A view from Kuthodaw pagoda (Mandalay; Myanmar)
Just how does a writer condense the highlights of not one but two spots in Myanmar into one blog entry? Well, he could start by telling folks that he visited Mandalay in a period of non-stop rain, despite which, the sights and sounds were roundly appreciated. He should also throw in for good measure the fact that the hotel he stayed at, Triumph hotel, is a highly commendable property which perhaps only suffers slightly from a less-than-central location. He then needs to mention that the main shopping areas in Mandalay are in relatively close proximity to one another, and make readers aware that what looks like a shopping mall will more than likely be an indoor market, but still well worth a visit.
Arriving at Pearl Island (Ngapali beach; Myanmar)
It is also important that he outlines the fact that the Moustache Brothers perform in Mandalay, doing comedy sketches which may not always hit the spot, but are worth seeing nonetheless for the story behind it and how it connects with the (still) military regime of the nation's rule. Going forward, he'll wax lyrical about the necessity to rent a driver plus car for a day so as to be able to get around all of Mandalay's crucial sights, which include the Royal Palace, Mandalay Hill and the unmissable Mahamuni Paya, and if your timing is impeccable, a sundowner by the U-bein teak bridge is sure to add an element of sparkle to the whole day, he says confidently. Chances are he'll recommend a stay by the coast, and deem Ngapali beach to be the prime pick as being the most developed of the nation's seaside towns, favouring highly the Merciel retreat and resort hotel for its pristine and well-equipped nature, relishing the fact that their free cycle hire will compensate for the slightly far-flung nature of the location.
A cheery wave from buddha (Ngapali beach; Myanmar)
He'll be keen to check out snorkelling and an outlying island in the area, so will arrange this trip through the hotel in the form of a local fisherman who takes him to these very spots and gets him back in time for lunch so that the desired plan of cycling the full 13 or so kilometres to the statue of Buddha at the far southern end of the strip can take place, and allow him to enjoy sweeping views of the coastline down below from an excellent vantage point. By this point also, he'll have already called in at a few of the minor pagoda complexes on the coastal route which will have inspired him and given him a taster of what to expect in the next port of call, Yangon, on a larger scale. Of course, this information has already been put to him in the planning stages, so it is as if he read the above and put it all into practice, only to confirm that it is what it is, and Myanmarese culture is well worth checking out. Little did he know though that, despite what treats came before him, the visual highlights of his stay in Myanmar were still around the corner!