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E-Pao! EI - Road to Yunan Part II

Road to Yunan - Part II
Yumnam Rupachandra Singh *



A few more hours saw us back in Mandalay back to the same hotel we left two days before. We had spent a day in Mandalay before we left for Muse and we were going to spend another day before leaving for Kalemeyo and then onto Tamu.

Mandalya is a city with a historical background. The royal palace of Mandalay complete with its moat is a prominent landmark and you cannot help but bump into it. It is immaculately maintained and we could learn a trick or two on maintaining our own Kangla. The royal palace is a definite tourist destination. Overlooking the palace is the Mandalay Hill, which provides a panoramic view of the city. It can be accessed by taxi or on foot up a long stairway. At the top is a Buddhist pagoda.

As Pagodas go the Mahamuni Temple with its huge golden Buddha statue is one of the most prominent one. The Mahamuni Buddha image is 12.5 ft high and originally made of 5 metals. But it now is covered with 3.5 tons of gold pasted by devotees seeking blessings.

Each day more are added Another tourist attraction is the U Paien Bridge across lake Taun Tha Man Kan in Amrapura Township. Mandalay is also is an important trading city and with India adopting an East-look policy is poised for greater role.

Connected through the waterways and by road to Indian border town of Moreh, Mandalay will be the first major city and landing place for most people on business trip Mandalay is the last capital of the Myanmar Kings and is located in Central Myanmar, 668 km north of Yangon.

Also known as Ratanabon-nepyi (meaning Gem City), it was built in 1857 by King Mindon (1853-1878). Today, it is the second largest city boasting its rich culture heritage. It is also the commercial centre with rail, road, river and air links to all parts of the country.

Commercially the city is expanding with more new shopping markets coming up even as I write. Right across the Zeigyo Hotel, where we stayed, Korean construction companies were working round the clock to raise a new market complex. Mandalay has its own Yellow page kind of directory, which you can buy for 2000 kyats - that’s roughly Rs 100 in the Moreh–Tamu black exchange market. You can find listings of 23000 plus business interest mostly trading third world products - majority of which seem to be Chinese.

Almost all major international brands like Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Nissan, Toyota etc have opened their show rooms and corporate offices also. On the downside Mandalay or for that matter the entire upper Myanmar that we travelled suffered acutely from power shortage, lack of modern communication facility like internet and language.

Because of education system, which did not lay emphasis on the almost global language of English, Myanmar as it opens up its “bamboo curtain” after years of isolation is finding hard to communicate with outsider.

The entire journey was full of jokes on trying to get what you want from the Myanmarese. There is this one from an earlier trip - a Manipur tourist team after few pegs settled down to have their meal. A little bit tipsy from a few rounds of drink, the team had a hard time communicating their menu- incidentally pork, to the waiter.

That was till one of the more enterprising chap went on all fours and snorted like a pig to indicate what the group wanted for their meal. The communication method sent the waiter and those around howling but it got them their pork.

Power situation is grim especially more so on the western front. From Mandalay to Kalemeyo towards Tamu, it was rare to see electric polls. From swanky showrooms in Mandalay to your humble roadside eatery, Chinese generators were answer to power problem.

Internet cafes are almost non existant. Open telephone PCOs however were aplenty - at least in Muse. International calls however was prohibitively high - we were charged 2000 kyats per minute by our hotel manager at Muse. The PCO’s however charge lesser, we were told later.

Read Part I | Part II | Part II |


* The writer is currently serving as a Correspondent of The Statesman and contributes regularly to Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on 16th April 2005

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