South East Asia 2017 - Day 8: Mandalay

 

12 August 2017 - partly cloudy, 32°

We got up at 5am and walked to the Moat then along the Moat to Sandamuni Pagoda to shoot the sunrise, which didn't really happen.  So then we walked back to the hotel through the back streets / alleys, past the Shwenandaw Monastery building and the markets on 63rd Street ( Mandalay has a slightly confusing system for naming their streets in the main part of town: low numbers ( 1st - 49th ) for the east west streets and higher numbers ( 50th + ) for the north south streets.  So our hotel is on the corner of 19th Street and 64th Streets ).  We walked past lots of new houses in the streets around our hotel, mixed in with the old and dishevelled ones.

We headed up for breakfast to the hotel breakfast room, which is on the 7th floor, with views out across all of Mandalay.  We had the usual simple fare; toast and jam with something that tasted vaguely like coffee.  But it was filling and included in the hotel price so no complaints here.

We decided that we were in no mood to walk up Mandalay Hill ( 1700+ steps ) so we caught a taxi from the hotel to the top of the hill carpark at 8am, and then the escalator up to the temple at the very top ( we had to leave our shoes at the bottom of the escalator, as this is where the temple technically started, and it was only an up escalator, so we would have to detour on the way down to collect them.

We walked around the 4 sided temple on the very top of the hill, the Sutaungpyai Pagoda, ( after paying our foreigners fee of Ky1000 ea ) with 360° views across Mandalay and the surrounding plains.

We then wandered down the southern walkway which heads to the bottom of the hill ( there are various routes down, but this is the main one ), detouring to pick up our shoes ( for a donation of course ), a brief stop for a drink and for me to buy some 'jandals' made of bamboo.  Then on with the serious task of walking down the many steps and through many pagoda.  Rather than taking our shoes off at each pagoda we walked down barefoot; thankfully the walkways down are covered so we were walking in the shade most of the way.  At intervals on the way down were people selling trinkets and food, always accompanied by dogs or cats or chickens or turkeys.  Nearer the bottom it looked like people were living in the bush next to the walkways in little shacks.  At the bottom the walkway is guarded by statues of Chinthe ( half lion, half dragon ).

We reached bottom at 9:30am, a walk of just over an hour ( yes, we did stop a few times for photos, but it was still a long walk and we were glad we didn't walk up ).

After grabbing a couple of bottles of water we walked along the road to the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda complex for a look at the 900 tonne marble Buddha.  Liz bought a small Buddha statue for Ky 3,500 on the way out.

Then on to the next Pagoda, the Sandamuni Pagoda, where shot sunrise this morning.  This time we went inside and walked around the central golden stupa, which is surrounded by 1774 marble tablets ( each in their own little white stupa ) which contain the teachings of Buddha.  

After leaving this largely outdoors temple we headed across the road to a cafe/bar for some shade, and a bottle of Myanmar Beer.  Nothing has tasted better than that bottle of beer at 10:30am, after walking for the last few hours in 32°.

For our last tourist visit we walked to the bridge across the moat around the Royal Fort ( this moat / fort wall is 2km long on each side, and it now seems to enclose a government / army base, with the Mandalay Palace at the centre ), and after handing over a passport ( which they kept until we left ) and paying Ky10,000 ea we were allowed to enter the fort and walk down the access road to the Palace.  We were definitely not allowed to deviate off this road.  So we walked the 1km or so to the Palace, handed over our entry tickets and entered the Mandalay Palace ( well not really the Mandalay Palace ).

The original Palace buildings were destroyed by the British in WWII ( well, the Japanese were using it as their HQ ) and what is now on the site is a recreation built in the 1990's.  Whilst they have recreated the buildings to what is believed to have been there, the whole complex feels fake, with modern materials being used instead of the original materials, and the buildings themselves are largely empty.  So we walked up the lookout tower for an overview of the Palace, then looked in the main Royal Apartment building ( empty ) and then walked back out the front again and left.  We stopped and sat in the shade with fresh water bottles for a while then walked back out to the east gate where we had come in ( this is the only gate that foreigners can enter into the Royal Fort, locals can use any gate ).

We walked back to the City Mall for some lunch and stocked up on supplies for the trip to Bagan on the bus tomorrow and then wandered back to the hotel at 1pm.  

