Mandalay, the cultural melting pot
Late afternoon, before sunset. The sun’s reflection in the Irrawaddy River to the West, trees covering the two-lane highway giving us the impression that we’re in a green tunnel and, of course, Robbie Williams’s song resonating in our headphones: that’s how we entered Mandalay coming from the South.
Mandalay is the third most important city in Myanmar and the economic capital of the country. It seats at the historic crossroads connecting India, China, Thailand and the locals and it has always been a hub for these merchants. Even today a large part of the population originates from the neighboring countries and this is reflected in the language, traditions, cuisine and architecture.
It was our last stop in Myanmar and we chose to slow down and spend 5 days there before the next destination. There is not much to do or see in the area, however we enjoyed few spots.
The former Royal Palace which sits on a 2,2 km rectangular island encircled by defensive canals in the middle of the city was one of them. The wooden palace build in 1861 and destroyed during the Second World War, was almost completely rebuilt in 1989 (so it looks quite recent now).
One evening we went to see a particular comedy show with the Moustache brothers, a trio of Burmese dissidents during the Military Junta which ruled the country until recently who have served a total of 12 years in prison for their anti-government performances and jokes. The show took place in their home and was a mix of anti-military/ anti secret services jokes, traditional dances and costumes presentation. We had a great time!
Around Mandalay there are some nice spots like the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura, a 1.2 km teak bridge, the Sagaing hilltop, with its golden pagodas or Innwa, a small village where we made a horse cart tour. In addition, we assisted to a unique ceremony where thousands of monks get their lunch from one family each day at the same hour in the… monastery.
All in all, Mandalay did not impress us much, but Myanmar as a whole was a great experience! We loved it for its smiling people always happy to see us, for the good currys and beautiful, remote old temples. Jezudimale, Burmese people!