Sunday, 16 October 2011

16. Where is our Mandalay?

King Mindon ordered the construction of his large and impressive walled palace compound on the 13th of January in 1857 but the actual shift from nearby Amarapura to this new royal palace was in 1861. Each immense wall extending 2 kilometers in width and 8 meters in height were made of fired brick backed by earth ramparts. The surrounding moat is 70 meters wide and over 3 meters deep, also built on 13th of February in 1857. In olden times, people used moat water for both cleaning and drinking purposes. After the British occupied the city in 1885, the year that King Thibaw was seceded from the throne; the compound became the seat of the colony’s government house and British club. The royal palace was far more than the royal living quarters; it is really a walled city within the city. In the royal palace there were 166 halls, and those were built on a brick stage 1 meter high. There were over 50 quarters surrounding the royal palace, and the city streets were laid out on a grid system with numbered streets running north-south and east-west. During the Second World War, the royal palace caught fire and completely burnt down. In 1989, the government took a massive reconstruction project.
      Across the Ahlarwi Bridge leads to the Kyaymon gateway of the Mandalay fort, the gateway was well known in olden days for its inauspiciousness of being the exit through which corpses were carried. History lies buried in its dusty sand. But the reburial of royal palace occurred during the building of a new palace when all traces of the earlier craftsmanship were obliterated. Mya-nan-san-kyaw royal palace, including the great spire with seven tiers, the Audience hall, the Deer hall, the Tea hall, the Byedaik or bachelor’s hall, the watch tower and others, were architecturally reconstructed in 1990 as a prestigious reminder of Burmese Royal Kingdom. Some old aged residents of Mandalay assumed that the design of the reconstructed royal palace is similar to Chinese style. Business-minded Kokang and Wa Chinese people from the far northern Shan State had moved to Mandalay for business after having bought land or estates from the local people and constructed Chinese-style buildings. The influx of those newcomers has overshadowed the typical Burmese culture heritage. Everywhere you can notice the signboards of Chinese characters.
      The recent Mandalay fort is really a walled military town within the countrymen’s city. There is a tiny bazaar named Ye Baw Zay – meaning Soldier’s bazaar. It is really tiny; little meat selling stalls, some vegetable and fruit shops, and some kitchen goods shops. Most of the bazaar sellers and customers are probably soldiers and their families, and it is the only bazaar along the fort walls. The Burmese army has re-occupied the fort for about 50 years. The moat surrounding the fort was also under renovation in 1994-95. Much of the restoration of the palace and moat has been carried out using prison labor, and amnesty for those who contributed their labor for restoration was announced on the 50th anniversary of Myanmar Defense Service.
      After scanning the parts of the fort where we were allowed to enter, we marched to the north-east to the 236-metre-high Mandalay hill. It is the only place with a good view over the central plain. Climbing along the stairways usually takes 45 minutes, and now most of the visitors often take a minibus to the top. We moved on an escalator to the platform of the summit Pagoda. The famous hermit monk, U Khanti, is credited with inspiring the construction of many of the buildings on and around the hill. The majority of its monasteries were renovated and enlarged in the early 1990s to accommodate Myanmar army sentries. Shweyattaw, a huge standing Buddha image looking out towards the royal palace with an outstretched hand pointing in that direction, represents a legend relating to Mandalay.  The Buddha, accompanied by his disciple Ananda, was said to have climbed Mandalay hill while on one of his visits to Myanmar. In the 2400th year of his faith, he prophesied, a great city would be founded below the hill. That 2400th year was 1857. The statue represents the Buddha pointing to where the city would be built.
      As the hill is the highest part of the city, we glanced at all aspects of Mandalay- the royal palace and moat, surrounding hills, some temples like Kyauktawgyi and Kuthodaw, and the new Mandalay prison. Among the monasteries, temples, factories and other big public and private buildings, Novotel hotel is a conspicuously huge structure at the foot of the hill that we can see from the summit of the Mandalay. There are more than 200 hotels and inns, many large first-class hotels like Sedona, Novotel and Mandalay Swam, which are owned by foreigners. After over 2550 years of Buddha’s faith or nearly 150 years of Mandalay’s life, the city’s remarkable townscape and architecture were at risk of extinction because of the pressures of modern development.