On the way back we drew some Kyats; the currency is generally measured in 000's, and has bank notes of 100, 200, 1000, 5000 and 1000 Ky.  So if you draw NZ$200 you get Ky200,000 and you get it in the equivalent of $5 and $10 bills ( Ky 5000 and Ky10000 ).  Which is quite a wad of cash to put in the wallet. And it takes a while to count out when you are paying for a hotel room!

We organised for a taxi to take us to U Bein bridge for sunset, which is the longest teak bridge in the world,  at 4:30pm for the price of Ky18,000, return, and the driver would wait for us there.

Then it was time to rest and cool down again.

The taxi arrived at 4:20pm so off we went south to Amarapura.  As we drove through the centre of Mandalay we saw a very different side of the city to the area that we are staying in; lots of new shiny glass buildings, shopping centres and western brand stores ( like Timberland ).  It felt a bit odd to see these sorts of buildings when 1 block away were shacks built of woven rattan walls and thatched roofs.

We arrived at the eastern end of U Bean Bridge at 5pm.

The bridge is 1.2m long, mainly made of teak and was built around 1850 ( although, between you and me, I don't think the concrete supports that are under part of the bridge date from then! ).  After being dropped at the eastern end we walked across the bridge to the western end, along with hordes of tourists, and then back to the eastern end.  There was no nice sunset as there were a lot of clouds around ( one of the problems with travelling during the 'wet' season ) so we left at 6:30pm and were back at the hotel at 7pm.

We headed out for tea at Mya Yi Nandar ( same place as last night ) and paid the princely sum of Ky6200 for 2 dishes ( we ordered a seafood dish by mistake ( which we didn't eat ) so had to order another one ) and 2 beers.  Back to the hotel and into the cool of our room ( it is still hard to get used to working up a sweat at 9pm just walking along the street ).

We are heading off to Bagan in the morning so another early start, but no sunrise shooting to be done.  

South East Asia 2017 - Day 7: Bangkok to Mandalay

 

11 August 2017 - partly cloudy, 32°C

There was not time for sunrise shooting this morning as we had a flight to catch.  So after having breakfast at 6:30am we finished packing our bags, checked out of the Pas Cher Hotel at 7:30 and walked to Siphon Taksin station, and caught the BTS to Siam then switched line and through to Paya Thai.  We then bought tickets and jumped on the airport train.  

We arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 9am, did the obligatory check in, immigration etc then walked through airside into another high end shopping mall.  After checking the board for our gate number we started walking in that direction ( there are 2 directions to walk once you come through customs ), but after walking for a few minutes I glanced at the departures board again and found that they had changed our gate number, so we started walking back the other way.

After walking for about 20 minutes we found our gate and grabbed a drink at the nearby Starbucks ( the expensive flights obviously leave from nearer the customs, as the quality of shops reduced the further we walked ).  We went down to our gate and waited, and then onto buses at 11:30 and around the terminal to our plane ( which was hooked up to an airbridge, but for some reason we couldn't use it ).  

Our plane left late at 12:30 ( instead of the scheduled 12:00 ) due to some late people.  Not a bad flight, not much to see until we started to descend in Mandalay and we flew in from the north over Mandalay and the Ayeyarwady River, with gold pagoda popping up through the bush.  We landed at 1:30pm local time ( 1/2 hour behind Thai time ), through immigration etc, grabbed our bags and drew some money our of the ATM ( NZ$1 = 1000 Kyats ( pronounced chats )) and then out the front door in to Myanmar.

We were immediately harassed by young guys offering taxi services, so we accepted a 'taxi' for Ky15,000 in what appeared to be his mates car, with no taxi markings.  Ah well, lesson learned.  Off to Mandalay we went up the main expressway, which was a concrete road and quite bumpy.  Whatever the maximum speed limit was our driver didn't go much above 50km/h.

As we hit the outskirts of Mandalay our driver asked for confirmation of where he was heading.  After we said "Hotel United" he gave a sigh and started to wind his way through the grid pattern of streets.

Some things we learned about Myanmar traffic during this journey; our car was a right hand drive ( there seems to be a mixture of right and left hand vehicles ) but they drive on the right; they beep their horn to let those about to be over taken know that they are coming; they beep their horn for any reason they can think of; 4 way intersections ( apart from a few with traffic lights ) are uncontrolled and those who go first should make it through ok, but if something is in the way ( car, bike, dog etc ) beep the horn and go around it, and indicators are optional or actually not required.  It is all about confidence I think.  

After negotiating the traffic we finally arrived at Hotel United ( US$54 for 3 nights ( about Ky73,000 )  incl a/c, breakfast and wifi ).  We paid in US dollars because we had some, but they are very fussy about the quality of them and rejected any with marks or rips on them.  Up to our room on the 3rd floor.

