Not too far outside of Mandalay is the impressive U Bein Bridge. This holds the distinction of being the world’s longest teak bridge, at 1.2km. I did wonder where the second longest teak bridge is. U Bein Bridge is slightly rickety and as a larger person I was slightly concerned about putting my foot through a beam. I also wonder how many people have walked straight off the sides of the bridge with its distinct lack of railings. Even at 9am there were lots of visitors and quite a few vendors around. Here I spotted a new brand of beverage that was marketed by the Mandalay beer company. Spirulina claims to be an anti-aging beer. It wasn’t clear if the anti-aging properties apply to the product or the consumer but this is obviously a load of tosh. Presumably the Myanmar Advertising Standards Agency don’t require clinical trial data to backup such ridiculous claims.
We were then back onto the bus and up into the Shan State mountains. The journey to Kalaw was a long one, about eight hours including a one and a half hour wait for lunch to be served. At one point we had to stop for a few minutes to allow for the bus engine to cool down from the strain of the hills. The best scenery was the best I’ve seen so far in Myanmar.
Coco has become a bit of a character. Occasionally he gets onto the bus microphone and ask if we want to here a story. No matter what the answer is he’ll recite a long version of what is essentially a Stan Boardman gag with Myanmarese references. The often dreadful punchline is sometimes met with a tumbleweed response but I suppose it’s all part of the cultural experience.
Tonight we had another terrific meal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an overseas Myanmar/Burmese restaurant and therefore didn’t have great culinary expectations. The food has been great though. Most places have a full international menu. The local stuff usually consists of rice/noodles dishes, accompanied by meat and vegetables in sauce. Its kind of a mixture between Indian and Chinese food which you cant really go wrong with in my opinion. Meals are often served with free accompaniments such as nuts, soup or tapioca.
Afterwards we enjoyed a decent night out in Kalaw. This included a visit to perhaps the darkest bar I’ve ever been to that exclusively sold rum and rum variants. Next we were enticed into Smile Bar by a smiling lady owner, believe it or not! The patrons seemed to be glued to a telly showing Myanmar Idol. There’s no Simon Cowell on this version though. As with most other bars in Myanmar, there was an 11pm closing which meant that we didn’t get chance to see who’d won.