The Road to Mandalay

When planning this trip Thailand was one of countries we intended to visit. I'd never considered visiting Burma and knew very little about it. But then during our travels we started to meet other travellers who raved about it. Our friends Christian and Marcel told us to get there before it opened up further, and became over-touristy. Then Uncle Al posted part of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem on my Facebook wall…

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,

There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;

For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:

“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! “

It didn't take much to convince us. We decided to forego Thailand for a month in Burma. Kipling, who was taken with Burma (and the Burmese girls) sold it to us further…

 

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,

Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst…

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,

An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones…

An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;

On the road to Mandalay…

After a few chilly weeks in North Vietnam the thought of sunshine, palm trees and tinkly temple bells sounded heavenly. And so we found ourselves on the road to Mandalay…

The road to Mandalay gave us our first glimpse of men in Longyis...

Well actually first we took a flight, otherwise we would have had a crazily long bus journey and a difficult, if not impossible, border-crossing. On the flight we met Matt and Tim, fellow Brits, and the four of us hopped onto a bus and finally found ourselves on the road to Mandalay.

Mandalay was the capital of Burma until the British invasion. We headed for Yoe Yoe Lay guesthouse, run by Namwe, an entrepreneurial Burmese lady who has turned her house into a hub for backpackers. Tim and Matt checked in with us and, along with Paul from Canada and Livia from Switzerland, we made a group that stuck together for our entire Mandalay stay. Namwe was brilliant, she looked after us like we were her children and fed us well. It was a wonderful start to our time in Burma.

With Namwe, our Burmese mum

Over the next few days we explored sights in and around Mandalay. The highlights were seeing U Bein Bridge at sunset, Kuthodaw pagoda, a 19th century buddist temple that contains the world's largest book, watching the monks get their alms and taking a boat up to Mingun.

Spot the monk!

Tim, Matt and Paul on the boat to Mingun

Wish these were seen on the streets of York

At Kuthodaw Pagoda

Monks line up to get their morning alms

 

Sunset at U Bein Bridge; it was stunning!

This one is for Dad: two British built bridges in the background, quality engineering!

Mandalay is the home to Suzanne and Momo, two lovely Burmese medical students who Tim and Matt chatted up on top of Mandalay hill. The following day we were invited to dinner by their friends Thura and Ivan. We were treated like royalty and, like a safari supper, enjoyed a different course in a different family member's house. After dinner we went with them to a local pagoda party, which was similar to a traditional British village fête. We played a variety of games with our new friends, and with us being the only westerners there, attracted a lot of attention from the locals.

Sunset on Mandalay hill

With our new friends at the Pagoda party

 

After the pagoda party our new friends were keen to take us to a karaoke bar. The karaoke scene here is completely different from the drunken-man-in-the-corner-of-the-pub-thinking-he's-the-next-Michael-Bublé karaoke found in Britain. Here you hire a private room for you and your friends to and take the singing VERY seriously. Obviously Laura and I struggled with that, as we struggle to take anything seriously, but we did give it a go, belting out Hanson's Mmmbop, Get On Up by 5ive, and finishing with a bit of Donna Summer's Hot Stuff. Thura has ambitions to be a famous singer, and treated us to all of Westlife's greatest hits…which we continued to belt out in the back of the truck on the way home.

Karaoke, Burmese style

It was sad to leave our new friends, their kindness, enthusiasm and happiness made for a wonderful first impression of the Burmese people. This wasn't a one off…the Burmese people continued to be welcoming, smiley and hospitable throughout our trip. It may be an incredibly poor and politically corrupt country, but the people here have obviously not changed since Kipling's visit. We found them to be beautiful, both inside and out.

With love,

Katie xxx

 

Mandalay

by Rudyard Kipling

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,

There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;

For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:

“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! “

Come you back to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay:

Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay ?

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin'-fishes play,

An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,

An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat – jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,

An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,

An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:

Bloomin' idol made o' mud

Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd

Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!

On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,

She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing “Kulla-lo-lo!

With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin my cheek

We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.

Elephints a-pilin' teak

In the sludgy, squdgy creek,

Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!

On the road to Mandalay…

But that's all shove be'ind me – long ago an' fur away

An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;

An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:

“If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else.”

No! you won't 'eed nothin' else

But them spicy garlic smells,

An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;

On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,

An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;

Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,

An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?

Beefy face an' grubby 'and –

Law! wot do they understand?

I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!

On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,

Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;

For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay,

With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!

O the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin'-fishes play,

An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay !

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s