Went out for a walk along the street; what a shock..  Seemed to be complete chaos, cars and bikes going everywhere, people wandering across the road in front of cars, dust, dirt, rubbish, and dogs everywhere. ( I am not making a judgement on whether the way things are here is right or wrong, just saying what we saw).  Crossing the street for us timid white folk was a bit daunting, but we finally figured it out.

We bought 6 bottles of water for Ky1200 ( Liz accidentally gave the woman Ky12,000 and she looked shocked and told us that it was too much).  As we carried on walking it looked like schools were out as groups of kids and young monks were walking around and catching truck buses ( like a pickup truck with seats in the back ).  After bumping into a couple of Dutch girls and swapping stories we walked back past the hotel and walked to the moat around the Royal Fort, then back towards the hotel.  We stopped into a shopping mall ( and bumped into the Dutch girls again ) and bought some supplies, then back to the hotel at 4:30pm.

We then tried to book the boat trip to Bagan, but found that, as it was low season, it wasn't running every day, and more importantly not on the day we wanted to use it.  So we booked an 'express' bus instead ( Ky9,000 each ) which should take about 5 hours to cover the 170kms.  Hmm, doesn't sound express.

We headed out again at 6 and wandered to the moat again to shoot the sunset looking up at Mandalay Hill and it's pagoda, then back to a restaurant on the side of the road for tea ( 2 dishes + 2 beers, Ky6,600 ) which was very nice, then back to the mall for an ice-cream, and back to the hotel at 8pm.  

One of the hardest things to get used to is the speed with which it gets dark in the tropics.  It goes from light enough to see by to needing a torch within 10 minutes, and is completely dark within about 20 minutes of sun down.

Off to play tourists again tomorrow with a bit of temple bashing on the plans.

 

South East Asia 2017 - Day 6: Bangkok

 

10 August 2017, showers, mainly fine, 32°

I was up early again and walked a few hundred meters to the King Taksin Bridge to shoot the sunrise and some photos of the traffic.  I met a man from Australia also shooting ( see, I am not the only one ). He was near the end of his 4 weeks in Cambodia and Thailand.  I took a few shots then wandered back to the hotel at 6:30 in time for breakfast.

We left the hotel again at 8 and walked to the Sathon Ferry terminal ( just under the King Taksin Bridge ) and caught an orange flag ferry at 8:30 heading up river ( B14 ea ).  These boats are like buses and run every 15 minutes or so, making various stops along the river.  It was interesting to see the new buildings on the river ( mostly western hotels and malls ) which contrasted with the street we caught the bus on on day 4, which runs parallel to the river ( about 100m away ) but has no new buildings at all.

We got off the ferry at Chang Pier and walked along the road ( with the crowds ) to the entrance to the Grand Palace complex.  I had to zip the legs onto my shorts to be able to enter ( as it is a temple as well ) and Liz had to cover her shoulders.  We watched lots of people ( do they not read guidebooks? ) realising that they were under-dressed and having to buy trousers and tops from the local stalls ( at double the normal prices ).

We walked into the Grand Palace complex then through to the ticket booth ( B500 each ) at 9am, then walked through the scanners and gates and into the Wat Phra Kaew temple.  Wow, what an overload of sights for us to take in as our first temple.  We spent about 20 minutes just shooting in and around the entry area and then we moved on through the rest of the temple complex.  

The detail on the buildings and statues is amazing, but I guess we won't be as easily impressed by the end of our trip after we have seen hundreds of temples.

We walked through the rest of temple then out into the Grand Palace grounds itself, past the Grand Palace itself and then back out to the main entry and back to the street at 11am.  Time for a drink and pastry at a local cafe.

Next we walked back towards the river then south past the Grand Palace walls to Wat Pho.  We went in and paid for our ticket ( B100 ea ) and walked into the building containing the Reclining Buddha ( 15m high and 45m long in all his golden glory ) then around the complex ( there are over 100 buildings in Way Pho ), with lots of stupa, pagoda, Buddha and people ( and a few cats as well ).

We almost converted to Buddism when we went into the Ordination Hall and sat on the floor, the air was so nice and cool, we nearly didn't want to leave.

