Joseline and I had a tough time trying to get around in Mandalay because of the water festival. The taxis that were running were excruciatingly expensive and if you took a motorbike taxi then you would be soaked from head to toe by the time you reached your destination. We had several things we wanted to see and do but just couldn’t justify spending the money to get around. One of the things we did decide to do was catch the sunrise at the famous U Bein Bridge. The bridge is .75 mile long and was built in the 1850’s. It is said to be the longest teakwood bridge in the world. It is an important passage way for locals and has become a major tourist attraction. U Bein is most popular for its breathtaking views at sunset and sunrise. Seeing as we wanted to enjoy this sight without getting soaked we went for the sunrise in hopes to make it back before the water attackers had awaken.
Now that I’m writing this, weeks later, I can’t really remember what time we got up and left the hostel (that’s why you shouldn’t procrastinate). I want to say it was about 5:30am or somewhere around there. We had arranged a taxi to pick us up the night prior, because we’re on top if it like that. Our driver was prompt and right on time. We drove the 20 minutes mostly in silence because I’m not a morning person and I was still half asleep. We arrived at the bridge just as first light was peaking out of the darkness.
We stepped onto the first board of the bridge at the perfect moment just as the sun was crawling up the horizon. There was endless perfect shots as we walked the length of the bridge. The sun getting brighter and more beautiful as it woke up for the day. The bridge wasn’t crowded but had a few other spectators. Many Burmese locals sat in peace watching the sun come up. There were several photographers with their professional cameras trying seamlessly to catch that perfect shot. You could see the many locals setting up their shops and restaurants along the bridge. The bridge itself was only slightly terrifying to walk across seeing as its old and ill maintained. That’s all part of its beauty though, so I tried to swallow my fear and just enjoy the sight for what it was. There are a total of 1,086 pillars that stretch out of the water, some of which have been replaced with concrete. Although most of the bridge remains intact there is fear that many of the pillars are decaying. I’m glad I read that bit of info after I got off the bridge. Check out my compilation of photos from my GoPro here.
We walked the entire distance and then walked for a little bit through the small village on the other side and shared some fresh fried bread before we turned and headed back across the bridge. Our driver was patiently waiting for us on the other side. We had paid for him to do that which was totally worth it. We made it back in time for our complimentary breakfast at the hostel which is important to me because who doesn’t like free food? We split up to do our own thing for a few hours before we met back up to make a plan for our evening.
We had originally wanted to go to Mandalay hill which I have heard has great views of the city. We wouldn’t know because we never made it. We had spent sometime the last few nights chatting with the sweetest guy who ran the front desk every night at the hostel. His name is Andrew and he was so helpful in our efforts of getting around during the crazy festival. He was trying to help us get rides or give us suggestions of things we could do. We wanted to see a traditional Burmese puppet show but we couldn’t get a ride so he called his own brother and sister to come escort us down into town. This family was a true treasure to meet. All three are fluent in English and working as well as going to school. Genuinely wonderful, hard working people. We were driven down to the main street of the festival and directed to where the Burmese puppet show would be taking place. They gave us their phone number and told us to call when we were ready for them to pick us up.
The puppet show was set up in a little side booth on the busy street of the festival. There was a pool of water about two feet deep right in front that we had to stand in while we watched. This was a very popular show and many people crowded around to watch. I couldn’t see a thing but I had my GoPro to extend over the crowd and captured the footage here. I loved the traditional Burmese music and the fact that they opened the curtains above a few times so you could see the puppeteers at work. This was such a wonderful experience, I was so glad we got to see this. However, a small child threw up on my leg during the show, what are you going to do though? Had it been a grown adult I would have been pissed.
Our wonderful drivers delivered us back to the hostel safely and when we arrived Andrew told us he was waiting to have a snack with us. We all sat together and chatted about our lives while we enjoyed a sweet rice and coconut treat. Andrew being the sweet angel that he is, invited us to join him and his friends the next day for some festival fun. We had no idea what we were signing up for but we didn’t care. We didn’t have any other plans and the thought of sitting around all day didn’t sound like much fun at all. Not to mention, hanging out with locals is literally the best experience one can ask for. So we headed to bed and made plans to see Andrew in the AM. I didn’t know what the next day had in store but I was overcome with joy knowing tomorrow I would spend the day enjoying this beautiful culture that I can’t deny loving.
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