Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Road to Mandalay (Part 1)

This post should have been there sometimes ago, however, since I was quite busy I can only manage to put it now.

I had an opportunity to board this Orient Express "Road to Mandalay" trip.  It is basically a cruise along Irrawady rivers in Myanmar.   This cruise was taken place on 31-July to 3-August.  You can either take "one-way" trip either Mandalay to Bagan or Bagan to Mandalay or you can take the whole trip Mandalay-Bagan-Mandalay (this is recommended if you take full trip, as the trip will start from Mandalay and you will see also why I recommend this later) or Bagan-Mandalay-Bagan.

If you take Mandalay to Bagan trip, the package will also include the flight from Yangon to Mandalay.  As the flight in Myanmar will start from Yangan early in the morning (around 7am), the passanger needs to be in Yangon the night before.

As there is no night flight to Yangon from Singapore on Tuesday night, we opted out to fly to Mandalay by ourselves.  I flew to Bangkok on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning, I and my friend flew to Mandalay from Bangkok.

The Mandalay service is a Thai Smiles services.  At that time it was a 4x/week service, I think it is still the same now.  

This is the plane that took us to Mandalay, HS-TXF, code name Samut Songkhran.  It was still quite brand new plane when we took it.  The flight was delivered on 13-March-2013, hence it was not even 6 months old.  As you may see, the plane still looks quite shinny :)

The A320 was park away, hence we need to take stair.  It also means a good opportunity to take pictures.

The Thai Smiles planes have a 4 rows of so-called "business class" seat.  It is actually the same seats as normal economy seat (perhaps with better legs room?).   It is seperated with a small curtain.  We were sitting on row 5, the first row of economy seat.   I think it the last row of the "business class" is not a good sits as the curtain may be quite annoying.

As you can see there are someone sat on "business class" cabin.  In fact there were 2 person.  Later on, we found out they are Thai employee most likely engineer as they were talking to the ground crew in Mandalay.



The legs room is quite ok, as I am 6" (180 cm) tall.

The flying time to Mandalay is 1h55m.  Once we are airborn, the FAs start distributing this bag and hot drinks.  The bag contain bottled water, sandwich and cake for your breakfast.

 The rest of the flight is just a normal affair.  And now we are landed in Mandalay International Airport.  It is very modest airport with no aero-bridge.  The building is actually not too far and we can simply walk into it.  However, we were fetch by the bus.  The bus looks to me like a pre-war era, however, it is quite clean and ok.



 Most of the flights are using propeller planes.   Some of the planes that I saw that morning.

The Asian Wings will be the flight that took us back from Bagan to Yangon. 
The airport is very basic and functional with automated bagage claims.  I think there are only few International flights serving Mandalay, TG, PG and FD from Bangkok and may be some other flight from nearby city in China (Kunming?).   I noticed there were also quite some number of  Chinese on my flight.

Air Asia provides free shuttle to town from airport.
We were then greeted by our guide which will send us to the "port".   The drive took us about 45 minutes on the modest yet good road.  
We arrived at Swee Kyet Yee River Station which is the base camp of the Road of Mandalay boat.  We were greated by the buttler that served us drink and the boat is waiting for us on the river.  At this pier, at least there is nice wooden path way for us to go to the boat. 

I think the boat is really pretty.  It looks mighty sitting on the river waiting for us.

I will continue on the next part as it will become too long if I out it on 1 post.