Gentle Mandalay

At last a place in Burma where nobody tried to overcharge me…

Mandalay was altogether a far pleasanter and easier destination, it had the laid back feeling of a small town and the people were very friendly. In Burma I noticed there was a distinct parallel between how helpful the hotel was and how enjoyable the destination was. Here the hotel staff were extremely helpful, there was a fixed rate for taxi rides, they provided English speaking drivers and suggested where to go. It was great. I splashed out a little and stayed in a more expensive hotel that I would have but I was tired and fed up with previous accommodation and needed somewhere half decent. The room had TV and in the evenings it was bliss to just come back and watch a movie in bed. I was amused by the fact that any swear words were deleted from a conversation and that certain things like cigarettes and women in various degrees of undress were pixelated so nobody could see what it was, though it was perfectly clear from the context…teenage girl talking to her Dad by the pool, you can see the pool, you can see the girl’s head but the rest of her is a blur…

Sandamuni Pagoda, Mandalay, Burma

Sandamuni Pagoda, Mandalay, Burma

The royal palace is a replica and it is a pity they have not put more effort into it. It was dirty, unkempt and bare.  I visited the well preserved wooden Shwenandaw Monastery, Atumashi Monastery, Kuthodaw Pagoda the largest book in the world, Sandamuni Pagoda with its maze of stupas and Mahamuni Pagoda. Mandalay Hill was stunning, offered a 360 degree view of the city and the temple there was really colourful. The temples and pagodas in the city were just as beautiful as in the rest of the country, the difference here was the accumulated grime and dirt on the floor and I tried very hard not to think of my bare feet walking on it. You have to take your shoes off when you walk around the temples which I found puzzling. In the temples there are, of course, people praying but there are also people sleeping on the floors, cooking and eating food, selling souvenirs, dogs and cats pooping and peeing here and there…all of which is acceptable, yet my shoes, any shoes, are deemed unclean. I couldn’t quite get my head around the concept.

Mandalay Hill, Burma

Mandalay Hill, Burma

At the end of the day, I asked the taxi driver to take me somewhere he thought was nice and he took me to this really old monastery that is not in the tourist maps, he couldn’t even tell me the name. A very small, dilapidated monastery with 4 or 5 bunk beds for the monks. I met one of the monks, he seemed so happy to show someone the monastery. After a while I made a small donation and we left.

Old Monastery in Mandalay, Burma

Old Monastery in Mandalay, Burma

I took a day trip out of town with two lovely American ladies staying at the same hotel. The Mahagandayon Monastery which houses two thousand monks was quite sight and very different to the one I’d seen the day before. We arrived along with many other tourists at 10am which is lunchtime for the monks and everyone was getting ready for their meal. We took a small boat and horse cart to see the Mahar Aungmye Monastery and other places in the area. The day ended with a visit to the U Bein Bridge which is made out of the wooden pieces from the original Royal Palace.

Lunchtime at Mahagandayon Monastery, Mandalay, Burma

Lunchtime at Mahagandayon Monastery, Mandalay, Burma

I am glad that at least the end of my stay in the country was nice. Is it beautiful? The most stunning place I have been to so far. Would I go back there? Unlikely. Someone warned me that at some point during the trip, I would be fed up and everything would go wrong. Well, this was it. I was really grumpy and not happy at all…by the end of my holiday dismayed to realise that I’d made some horrible accounting error which meant I still had 40% of the money I’d allocated for Burma in my purse, which means I could have stayed in much nicer places…could I blame the antimalarial for all of this?…

View from U Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Burma

View from U Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Burma

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