There was another 5am start as we travelled up the Ayeyarwady River to Mandalay. Again there was another lovely sunrise to witness although it couldn’t quite top the view in Bagan. During spring the ferries can be cancelled if the river level drops too low. Coco said that it’s not far away from this point at the moment. Low and behold, not far into the ride, there was an almighty scraping noise of the boat along the bottom of the river. Luckily we hadn’t run aground on a sandbank but there had been some damage done to either the rudder or propeller. After moving the boat to the side of the river a couple of staff stripped down to their undies and jumped into the water for a look. It can’t have been anything too serious as after about an hour or so we were back on our way. This seemed to attract a group of local kids to watch, as well as an older gentleman who watched the boat being fixed while maintaining a squatting position for at least half an hour before walking off. It was all slightly bizarre!
We finally arrived in Mandalay just after dark, having spent a pleasant day on the river. The boat itself was nice enough. There were deck chairs for those wishing to sun themselves while also plenty of shade. It wasn’t that crowded and appeared to cater to a more touristy clientele. The same journey by bus is cheaper and takes half the time. We were given a simple but nice breakfast and lunch and there was also a bar onboard to enjoy a beer while watching river life go by.
In Myanmar it’s perfectly acceptable to hire a taxi for a set number of hours, even a whole evening if you wish. It seemed a bit ostentatious to have a personal chauffeur but Coco explained that it is fine. In a country where most people earn less than $1 per hour, a taxi driver getting 6 of us to pay $3 for four hours work is classes as a good night for him. He can have a sleep while we are in the restaurant or bar and we have the comfort of knowing that the driver will be waiting outside.
After a meal someone suggested a good bar according to their Lonely Planet. It can’t have been that good as when we arrived at the address the bar no longer existed. People in Myanmar tend to be very friendly and while looking for this non-existent bar, some young people asked us if we needed any help. Apparently that place closed down about two years ago! They recommended somewhere else and told the driver where to go. We were taken to a huge nightclub. For some reason they wouldn’t let us in but advised us to go to a bar around the corner instead. Finally we ended up in a karaoke club akin to the places in Japan or China where you get your own private room. We couldn’t figure out how to work the machine so there seemed to be a member of staff stood outside at our beck and call. Some of the English translations of the lyrics were a bit dodgy. I’m not much of a singer but I never realised until tonight how difficult it is to sing Hot In Here by Nelly! Being a fair way out of central Mandalay it was nice to have the driver outside to get back to the hotel. Tonight was definitely one of those enjoyable random-type evenings.