Ma Ma Ma Mandalay!

April 12, 2010

Greetings from the greatest city on earth. Certainly when you’re here it feels that way.

Thingyan water festival starts tomorrow and preparations are in full swing. I have my high powered water machine gun and twin pistols for back-up. Four days of being soaked, dancing, loud music and (some) drunken mayhem lie ahead. I may try to escape from all that – and from the 44 degree heat – for a day or two once the fun wears off and the annoying kicks in. Up the hill to Maymyo / Pyin U Lynn in Shan state the probable route and destination

Escaping has been made easier because, at last, motorcycles are available for hire easily and cheaply. No need for a driving licence so long as you have 10,000 Kyat ($10). Bikes only really arrived in Mandalay in 2005/6. Before that they were simply non-existent here but as an outpost of the Chinese economy that could not last and today $400 to $600 gets you a pretty fine set of wheels and they abound. Au-revoir the trishaw and pedal-driven pace of life. Bienvenue three, four or five-up personal mobility.

Just around the corner from the hotel I use lives a Muslim family I’ve been in touch with since 2002. (Clive Justice met them first in 2001). Mum, Daughter, Son. The latter has been / is increasingly unlikely to get off his arse, stop complaining about a lack of money and try making some. This has been a Chinese-economy-and-immigrant-driven boom town (and remains one even if the recession has been felt a bit). There are opportunities. Simply resenting the Chinese making money rather than trying to make some of it for yourself is pretty lame. His younger sister, Su, 29, has recognised that her brother is not going to secure the family’s future so she’s taken the lead and opened a motorcycle petrol station in their 8′ by 10′ front room. She now makes up to $20 a day (pretty good money if she didn’t have two others to support) selling 10 to 15 gallons a day by the water bottle full. Brother sits and watches mostly, though he will handle a sale. While I was there yesterday the guy from the fire brigade came round collecting the monthly fee of 300 Kyat per (wooden) house per month. Oddly there is no premium to pay even if you store quantities of petrol on the premises. And the neighbours don’t seem to mind either.

Anyway, breakfast is calling. Everything shuts for water festival, including internet access.

See you on the other side.

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