Bom Bom Bom Ba Da Dum Bom Bom...The Road to Mandalay
Oct 11, 2016
|** Addendum to yesterday: the internet has been very difficult to connect to so I'm having a hard time uploading pics and getting the daily journal posted. I had a couple more pics from yesterday to add so those have been added to yesterday's entry as well as an inscription from the National Cemetery that's at the very end of the entry. I wasn't able to post anything in Mandalay but we're on our way to Bagan where I hope to get caught up! I also have to say that the beds here are some of the hardest ones in the world. Not only are the mattresses themselves impossibly hard but the edge has a metal rod in it so it's not even comfortable to sit on the edge of it.
Tuesday, Oct 11.
If you don't get the reference in the title of today's entry, check out Robbie William's song "The Road to Mandalay"...a wonderful tune with sad lyrics.
As I mentioned yesterday, we had to leave for the airport by 6:30am so we had a quick breakfast at the hotel and boarded the bus. We flew out of the Yangon airport to Mandalay; only a little over an hour flight. Landing in Mandalay around 9am, we collected our bags and headed right into touring. We were met by our Mandalay guide, Mar Lar (pronounced MaLa, dropping the "r" sound so I'll just write MaLa). She will be with us for the 2 days we are here.
Our first stop was a temple with some steep sides to climb up and a row of beautiful sitting Buddhas in a room at the top.
After we went back down, we stopped at a gold leaf factory to see how the little papers that are used to gild the Buddhas and stupas are made. It's quite a laborious process. A small square of gold is put between sheets of very thin bamboo paper, stacked with other pages into a leather covered square and beaten by a man with an old, handmade maul. It's beaten for a number of hours, during which the gold spreads out. Each piece is then cut into 4, re-packed and beaten for another set of hours. This goes on 3 or 4 times. The leather cover gets very hot; as do the men doing the pounding. When they are done, the very thin pieces are sent to a room where women sit and package them. In the end, these little pieces, about 1.5" x 1.5", are sold to people to put on the Buddha or stupa. It's quite the business. Of course, we asked why there isn't a machine making them and Long told us that the process is is part of the Buddhist way and people feel that the work put into making them makes it a more spiritual process. Not sure the men pounding in the hot shop all day are feeling particularly spiritual!
Lunch was at a Thai restaurant. I had...wait for it....sweet & sour chicken. It was better than the one last night but still full of odd veggies. elise had ordered a tomyum soup with tofu added. She'd asked for the tofu to be fried before being added but found, when it came, that their idea of fried and hers were different. She asked them to take it back and try again but still didn't get what she wanted. They did a stir fry instead of deep fry.
By this time of the day, it was getting sweltering hot again. It's kind of hard to pay attention to temples when you're melting but out we went again. This time we went to the "world's largest book". This monument contains 729 pages of the teachings of Buddha. It was built between 1860-1867; each page is enshrined in a white cement mini-temple. If a person were to read a page for 8 hours a day, it would take 450 days to read the entire book.
There was a couple having their "pre-wedding" pictures taken there. A month before the wedding, the couple has pictures taken so they can display them at the wedding.
From the book, we went back up another steep hill in the shared truck to the Mandalay HIll to see the city at sunset. It's a popular thing to do as it was very busy. We're seeing a number of tourist buses doing a similar route that we are but all the tours are small, like ours. Since Burma is just opening up to tourism, there aren't the huge bus loads of tourists crowding around, thankfully. We've seen Italian, Japanese, German and a few mixed tour groups like ours. Americans seem to be in the minority for now. This, of course, is the shoulder season so it might be quite different Nov-Feb when true tourism season if going.
To finish up the day, we were going to a traditional restaurant but first we were able to check into the hotel to clean up. Our hotel, Emerald Land, is a very nice setting with a pool. We each have rooms that face a courtyard and each room has a little veranda with chairs. Unfortunately, it's too hot to sit outside and enjoy them!
The restaurant was kind of a cafeteria style in that you could point out what you wanted and it would be brought to your table. There wasn't much that interested either of us. We ordered a plate of cooked cashews...heated up and salted. At the table, we were also provided with some kind of soup, steamed rice and a veggie tray with lots of different spice dips. We bought a bottle of very nice Myanmar Sauvignon Blanca and enjoyed that. It seems that we've been together as a group for longer than 3 days as everyone gets along well. Long, our guide, is a bit of a jokester and keeps us in a good mood.
A couple more of our group: we have 4 younger singles: Belinda, from South Africa, and I'm guessing around early 40's; Emma (27), Claire (turning 25 next week) and James (mid-30's) all from the U.K. (James is Scottish). Both Belinda and James are pharmacists, Emma works in IT and Claire is between jobs. She's been nannying for a number of years and decided to take a break & travel some with the idea of ending up in Australia. James is a twin of Steve Tentis! Besides looking alike, they have a lot of the same mannerisms, so basically Steve with a Scottish accent. I showed James a picture of Steve and he agreed, saying he was a handsome bloke :). I'm sure I'll call him Steve somewhere along the line.
After a very long day, we were ready to return to the hotel and bed. Once again, the beds at not really for sleeping, I'd guess they were tables in a former life before they decided to recycle them by slapping some fabric on them and calling them beds!
Tomorrow we get to sleep in a bit as the touring doesn't start until 8:30.