Well, there is not really a "West Mandalay" but since those places were all west of the railway line, I called this part of town West Mandalay. These were a few places which I walked around and took short motorcycle taxi rides to, but theoretically it is all walkable. At none of these places did I see any tourists and to me it really looked like pure local life in Mandalay.
Starting off at Eindawya Pagoda, a quiet and tucked away temple with a golden stupa and lots of picturesque buildings and Buddha images. I had a motorcycle taxi drop me off here and wandered around the temple and excited it on the east side to some small local streets which led me to the Produce Market. It was actually streets filled with produce, spices and legumes. This was actually the kind of market I was looking for. Completely unspoiled and authentic! Traffic was amazing and I have no idea how the locals do it! I found myself emerged in a mix of pedestrians, ox-carts, motorcycles, bicycles as well as trucks and cars...all honking their life away.
I followed my GPS signal on the mobile and found my way to Setkyathiha Pagoda, which did not look very inviting from the street side, but turned into an awesome experience. It had one of the most beautiful Buddha statues in the center. A place were people sat for meditation or for prayer. It felt like a world away from the hustle and bustle outside on the street. There were so many buildings and shrines to visit, a replica golden rock, a 100+ year tree (whose name I forgot) but also a Bodhi Tree planted by U-Nu, one of Myanmar's prime ministers. Some really friendly worshippers explained some of the Buddha images to me and invited me to see a museum-like display of old Buddha images. A beautiful place to visit and spend time at.
Back on the street I was looking for a motorcycle taxi along the street. There was no English spoken by any of the locals, so I had to gesture what I was looking for before being pointed to a few motorcycles down the intersection. The temple I was looking for was discussed amongst the drivers, since my pronunciation was not good enough but within minutes I found myself on the back of a motorcycle taxi which promptly drove me to Shwe In Bin Kyaung, a meditation temple by the canal.
I was completely awed by Shwe In Bin monastery! I considered it even more beautiful than the initial wooden Shwenandaw monastery. Not only that, but it was also free of charge AND there were absolutely no tourists around. One elderly man who worked inside the monastery and who seemed to meet all the lone travellers showed me around and presented his collection of comments by visitors from around the world to me. A beautiful guy and an great experience to spend time with him. After visiting this "wooden jewel of a temple", I also went over to the monks quarters and the meditation hall where the locals invited me in.
Leaving Shwe In Bin, I was again looking for a motorcycle taxi and was first without luck until a group of monks approached me and translated for me. They even negotiated the price for a trip back up north to my last temple for the day - Shwekyimyint Pagoda. The driver could at first not find it, but I pointed it out to him and walked back through some small alleys.
Shwekyimyint Paya was another meditation place with lots of local people either praying in front of the Buddha shrines or meditating in the main hall. A beautiful place with lots of different buildings in various styles, all filled with an array of Buddha images. The central shrine led to a small chamber through a tiny walk-way all covered with glass mosaics. The chamber contained several sacred Buddha images which were one of a kind even for Myanmar! People sat in silence, meditating and praying here. After spending about an hour in there, I left and ran into a young woman with her child. She kept talking to me in Burmese and since we could not understand each other, she finally took me by the hand and led me back to the hidden shrine, just to make sure that I would not miss out on this special place! What an awesome experience to meet all these friendly Burmese people on my last day of visiting Mandalay!