Mandalay // Myanmar

Our last stop in Myanmar was Mandalay, and ironically Mandalay was the place in Myanmar where we met some of the nicest Burmese people but also where we encountered the most hagglers and the only Burmese person who was actually rude to us. This particular fellow was rather outspoken about the disparity between rich and poor and how we were helping the rich get richer by booking a taxi through our hotel rather than with him. I think Adam and I both were a bit flustered by his accusation, but who wants to give money to a disrespectful guy anyway? Ill-mannered fellow aside though, all of the rest of the Burmese people we met were very kind and considerate folks— especially the young monks! That's a pretty good track record I think.

Mandalay is the opposite of pedestrian friendly. We were determined to walk nonetheless to get a bit of exercise, to see the city, and to avoid the bargaining fiascos with taxi drivers. It was utterly frustrating however to walk in circles for hours on end trying to find restaurants recommended by Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet without any success at all. The maps were always wrong, and Google Maps was zero help. We would give up on one, then try another, and give up on that one and the next and the next. Needless to say, we did not eat all that well in Mandalay.

I did however finally have a chance to capture some of the quirks and intricacies of Myanmar while walking around the streets of Mandalay. To start, I adored the kiddos running around without a care in the world, and I was excited to have a chance to snap a portrait of one of them. I was especially happy to capture one with some thanaka on her face. Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark that is worn by most Burmese woman and children. It apparently gives a cooling sensation, provides sun protection, and also removes acne. Besides the kiddos, some other memorable details included the massive tangles of power lines everywhere, the community water huts, and the absolute chaos of scooters and cars. Crossing big intersections was a "cross your fingers and hope to live" kind of experience each and every time.

On the final morning of our stay in Myanmar, we woke up mega early and took a taxi to see the sun rise over U Bein Bridge. U Bein Bridge is a 1.2-kilometre bridge built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Seeing it as sunrise (as opposed to sunset) was most definitely the right choice as we were some of the only non-locals there. The bridge was instead filled with monks returning from breakfast and locals doing their calisthenics or commuting to work. I must say that the combination of the teak bridge, monks, and bicycles makes for some idyllic pictures. In reality though, we were standing amongst rubbish and circling wild dogs while snapping these photos. Touché!