We left Wat Pho by the east gate, then we had to walk back to the other side where we had entered from to get back to the boat pier.  Once we arrived there we found it was closed for all ferries except the cross river ferry to Wat Arun, so we caught that one ( B3.50ea) then the orange flag ferry back to Saphon Pier, and then walked to Robinson's Mall at 1pm for some Starbucks lunch ( it is so hard to resist... ) and cold drinks.  We grabbed some  more groceries and headed back to the hotel.

We headed out again at 5pm, walked to the Saphon Pier and caught the free shuttle boat to Asiatique, a large 'market' further down river.  This looks like a 'made for tourists' type of market, not a local market.  We wandered around through the t shirt shops, trinket sellers and food stalls, then grabbed some unexciting dinner at the food court area.  We walked back to the river side and caught the shuttle boat back to Saphon in the dark and back to the hotel at 7:45pm.

Started to pack our bags ready for a big travel day tomorrow to Myanmar, country No 3.

South East Asia 2017 - Day 5: Bangkok

The 2 sides to Bangkok

 

9 August 2017, fine, thunderstorms, 31°

I had another early start, up at 5:15am to go for a short 15 minute walk ( but being 28° already and 80% humidity it was not an easy walk ) to a Chinese Cemetery south of where we are staying.  I only managed to get lost once when I turned down a blind alleyway, but it was a pleasant wander through the back alleys, with people starting to set up their food stalls ( they seem to be everywhere, in every street and alleyway ).  I finally found the entrance to the Cemetery at about 5:50am ( for a 6:05am sunrise ).  Far from being a dead place ( pun intended ) it was teeming with people ( mainly Chinese ) running, doing weights, boxing and Tai Chew ( the local form of Tai Chi ).  And this is at 5:50am in the morning.  I found the location I was looking for: a pagoda in the centre of the exercise zone.  A woman was very kindly sweeping the area for me, and even the local stray dog that I disturbed seemed friendly.  

After shooting through a stunning sunrise ( the sunrises and sunsets are short here in the tropics ) I then took some photos of the graves with the vegetation growing over them.  The grave stones themselves were well tended, but the mounds of the graves had been left to the weeds.

I then wandered back to the hotel in the start of the rush our traffic.  More food stalls opening up and people in business clothes coming out of their ( seemingly ) run down houses.  I even watched a smartly dressed woman come out of her house with a bag of rubbish, wander along the footpath for a bit, then casually toss the rubbish into the bushes.

Back at the hotel we headed down for breakfast at the Hotel ( included in the price; toast, juices and hot food ( both western and asian ) ).  Then back up to the Hotel room to rest for a bit, then out again at 8am and we walked along Sathon Tai Road for about 900m to the Myanmar Embassy.  After falsely entering a couple of doors and finding hordes of locals ( Myanmar and Thai ) a man told us the queue to join ( obviously to the only door with English above it ! ) and we waited on the footpath for a few minutes until the door opened at 8:30am. After grabbing a couple of visa forms, and a queue number ( 003 ) from the man at the door ( whose main jobs seemed to be be to keep the locals out ) we then sat down and filled the forms in. Nothing too challenging, just the usual things plus your occupation and where you were staying in Myanmar.

At 9:05 the curtains opened and 2 counters slid open ( one for business visas and one for tourists ).  After waiting for the 2 people ahead of us it was our turn, up to the counter, all our information was good, paid the B4500 for the 2 visas, to be ready today from 3:30pm. Out at 9:30!  Very quick and painless.

So we wandered to the Surasak BTS station and caught a Skytrain to Siam.  This is a modern / touristy area of Bangkok, and is a complete contrast to where we are staying.  Here the shops are Prada, Gucci and the restaurants are McDonalds and Dennys.  Not the street vendors and little shops of Bang Rak where our hotel is located.  We carried on walking along the street then into the CentralWorld Mall ( more chain stores like H&M, Boots, etc ), had a drink at a cafe, then wandered around the shops.  This certainly fulfilled any need for retail therapy so we headed back out onto the street and walked along Lang Suan Road to Lumpini Park at about 12:30

At this stage it was getting hot again so we grabbed a drink, sat in the shade, watched 2 monitor lizards go for a swim the pond next to where we were sitting; you know, just the usual Wednesday afternoon day in the park.

We decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a bit so we jumped on the BTS at Sala Daeng and got off at Saphan Taksin, walked to the Robinsons Mall and grabbed a bite to eat at the foodcourt, then walked back to the hotel at 2pm.

We have decided that the best way for us to deal with the heat and humidity is to get out early, do as much as we can, then head back to the hotel in the afternoon to cool off and recover, then head out again when it cools down a bit around 4pm.