      At the foot of the hill, there are kuthodaw paya, Shwenandaw kyaung and Atumashi kyaung. Kuthodaw paya, built in 1857, is famous as “the world’s biggest book” because there are 729 standing marble slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist canon. It has been estimated that, reading for eight hours a day, one person would take 450 days to read the complete “book”. Atumashi means “incomparable”, and it was built in 1857 in traditional Burmese monastic construction style. By all accounts it was one of the most magnificent temples in all of Southeast Asia. In 1890, the monastery caught fire, and in 1995-97, a modern famous sculptor was conscripted to lead the renovation works. Now, it has a fancy colorful atmosphere. The architectural conflict between the ruined building parts (the main stairway and a huge quadrangle of colonnaded and arched walls), and the new building parts (the pavilions, roof and splashes of colors) is obvious. Anyhow it still keeps the meaning “incomparable.” Doesn’t it?
      Shwenandaw kyaung, built also in 1857 as part of the palace complex, was also renovated. At one time the building was gilded and decorated with glass mosaics. Because the carved panels inside and many of the exterior panels are still in good condition, renovation was minor, and the panels just had to be polished but not gilded. Another attractive building is the Thudhama congregation hall. In the era of King Mindon, these halls were used for the ceremonies of religious educational examinations and built in 1864. Those halls were among the monasteries where student and teacher monks lived and also were close to the royal palace where King and the education minister lived. In those days, accessibility to a learning center was important for all.
      The modern learning center [Mandalay Art and Science University] was opened as the Mandalay college on 4th July 1925 with only 30 students and became (MASU) in 1958. Its campus is about 300 acres and contains university hospital and hostels. However, there are still only few students and some staff. All undergraduate classes have been moved to the “Yadanabon University” which is situated 45 minutes-drives from downtown Mandalay.
      The “Mahamuni Buddha Image,” also called “Payagyi” was originally built by King Bodawpaya and was transported to the south of Mandalay on the way to Amarapura from Mrauk U (Myohaung) in Rakhine in 1784. It was believed to be of great age even at that time (it may have been cast during the first century AD), and the surrounding complex was specially built for it. The four-meter-high seated image is cast in bronze, but over the years countless thousands of devout Buddhists have completely covered the figure in a 15-cm thick layer of gold leaf. In the courtyard, a small building houses six bronze Khmer figures brought back from Rakhine along with the Mahamuni Buddha. Three are lions, two are male warriors, and one is Erawan, the three-headed elephant. Originally these figures stood sentry at Angkor Wat in Cambodia then were taken from Angkor by the Thais in 1431. King Bayinnaung subsequently took them from Ayuthaya in 1563 and brought the figures to Bago, where in 1663, they were nabbed by King Razagyi of Rakhine. According to legend, rubbing a part of the image will cure any affliction on the corresponding part of one’s own body.
      Because this is summer holiday time and the time of celebrating novitation ceremonies for many children, nearly five hundred people make pilgrimages to the Mahamuni. The temple courtyard contains many small buildings such as the Tipitaka (Buddhist canon) building, a museum of Buddha’s life, and Mahamuni, watchtower, a fish and turtle pond, and many shop stalls at the entrance to the shrine. Payagyi is always crowded with people from nearby districts: some want to make a pilgrimage, but some want to buy religious or traditional goods. We could see typical village residents of Upper Burma which we call Ahnyarthar. They are peace-loving, quick-smiling and easily-forgiving people. However, they don’t have a clear picture of their daily lives and future.
            The center of Mandalay is a short walk west from the southwestern corner of the fort. There is a clock tower built in 1909 as a monument for 60th birthday of Queen Victoria of Britain. It is a landmark of pre- and post-modernized Mandalay. Nearby the clock tower is Zegyo Market. It is the biggest market in Mandalay and built as same design as the original Zegyo in Amarapura royal city. It was renovated in 1876 and caught fire in 1902. In 1903 the British government reconstructed as a brick-walled and iron-roofed market with 12 big halls. In those days, there was a well-known saying: Zegyothu (meaning “girls of Zegyo market”) are typical courteous and eloquent Burmese who usually wear golden foot chains. The market was dismantled around 1990 and moved to two new four-story buildings done in the People’s Republic of China style in 1994-5. It represents a fascinating collection of stalls selling every sort of Burmese ware and a fair assortment of smuggled goods from outside Myanmar. We couldn’t find any typical Zegyothu today, and especially on the second floor and above or beyond, it was seemed that most of the shops hadn’t yet made the first sale of the day. But outside the market there were banks of motorcycles, bicycles and some trishaws. Between 27th Street and 28th Street is a space for three different functions: cars and cycles parking, the tax-free market of marketable greens including meat, and the good second hand cloth selling stalls. 
