Burma Google Maps

Another trishaw approached me and I got him to understand that I wanted food. He took me to a Shan restaurant. The food was in open wash-up type bowls arranged along a large table. There were no prices or menu. I pointed to several of the bowls and was dished up a pile of stuff on a plate. An assortment of side dishes and spicy sauces was put on my table and I set to. I ate chicken, snow peas, cucumbers, greens and the tasty but unfamiliar goodies in the side dishes. There was a basin big enough to bathe the baby full of boiled rice to help myself to. It was delicious and all of it plus a litre of water cost two dollars fifty.

The trishaw man had been waiting for me and he pedalled me back to the hotel where we arranged a jaunt around the town for the next day for a fee of ten dollars.

I met him at nine and we set off, me with my umbrella aloft. We passed the police barracks, which was surrounded by a large, old, mouldy white-stone wall on which someone had graffitied in Burmese and English their displeasure with this establishment. There were two English words, one was ‘Police’, and the other started with an ‘F’. Beneath it was a drawing of the Moustache Brother’s logo. No wonder the ‘Moustache Brothers’, a local satire show, have been closed down. I read that going to one of their performances would have got you an all-expenses-paid holiday at a government institution. The brothers have had this experience themselves but continue to perform in clandestinely. Their show casts aspersions at and is a forum for criticism of those in power. It’s a wonder they are still alive.

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Further on I watched with some distaste a woman using a long-handled plastic dipper to ladle water from the sewer drain through a break in its cover and sluice it around her food hawker’s cart to damp down the dust.

The first place I visited was the Royal Palace Fortress in the centre of Mandalay. Built as a one mile square-walled city, this was where the last two Burmese kings had lived. The buildings inside the walls are now replicas; the original ones were destroyed during WWII battles with Japanese invaders. We pedalled along the twenty-six foot high palace wall that is surrounded by a wide moat the size of a river. The wall has four grandly ornate gates, one in each side. Three are forbidden to foreigners, but I was allowed to walk in the fourth after I paid a ten dollar government fee. The palace is now a military compound and outside the gate a huge red sign in English and Burmese said, ‘Strike down all who oppose our union’, which I found chilling. I would not like to be on the wrong side of this lot.

A heavy presence of uniformed soldiers armed with rifles guarded the tourist gate. Were they expecting an assault by the likes of me? A takeover by a posse of tourists maybe?

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