But today we had an appointment to keep at the Union of Myanmar Embassy so we left the hotel at 3pm, walked along the road and went back into the Visa Section, and grabbed a seat to wait for the counters to open at 3:30pm.  The local couriers who were there to pick up visas had a system where they would put their water bottles in a line on the floor in front of the counter, in order of when they arrived, and then went and sat down.  It looked very odd to see 2 lines of water bottles on the floor when we arrived.  At 3:30 the counters opened and there was a controlled rush of people to grab their passports with visas in them ( and their water bottles )  We waited for the queue to die down a bit then grabbed ours.  All done in 10 minutes.

We walked back to the hotel and had a quick swim in the rooftop pool.

For a bit of a treat we decided to head up to the nearest of Bangkok's many rooftop bars; The Skybar at the Lebua Hotel.  This 5 star hotel was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, and was again in stark contrast to the street it is located in.  So we walked around the block, and headed up to the 64th floor.  The Skybar didn't open until 6 so we grabbed a drink on the deck of the Distil bar (which is 1 floor higher than the Skybar, but with less outdoor space).  We were happy to pay the required price for the 2 drinks ( about NZ$50 ) as we just viewed it as the entry charge for the viewing deck.

Soon after we arrived we noticed a rain shower off to the west, which seemed to be heading southeast and would miss us, but as we watched the shower developed another rain centre northwest of us, which was getting closer and closer, and bigger and bigger.  So at about 6:15pm they got everyone inside from our deck, closed the Skybar decks and then the wind and rain hit us.  It was all over pretty quick but was pretty spectacular to watch. We left not long after as the sun had set and they weren't looking like they were going to open the deck again soon.

So back down in the express elevator and back onto the raw streets of Bangkok in the light rain, and back to the restaurant we were at last night for some dinner, and then to the hotel again at 7:30pm.

Another busy and productive day, and our onward journey from Bangkok all sorted.  Time to play tourist tomorrow for our last full day in Bangkok.

South East Asia 2017 - Day 4: Singapore to Bangkok

 

8 August 2017 - cloudy, 29°

So today is the day to head into South East Asia proper and tick another country off our list.

We had a lie in this morning ( up at 7am ) , watched the sunrise from the hotel room, then wandered downstairs to the cafe under the hotel for some breakfast ( for a more reasonable S$16 ) then back up to the room to pack (doesn't take long when you are travelling light ).  We checked out of the Peninsular Excelsior at 9:15 and headed for the MRT station ( we will be staying at a different hotel when we are back in Singapore, both because the cost of all hotels go up for the Grand Prix, and also to be a bit further away from the crowds and road closures )

We jumped on the MRT to Changi Airport (changing at Taneh Merah station ) and arrived at Terminal 2 at about 10:30.  We redeemed our 3 day MRT passes ( S$20 for 3 calendar days usage, and S$10 deposit for the card ) and got our S$10 back.  Walked into the checkin hall and checked our bags in, then straight through the immigration ( I got pulled aside to be put through manually for some reason, not uncommon; I must have one of those faces! ) and into the shopping mall otherwise known as the departures area.

We wandered around a few shops then grabbed a drink, grabbed some wifi and waited for an hour or so.  We then started our long walk out to the gate ( F60 ) right at the end of the terminal and arrived about 15 minutes later. This is where we put our bags through scanners, which because they were only checking 1 plane load of people, was very quick.  The plane boarded early and we left on time at 12:50.  Another bumpy flight but not too bad, arriving in Bangkok from the north at 2:20pm local time ( 2 1/2 hour flight ) over the flat farm lands of this part of Thailand.

We walked off the plane towards immigration... to be met with an enormous scrum of people waiting to get into the queue for the immigration desks.  Yep, we are definitely not in Singapore anymore.  After a few minutes a man yelled that there was a better queue at a different location for foreigners, so a horde of people headed the 500m further down the terminal to a shorter, but still slow, queue.  After an hour of waiting, and more frowning and careful looking at my passport by the officials we were through to baggage claim.

We drew some local cash, grabbed our bags and headed downstairs to the train station, bought our ticket for B45 ( NZ$1 = 25 baht ) each on the slow train ( the express was out of action ) and jumped on the next train to Paya Thai.  It took about 1/2 hour to get to Paya Thai, and then we transferred to the BTS system and caught a train to Siam then changed line and went through to Surasak (B37 ea for the ticket ) and then got off and walked the few hundred metres to our hotel a Hotel Pas Cher.  

