Friday, March 21, 2014

Do you know the way to Mandalay ? (sung to the tune of San Jose)

March 21 2014 - 7 pm
Mandalay, Myanmar.

pictures tomorrow - promise

Happy vernal equal knox.

It does seem that I made it. I think the effort of getting the visa was worth it. Though at the moment I am so tired I can not totally attest to that fact.

I got up around five after a good six or seven hours of sleep. I did wake around two, and was fearful that it was another night of tossing and turning. A quick pit stop and back to sleep in 10 minutes. A welcome addition to my sleep cycle.

Packed everything and left my big purple coat and a pair of very dirty pants in one of my small packs and hit the road to the airport. Check in was as simple as it gets, as was departure immigration. I didn't toss my passport to the inspector and we both left happy. The flight was what a flight should be. Smooth and reasonably comfortable along with getting us there safely.

Myanmar formalities were about what I've come to expect. Stand in line hand your passport over, stand some more, get your passport back, find your luggage, nod to the Customs officers after your bag is x-rayed once again, and welcome to Myanmar.

Now the fun begins. The swarm of taxi touts descend. I was the most important person in the world judging by the number of people surrounding me. I made a deal with maybe not the devil, but certainly an Imp of Satan. I got pressured and gave in too soon.  I should have gone with the independent guy and not the company pogue. It would have been less expensive by a few dollars, but more importantly would of gone to a guy who could probably really use it. Next time, go slower T.

Mandalay as a city hasn't shown me too much yet. It is just a big noisy city in a long list of big noisy cities around the globe. I am sure it has it's charm. I'll await judgement for later.

My hotel was recommended in the top five in Mandalay in Trip Advisor dot com. The staff iis great. The room seems to be clean. A little on the small size, but after the suite in Bangkok my view of the room may be skewed. It is your basic utilitarian hotel room. Off the street, reasonably secure and a bed and toilet. That is about all I can say for it other than my stinking room is on the second floor overlooking the street and it is not a peaceful sanctuary. Maybe the fan on high will sooth my eardrums. I am going to need to go back to TripAdvisor and re-read some of the reviews I obviously missed something.

As I was setting things out of my luggage my phone rang. It was the tour guide that was also recommended on TripAdvisor who I had exchanged emails. A nice young man who would take me everwhere on my list over the next three days for about $50. It seemed a fair price to me. Then we were about to take off and he said "Hop on the back of the motorbike." Now that was unexpected. That might factor into how low the price was to me. Heck it wasn't even his bike. He rented it for a buck a day from a friend. Ok T. put on your big girl pants, you wanted an adventure, you got one. So pile on, sit down and shut up. I thought they drove wildly with no regard to stop lights ot lines on the road. It really came into perspective sitting out in the open as trucks and cars slipped past.

Mandalay is about a thousand year old, but most of the monuments and such are maybe a century and a half old at the oldest. Most of them are post 1945 . Burma used to be under control by the British. But for some reason Japan thought they wanted it more, so they asked the British to leave which they did amongst a lot of grumbling and dirty looks. A couple years later the British decided they wanted it back  and brought some friends along to ask Japan to go home. Japan kind of liked it in Burma and threw a shit fit about this.  It turnedinto quite a spat and most of the buildings that were the nicest and strongest got renovated via explosion. They stayed that was until thirty of forty years after the Japanese went home to take over the world economically the buildings stayed just like they were when they left.  Then the current government (for some reason after all the hullabaloo in the 1940's the British had gone home to sell records in the USA in the 1960's) came into some money or more likely asked their citizens to volunteer their labor to repair the British/Japanese renovations.

This is strongly seen in the former royal palace with it's twenty foot high walls stretching toe kilometers on a side. The area now is 80 percent army base and 20% tourist site. You enter the main portico and you can only walk down the road half a mile to the royal palace. There is no deviation, nor photography allowed, Inside the royal palace it is really pretty. But that is about all I can tell you. I had left my Lonely Planet book back in the room because I had a tour guide. I had left my tour guide at the main gate. I thought I had a tour guide, but in fact I had a motorbike and driver. I will have to read my LP book and look at the photos I took to see what I saw.

We went to a pagoda and he came along this time and I asked him some questions about what I was seeing and his knowledge and English skills were not sufficient to give me much more that what I had skim read on the plane to Mandalay. I am going to have to terminate our union and find something with four or even three wheels surrounding someone who can tell me what I am seeing.

We went to all the tourist sites on Mandalay's tourist track. I kept seeing the same people at each stop. The world largest book as well as the high hill overlooking the city and river. By the way there is no Mandalay Bay in Mandalay. It is on a river and Las Vegas lies.

I am pretty tired right now. Still dealing with Jet lag, but not too bad. More than anything hanging on to the back of a motorbike trying to keep my bladder clenched all afternoon has really worn me out. So on that note I'm going to stop writing and get on with something else

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