‘Come you back to Mandalay…‘ that’s how the Kipling poem goes, but err sorry Mr Kipling I think I’ll pass on that one for now.
No longer the city romantic poems should be based on, miserable, soulless, dirty Mandalay is used more as a stopover or base to visit the surrounding areas like former hill station Pyin Oo Lwin or the famous Ubein Bridge.
Usually I am a lover of big cities, an absolute city girl at heart, but I really disliked this one. It reminded me of a worser version of Phnom Pen, and I truly hated Phnom Pen. It just doesn’t have the things that a big city should have, even food stalls were hard to come by!
Unfortunately for me, the weather was not in my favour my two days in Mandalay, it also happened to be a national holiday the days I visited so many places were closed during the day, and I was stuck.
The grey and raining weather obviously didn’t help, and I must give it to the Mandalay citizens, they are a nice bunch of people, helpful and honest, and it was interesting to see them going about their lives being normal and not paying much attention to the tourists, but the city is just a shithole.
Smelly, dirty, ugly and a severe lack of pavements, Mandalay is hard to navigate, and has nothing much going on, it’s not even easy to find a shop that sells a coke (yes I know how ‘1st world problems’ that sounds). Some travellers might love this, ‘ooo it’s so developing and unwestern’ but no, for the amount of western hotels and guides, and tourist ferries and foreigner fees you have to pay here, you should at least be able to buy a coke, even a fake coke would do.
When I did find somewhere that was open and sold food, even the fried rice and noodle soup tasted awful. My highlight was finding a supermarket, greeeeat find! This one supermarket could be where Mandalay is hiding all it’s food?
No pavements, begging children, walking through sewage water in the rain, the difficulty in finding food places, it all added up to an unpleasant impression of Mandalay.
Would I give it another chance? Well ok, yes, I would, only because when I was there it had so much stacked against it and because I have a bridge fascination and didn’t get a chance to see Ubein. However even in good weather, with no national holiday, Mandalay would not make it even close to the top of my favourite cities list.