Sunday, 16 March 2008

Day 300 - Mandalay

Crikey, another post already. I know I said I would but it seems too soon.

Life is a bit boring and normality has been resumed. I still notice police around, but I don't think they are tracking me anymore. The ride to Mandalay was pretty straight forward, but another long one at 150k, so I left nice and early, 7am, had a good run and arrived at about 15:30. and for a change the temperature only reached 35 which made it far more comfortable. I had already booked a room in advance just in case I did attract the attention of the police again, but it was worth doing anyway as it is a very popular backpacker hangout and was already full. So it's all very sociable again and that has also helped. I met another couple who had had problems in the same area, but they had gone to the expensive hotels in the tourist zone, and travelling in a taxi they were just aware that they were tracked the whole time.

The first day in Mandalay was reasonably leisurely. I walked up Mandalay Hill for some fantastic view where you can see more pagodas and pointy things than you can shake a stick at. Just below it are the grounds on Mandalay Palace and they are huge, but the palace was destroyed and there is little to see there now. The walls around the grounds are completely intact as is the moat, what must surely be the biggest moat in the world, well I have never seen one as big as this anyway. I ended up walking all the way around it and it took over 2 hours, we are talking big. My only problem that all I wanted to do after a few long days cycling was eat. I had the free breakfast at the hotel, but as soon as I had finished I was thinking about where I could go for another one. The evening was spent with Kiwi Dan and Brian from Canada. It is Brian's first trip abroad and I just his youthful enthusiasm, he has really caught the travel bug and he even seems to like the idea of cycling, though I have advised him not to start here. I had my first beer since the last one, a long time ago!

Today I did a bit of sight seeing a bit further out in the city, a lovely wooden monastry and a reveared image of Budda that continues to get plastered in gold leaf. It is probably much bigger now than its original size. I then went out to Sagaing, one of the ancient capitals, there are a few around here, where there are alot, alot, ALOT of pointy things on a hill, not the place to do a parachute jump I can assure you. Lots more gold too, this really is 'The Golden Land'. On the way back I called in at Amarapura where there is an old teak footbridge that is over a kilometre long in a lovely tranquil setting.

Practically every day since I entered India way back there have been lots of cyclists and there are always a good number that don't like being overtaken by me, it's been the same in every country. I pass them at my normal plod speed, then they come flying past, to make a point I assume, but within a minute or two I am passing them again as I maintain a steady speed. Now at least once a day there is somebody that will want to stay in front and as I start to pass again they speed up again until they are a little way ahead, then they slow down again and the whole process repeats itself. But I have now devised a little game, it's great fun. I let the process continue for 4 or 5 times and wait for them to tire a little, then as they speed up again I get onto their back wheel and stay a foot or two behind. Just being in front is not good enough for them, they need some space in between, so they get faster and faster until there legs are spinning like mad on their single speed bike. In the meantime I am cheating a little be going through the gears and it is easy to just cruise along behind. Before long they can take it no more and they stop pedaling and I pass them, then slow down to my normal pace, but they never pass me again. Childish aren't I?

I need your help. I know of the song 'The Road to Mandalay', but all I can remember is the title. Who did it and when? If you could hum the tune to me, then so much the better. If I had to guess I would probably go for the Beatles.

I have booked a flight out of this place now. I fly from Yangon to Chiang Mai in Thailand on Thursday 27th March. That is the day before my visa runs out and as there are only 2 flights a week I chose this one so as not to over run the visa and give them any more chances to give me hassle when I leave. That leaves me with a pretty tough schedule to get back tol Yangon, but I would rather it that way. From here I head off tomorrow for Bagan, 2 long days of cycling. I am going to head back to Meiktila for the night as I have been told by locals that there are no hotels for foreigners on the only other route. There will be nights between Bagan and Yangon where there will be no foreigner hotels when I will have no option but to go that way, so I decided to head back to a hotel I know whilst I at least have an option.

I will post again from Bagan on Friday, but I don't expect to have anything exciting to report.


Mr Larrington said...

The evidence suggests that the song "On The Road To Mandalay" was written by one Oley Speaks, based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Although written in 1907, the song became better-known with Frank Sinatra's version, recorded in 1958.

aoiffe said...

I presume you didn't mean...
Nellie the elephant packed her bags
and said goodbye to the circus
off she wnt with a trumpety trump trump trump trump.
The head of the herd was calling far far away,
they met one night, in the starry light,
on the road to Mandalay...

Robbie williams has also released a song called on the road to Mandalay, though it is nothing to do with the Kipling poem which I think is about a soldier and a burmese girl and a boat trip from Rangoon to Mandalay.

John Harwood said...

Blimey, no wonder I knew nothing about it, I have never heard of Oley Speaks and I am not a fan of poetry or Frank Sinatra, I just can't think how I had heard of it in the first place. Thanks for the info, I can forget about it now.

Foghorn said...

Gooday John, my name is Brian Summerfield, I live in northern Tasmania.I Have been reading your journal from time to time with interest. I have cycled around Oz 2002/04 to raise awareness to the Tibetan human rights issues. I am hoping to cycle back to the UK from here, maybe next March, not sure yet. I was bought up nearby you at Reading. If you ever decide to come over to Tasmania you would be made very welcome at my home, and would love to get some inside information regarding equipment etc.
You were very lucky to exit Myanmar when you did, as up to now 15,000 people so far have lost their lives in a recent cyclone. And by the way I support Liverpool (sob sob) Take care, Brian.