27th February 2014, Road to Mandalay by Helen Willis

An appetizer of Helens upcoming talk.

We visited Myanmar, formerly Burma, in November 2012. One of the most fascinating aspects of travel in Myanmar is the opportunity to experience a corner of Asia that, in many ways, has changed little since British colonial times. At the time we visited, Aung San Suu Kyi had been released from her 15 years of house arrest about 18 months previously and Myanmar had not yet become overrun with tourism.

The trip started in Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, the country’s largest city, but now no longer the capital. However, it remains the commercial and diplomatic centre of Myanmar.

We then moved to Bagan which challenges Angkow Wat as the most impressive temple complex in the World. It did not disappoint.

This was followed by Mandalay, Myanmar’s cultural capital. As a city it did not impress, but the surrounding sites were extremely impressive.

The final “port of call” was Inle Lake. The lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide. The stilt house villages and floating gardens belong to the Intha tribe and their technique of leg rowing is unique.

My “Road to Mandalay” talk covers the sites and experiences of our 9 day trip.

 

 

Rudyard Kipling ( 1865-1936)

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,

There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;

For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:

“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

Come you back to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay:

Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin’-fishes play,

An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,

An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat — jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,

An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,

An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:

Bloomin’ idol made o’mud –

Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd –

Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!

On the road to Mandalay . . .

 

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,

She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!”

With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin’ my cheek

We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.

Elephints a-pilin’ teak

In the sludgy, squdgy creek,

Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!

On the road to Mandalay . . .

 

But that’s all shove be’ind me — long ago an’ fur away,

An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;

An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:

“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”

No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else

But them spicy garlic smells,

An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;

On the road to Mandalay . . .

 

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,

An’ the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;

Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,

An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?

Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and –

Law! wot do they understand?

I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!

On the road to Mandalay . . .

 

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,

Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;

For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be –

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay,

With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin’-fishes play,

An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

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