      The area surrounding the center of Mandalay is overcrowded. But the main problem for customers is the broad, thick rubbish pile and the foul, disgusting smell from the tax-free market at the corner of 84th Road and 28th Street. On the other corner of 27th Street, among other advertising signboards, there is a big signboard on which is inscribed, “Mandalay must be pleasant, must be clean, and people who live here would have peace of mind.  City Development Committee.” And there are many street side food stalls like typical Mandalay Mounti (rice noodles with chicken curry paste) and cold drinks. Around the landmark clock tower, big advertising signboards obscure the sky, and a Mandalay Beer signboard says, “The origin of Beer is from Mandalay.” Actually in 1886, British government lent the arms factory of Yadanabon period to the Beer Company from Simlar, India. So, Mandalay Run and Beer factory has been operating since 1886. 
      Over the bridge from where we can see all around views of Zegyo, we lost ourselves under the restructured buildings and signboards, and remembered the saying once literally shouted by a Mandalay writer, “Please give me back my Mandalay.”
      ****
      Mandalay nights are quite murky. Along 83rd Road there is no streetlight; we relied only on the radiating light from some houses, shops and shophouses and were tired of hearing generators’ murmurs. There was a shortage of electricity in Mandalay, compared to Yangon; when we were there for a week, we noticed that there was sporadic electricity, only 2 hours to a maximum of 8 hours per day. There were some roads and streets with no streetlights. Along the compound walls of Shwekyimyin Pagoda at 24th Street was especially murky because there was no more light from houses or shops, only ancient walls. As soon as the sun set down towards the horizon, dimness covered the streets, and noisy generator started at the shophouses.
      Along the west moat road, there are nearly 50 streetside shopping carts that sell fruit juices like grapefruit, strawberry, lime, avocado, melon, and even yogurt. They occupy the whole pavement of the road with their tables and chairs. Teenagers, families and some tourists are their usual customers. They start opening their stalls around 3pm and close around 10pm to midnight. There might be an alternative leisure for Mandalay people at nighttime.
  In early morning, a busy place in Mandalay is the Gawein Jetty. Because of its memorable role in the tragic exile of last Myanmar King in 1885, it is famous among other jetties like Mayanchan, Paikkyone and Kywezun. When British captured the royal palace, King Thibaw and his chief queen Supayalat departed the city from Gawein Jetty to Yadanagiri, India on the steam ship called Thuriya on the misty morning of 30th November 1885.
      At the present day, Gawein is always busy with stevedores, travelers, tourists and laborers. Most of the travelers or traders fill the jetty. They go upstream from Mandalay to Bamaw, seaport of Chindwin River, and downstream from there to Mandalay. Tourists can be found there on some early mornings. Shwekainaye ship brings them from Mandalay to Bagan, a famous ancient city in upper Burma. Every early morning, people nearby the jetty descend into the river for bathing, washing clothes, and carrying water for drinking and daily use. Apart from them, we saw so many girls, boys and adults who were working at the riverside. Girls and boys about 12 to 20 years old are the best human resources for the business of sand trading. Sand is one of the basic requirements for construction of building. Irrawaddy River is the best sand resource. Sand is sucked from the river to the riverside through big plastic pipes powered by generators. The girls and boys carry sand baskets on their shoulders or heads from sand heap to the lorries that then carry it to the selling places. They get only one and a half kyats for carrying one sand basket. Their daily income- working from 4am to about 8am- is about 200-300 kyats. Some of them live in the sandbank in the middle of Irrawaddy River and were forced to move there from Gawein quarter. If they want to watch a video film or to go a CD Karaoke at some evenings, they paddle their small boats or ride on a passenger boat to Gawein as they do in every early morning. After the inhabitants of Kywezun and Mayanchan were scheduled to be moved out of the city to make way for parks and a new circular road around the city, a long and big port developed at Chaw in the south to Kywezun in the north.
      How about the inner city! Compared to Yangon, Mandalay has more private houses and transport. It still has considerable cultural and religious significance, and its Buddhist monasteries are amongst the most important in the country. About 60% of all the monks in Myanmar reside in the Mandalay area. Monks are not allowed to ride a bicycle or even sit close to women. So, we saw many monks and novices sitting on the roof of line buses. To see this scene is difficult for a Buddhist, but there is no choice for the monks due to the overloading of the buses. 
