails during their free cocktail hour but you know how things are, you’re sipping on a cocktail, see some food come out and think mmm I might have to have something after all. Well with the free cocktails there was no choice just a Whisky Sour or nothing, it was ok but not what we would have chosen and the food was just ok as well although Tanya’s local Myanmar beer was very nice. But the most bizarre thing during the evening was that as we were sat there they started setting up for and then putting on a traditional puppet show, no one had told us about this, it just happened, all a bit strange really.
This morning we woke up to the sound of rain outside and the traffic splashing it’s way through it, so we didn’t race to get up and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The hotel restaurant has no windows so it wasn’t until we were going back to our room that we noticed the rain had stopped, yay time to make plans.
Top of our list of places to visit in Mandalay was The Royal Palace so we quickly checked it out then hailed (via Tanya’s phone) a Grab Tuktuk. The Palace sits in the middle of a square plot that is approximately 2km along each side with a rather wide moat running all the way around it, the rest of site is taken up with military buildings / areas and is off limits. Foreigners / tourists are only allowed to enter via the East Gate and having paid the entrance fee one of the group (me) has to surrender their passport or ID and be given a yellow foreign visitor card on a lanyard. Once you get through the gate there is a straight road to the palace, probably about 600 - 700m long with a gaggle of ladies trying to convince yo that you need to hire a cycle or get a motorbike taxi to take you there. Much to Tanya’s disgust I declined and we walked, passing loads of check points and entry forbidden signs on the side roads as we went. I think you have to remember that Myanmar had been under military control for a long time until quite recently but a smile and a nod worked well and everyone seemed friendly.
The original palace was constructed between 1857 and 1859 but after periods of occupation by the British and then the Japanese was destroyed by allied bombing during World War 2 with only the Royal Mint and the watchtower surviving. What’s there now is a replica that was built in the 1990’s and if you look closely there are clues to this like the corrugated roofs and concrete pillars instead of wood. The good news is that despite all of this its still very impressive and well worth a visit, you can even climb to the top of the watchtower if you want and you get a fantastic view, it’s 121 steps should you fancy it. It was really hot today (about 37 in the shade) and was really humid as well with all of the earlier rain so Tanya opted out and sending me to the top to get the photos and even though I was sweating like I’d just been for a run by the time I got back down it was worth the effort.
I reckon we must have spent a couple of hours looking round the palace and grounds before heading back to the hotel to cool down. Then a bit later on and with the help of Mr Google Tanya found a really nice coffee shop for a little bit of lunch and liquid refreshment of the non alcoholic type.
I’ve booked the 10.00 bus to take us to Bagan tomorrow - no boats available unfortunately as it’s the rainy season, not because of water levels or anything just that the rainy season is low season out here and there aren’t enough tourists to make it worth while. There is a government run public ferry that is still running but everything I’ve seen so far says to avoid this option if you can,so we’re taking the advice. The one benefit of this is that we get picked up and dropped of at our hotels and will have time for breakfast rather than the 0630 start with the boat, swings and roundabouts I guess, although even with the early start the boat trip would have been nice.Read more