Thursday, April 27, 2017

Arrival in Mandalay

April 27, 2017
Mandalay, Myanmar

Bagan King Hotel Lobby
We arrived at the Bagan King Hotel in Mandalay at around 4 am, after taking the night bus from Nyaung Shwe in the Inle Lake area.  It was already (or more accurately, still) quite warm and muggy outside even at that early hour and we were exhausted after the bumpy ride. The night desk clerk at our modern, mid-sized, boutique hotel bumbled through our reservation a bit but eventually got us registered, informing us that the restaurant in the hotel would be open at 6 am and our room would be available at around 10 am. We sat down in the in interesting-and-ornate-yet-uncomfortable chairs in the too warm, un-air-conditioned lobby to wait.  

Eventually, we took a brief stroll down the street to the scenic moat that surrounds the palace grounds. Many local people were out on the path circling the moat, exercising before the day got too hot.

Sunrise over the moat in Mandalay
At 6 am, we made our way to the pretty and stylishly decorated, super-air-conditioned (yes!!!) restaurant. As promised, a pretty standard Myanmar-style hotel buffet breakfast consisting of western and Asian fare was laid and awaiting our arrival.  We sat in the corner by the window, drinking bottomless cups of drip coffee (I liked it, Scott didn’t), while idly watching a mosquito or two buzzing lazily around us (since arriving in Myanmar, there always seems to be at least one in our proximity…).

The hotel restaurant dining room. I was completely captivated by the intricately painted ceilings!
A little before 8 am, other hotel guests, hungry for their breakfast, began to filter into the dining room.  An older Burmese gentleman dressed in business attire - seemingly a manager - was making the rounds and stopped by our table to chat.  We told him we had just arrived on the night bus and were simply hanging out, waiting for our room to become available.  He was politely sympathetic but non-committal, saying that the hotel was 75% full, and when he moved on to the next table we were not very hopeful of any action on his part.  We continued to wait, sipping our coffee and sampling from the buffet.

Even the restroom at the restaurant was interesting, located outside and on a narrow ledge six floors up!
Eventually, a very friendly young man, dressed in a deep jewel-toned, hotel-issued uniform that called to mind a character straight out of Aladdin, approached our table.  Speaking excellent English and flashing us a beautiful, white smile, he earnestly informed us that, while our ear-marked room on a high floor was not likely to become available soon, a room of similar quality on the second floor was available immediately if we would like to have it.  We jumped at the chance to get into our room for a nap and the desk clerk took care all of all of the details right at our breakfast table.  Scott signed a few forms and the clerk left the key with us, saying that our bags were already waiting for us in the room.

Our comfortable, stylish room at the Bagan King Hotel set us back less than $62 per night.
We had already grown accustomed to an impressive level of customer service – warm, friendly, helpful, polite, and efficient – at each of the numerous properties (all higher-end for Myanmar but very moderately priced by east or west coast US standards at under $100 per night) in which we had stayed during our two-plus weeks in Myanmar but the service we received at the Bagan King was simply above and beyond anything we could have possibly hoped for!  This is just one more perfect example of the amazing hospitality that seems to be typical in the country.  Our stay in Mandalay was off to an excellent start!

After a nap and a shower, we had a great day of low-key, if hot and sweaty, sight seeing.

Yet another "dewy" day in Myanmar... LOL Using an umbrella as a sunshade is a key survival tactic during the hot season in Southeast Asia!
We're already looking forward to a return visit!

More photos:
Sunrise over Mandalay
After all that coffee, I needed a visit to the restroom...located outside on a ledge... LOL
Al fresco restroom sink with a view
Buying a tasty, little, deep-fried snack from a street vendor. For the equivalent of 20 cents USD.
Terra cotta jars containing fresh drinking water, complete with communal cup, are a common sight all over Myanmar.
A delivery person going about his business, using his bicycle tri-shaw as a cart. One of the most interesting things about Mandalay is that it is a very work-a-day kind of city, and not a tourist town.  We saw very few westerners in town (especially as it is low season and frequently over 100 degrees in the afternoon). Most travelers there are simply passing through on their way to other locations within Myanmar.
Myanmar has some serious issues with poverty and sanitation and Mandalay is no exception.
This small-but-mighty tri-shaw driver agreed to cart us up the street in the 100-dgree heat of the day.

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