Morning of Day 9 finds me a little sad realizing my journey in Myanmar is nearing its end in a couple more days. I moved in from my stuffy hotel to my roomarama-sponsored accommodation at Mandalay View Inn. It also gave me time to do a little backpack-keeping and chores. I also realized that I’m up to my last few kyats and needed to use my emergency funds at this time. I didn’t expect the low exchange rate when I came and I was surprised how low it got just from last week (US$1 = 740 from 780 when I arrived) when I changed money. After lunch my motorbike service came. My driver this time was Tubo since Olsen had to accompany a friend who had an accident to a hospital. I hopped on the bike, put on my helmet and we rode on to Sagaing.
From Mandalay Hill, we continued on our “US$10 Combo Ticket Free” route in Mandalay. The US$10 Combo Ticket is a government fee that can give access to several tourist sites in Mandalay. I wasn’t keen on spending on it as I’ll use it to pay for my driver instead. There are alternative sites in Mandalay that are equally good but doesn’t need that combo ticket. Like the Sandamuni Paya which is an alternative to the nearby Kuthodaw Paya. Mandalay Hill sometimes has ticket inspectors but an alternative hill is Yankin Paya. Now we’re off to two more impressive sites – a beautiful ‘teak monastery’ and the most important religious site in Mandalay.
The soles of my feet already felt very thick it would probably take a few foot scrub sessions to take out the dead skin and callouses from too much walking. By this time, after entering many temples and sacred grounds for almost a week, I’m already used to removing my footwear before entering temples. For Mandalay Hill, my next place to visit, I had to remove my slippers before climbing the 760-feet high hill. I really don’t mind the climb since after the two gigantic Bobyoki Nat guardian statues is a shaded stair pathway leading to the summit. What amused me was the footwear storage at the foot of the hill with a sign “Footwear not Allowed. Don’t carry shoes” clearly directed at foreigners where they’ll have to pay to store them. I saw a lot of locals carrying their shoes inside plastics so I just decided to clip my slippers to my bag and started the climb.
These were the last few temples I visited in Bagan before leaving in the evening for Mandalay. Even if I enjoyed the sunrise and visited a few sites in Myinkaba, I already felt templed-out come mid-morning that I just wanted to head back to the inn to pack my things and get ready for the evening bus ride. But Mime insists we do a few more stops on temples on our way. I guess he wants to get my money worth so I obliged and it did pay off. I get to meet another interesting character in one of the temples in Old Bagan.
Day 4 of my journey in Myanmar has been great so far, especially with that magnificent sunrise over Old Bagan. We made our way to the village of Myinkaba, just along the road between Old Bagan and New Bagan. Breakfast was the first order of the day and it was also a great way to observe the locals on their more relaxed pace. I noticed the similarity with Myanmar’s neighboring Indo-China country like Laos and Vietnam who likes to have breakfast at the streets, particularly tea houses. I pulled out a chair and sat down with Mime and ate like how the Burmese eat.
The chill of the early morning wind was really pleasant in Bagan this time of the year. Yes, I got up early and got out of the hotel just in time when Mime and Chune just arrived at the front gate exactly 5am. We started our ride again to the direction of Old Bagan while I survey the surroundings, now familiar even under the sheaths of darkness ready to wake up any moment. I have no idea which temple Mime plans to take me for the sunrise except that it’s somewhere between Old Bagan and Myinkaba, the next village. He has proven to be very reliable and knowledgeable as a guide aside from being just a horse cart driver so I’ll trust his recommendation this time.
My sleep was so deep. It felt like only a second passed since my eyes closed until the moment I woke up. My senses were getting accustomed to the living world when I wondered why my alarm didn’t go off. I reached for my watch and was shocked to see it was already 4:30pm! I jumped off the bed and grabbed my things like there’s no tomorrow. I asked Mime to fetch me at the hotel at 3:30pm for out afternoon expedition at the Central plains including a sunset at Pyathada Paya, but an hour had already passed. So much for the planned itinerary for the afternoon, I haven’t even had my lunch yet.