25 January, 2012

Waiting for the Dust to Clear in Mandalay

On to Mandalay with the Isreali man, on a similar flight, I said, while at the airport I was talking to him, “I feel like Mandalay will pale in comparison to Bagan,” just like a fortune teller. At times I wish I could turn off my gut feeling. When we arrived we got the same taxi, in hopes to cut down the fair, but in general he was somber. There just was no joie de vivre with him, and he was already saying this would be my only trip here. Mandalay in the morning fog, smoke and dust was not a pretty sight, and I was trying to relax. When he said, “Well, there goes my light to photograph," and I was happy to leave him in the taxi when we got to my guesthouse.

The guesthouse owner was talking to me, after a cup of strong coffee, when suddenly without any abrupt or strenuous moves I had valsalva ‘attack’ where I could not talk to her. This is a unexpected blood pressure drop, made worse in the areas affected by my strokes, like my left side and speech. She said relax, and I looked at her with a puzzled face trying to figure why this happened. If I jump up or squat down fast can cause this, but this was becoming one more sign about Mandalay. I put my luggage in the room when done and walked out to go to the fort. Long dusty blocks faced me and I walked for an hour to get there, and there was nothing to see. Most of the fort is off limits and the only to see is a rebuilt ‘half-ass kings palace’, and aversion hit with full force. I walked to the top of the lookout, and saw a city smothered in an ugly haze overall. Luckily, I met a nice Burmese soldier and a Thai man working in Mandalay who I talked to and they warmed up my mood. I walked down to a tea stand and a German woman joined me for tea and treats. We talked travel and plans for an hour. I rested and it was already 2pm, and I have not seen much.

I grabbed a motorcycle taxi to the hill, skipping the temples that lay at the base; he rode me up the hill on the backside, getting there about 3:30pm to walk up the rest with ease. I ran into some English tourists that I kept seeing in different places and we chatted about the travel. They were sweet and relaxed. I saw the Israeli at the top, we talked about what he had seen, and what not to miss and then bid farewell. I stayed to photograph sunset from the top but I was non-plussed.

On the walk down the steps, I got hooked up with a chatty Monk about the school he has and he walked me down. I was cordial but did not like his hard sell approach, never giving me space. I guess he figured he could just pester me enough to give money, but I was having none of that knowing that money is not supposed to be a concern of monks. As soon as I got to the bottom I thanked him for his time and walked right to a motorcycle taxi, so fast that he had no more time with me. It seemed like the only way to get away, regardless of how honorable his school was. I made it back in time to have dinner at the guest house and talk some more with the owner, and plan my next day. We were to see surrounding cities with two other guests said the owner and we could split the pick-up truck taxi. Continued

This 5 part story starts with "Unexpected Kindness In Bagan" below

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