Monks, Monasteries and Moustaches: Mandalay, Myanmar

Learnings from a young monk 
Mandalay moat surrounding the royal palace

Once again the night bus dropped us off at a large bus station outside of town so a pricey taxi ride in was our only option. Daniel, who we had met in Bagan, had joined Jaimie, James and I to make four of us. He had already booked a room at a very nice hotel so James jumped in with him whilst myself and Jaimie went in search for cheaper digs, ending up at $25 a night ET Hotel which was comfortable but not the luxury the boys had.

Us and our new monk friend

We all decided to meet for sunset at Mandalay Hill which was an hour and a half walk from the centre of town. On the way we met a monk waiting to attended English class at the local school. After chatting for a bit, he asked if he could come with us as he had already waited over two hours for English and could practice his English with us instead. We agreed and spent the afternoon learning about his time in the monastery and at University where he was studying seven subjects as part of his duties as a monk.

Views over Mandalay from Mandalay Hill

It appears that he is an exception as I’ve learned that a small number of monks take advantage of the simple life in the monastery so they never have to work. Monks don’t have to pay for anything and their days are spent sleeping, relaxing and learning if they choose with some performing duties such as public speaking and conducting blessings. It may seem like a life of luxury but they aren’t able to eat after midday so in my eyes it would be a life of hell.

A traditional Burmese meal

Sunset at Mandalay Hill was pretty rubbish due to the weather and I got sent out as I was wearing shorts. Completely unaware Mandalay Hill is a Buddhist site with plenty of pagodas I apologised to our monk friend but he assured me it is Myanmar tradition that forbids shorts not modern day Buddhism. Mandalay Hill boasts great views over the city which evidently has recently developed at an alarming rate. That evening we joined locals at Aye Myit Tar  restaurant after I had read some blog posts on apparently “the best local restaurant in Mandalay”. Our curries were accompanied by a large selection of weird and wonderful side dishes and unlimited rice and although one of the nicer Burmese meals I’ve experienced, it was still incredibly greasy.

The moustache brothers

After an early start that morning we were absolutely exhausted but decided to go and see the Moustache Brothers, a comedy duo (once trio) who perform every night in their living room/garage. They are well known for their political jokes which regularly gets them into trouble with the government and once even jailed. Partially interesting and even less comical, in my eyes it was the worst $8 I’ve spent in Myanmar. Maybe because I’m not a lover of live comedy and I was so tired, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a spare $8.

Can you spot what’s wrong with this car?

After saying goodbye to James and Daniel and meeting back up with Emily who we had previously met in Bagan and Inle Lake we phoned Tura, a trekking guide we had been told about by our ex-pat friends in Yangon. It turned out that he was getting married the very next day and he had invited us to his wedding in the small town of Kyaukme four hours north west of Mandalay. We couldn’t resist a wedding invite, let alone a wedding in rural Myanmar so we jumped into an awfully expensive $20 (each) taxi as we had missed the last bus of the day. I was sad to leave Mandalay after only spending an afternoon there but this was an invitation I couldn’t turn down.

Living life, loving travel,
H x

2 thoughts on “Monks, Monasteries and Moustaches: Mandalay, Myanmar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *