We arrived at Taungthaman Lake (Amarapura Township) before six am after a 10km trip from Mandalay. It was pitch black but local villagers, monks and kids where already crossing U Bein Bridge.
U Bein Bridge is a teak wood structure stretching across the lake. Built 160 years ago from over a thousand wood pillars reclaimed from Inawa Palace at Amarapura when the capital was moved to Mandalay. The actual palace was moved too, transported brick by brick on elephants. The bridge is 1200 meters long and it is the longest teak bridge in the world. Over the years a few pillars have needed to be replaced by concrete in order to straighten it. The remainder is still the original wood.
It is a great place to spend a leisurely morning or, I guess, even an entire day watching people and life on Taungthaman Lake. The people are very friendly. I spent quite a bit of time chatting to different groups of teenagers and monks who wanted to practice their English, find out about my daily life and share their stories.
I will definitively go back and spend a day or two around the bridge. I want to see the sunrise and sunset as well. We chose sunrise this time because we heard that it is very quiet at that time of day. And it was. Very peaceful. Only a handful of tourists and locals but the morning started out misty and not as colourful as I had hoped. Later, I saw photos from others who were there at sunset and would love to go back to see the lake and bridge with the same stunning orange glow around it.
I never have enough time whenever I travel. This time, I wished we had stayed in Amarapura instead of Mandalay as villages are so much more interesting and friendlier than cities.