Thoughts from Mandalay

Sanda Muni Pagoda

Sanda Muni Pagoda

Whoo hooo!  We have internet access.  Kind of, sort of.  It is very slow (remember dial up speed?), but we both needed some downtime after walking miles and miles around Mandalay over the last two days.

Neither of us has figured out how we feel about Mandalay yet.  It is very much a study in contrasts.  There are scenes of absolute beauty, yet right down the river people are throwing their trash, washing their clothes and bathing in the exact same spot in the river.

Pagoda in Mingun

Pagoda in Mingun

Cattle are still used to pull carts and old men pedal bikes loaded down with market items, while Mercedes cars drive down the same road. (Traffic here is a sight to behold.  There are very few traffic lights and I’m pretty sure the only rule is that the biggest vehicle wins.  If you are driving a truck and you want to turn left, go for it so long as the only thing coming towards you are cars, scooters, bikes and people.)

Poor men shower on the street at public showers on busy downtown street corners (thankfully, they keep their longhis on while doing so), while McMansions are being built down the block.

Locals stare at us and little kids practice their hellos on us because tourists are still somewhat of a novelty, while at the same time the people trying to sell postcards and other knick-knacks are already annoyed that most of the tourists aren’t buying anything.

Extravagant tourist boats cruise upriver, while locals ride rafts of bamboo downriver.  (I’m guessing they are taking the bamboo to market somewhere.)

Bamboo raft

Bamboo raft

There is very little infrastructure (see the crack we had to jump over to get off our ferry boat),

The bog crack

The bog crack

yet pagodas that are over 100 years old have Buddhas with what can best be described as disco lights behind their heads.

Disco light Buddha

Disco light Buddha

It is a strange, strange place and I’m not sure if we are here at the right time or if we are already too late to see the “real” Myanmar (to the extent a tourist ever can see the “real” anything).  Don’t get me wrong.  We are really glad we visited, but it is just a strange, strange place.  We did a fair amount of research before we decided to come here and people fell into two camps:  some hated it and advised people to spend as little time as possible and others said it grows on you.  I think we are firmly in the “it grows on you” camp, but can see why some people don’t like it.

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