Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The road to Mandalay

Our second day of Mandalay we headed off to see the sights. As a city it is not a hit you over the head gorgeous place but get up close and there are all sorts of things to be seen.

First stop was on the edges of town at a buddhist monastery where hundreds of blood red robed monks and their young novices converge after collecting alms from the streets of the city. All along the edges of the monestary were texts carved into the wall in Burmese script - a style of script that looks like the writings of a spaceman or underwater creature - all bubble shapes and curls.

Then it was to a long rickety teak bridge, the longest in the world in fact - this wobbly contraption takes monks and locals across the river estuary and into the town. It was dreamlike out at the bridge - Ed, Laura, Chas and I took a small wooden boat across in the haze of the morning heat passing an army of ducks marching through green marshland, persued by their minder in a conical straw hat and waving a stick with a ribbon on the end. A brown snake slithered past us, lazy in the water. We took the walk back over the bridge and were treated to the sight of beautiful burmese girls with thick long black shiny hair, flowered sarongs and blouses sitting ram rod straight on old fashioned bicycles with big wheels. To protect themselves from the sun the women and children paint circles of Thanaka - a yellow product made from tree bark on their faces in wide stripes, round circles of elaborate dots.

People here see so few visitors, so a reaction was always guaranteed from almost everyone. Some people looked stunned, others bikes would wobble as they swivelled their heads to take another look but most people gave us huge wide smiles, waves and often an enthusiastic "Hello" bellowed out in their old fashioned sounding Burmese english.


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