|U Aung Zeya|
I had read of this man. During a time when Burma was split up into several small minor kingdoms (Ava, Pyay, Bago),
constant conflict existed between the different ethnic groups (Bamar, Mon, Shan), and the country was constantly being raided by the surrounding countries (Manipur in India, Yunnan in China and Thailand), from a humble village of a few thousand, U Aung Zeya secured the allegiance of the surrounding villages and fortified Shwebo. Over time, the people recognized him as the kind of strong, scrupulous, fair leader they needed as king, and thousands flocked to his banner. He deposed the other minor kingdoms, conquered the country, including a town called Dagon, renaming it Yangon, meaning 'end of strife' (where I live today) and founded what has come to be known as the Third Burmese Empire. Remarkable king, and learning all this historical stuff really gave context to what I was seeing.
I was quite pleased to spot on the Google maps an alternate route to Mandalay, as the most direct route would mean going back down roads I had already come up. I hate doing that.
Better still, the easterly route took me into hills and forests. Indeed, as I drove through it, considering how close it was to a big city like Mandalay, it was mostly wilderness. Perhaps this explains this sign which I saw at both of my rest stops along the way.
Eventually, I got to Mandalay! I found a hotel, and went to visit a famous Mahamuni Pagoda. There, I bought some gold leaf intending to apply it onto a Buddha image as an offering.
The gold cost all of $1.50, so as you might imagine, it was quite thin and wispy. Hard to manage. I'm pretty sure I ended up applying more of the gold onto my own fingers than onto the revered Buddha.
Knowing that I was going to spend a couple days in Mandalay, I wasn't in any rush see it's many attractions. But I thought sunset at the royal palace might be nice to see. Thing is, the royal palace is inside the moat-surrounded inner city which only had a couple of gates. Also, the inner city is mostly just a military base with very restricted access. Turned out not only had I arrived at the wrong gate for foreigners to pass through...
...but I had also arrived too late. No tourists allowed to enter after 5:30 PM. The soldiers were nice enough, advising me to return tomorrow and at which gate.