Asia | South East Asia | Burma (Myanmar) | Mandalay – the road to mandalay
The bus was okay and the guest house (Royal guest house) is fine. Travelling takes a lot of energy, it makes me forget everything else.
Do India and Burma so look alike because they both are poor countries? Nothing seems to leave a factory in a brand new state. The coloured lights on the ceiling of the bus are real Asian, as are the lights on the side of big trucks.
We visited the Royal Palace. It demanded more paperwork to enter this building than to pass customs. It is a beautiful building but the thought that it is rebuilt using forced labour makes me feel uneasy. On the way to the palace we had a chat with a former policeman. He had the hope that this country will become a democracy sometime in the future. Now everything is strictly arranged by the rules of the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration). Silent expressions of this disgusting regime are the slogans, sometimes in english, on signs.
After breakfast we tried to find the bus to Mandalay Hill, but we didn’t succeed, too difficult to find out which bus or pick up truck goes to our destination. We asked a man to help us. He answered in perfect english, but what he said was complete nonsense. His breath smelled of alcohol. He told us that he was a professor at the university, teaching english, but that the university was closed now. He left us with the excuse that ‘he had another fish to fry’. We hired bicycles and this turned out to be the ideal form of transport. Even I can find my way in Mandalay because of the numbered streets.
On top of Mandalay Hill it is a real fun fair, food stalls and souvenir sellers. On the way up there is some devotion. There are almost no other tourists. We visited also some paya’s in the neighbour hood of Mandalay Hill. The entrance fees are high 3-5 $ and we know the only benefiter is the SLORC, so we try to avoid paying by using side entrances. Sometimes we succeed.
This morning we went together to Mahamuni Paya. I decided that I wanted to spent more time there so our ways parted. The atmosphere is very friendly in this paya. The Mahamuni Buddha is impressive because of all the glittering gold and the devoted people paying their respect. I spent a lot of time strolling on the temple grounds.
I cycled to the hospital. I promised a friend back home to make a picture of an ambulance so that was a good excuse to visit the hospital. I found an ambulance but the people around it didn’t understand what I wanted. They took me to a doctor in a kind of emergency unit. He spoke two words of english and didn’t understand me either, but it gave me the opportunity to make some pictures. I found an internal ward, old and dark and filthy. There was a nurse who spoke some english. She told me what the patients where suffering from and what treatment they got. They still drain as a cure for hypertension. Walking around I met a French engineer. He and his colleagues were installing a generator for the hospital. There is an alliance between this hospital and a French university. Every year the engineers come to Burma for a few weeks to make some improvements to the hospital. The engineer showed me the new buildings and equipment they installed during the past few years. It looked very good. Simple, but clean and working. This seems to be a good way to help these people.
After the visit to the hospital I cycled to the river. A very, very poor neighbourhood. The scenery reminded me of Laos.