Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Myanmar (Burma)


Mandalay   |   Temples   |   etc.

July, 2004

Burma photo.
1. View from Mandalay Hill
Burma photo.
2. Street scene
Burma photo.
3. Taxis
Burma photo.
4. Electrical panels

— Index —

nul. nul.

We flew to Mandalay from Chiang Mai, Thailand on a 2-engine prop aircraft with 14 other passengers. There is only one flight a week into Mandalay; there are no flights back to Chiang Mai. We had to get to Yangon (Rangoon) for the return flight 10 days later. Upon arriving at the airport, we took a taxi into the city — 45 kilometers through very rural countryside. It took an hour in the beat up old car. The divided highway was fairly new, although in some sections only one lane was usable. There were few motor vehicles on the road; most of the local people rode bicycles or carts drawn by horses or oxen. They used both sides of the road to travel in either direction. (In Myanmar, motor vehicle traffic keeps to the right. However, the cars mostly have right hand steering wheels. Passing on the highway is frightening, as the driver can't see what is coming until the car is all the way out into oncoming traffic.)

Mandalay is an ancient Burmese capitol. From the top of Mandalay Hill (see photo #1, at left) you can get a sense of the city's layout. When you get into town at street level, however, the city assaults you with noise, smells, and dust (photo #2). People are poor, so few can afford to own a car. Most vehicles are used as buses or taxis. They tend to be old and in poor condition (photo #3). There are not enough of them, so buses are inevitably crowded, often with men riding on top. (Women are not allowed on top. It would be insulting to the men below them.)

Wherever we went in Mandalay, we were accosted by people (called touts) who wanted to sell us something, be our guide, change money, or simply beg money from us. Particularly at the tourist sites, vendors would follow us around demanding that we buy their particular souvenirs. Saying no would not put them off. Walking away didn't work; they would simply follow us. Often, we escaped only when we drove off to visit another location, and new touts. It was very tiring. We came to have a very low opinion of the Burmese people as a result. Of course, most Burmese are not this way at all, as we learned later. But it seems that everyone who deals with the tourists has learned to act rudely in order to make a living. It is really quite sad.

Few things seem to work properly in Myanmar, and this was particularly true in Mandalay. The electric power was totaly unreliable. All large businesses had diesel generators, and they ran much of the time. The electrical system is primitive, with switch panels made up from individual components mounted on a board and attached to a wall (photo #4). Wherever we went, we saw these panels on corridor walls with no covers or guards and bare wires exposed. The supply wiring in the streets is equally disfunctional. Here is an electrician working on the wires.

The streets of Mandalay are covered with trash. This isn't because people simply throw things down wherever they are, but because the trash collection system works that way. People dump their trash into the street, and the trash collectors shovel it into baskets to transfer to their truck and haul it away. Inevitably, dogs, wind, and cars scatter the piles of trash, the trash men don't get it all, and the streets are littered with trash. The odors from the trash mix with the odors from the open sewers, and the city is not terribly pleasant.

Here are a few more photos from the streets of Mandalay:

Food in Myanmar generally was very cheap. The restaurants were not visually appealing — they all seemed dingy and unkempt. We were concerned for our whole time in the country that we would get sick from eating the food. We never did. In fact, the food was often very good. We ate at Lakshmi an Indian restaurant in Mandalay with a very limited menu, mostly just a few curries. We ordered vegetarian curry and received 4 large bowls of food (daal, potato curry, a mixed vegetable curry, and soup) plus green beans, spinach, tomato chutney, rice, and papodom bread. If we finished something, they brought more. The total cost for the two of us was 1,450 kyat (about $1.60).

In the end, we were not terribly impressed with Mandalay. It was good to have seen it, but we are unlikely to return.


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
Website designed and created by Lois Richter, expanded by Jim.
Created 7/2004. All photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.