Fulfilling a Buddhist prophecy King Mindon selected the short lived site of the Burmese Royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill.
Lord Buddah pointing to the site of a Royal Burmese Capital
The British conquered upper Burma in 1885 and exiled King Thibaw into India ending Mandalay’s role as a capital city.
The Royal Palace moat
Travelling to Mandalay was partly an excuse to do a nice night bus but also as a transit stop before heading North into Shan States. That is why this post is very light on detail!
Mandalay is a well known city partly because of a Rudyard Kipling poem called Mandalay written after he had visited Mawlamyine (formerly Moulmein). Kipling never made it as far as Mandalay. This hasn’t stopped a plethora of bars being named after him.
With a population estimated by the UN at 50 million Myanmar is the second largest country in South East Asia. Despite its size it is a country I don’t know a lot about largely due to the Military Junta enforced isolation.
Myanmar, or Burma as it was then known was conquered by the British over three wars from 1824 to 1885. The conquered territory, administered as part of British India, largely set the current borders for the nation. While the Burmese are the largest group within Burma, there are over 100 other language and ethnic groups making it an extremely diverse country.
Lonely Planet map of Myanmar
With the gradual opening up of the nation and the recent small steps made towards a civilian government, tourism in Myanmar is booming. The four main stops on the tourist trail are Yangon the British era capital, Inle Lake in Shan State, Bagan the ancient capital and Mandalay the last capital of Burmese kings.
Airport welcoming sign
I am going to try to visit all of these sites as well as take a few days to head south of Yangon to the end of the Thai-Burma railway line constructed with Prisoner of War labour in World War 2. My Father’s Uncle is buried at the Thanbuzayat Cemetery south of the British era port town of Mawlamayine (formerly Moulmein).
Yangon Central Clock Tower
To be honest the Qantas delay wasn’t too big an issue for me but the whingeing pom irate person of an English heritage standing behind me in the queue did get on my nerves. When he started comparing the experience of a delayed plane to every other calamitous event that had befallen him and claimed that the bus driver was the worst he ever had in his 60 odd years of life I thought he might be exaggerating the seriousness of the delay.
Despite a very strong temptation to find a spot to sleep at Changi airport in Singapore I jumped on the first train of the morning which at 5.30am left only a couple of hours after I landed. I’d hoped Singapore would be a bustling 24 hour city but at 6am the CBD was pretty quiet. The Marina Bay area was pretty spectacular though. Well out of my budget but I can understand its appeal.
Early morning at Marina Bay
Alas I also wasn’t able to experience a Singapore Sling or G&T at the Raffles. The building and gardens still look impressive. As do the Fort Canning gardens, another reminder of Singapore’s colonial history. I was however able to partake in some Kaya toast in Chinatown, a Singaporean favourite which combines coconut milk, eggs and sugar into a spread. Like an eggy coconut jam…
I’d imagine it costs about as much as the Raffles in Perth
Next stop a few days in Bangkok to sort out a visa for Myanmar (Burma). Also to partake in the Songkran festival (known to Westerners as the Water Festival)!!