Myanmar First Stop—Mandalay
Newly arrived in Myanmar—first stop: Mandalay.
The Mandalay market street is neither dirt nor stone, but something in between. Small rocks jut up from the packed dirt in an irregular array, forcing you to look down to assure you don’t trip, but just as everything else around you is shouting for attention, such that your head bobs up and down.
Women everywhere are wearing the white powder natural sunscreen that is the most essential element of Burmese fashion sense. Both men and women are wearing sarongs in every conceivable color and pattern – men with knot in front and women demurely tucking their skirt on the side, which you will later begin to notice they periodically re-wrap as the day unwinds their tie. As your trip in Myanmar continues, you’ll also begin to notice that there is a rhyme and reason to the bold white powder face sunscreen also--- especially in the way young children get button nose circles reminding of cat costumes at Halloween.
Motorbikes come at you in all directions, and not in any predictable swarm, at first. Then you begin to figure that you cross streets when it’s just a motorbike throng approaching from one direction, not two, and stick to what would be a sidewalk, if there weren’t parked motorbikes and street vendors blocking paths if cars are coming in both directions and seem about to collide.
Commerce happens—everywhere---bartering, beckoning, and bustling to mix curries and sweets and other delicacies while swatting away the flies.
Stop for lunch and you find that not only is the curry taste of Burmese food is a welcome break from the hot, hot, hot of Thai food, but also that you had ordered twice as much as you thought you did, with so many side dishes being part of the deal.
When you get to the phone store for a new Myanmar SIM card and find that there too you have bought twice as many minutes as you had thought you did, you begin to sense a pattern.
Recommended First Stop on Mandalay Tour
Here, there, everywhere though—what is most predictable is the ready smile and often the feeling that you are a rock star because there has to be some reason why everyone is staring.
There are quieter roads in Mandalay —many in fact. But our tip is to jump right into the market scene knowing that it feels like you have just imbibed a barrel of Red Bull.