      One man told me an interesting explanation for this scene. The Chinese presence has become very large since about 1990. After government truces with northern insurgents and trade with China, Mandalay was suddenly developed with a bevy of new hotels, high-rise office buildings and department stores. New townships (Myothit) are springing up along the edges of the township, and many are inhabited by former squatters who are being pushed out of the downtown area in the city’s rush to modernize. The inner city dwellers sold their houses to big Chinese bosses and moved to Myothit. The Chinese newcomers are business people and do not usually to donate meals to the monks. To have a meal (called “Swun”) is difficult for the monks in downtown. The majority of meal donors, local Buddhists, live in Myothit which is far enough away to go by bus. And some monks from Myothit have to go downtown to get some required things from donors of big bazaars like Zegyo. Therefore, in daytime, there are many monks and novices sitting on the roofs of line buses.
      Public transport is comparatively less in Mandalay because many use their own bicycles or motorcycles. In Mandalay, there is no home, from the affluent to the middle class, that does not have at least a motorcycle or bicycle although they might have other limousines or pickups. Along each and every road and street, we can’t avoid the sustained flow of cycles. The majority of cyclists usually don’t care about either other vehicles or pedestrians. However, the traffic accidents are comparatively less than in Yangon. On the outskirts of town and along certain main thoroughfares in the city, horse carts can be hired. They were used as the main transport for more than 100 years. But now, although they are prohibited to enter some parts of the city, they are still useful for short distance transport in some parts.
      Other vehicles rejected from the capital Yangon, which are still useful for Mandalay shopkeepers, are the small, three-wheeled Mazdas. But the number of them is comparatively less than in the past. Despite the fact that car taxis in Yangon have increased, in Mandalay, there is still few, and they cannot compete with the numbers of four-wheeled Mazdas. On the outskirts of the town and in some quarters, the trishaw is a popular short distance transport for local people. They can easily be flagged down on the street just about anywhere, especially at the corner of almost every street. Mandalay trishaw have back-to-back seats attached to the bicycle. It has been said that a car body maker in Mandalay made this kind of trishaw in about 1938 to compete with the foreigners-owned tramcars and pony wagons. Currently about 53 bus lines are running among the Mandalay’s townships and around Mandalay townships like Amarapura, Inwa and Sagaing. Among those, bus lines to Myothit like Yadanabon, Setmhu and Kanthayar are the most crowded until late at night. Japanese pickup trucks are used along with the city line buses. Most passenger buses are Second World War army trucks, modified locally with a wooden body. In Yangon, both new and reconditioned air-conditioned buses are operating increasingly, but in Mandalay, we didn’t see any airbuses for local passengers.
      As Mandalay is the center of upper Burma, many highway passenger buses and goods trucks are spreading out to northern and southern Shan state, Kachin state, Mergue division, Chin state, and Pegu and Yangon divisions. For most other destinations outside Mandalay, the usual modes of transport are air-conditioned buses and some Japanese pickup trucks. We noticed that some airbuses running along the moat roads are from one of the first-class hotels or from big Tour and Traveler Companies.
      In the downtown, there is the brand new railway station. The old British-designed Mandalay Railway Station, built in 1889, has been razed. A new seven-story complex, including two cross bridges over railroads, started to be built in 1995 and was estimated to be finished by 1999. However, opening the building has just been done at the end of 2000, and some parts of it are still being constructed. In addition to that, the main interesting fact is that renovation or reconstruction of colonial buildings was done widely, but maintenance and repair of old British railroads was rarely done. Thus train coaches are not uncommonly derailed. (We spent 24 hours on the train returning from Mandalay because 6 out of 13 coaches were derailed on the way near Bago.)
      Compared to Yangon, there are less multi-appartments buildings and more big three- or four-story modernized buildings, which are owned by only one owner. Generally people are saying that pre-war style buildings are rarely seen because Chinese bought them with high prices and have renovated. The other fact is that four immense fires forced the city to renovate or reconstruct again and again. Those who had lost their houses were forced to move out from the inner city to Myothit.
       ***
       As the cultural and business capital of Upper Burma, Mandalay has been the main handicrafts center for over a hundred years. Mandalay specialties include stone sculpture, woodcarving, embroidered tapestries, Burmese marionettes, weaving, bronze casting and jade or ruby work.
