Ever heard the name of a place and decided that you were just going to love it? Well, that was Mandalay for me. I knew before I even set foot there that this tongue tickling, exotic sounding city and I were going to get along just fine.
So, it came as no surprise to me to learn of a poem set in colonial Burma called Mandalay written by British poet Rudyard Kipling. Who (to my dismay) spent just three days in the country, and none them in Mandalay.
Mandalay was one of only four destinations that tourists had permission to visit along with Inle Lake, Bagan and Yangon during the military regime that ruled the country from 1948 to 2015. While new hotspots have opened up around the country, Mandalay remains a fav on the tourist trail.
And while Mandalay doesn’t have the ancient splendour of Bagan, the natural beauty of Inle lake or the pulse of Yangon, it has the people. Mandalay has jade markets, puppet shows and silver crafting, as well as the striking U Bein Bridge and serene Mandalay Palace.
The city itself is orderly chaos. Neatly gridded streets are numbered north to south 1st to 49th and east to west 50th to 90th. Mandalay is without a typical city centre, so exploring on foot under a blanket of car exhaust and a scorching sun not much fun.
We did what most do and hired a driver for the day in Mandalay. For all I promote on this blog about independent travel, being able to sit in an air-conditioned van while being taxied from place to place was extremely convenient.
Just this once, though, I’m still all about getting lost.
PS. I managed to fit the word Mandalay in this short post 9 times, but I could have written it 500.
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