Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mandalay and the Moustache Brothers

We caught an early flight to Mandalay and arrived in time to watch 1000 monks having lunch at one of the larger monasteries in the city. And can you believe it, we saw yet another few friends from school. Seems that Burma is the place to be right now.

We visited a 1.2km long teak bridge that was built in 1849 and generally explored the area surrounding the city. The Royal Palace is in the middle of the city, surrounded by a moat and then a brick wall that is 2 metres thick and 2 kilometres long on each side. Sounds safe, but not so much. The palace itself has been rebuilt as the original was destroyed through a combination of fires and war. In any class, it's clear that protecting the palace, and the country, is now of paramount importance. The sign outside explains the 'people's desire'...
Another of the city's attractions is the Golden buddha. It gains 6 pounds per year on account of the gold leaf that people bring and press on to the statue. Must have more gold... Some monks approached us and asked if they could take a picture, which was kind of funny.
Our pursuit of the perfect sunset continued in Mandalay. This time we caught it from a temple on a hill overlooking the city.
We met up with two of the other INSEAD groups that are coincidentally here in Mandalay at the same time as us. Dinner was an adventure as we grabbed some local food at a restaurant whose menus made you want to take a shower after you touched them. Miraculously, none of us are feeling sick yet. (if you can't tell, I'm struggling a bit with the food here).

Then we it a comedy show put on by the infamous Moustache brothers. In 1996 after telling politically charged jokes about Myanmar generals at an Independence Day celebration at Aung San Suu Kyi's compound in Yangon, two of the performers were arrested and sentenced to seven years hard labour. After protest from the international community (Rob Reiner and Bill Maher), the two were released after 5 years.

They perform in the private and for foreigners only (our guide would not even drop us off at the place). For our show, the place was packed with about 16 people. Since the power supply is so unreliable, they have several back up solutions to provide light and sound. When one supply cuts out, a red light bulb flashes on, accompanied by an alarm. The first time this happened, I think that I just about had a heart attack.
As if we didn't have enough adventure for the night, the eight of us packed in/on a tiny blue mazda truck to get home. You'll note that there is not sitting room for 8.


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