A visit to Mandalay is not unlike being transported to a skewed dystopian world where the rivers run red with beetlenut-juice spit and death taxis ram you right off the road. Dodging the red coloured slag is an acquired skill-they spit it from car windows, out of busses, walking along the street-every fucking where. The streets have red blotches all over the place from thousands of gobs of crimson-stained mouth slime.
It’s old and dirty meets brand new, although, there is a definite murmur of change in the air, with new hotels springing up, new gas stations near completion, new mobile phone stores are everywhere and it seems the next several years should see the Myanmar economy earn a well deserved place in modern society (with all its trappings, good and bad.) God knows the people deserve it after 50 odd years of military rule.
This spiritual capital of Myanmar is a great big noisy mess-of-a-city with traffic more chaotic than Bangkok. The smell of diesel fumes and the heady stench of dried fish and smelly socks waft up into the smoky atmosphere, juxtaposed with the sounds of happy-go-lucky Burmese, laughing yelling and beeping their horns. The horns don’t stop day and night, and not the happy toots like in Vietnam but the “get the fuck outta the way toot” variety. Although, once they are out of a vehicle they
revert back to a very happy, smiley bunch of tooters. The chaos thins out at around 11.30 pm and you will find the streets almost deserted of traffic. They like their early nights in Mandalay.
Also in my travels up north I found myself the only westerner a lot of the time, which brings many curious and bewildering looks from the locals. When ordering a meal, they will gather round and watch you eat, smiling all the time. Nearly everywhere you will find locals busting at the seams to open doors for you and ask in extremely broken English where you’re from and other curious type of questions.
The charming Burmese girls wear the traditional makeup/sunscreen called thanaka on their faces in a myriad of patterns and you will see the longyi (similar to a sarong) worn by men everywhere you look. The hairstyle here for the men seems to draw from a definite punk ethic-short back and sides with messed-up spikes at the top and even ‘Ramones’ style leather jackets are in fashion amongst the younger lads.
Taking money out of an ATM is like pulling a fat baby out of a small vagina- a massive brick of cash gets spat out, as $1 US is roughly 1000 kyat (pronounced ‘chat’) and you will generally get all your money in $5000 banknotes.
There are quite a lot of impromptu garbage dumps about, feeding the packs of impoverished, wild dogs that roam freely
about. Be prepared to see a few puppy pancakes on the roads as they are seen as more of a pest here than elsewhere, and they walk nonchalantly all over the streets in busy traffic.
“Oh look! Theres a cute lil puppy wuppy! I think I will give it a pat!” SCREECH! SPLAT! ‘Hmmmm, well….maybeee not”
Lets hope the burgeoning tourism industry doesn’t fuck the place over too much.
kilometres travelled 6400km
flat tyres 1
puppy pancakes 2
Burma- Land of the free