Mandalay is described as a fairly grubby, dusty working town that a lot of people feel indifferent about. These were some of the reasons that we liked it so much. It definitely felt ‘real’, nothing has been made especially easy for visitors; roads rarely have pavements and the things that might be interesting to visit in the city are far apart. People are going about their business in the bustling busyness of it all and don’t particularly bend to tourism. This is always something that we really like, as we always feel it gives us a chance to see how countries and people function together, rather than a manufactured tourist version.
If you haven’t read a book called The Glass Palace by a guy called Amitav Ghosh and you’re interested in India, Burma, Malaysia or the British colonisation of this part of the world, then you really need to read it. It’s a novel, but it’s based on historical fact and really gives an insight into so many aspects of life under colonial rule from 1815 until Independence and beyond.
We both absolutely loved it and it definitely shaped some of our decisions and influenced some of the things we wanted to see while in the country.
Myanmar, a country we’d both wanted to visit for years and years. Finally we were here. And it was amazing! It seemed to have a mysticism around it as we drove through the city in the taxi; shut off for years by military rule and recently opened. It definitely didn’t disappoint us as a country.
On the ferry we tramped along with hundreds of others heading for Phuket from Phi Phi. The day before the new year, in the western calendar anyway, full of apprehension about what the island would be like.
As an island it’s one of the biggest in Thailand so there are plenty of lovely resorts to stay at and nice beaches. We were headed for the main town on Phuket called Patong which was strange because we didn’t want to go clubbing or see a sex show, which is mostly what people do there. In fact lots of people, including ourselves, have told us that it was a strange place for us to go.