Here is my list that I would like to share with you for coming travel to Mandalay:
Thanaka is considered to be the favorite natural cosmetic of Burmese due to its various uses: sunscreen, beauty products and even medicinal products to protect the face skin. In fact, you can find local people with thick and yellow thanaka on their faces in almost regions across Myanmar. But for me, I tried the thanaka on my visit to Kuthawdo Pagoda which owns 729 marble stone slabs of Buddhist scriptures earning it the title ‘World’s Biggest Book’.
Knowing that the women here have used thanaka for more than 2000 years, I was so excited to find the ladies selling postcards and applying thanaka cream (a ready-made product of thanaka) on the visitors’ faces and decided to try once. Most of the images that people chose were 2 leaves but to be different, I asked for a flower image instead and felt so cheerful when it became dry. After having your own thanaka face, you can choose to buy the postcards or photos of the pagodas from the ladies or pay them the small amount for this strange experience. The feeling of being local really cheered up my rest of day in Mandalay.
2) Betel nut:
Chewing betel nut or kunya in Burmese is also one of the most traditional experiences in Myanmar. A day ago in the local market in Bagan, I was surprised to see many shops selling the betel leaves and many people chewing something in their mouths on the street.
Although this was not my first time to see the betel nut because it was quite popular in my country Vietnam for the elderly many years ago, I find it strange because even the young also chew the betel nut in Myanmar.
The next morning in Mandalay, while I went out for a morning walk, I found the little shop/ street stand at a street corner so I decided to buy one piece for myself despite my friends’ warning of being drunk. The lady at the betel shop was very glad to put the areca nut, slaked lime and the catechu on the betel leave and some other ingredients then rolled the leave up like the spring roll so I could eat instantly.
I started to feel something quite bitter and spicy like lemongrass or ginger but also quite sweet like sugarcane so it seemed to be pleasant for my first chew. Very soon, my mouth was filled with the red liquid of those mixed flavors and the locals were looking at me with a smile because of my colored teeth and lips. For me, in only a few minutes, I knew this was the best way to interact and connect with the local people.
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Burmese tea is quite similar to milk tea that we often have in Vietnam for Thailand and Taiwan versions. The basic mix includes strong black tea, boiling water, evaporated and condensed milk and sugar. Depending on your taste, you can choose to add extra milk, tea or sugar to fit yourself but normally, I kept the original flavor that was served by the teahouse to compare the tea in this city and the other city and the funny thing was I fall in love with all of those.
The teahouse/ tea shop can be found anywhere such as street corners, wet markets and even at the rural area of a village. Colorful small tables and chairs, boiling teapot with a few crispy and dry snacks and some people relaxing and chitchatting with others inside the shops are the easiest signal of the teahouses that you can stop by.
Unlike the milk tea from Thailand or Taiwan that is better chilled before use, this kind of tea mix in Myanmar is always hot or warm. Sometimes, we were about to ask for ice to put inside the cup of tea but respected the local tradition so enjoying a hot tea is not a bad idea though in hot weather. We not only enjoyed the tea but also enjoyed the local pace of life and the local culture of Burmese.
4) Horse cart
Of course, you can ride a horse cart when in Bagan for a tour around the temples complex. However, only until the horse cart ride in the Inwa – “kingdom of Ava” in Mandalay trip did I felt this experience really precious. The horseman welcomed us at the jetty and started to take us through the most peaceful and idyllic village in Myanmar where we enjoyed the horse riding on the trails. The horse really looked quite healthy and well-taken care without any pushing to run or to carry from their horseman and even in the humid weather and throughout the dust trail.
Within one hour and a half, we visited the Yadana Hsemee Pagoda, the teak Bagaya Monastery and the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery – all has been well conserved even after a few earthquakes and over a long history.
5) The golden duck
Closing a day in Mandalay at a famous restaurant for dining is what all of us expected. And the place that I am talking about is the Chinese & Thai style named The Golden Duck by the Palace (because you can find this restaurant in other big cities too) which is ideal for us to find something new apart from the traditional Myanmar food for over the past few days in this country.
We were impressed by the modernized décor and professional services of the local staff here for the guests, it looked like the 5-star restaurants in developed cities. The best selling dishes are roasted duck, chicken glue rice and steamed meat pumpkin so we chose the roasted duck, as well as some side, dished for our dinner. The piece of roasted duck was really tender, yummy and along with the gooey sauce to dip the meat inside, there is no hesitation to say this is the best thing that we can have in Myanmar.
That was the way we discover Mandalay, and you?