Back at Mandalay I saw my trishaw rider waiting for me on the river bank and I gratefully returned with him to the Royal City for a shower and a rest. Boy was I dirty after all the dust and heat of Mingun! I used the ‘bottom squirter’ to scrub my feet. These hoses on the wall beside toilets are found everywhere in Burma. They are used in lieu of toilet paper. I have never been able to work out quite how, but they do come in handy sometimes.
Later I met Carlos and Beverley, who took me to eat at their hotel. It was in the next street over from the Royal and called The Smart Hotel, which, from what I saw of it, it was. Up on its rooftop bar the happy hour was in progress and I was obliged to drink two free cocktails after which I helped empty several large bottles of beer and dispose of a little food. The view from up there was great. The most impressive building I could see, lit up in technicolour, was the railway station.
My friends insisted on walking me back to my room despite my saying that I felt perfectly safe in this country. Coming out from the air-conditioning of the hotel into the heat of the street was like opening the door of an oven. It had not cooled down from the one hundred plus temperature of the day.
Burma Map With States Photo Gallery
At breakfast I talked to a Danish man who said he was working on something to do with the environment in Thailand. I mentioned the pollution here, but he said that the problem in Burma was not pollution but rubbish. He said that the mentality of the people needed to change but that it would take a long time. In the past it would not have been a problem if the locals threw refuse on the soil because it would have been biodegradable. Now they had to be made aware that you can’t do this with plastic.
That day I had made arrangements to hire a taxi driver, a cheerful wizened gnome who lurked outside the hotel on a seemingly permanent basis. I wanted to visit the three former capital cities that are close to Mandalay but too far afield for a trishaw. As it turned out, the driver took me wherever he thought I should go. He was forever smiling and flashing his large gleaming metal front tooth and gold-rimmed glasses at me, and each time he turned his metallic charms on I was dazzled into obeying.
We set off in comfort in his air-conned car and I looked forward to a nice quiet drive in the country. I was soon disabused of that idea. We hadn’t gone far before we came to a temple that I was expected to visit. I was put out to walk.