To be honest, after all the excitement that I would finally be going to Mandalay, I did expect something very different from the second biggest city of Myanmar. A glittery, cultural Pearl of Asia...or something like that. I expected something like a Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang. But besides all the outstanding sights to visit, Mandalay itself has little to offer to a tourist at first sight!
It was surprisingly under developed and amazingly dusty! Though my hotel was in the heart of Mandalay, the streets were not paved, or just gravel. No sidewalks at all. After arriving and "exploring" the immediate area around my hotel, I already knew that I can forget all my plans about walking around the city! The "modern" shopping mall "Diamond Plaza" has surprisingly little to offer in comparison to other shopping malls in Asia. One of the buildings was almost empty while one entire floor was dedicated to jewellery.
On the other hand, Mandalay is surprisingly natural and unspoiled from tourism. There are tourists for sure, but they concentrate in the sightseeing places and their hotels. On the streets I found them to be a rare sighting!
There are plenty of markets and not your touristy Sunday Walking Street or Night Market experiences like in Chiang Mai. They are real markets with real people. For a photographer it is heaven on earth!!
I decided to take motorcycle taxis everywhere in the city. At first I paid 4$ per ride, but those were the trips organized by my hotel. I later learned that the going rate is 2-3$ per ride and it seemed to not really matter how far I went. I am not sure if that is still the "tourist" price and if locals pay even less. Due to the dust, walking just became such a nuisance, that I limited it to the absolute minimum. Seeing other tourists on their rental bicycles and the traffic around them (though limited) I did not want to risk my life. Specially after walking through the nearby Mandalay General Hospital every day, I did not want to see myself being treated in there, even just for a minor accident. Same goes for renting a motorcycle myself. The motorcycle taxi drivers all went really slow and they all offered a helmet, so with the few dollars I paid per ride, it was the most economical way to get around the city and the various sites.