Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)

Mandalay always has some sort of exotic connotation for me due to Frank Sinatra’s song, “The Road to Mandalay”. I don’t think Frank has ever been here in all honesty, as I really couldn’t find any redeeming features to talk about, apart from the people, obviously. The road to Mandalay must head straight out the other side. It’s another sprawling city, but it just seems so lost in the past. For a large city, it actually has a very rural feel. You see carts in the streets being pulled by two lumbering water buffalo for example. I don’t think we will ever forget the Chapatti Stand however, spicy mince keema, 2 chapattis and Chinese tea for the price back home of a local bus ticket.

While walking around next day trying to get some orientation and a good feel for the place. We took a walk under the beating sun, and ended up in a residential area next to a giant outdoor food market. We were the centre of attention, and really felt like the locals were wondering what the hell we were doing here. It can be a bit uncomfortable being stared at when you are in a strange place, but make eye contact, smile and wave, and you get these wide happy smiles back in return. The confidence builds slowly. The kids are so grateful if you hand out a couple of sweets, and you almost melt when you get these smiles from some of the most beautiful kids we have ever seen. All the women and children wear a yellow make-up called Thanaka, which I think comes from the Sandlewood tree.

Our girls had left the day before us, and we couldn’t believe it when next morning we came down for the breakfast, and Sophie and Carina were in the foyer. We had planned to stay at the Royal Guest House, but it was full, and had to try another 3 or 4 before finding one. The girl’s had found the same hotel, but had already made plans to do a trip of the four Royal City’s surrounding Mandalay with another couple in one of Mandalay’s famous blue “taxi’s”. So we were abandoned, and took great delight winding up the girls about this. By this stage, we were all becoming really close friends, with Michelle becoming “Mudja” and me “Fadja”.

We were moving to the Royal Guest House that morning, as I had reserved a room the night before on realising how popular it was. This is where we met the lovely Yvonne from England, a middle aged traveller, young Aishia from France, and this truly nutty German bloke called Andreas. We arranged a taxi to share between the five of us to do the same tour that Sophie and Carena were doing. Andreas is completely off his trolley, an absolute whacko, just about the maddest person I have ever met. He is in his mid 50’s, kept starting conversations with everyone in English, then continuing the story in German much to our bewilderment. I now call this language “Germlish”. He just seemed so confused that we could not understand what he was saying, but he was relentless in his German story telling, and was driving us all nuts. Somehow though, both Michelle and I had taken an instant liken to this guy. We stopped for lunch somewhere, and Yvonne asked for vegetables and noodles, insisting on no cauliflower, discretely advising everyone it would be unfair on the rest of us in the taxi.

We got to our destination, which was like a mini Bagan, with a scattering of temples and ancient monuments. The German was driving us mad, and Yvonne was really starting to be quite abrupt with him. Aishia, Michelle and I were just bewildered with the scene that was unfolding, it looked like the two of them were going to fall out. Yvonne gave him a stern ticking off for blocking Aishia’s camera shot as he was kind of hogging all the space in front of the temple. As Yvonne unleashed on Andreas, I heard this long whining farty sound. You know that moment when it happens and you are not sure if you heard something or not? Then it happened again, Yvonne was farting as she was talking, and not even blinking an eye. As we walked down the road I was doubling over as the mad German was rambling on and on, with Yvonne obviously agitated and continually having verbal dig’s at him, while her bum squeaked and burped all the way down the road. Tears were rolling down my cheeks with the giggles – most surreal, and sadly, the highlight for me of Mandalay. So that will be the vision in my head every time I see a Cauliflower. I have to say, that Andreas was an absolutely terrific bloke, full of fun, engaging, and extremely popular with the locals. Just one of these people you meet in life, that are truly larger than life. The world would be a great place with more of these guys.

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