If you decide to walk across the bridge amongst all the local villagers, to have a look around the little village of Taungthaman, you can get a small boat back with one of the many keen paddlers who will accost you on your arrival at the bridge. If you employ someone, he will eagerly await you across the other side.
The old man who transported us has been paddling across the lake for decades. He told us that he lives quite a distance away, and paddles for about an hour to and from the lake every day. It was an easy and pleasurable enough thing to do, and he was a very attentive, ever smiling, somewhat toothless captain! The boat was a bit dodgy, and obviously very old, but the lake is shallow, and the boat had been impeccably maintained.
These guys drove us around Mandalay, and then out to Amarapura and surrounds, and then on to the airport at the end of the day. We employed them for US$25 per day, and received first class treatment for the 3 days we spent with them.
We found them outside the Sedona Hotel, where we were staying, and both wore a bomber jacket monogrammed with the hotel's name, so there must have been some loose association.
The cheapest way to get to Amarapura from Mandalay is to take a local bus. Buses leave regularly throughout the day and you can get one from the highway bus center on 26th street in Mandalay. The fare is less than USD0.20 and the journey takes about an hour (half an hour if you go by taxi). When returning to Mandalay, you need to go to the No.8 bus stop in Amarapura, which is situated about 20-30 minutes' walk from the western end (i.e. not the pagoda end) of U Bein bridge.
The buses can be quite crowded and you may have to stand up the whole way. Can't beat that value though!
The best way to get to Amarapura is by taxi. You can hire a taxi and driver for a half-day tour from Mandalay for about USD10 or sometimes less (per vehicle - seats about six). The journey takes 30 minutes. Our driver took us to different sites in the town, stopped for lunch and waited for a couple of hours while we walked across U Bein bridge and back. You should have no trouble finding transport in Mandalay, in fact the drivers will likely find you first. Happy travels ;-)
You can hire these small blue trucks by the day for a very inexpensive price. You're final cost will really depend on how many miles you want to put on. If you explain to the driver where you want to go he will come up with a price and make sure you agree before you start out. That will eliminate any problems you will have when it comes time to pay. If you are a really tall person you might have a tough time riding in one of these for long distances...or even short distances!! LOL
Pickups are leaving when full from 84. street near 29. street (Zegyo market), about 200 Kyat, and continue to Ava and Sagaing. Ask the conductor where to get off.
I hire a taxi for day of visit to Mingun, Sagaing and Amarapura. The taxi driver is very friendly and understand backpacker needs. He charge me 8000k for the whole day service.