We bought bus tickets to Mandalay, against the travel agent’s advice. It was all going well until we got to the outskirts and woke up to grade 1 currents running under our bus. It was quite depressing to see as whole communities had washed away, all heading towards the main road. The floods in some areas were well above the start of the roof of some of the shacks we saw, and the flood plains extended as far as the eye could see. Yesterday buses weren’t getting through so this must have been the floods receded a bit.
Amazingly the bus made it through to Mandalay which wasn’t flooded in the city. It has pretty much been cut off for a few days though, and any of our planned day trips outside the city were well off the agenda. We subsequently heard that at least 100 people lost their homes, and several died but I’d have to verify that. The airport had been closed off as first it was under water, and then you couldn’t get to the city. We spoke to one guy later who had flown to Mandalay, but it took him over 4 hours to get ferried from the airport to the city, and the army were helping out at times.
We managed to take in a day trip out and around some of the usual sites – yet another pagoda, yet another stupa,yet another buddha, and an amazing old teak bridge – the longest apparently amazing one in the world.
We decided to hot foot it to Bagan the next day on the boat. I had heard Mandalay wasn’t too exciting on it’s own, and we weren’t too impressed compared to Yangon, especially without the day trips around.
One thing we had to see was a show from the Moustache Brothers before we left so we went there in the evening. These guys are in their 50’s now, but previously spoke out about the government regime here and promptly got arrested, and thrown in jail for 7 years. They finally got out after some famous comedians spoke out about it, and they featured in a Hugh Grant film as he comments on them while answering a call in a call centre (‘Love Actually’ maybe?). After that they kidded on their performance wasn’t a performance as they didn’t wear costumes. Now it is so well known about they are tolerated.
To be honest I don’t know what the fuss is about. Apparently the show has been the same for years – we sat there and wandered what the hell we were watching – everyone bemused in the audience. It was manic, with a lot of mention of how many government organisations are apparently watching them, some traditional dances from their partners, and other random stuff. Quite an experience, but it wasn’t quite the comedy we expected!