      Tapestries consist of pieces of colored cloth of various sizes heavily embroidered with silver- or gold-colored thread from Amarapura, metal sequins and glass beads from Seinpan Township in Mandalay. Most of the workshops are situated in Amarapura and in the shops in Mandalay. Tapestries usually feature padded mythological Burmese figures, but we saw some Christian figures like Jesus and the Pope with his audience at one shop where the owner is Christian. She said that 12 feet by 6 feet tapestries of Christian figures were ordered by one of the churches of Rome. Some customers, mostly foreigners and a few locals like the tarnished tapestries. Thus some tapestries shops make good quality tarnished ones. Prices vary according to size and quality.
      Mandalay, especially Amarapura is famous for weaving traditional and modified traditional multi-colored cotton cloth longyis with unique patterns. Some popular weaving workshops own about 50-100 electric and manual weaving machines. Real traditional silk longyis are only popular in Myanmar, and one acheik-sin (curlicued patterned) silk longyi takes 2 workers up to one month to complete, so the cost is expensive. Most of the products are increasingly ordered from Thailand.
      Another famous specialty is stone sculpture. Alabaster Buddhist images are produced widely near Payagyi. Some workshops carve the rough image, and some make final and finishing touch. In previous times, the majority of ordered products are Buddha images and record-inscribing obelisk. Now some Mahayana images like Amitaba and Quan Yin are frequently ordered by Chinese temples in and around Mandalay.
      All domestic factories and small industries including bronze casting workshops will be moved to Setmhu Myothit (industrial new township) according to the plan of city development committee.
      Myothit..Myothit.. Myothit. Since we were here, we have heard about Myothit again and again. So, what is it?  Where is it? And how is it? I wanted to know.
      ****
      A taxi brought us along small and tiny streets to Sanpya Myothit. The great difference in civilization between downtown and Myothit was amazing. Three- or four-story modified fireproof brick building with aluminum windows and doors couldn’t be found here in Myothit. The majority are ordinary one- or two- story wooden houses and congested bamboo houses. The streets are usually rough and narrow. Most shophouses reflect the image of city lifestyle- teashops, groceries with local and Thai-made snacks and even karaoke houses. Village style decoration shows this place is not as up-to-date as the downtown.
      Although plastic appliances become popular, traditional pots are still useful for Myothit people. Therefore, some big pottery shops, which we usually did not find in downtown, were at the street side of the Myanandar market. The market compound is fairly large, and luckily we found a peddler of Myee-shay (rice noodles with sticky meat paste). Eeach and every time when I was in Mandalay, I had it for both breakfast and lunch, and now this business rarely seen in downtown.
      After leaving Myanandar market, the taxi turned to the next Myothit on the road to Pyin-U-Lwin. Oh! Fresh new township Aung Pin Lal Myothit! There are no big trees, no electricity, no drainage sytem and no private water supply. Although the sky was misty, we felt stuffy under open sky. The earthy streets make dust clouds over us. The houses and hair of the local people were colored with reddish brown dust. The majority of houses were still being built with reed matting and corrugated iron roofs. Local people said they had been already moved from around the jetty area to another Myothit, then from there again moved to here because of the Mandalay big lake plan. This time they were asked to donate trees for the benefit of the beauty of lake. Most of them are port workers, and there are 2 ferries to the jetty for them, one at 5:30 in the morning and another at 9 in the evening.
       Although the primary school of this township was still being constructed, the only one private video house earned a lot from local people. They had no choice for entertainment apart from this video house in a place like this. In the sun, there is light and heat. Under the moon, it is dark and cold. Certainly there will be no more suffering for those people who are used to being relocated again and again. I remembered that Ernest Hemingway defined “guts” (courage) as grace under pressure.
      ***
      Amarapura is around Mandalay place, which was famous for its U Bein’s bridge, the longest teak span in the world. Amarapura is situated 11km south of Mandalay, but now no definite space is found between Mandalay and Amarapura. It is often referred to as Taungmyo, “the southern city,” to distinguish it from Mandalay, the northern city. The old name means “City of Immortality.” Mayor U Bein salvaged material from the deserted Inwa Palace (about 10 km from Amarapura) to build this 1.2 km-long footbridge at the time of the place move from Inwa in 1861. It has stood the test of time for two centuries. Since it was midsummer, there was little water in Taungthaman Lake. Near the bridge is the row of Mal-zal trees, Madhuca longifolia that were grown around 1875. Under the trees, food stalls with cluster of tables and chairs occupied the shadow. Tempura, tea drinks, juices, coconut, toddy and even beer are available at those shops. Each and every day hundreds of villagers commute by foot or bicycle back and forth across the bridge.
