我們坐十多小時的河船從蒲甘到曼德勒，上岸立即被的士司機包圍。經過一星期的緬甸式討價還價，我們心中已有一個的士價目表。緬甸的士司機會以人數而非里數開價，但在粥少僧多的形勢下，我們一口價 5000 kyat （港幣 30 元）從碼頭坐到下塌的 Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel。
Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel 位於曼德勒山腳，在曼德勒皇宮的北面，遠離煩囂，是城中少有的高尚酒店。酒店大堂有樂手奏著緬甸樂器，魚池內有我這生看過最多最美的鯉魚群來回追逐。我們入住高層，一打開房門，就看到綠油油的曼德勒山，及山頂上金光閃爍的 Sutaungpyei 寺廟；山下是酒店的戶外泳池，及其引以自豪的 SPA 館。
SPA 不在酒店主樓，自成一閣在泳池之後，像是隱藏在綠林之中的一個小皇宮。客人可以訂住 SPA 館，房間內有室外和室內浴室連桑拿，當然還有私人的按摩床，不用踏出房門就可以享受按摩服務，真正帝皇式享受。我們看看價錢，40 美元一小時，以緬甸的生活水平，屬貴族玩兒，但對遊歷過東南亞的旅者，又未至一個卻步的價位。
不想留在室內 SPA 的話，可以到健身室租一輛單車，騎到只有五 5 分鐘距離的 Kuthodaw 寺廟，那裡擺放著「全世界最大的書」。說擺放，是因為每頁經文都密密麻麻的刻在石板上，整副經文共有 729 頁，而每塊石板都有舍利塔保護著，佔地極大。據說，要讀完這本經書，要用上 8 個月時間。
A River Cruise to Mandalay/Kimberlogic
Taking a river cruise from Bagan to Mandalay is much longer and a little more expensive than a bus ride, but well worth it for the experience and a glimpse into the past, or everyday life for the people that don’t live in cities of Myanmar. If you treat the cruise as a sightseeing day and not just transportation the experience outweighs the time and money spent by far.
There are a few different kinds of river cruises available. We decided to go with MGRG Express which falls somewhere in the middle. This cruise is too high priced for locals, but not extravagant and very reasonable for the average tourist.
Any hotel in Bagan can help with the arrangements and MGRG will come to your hotel to deliver tickets and collect the fee. For the 11 hour journey we paid US$32 per person. The fee includes breakfast and lunch as well as coffee and tea. Snacks, drinks and even alcohol are sold on board for a reasonable fee, but it is cheaper to prepare these ahead of time on your own.
Since the cruise departs from Nyaung Oo jetty at 5:30 am, it was necessary to arrange a taxi the night before which was done by our hotel. We stayed at the Blue Bird Hotel in New Bagan and they were so nice to pack us a boxed breakfast, free of charge, for our journey that morning.
Once on the boat, there were indoor and outdoor seating options. The indoor seats were more comfortable, but the outdoor atmosphere was the reason we booked the cruise and wasn’t uncomfortable. Shortly after setting sail in the dark, the moon set and the sun began to rise. Once the light of day was bright enough we saw small villages and farms along the river banks throughout the entire journey.
We saw farmers using methods before machines were invented, people bathing and using the river to wash clothes, fishermen and other boats used to transport people between villages. At times throughout the long journey there wasn’t much to look at except the water and empty banks, but the peacefulness of being out on the water was relaxing. It was a good time to read a book and get a suntan.
A cold breakfast of boiled eggs, bread and a cake was served shortly after the sun came up along with coffee and tea. Then, around 11:30am lunch was served; a large plate of rice and vegetables which was very tasty.
The toilets on board were clean and stayed that way, they were better than most toilets encountered in Southeast Asia. The crew was friendly, helpful and kept to themselves unless asked a question. We arrived in Mandalay a little ahead of schedule and were met with a crowd of aggressive taxi drivers. We were firm and held our ground and found a driver who agreed to our price. Within 5 minutes of alighting from the boat, we were in the back of a taxi on the way to our hotel. It was a relaxing, hassle-free journey which was more enjoyable than a cold bus ride.