Myanmar.

Mandalay. Cycle Tour.

This got to be the best day in Mandalay so far. We had so much fun, saw so much and we received so much…

We had decided to do the Cycling Tour West Mandalay and rented the bikes from our guesthouse. As today was the National Independence Day, we had thought that traffic was quieter but we were mistaken. So we experienced first hand the freedom of traffic in Myanmar. Rules are there to be ignored and it is all a matter of being careful and observant. And people were. When we four crossed a junction the traffic waited for us. It was really amazing.

PrtScr capture
day175
inside of Michael’s Catholic church

Although this map is  slightly different to the tour we did, it gives you an idea of the path we took. We start at Michael’s Catholic Church which is slightly more north than No 1 in the map and is pink from the outside. The door was locked but that

didn’t stop me from asking somebody for the key and sure enough the door was unlocked and we went inside. The church was still decorated for Xmas and we did spend quite some time looking at paintings, sculptures and talked about the stations of the cross that we also saw on the walls of this church. Lara was wondering about their meaning and we tried to explain as good as we could. For her and our benefit here is a summary I found on the internet:

1Jesus wird zum Tode verurteiltJesus is condemned to death
2Jesus nimmt das Kreuz auf seine SchulternJesus carries His cross
3Jesus fällt zum ersten Mal unter dem KreuzJesus falls the first time
4Jesus begegnet seiner MutterJesus meets his mother
5Simon von Cyrene hilft Jesus das Kreuz tragenSimon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
6Veronika reicht Jesus das SchweißtuchVeronica wipes the face of Jesus
7Jesus fällt zum zweiten Mal unter dem KreuzJesus falls the second time
8Jesus begegnet den weinenden FrauenJesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9Jesus fällt zum dritten Mal unter dem KreuzJesus falls a third time
10Jesus wird seiner Kleider beraubtJesus clothes are taken away
11Jesus wird an das Kreuz genageltJesus is nailed to the cross
12Jesus stirbt am KreuzJesus dies on the cross
13Jesus wird vom Kreuz abgenommen und in den Schoß seiner Mutter gelegtThe body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
14Der heilige Leichnam Jesu wird in das Grab gelegtJesus is laid in the tomb

After the church we continued our tour and found a jaggery workshop. Jaggery is slowly becoming my favorite sweet tooth filling here in Myanmar. We first found it in a market in Yangon not even knowing what it was and now we see it everywhere. Jaggery can be made from sugar cane or from various palm trees and is essentially candy. Today we saw how they make it. A sugary liquid is extracted from the sugar cane or from the palm tree and heated. The workshop we saw receives large metal containers full of solid sugar lumps. They are being broken up and then poured into a machine draining the liquid off. The dried sugar is being put into bags and most probably finished somewhere else. Lara actually doesn’t like it, it is too sweet, she says. She can’t be my daughter 🙂 She actually didn’t enjoy visiting the workshop because of the smell. The sugar, the heat – there was a slight fermentation smell. And that is something she really doesn’t like.

A couple of corners further down we visited Eindawya Paya. 

day175b
a smaller one in the same compound
DSC_2885[1]
DSC_2894[1]

What was beautiful here was this group of kids. They just came running and said „Hi“ and were shaking our hands repeatedly. They tried to make contact with Alina and Lara but both were a bit shy at the beginning. But after a while Alina was running around with them and having a great time. She didn’t want to leave. Lara came back to us at some point and said it was getting too much for her. They were pulling her in different directions and she had enough.

The crocodile bridge on our way was disappointing and very very very dirty so we couldn’t take a photo with the kids sitting on it.

We followed the map and found some colonial-style monastery residences. That was unbelievable. I couldn’t even take a photo. The building was so big. A monk started talking to us and invited us to have a look around inside. The ceiling was made of gold and was so beautiful. I would have loved to go on the roof but he said it was a bit dangerous. So we didn’t. I asked the monk, how many monasteries there were in Mandalay and he just smiled and said a lot. Only 10 monks are living in this huge house at the moment. Before we left we were offered some bananas and something to drink. The bananas we took gratefully.

DSC_2907[1]

Then we continued our tour and came to a place where there was supposed to be a house-workshop that created rice-puff snacks in a big sweet-smelling wok. Well we didn’t find it but we found something else. We saw a family wrapping sweet tamarind bars. We were again offered a little snack and watched them packing this delicious sweet snack.

DSC_2913[1]

Later we reached Chanthaya Paya, where the most precious Buddha image supposedly dates back to the reign of Indian emperor Ashoka. Here we came across again the same situation, that women were not allowed close to the Buddha. Only men can go. And like before I was trying to explain to Alina that this is the local custom and that we have to respect that.

DSC_2912[1]

She is very much like me and can’t stand unfair behavior. She is getting really upset about women not having the same rights as men or being even seen as less worthy than men. While we were talking another man joined us and asked us the usual questions: Where do we come from? What is our name? How old are the children? Here we were also offered some bananas and some tea. When we felt it was time to leave somebody just arrived with some more tea that they offered us. It was actually really delicious tea. Very sweet with milk. Everybody was very friendly and interested in us.

DSC_2920[1]

We left the Paya heading to the teak footbridge and found on the way jet another street vendor with stuff we had never seen before. Something was being deep fried. And because I was in a good mood, I just went for it and tried it and it was really nice. A mixture of rice flower, and something else deep fried with a bit of salt. Great. We had found our savory snack for later. Lara was getting so interested in it, that she started to help. We are not sure what they deep fried, we saw five different snacks. One was onion for sure and in one I believe I saw some insects. I can’t be sure but we didn’t try that one.

52294214
DSC_2935[1]

The teak footbridge was nice but was leading over a water garbage pond. We saw how poorly the people here lived and the pond was their bin. Just a short distance from there we found the other side of life in Myanmar: The Mandalay Karaweik Mobile Hotel with room around 100 Dollars.  Alina was actually the first to notice the discrepancy. Right next to the Hotel there are people washing themselves and their clothes in the river. I wanted to see the boat so we stepped on the boat and ordered a drink for ourselves which was in the end more expensive than lunch and dinner together. But we spend nearly two ours on the terrace of the restaurant enjoying the last rays of sunshine and a stunning sunset. And an huge plus was the incredibly good WiFi on board, so we could even skype with both grandparents which is always a treat in this country.

Our last top would have been a traditional dance show at one of the restaurants along the river but when we went to asked they told us they were not doing the evening shows any longer. With a deeply sadden and disappointed Alina (we have so far not once succeeded to watch some traditional dance, not in Cambodia  and not here) we returned to our guesthouse.

Good night Mandalay. Good night smiley friendly people. I like this place and I love the people.