It was certainly a shock to experience Bangkok traffic, with pedestrian crossings not having right of way for pedestrians, and scooters going through red lights if nothing was coming.  The Bangkok traffic was summed up for me by the ad I saw on the train on the way onto Paya Thai which explained what to do if an ambulance came up behind you with it's lights on; I mean who needs this explained to them?  But having seen the way they drive ( and a couple of instances where ambulances were trying to get through traffic ) I can see why they need educating with this situation.

After checking into our Hotel and dropping our bags at 5pm we wandered along the street the hotel was on ( another culture shock to see food vendors on the side of the street, fish with flies, dogs wandering the streets, a 2 way street with cars parked on 1 side so it became one way in the direction of the person who got there first, scooters, scooters, scooters... ) and grabbed a drink at the Starbucks at the Robinsons Mall ( just to get some wifi ).  We figured out how to get to the main train station ( Hua Lumphong ) to see if we could get sleeper tickets on the train to Chiang Mai.  This journey would involve a bus trip ( some of the buses look like they are left over from the 1930's ) and a short walk. Time for a learning curve.

So we jumped on the next bus, asked the lady conducter if this was the bus to the Hua Lumphong, she nodded in agreement, but didn't seem to want to get us to pay.  In fact no-one who got on the bus paid money, and there were no ticket machines.  So after a 20 minute bus ride the conductor let us know we were in the right spot so we jumped off.  Into rush hour traffic.

After negotiating a few crossings ( some of which had lights, but that still seem to indicate the it was safe to cross ) and crossing one of Bangkok's many canals, we arrived at the station.

As we were trying to find the front door of the station a 'nice' lady asked us where we were tying to go, that she was from the Thai Travel Authority and that we needed to go to the counter and ask for the tickets.  She wrote down all the information we needed on a piece of paper in English and told us which counter's to go to.  Then she added that if there were no spaces left on the train then to come back and see her, and she would take us somewhere that would have tickets on the same train, at the same price.  So we dutifully went to the counter, joined the queue by picking up number, and when it was our turn we asked about train ticket to Chiang Mai. No, nothing available for the day we wanted or the next day, so back outside to see the lady.  She then walked us around the corner and took us into a travel agent, sat us down with a nice young man, and explained what we wanted.  When we said that we just wanted a one way to Chang Mai as we were going to fly to Myanmar, he said no, no flights do that journey ( we have since booked flights that do that trip ).  Then he said he could get us tickets on the train we wanted, but it needed to be booked as part of a package (including accommodation or an elephant park ) otherwise 'they' would overcharge us by B500 for the train.  At this stage we started to smell like it was a scam ( we thought it might be earlier on, but thought we would let it unfold ) and left, telling them we would organise something ourselves.

So, back out onto the street at about 6:30pm, walked across the roads to a 7 Eleven, bought some water and chocolate then negotiated the price a tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel ( B170 ).  A fun ride through the traffic ensued, most of the time we were not moving, but had fun watching the scooters weave between stationary cars and buses, or if necessary use the 2 lanes in the opposite direction as their own.  We even saw 1 scooter rider who, when he was using the opposite lane as his own, and a car came along in the right direction, he just stopped and refused to move, forcing the car to go around him.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 7:15pm ( probably would have been quicker to walk, but a lot hotter and less entertaining ) and dropped our shopping then headed across the street to a little restaurant ( Baan Glan Soi ) for some dinner ( 2 dishes, rice, and 2 large Chang beers = B450 ).  A very tasty meal.

We headed back over the road to the hotel and spent the next couple of hours looking at our options from Bangkok, given that the train to Chiang Mai wasn't available.  We booked flights from Bangkok to Mandalay for the 11th August, Mandalay to Chiang Mai on the 17th ( through Expedia for NZ$661 for 2 people on both flights ), and 2 nights accommodation in Mandalay at the United Hotel ( NZ$70 ).  Once we had that organised then we looked at the quickest way to get a Visa to get into Myanmar, and found that ( luckily ) the embassy was about 10 minutes walk along the main road, and that we could get a same day visa; we just had to be there at 9am to fill in the forms etc, and go back at 3:30pm to pick the visas up.  So that sorted tomorrow's plan, which we had originally intended to fill up doing touristy things.  So we figured we would need an extra night in Bangkok ( which is why we booked a flight on the 11th ), which we organised with the hotel for a cost of B1190.

With all that organised and a plan for tomorrow we went to bed.