So after a couple of incredible days in Bagan, I certainly did not see enough and would just love to go back, we headed back to the starting point of our bike trip in Mandalay. Knowing that this fantastic trip was about to end meant I was a little sad but hey who can stay sad when you are travelling in Myanmar with so much to see even on a not particularly interesting road. Well clearly I had got to a point where I am taking Myanmar for granted as every road is interesting in its own way. We hit the usual road works, small road side cafes (the one where we had the best Samousas), Brahman bull carts kicking up copious amounts of dust and more friendly smiling people in one village than you could meet at a pep rally in a lifetime.
After a full day on the small quiet country roads we hit the Mandalay traffic, OMG I have not experience such traffic since Ulaanbaatar. Fortunately Mandalay has no potholes, whereas Ulaanbaatar is one big pot hole with a few bits of tarmac littered around in between. But trying to navigate the traffic in the Mandalay heat was a different story I was frying and literally soaking in sweat. But we finally made it to our hotel. I hoped off Big Red just long enough to check in and then hoped back on and raced to the Mandalay royal palace which I really wanted to see.
You must understand that this was extremely brave of me as it meant navigating the traffic again, and in record time as the palace closes at 5pm and it was already 4pm. However this time I seemed to find it easier as I was not following another bike but was on my own just following the very easy directions given to me. Copious horns blasts and near misses later I arrive at the Army base which surrounds the palace. Ok let me explain. The centre of Mandalay where one finds the place in huge walled area surrounded by a very large moat, inside which is the local army base and in the centre of this is the ancient palace. On arriving at the gate, there are 4 gates but visitors can only use one, I just needed to show my passport and paid usd10 which allowed me into the base and the palace. The surreal experience was that I had to get off my motorbike and push it through the gate erm well okey dokey. Then hop back on and ride the about 1km to the palace. Which I then discovered actually closed at 4:30 so I had 20 minutes to see it.
The palace itself is not as ornate as the golden palace in Bagan, which is lovely but very very small. This palace is really big with stacks of small buildings and rooms dotted all over. I literally ran through it as I find these types of places very interesting. It is sad that the government doesn’t’ spend some money on the upkeep / renovations of this palace as it could almost (but not quite) rival the forbidden city in China. However like most places in Myanmar it is just showing its age and is a bit worn down, still well worth seeing though and I also found the fact that it is on an army base quite interesting.
Well after that whirl wind solo tour of Mandalay and the palace I had to say goodbye to Big Red my the little Honda CRF250, I was quite sad as it really meant the end of my 2 weeks in Myanmar. The following day we flew to Yangon had our last dinner together, and said out goodbyes. I had had such a fantastic time with the guys I was quite sad to say goodbye but was also looking forward to getting back on Dozer and riding alone again.