Burma, Mandalay

Up by train and down by bus

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Sule Pagoda (view from my ghost... ehm.. guesthouse in Yangon)

The last 3 days were up and down in more than one sense. This is because I took a night train from Yangon to Mandalay. This is because the officers and ticket vendors and random people told me it would be possible to go from Mandalay or Kalaw to Tachileik. This is because I asked them if it was possible to cross the border to Thailand there. This is because I don’t want to take a plane if it is not necessary. The train ride south to north was not half as horrible as a friend had experienced and described it. Yes, it was up and down and jumpy and loud. But if you book a sleeper train ticket (12,700 kyats) and close the windows before you sleep, take earplugs and lie down on the bunk it is possible to get some sound sleep until the morning no doubt about it.

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At Shwe Dagon Pagoda

When I arrive in Mandalay in the morning the info-man at the train station tells me it is not possible for foreigners to go to Tachileik. I’d have to take a plane if I want to cross the border to Maisai (and go to Chiang Mai from there). I do not (want to) believe him. I ask him to call the station in Kalaw. He says there is no telephone. What? His cellphone is put right there between us. I sit down and take a breather. This is all a bit too much. I go out and get a scooter taxi. A nice pal named U Mo says ‘Bus from here to Tachileik? Yes, no problem, let’s go!’ He doesn’t have a clue… but he is a good driver. He gets me to two bus stations and also stops at a local vendor booth but all the people we meet just shoulder-shruggingly shake their head: Locals yes. No foreigners. Government says too dangerous. Not a peaceful area. Ok then. Let’s go back to Yangon! So after I have bought a ticket back to Yangon for the same day (as i am at the BUS station i get a night coach this time) my dear driver U Mo brings me to Mandalay Hill. That’s where i intend to spend my day. Go hiking, meditating, smile at it all and take it easy.

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Fruit market, Yangon. I passed it while i was looking for a retreat centre to spend some days there. In the end, I checked in at Okinawa Guesthouse. Just like a good tourist is supposed to do in Myanmar.

In retrospect, I see there was anger, of course, and initially i was mad at all those Yangon officials for not knowing what’s going on in the north… for passing on wrong information… for not taking the time to make a single phone call for me… and instead of saying they dont know… just telling me: Yes you can can! No problem! Eeeasy. But what use being angry? What use being mad? I only hurt myself. Dukkha myself. Better to just accept I am in Mandalay, use this day wisely and go back to Yangon in a couple of hours… I am not the first and I won’t be the last to go astray from time to time. There is so much mis- and disinformation around in this world that what I am going through is harmless. Maybe it even turns out to be a boon? Who knows?! I walk up to Mandalay Hill after a delicious meal and a fresh sugar cane juice. I take several breaks and rest in the shade. Siesta Siesta. Up at the peak I meditate for an hour or so and then walk down the staircase, this time to the west side of the hill.

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Check the heavenly and worldly news in "Mandalay Daily" before I go up Mandalay Hill

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A journey of a thousand steps ... and so on and so on

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Pali canon on stone tablets. There is a prk with hundreds and hundreds of them. And yes, they're carved both sides.

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View from Mandalay Hill Peak

After some 30 mins I reach the foot of the hill again, get picked up by a scooter taxi passing me.

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This is an all-in-one photo. I only realised after I'd taken it: The glaring sun. The dirt. The garbage. The walls. The ornaments. The nature. The stupas.

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At the foot of Mandalay Hill, five minutes before i get picked up by U Mossi.

The driver: U Mossi. It is sunset. He brings me to Mahamuni Pagoda. When I arrive at the famous site of clock tower and Mahamuni image it is dark already. About 7 pm. U Mossi says he will wait for me to take me to the bus station. My bus leaves at 8.30. What to say about it? It is the last ‘sightseeing’ attraction in Burma for me. When I walk in I do not recognise there is a threshold and walk in without taking my shoes off. Immediately, I am the centre of attention. People stare at me. Tell me what’s wrong. I do as I am told. When I walk in some monks want to take some photos with me. We share via Bluetooth. I watch the people bow down to the pompous golden Buddha image. Normally I prostate as well but this time I cannot. I find it ridiculous. If it were not for the idea that they are training humility, generosity and letting go of self believe it would be the same show as with the Christians and Moslems and all the other worshippers of the world who go to a ‘holy’ site to bow down three times, pray for welfare and leave some money to keep the story going and the wheel turning. If that is what religion is about I can do without. So much of it has the aspect of business – or is it just me that’s highlighting it? To make a general statement – and to state the obvious from a most personal perspective: this Buddhism/Psychology stuff really has the tendency to reflect/blow everything back upon the beholder. It can easily be used as an almost flawless defence mechanism. I just say it depends on one’s view and deflect any criticism. If someone accuses me of being greedy I tell him he only sees the money. If someone says I am this or that I tell her she is fixed on this or that. Easy. And wicked.

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Railroad station, Yangon

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