      At the end of the bridge, there is a village where teddy juice is easily available. Male students of Yadanabon University usually take teddy juice when they stop a while in the village after crossing the long bridge. After crossing a rough road still under construction for 20 minutes from U Bein’s bridge, the taxi stopped quite far in front of the Yadanabon University.situated at the place of old Taungthaman graveyard. A sign reads “Non-relevant persons are prohibited to enter the compound and if seen, severe action will be taken.” Some people who came out of compound by motorcycles might be teachers and staff in summer holiday time. Under the afternoon sun Yadanabon looked mysterious: the ancient style architecture with dark red colored walls and pavilions, clashing with the modern-style teaching halls with iron-barred veranda still under construction.
      When the taxi ran along the Lake Circuit Road, we crossed one edge of the lake where there was no more water and sand flats were visible. Local people near this area were annoyed with the smell of waste products from the liquor factory from Myothit. They said that about 3 days per week, a truck from the factory stopped near the edge of the lake and poured all byproducts, especially liquid, into the sand flats at about 10 pm or midnight.
      Amarapura residents who live here since they were born are proud of their royal place. Similarly, Mandalay people are proud of their Burmeseness and royal atmosphere. Eighty-four years old Zegyothu, a seller of Zegyo market, nostalgically said that former Mandalay residents were famous for speaking better and politer Burmese than anyone else in the country, but now, the younger generation tends to use slang and informal Burmese words without any respect for elders. As usual, the older generation wants to keep traditional and cultural ways, but the younger ones want to change and search for a better society. Each and every resident, including the Mayor and city dwellers, see their city not with their eyes, but with their visions. Those people make the city, the country and the society. I remember Herbert Spencer said, “no one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.” One fifty-four year old resident murmured, “I was not happy with my city life for years.” I didn’t want to ask her why.
      ****
      Once Mandalay Thingyan was famous for being a typical traditional festival celebrating and many traditional Thingyan songs came out from Mandalay musicians. I was as excited as a ten-year old to have an opportunity to see this opening ceremony of Mandalay Thingyan.
      Thingyan, from the Sanskrit samkranta or “fully passed over,” is celebrated around the middle of April. The festival starts the Burmese New Year. In olden days, people used water in an iron bowl, scented with a sprig of Eugenia, to sprinkle the fragrant water over one’s shoulders. This water cleanses the impurities of the old calendar year away, and New Year is welcomed. But now the water festival is celebrated in a most raucous manner, by throwing buckets or spraying pointed plastic pipes of cold water at anyone on the street or at any vehicle that passes by. Before the so-called open market economic system, civic groups, student societies, and government departments sponsored the temporary stages for the water festival. Nowadays, cigarette, beer and other popular product companies sponsor the stages as an advertisement. The weather is hot, the water makes people cold, beer is plentiful, and people play like fools during this three-day period. Thus accidents and fights are common, and some people’s hostility makes the funny festival ugly. In Yangon, there are many big stages, and even little ones, everywhere. However, in Mandalay, water-dousing stages can be found only along the moat. London cigarette, Tiger beer, Skol beer, Daw Thi Thanakha (a traditional Burmese cosmetic) and so on sponsor huge stages and live music shows to attract the teenage crowd.
      Traditionally, decorated floats on which there is traditional dancing, singing, performing theatre and making thanchat wander around the city. Making thanchat is a really pretty, typical custom of the water festival. It involves making fun of and satirizing the government and any items of everyday interest. During the past decade, the custom of making thanchat has been prohibited. Among decorated floats of Mandalay, Myoma orchestra’s float is still popular. Famous actors and singers usually enjoy it. They usually sing traditional famous Thingyan song such as Myanandar and Man-Taung-yeik-kho. Closer to the water festival, the louder traditional Thingyan songs are heard from the song boxes of the teashops.  The tune and rhyme of Thingyan song is very distinct and totally different from others. However, everything is changing. At opening ceremony in front of the city development committee on the south moat road, the typical Thaingyan song fades after three minutes, and a pro-military song plays up to the end of dancing.
      ****
      King Mindon built Mandalay in 1857. The development of Mandalay is still controversial. Some residents are concerned about the city losing its distinct cultural significance while some are eager to modernize. Without a doubt, Mandalay has been lavishly rematerialized although perhaps not as either King Mindon or some Mandalay residents had envisioned. So one question still remains. “Where is our Mandalay?”
 
 
 
 Ma Thida (Sanchaung)
That was written in English only in 2001 aiming for getting published abroad periodicals but not yet tried. This was edited and polished by Thandar Aung/Tammara Ho.

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