Author: Guido Helbling, Avosound - Last updated November 09, 2017
We decided to tackle the journey to Mandalay by bus. For no apparent reason, this particular stretch of road sports a whopping four lanes; as a result, our trip on the air-conditioned bus took only a single day. This four-lane highway through the countryside is unique in Myanmar.
Decent roads are not a given in this country; some of them are so primitive they shouldn't even qualify for the term.
The king's palace itself is located in the centre of the city, surrounded by a massive moat and a high wall. Sadly, the palace (which was made out of wood and covered entirely in leaf gold) burned down during the Second World War. Only a single temple survived -- and for no apparent reason it was re-located outside the palace walls.
Rather controversially, the reconstruction of the palace (as well as some of Mandalay's temples) was achieved with forced labour -- just like in the days of the bloodthirsty rulers.
Mandalay is the cultural centre of the country, which means that there is lots to see in and around the city. Apart from the reconstruction of the king's palace, there are also lots of temples and other complexes that are worth visiting (even if you're just going there to cool off).
Equally impressive is the world's biggest book that is exhibited in one of the temples; it features buddha's teachings on countless stone tablets.
It's best to book a tour with a guide -- either in the car (which is boring) or on a moped (much more fun). We decided to take the latter option after consulting with a group of tourists we met at a leaf gold forge.
Our guide, Myint Shin (aka Mr. Take it easy) shows us around town on his scooter (which is also a nice way to cool off).
Myint shows us many things, among them the stone masons who carve buddha statues from marble; the foundry that casts buddhas in metal; as well as many other destinations around town, including temples, monks and a flower market.
I also made some recordings outside the city. It's hard to record anything in the famous temples, as they are constantly crowded with noisy visitors.
Although there is lots to see in Mandalay, we decide to travel into the mountains after two days -- the heat was just too much in the city. We do, however, intend to return to Mandalay. But I would like to record some singing monks, so I ask Myint. He says he'll look into it and will get back to me.
After a pedal-to-the-metal ride down the Old Burma Road in shared taxi, we reach Pyin U Lwin late in the evening. In the dark of the night, we zoom past countless trucks that are climbing up the mountain pass with great effort -- or idling by the roadside, waiting to be repaired between breakdowns.