Located on the Irrawaddy River and the central transportation hub of Myanmar, Mandalay evokes images of Burma from British Colonial times but this is probably furthest from the present reality. We arrived today after a flight from Bangkok, hopped a taxi into town 40 km’s away and settled into our very nice hotel to spend the next 3-4 days exploring the rich history of the area and planning our journey over the next 3+ weeks. Mandalay is the 2nd largest city in Myanmar and the last Royal Capital of Myanmar with the actual capital being Naypyidaw. The city has seen a huge influx of Chinese immigrants over the past twenty years which has reshaped the landscape bringing an increase in commerce with China and swelling the population of Chinese to 40%-50% of the population, about the same as the indigenous population. As I write this I’m looking at the menu in the hotel rooftop bar. I want local Burmese dishes. There is Western and Chinese with one “Mandalay Curry Rice” dish. Jeezuz! I’m sure we’ll find some great food so we’re not too worried yet. Our plan is to arrange a private boat and cruise a little north of Mandalay, do a U-turn and then head south down the Irrawaddy River to Bagan and then if the river is navigable (it’s the dry season now) hopefully further south and possibly all the way to Yangon. We shall see.