Not really a road to Mandalay from Beijing, but a flight. And there was snow, a seven hour delay, nearly missed connections and some rather cross (well almost) Chinese men in between us. But despite all that, it wasn’t too hard to get from one formerly closed off country to another.
We were up and at Beijing airport early, ready for our China Eastern flight to Mandalay. I absolutely hate being rushed and feeling like I’m late, but we made the rookie error of trying to check in to our China Eastern flight at the international desk. As our flight was via Kunming we were supposed to check in at the domestic desk. Interestingly, the plane was actually going to Dhaka, with just a short stop in Kunming.
It was cold in the airport but I consoled myself with the fact that we would be changing in Kunming; the city of Eternal Spring (so they say). After a turbulent flight we landed in a snow storm! So much for warmer weather.
It was a terrible connection with too little time. We had to collect our luggage, recheck it (at a desk nowhere near the baggage carousel) and go through security again. At security there was a massive line and we were sure we’d miss our flight. I guess you could say the snow saved us as the delay meant we made it. The snow was clearly an unusual occurrence as the airport was freezing and snow was actually coming in through the doors. We managed to board our plane, about an our late. We sat down and I was excited that there was only another hour and a half to go and we’d be in Mandalay.
Wrong. We figured we wouldn’t be leaving any time soon when the captain announced we would be eating our meal before we departed! 7 hours later (luckily we found an empty row of seats so I was able to lie down and sleep) we finally departed! This was not before a group of men had spent several hours shouting and getting annoyed at the poor stewardesses. There was some serious anger going on but I’ve never seen anyone shut up and sit down in their seats as quickly as those men did when they made the ‘prepare for take off’ announcement.
A short flight later and finally we were in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). Contrary to popular belief, there are ATMs in Myanmar. There were three in Mandalay airport alone. They were obviously very new.
We has pre-arranged a pick up with our hotel and we drove in the dark through deserted, rural roads. We could see pagodas lit up in distance and drove past a make shift tent with a TV somehow playing in in. People were crowded around, watching.
We entered Mandalay and it all felt very busy for a late Sunday evening. Local restaurants were buzzing and everyone seemed to be watching a football match. Males and females were wearing longyi (a type of clothing tied around the waist- kind of like a sarong if you had to compare it) in all different colours. These were our first sights in Burma.