Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Mandalay and Taungbyone

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Mandalay was our last stop of our 10 day trip in Myanmar. We decided to give Mandalay two days (which was clearly too much). The city itself wasn't glorious, exciting, and had little to offer. We stayed in the ET Hotel (which I'd recommend) though. There are numerous islamic districts, hindu districts, and buddhist districts. Thus, this city is quite multicultural. Liam wandered into a mosque and we both went into a hindu temple and observed a service. Also, what struck my eye was the existence of Buddhist nuns. As you know, if you've seen my other Myanmar posts, the men and boys are all in red (red marking their denomination). The women and girls interestingly wear pink. What really brought us to Mandalay wasn't the city, however. We wanted to see the Nat Festival. Every year, there the Nat Pwe festival in Taungbyone (10 km from Mandalay). We hired men on motorcycles (again) to take us to the festival. Along the drive, we passed beautiful rice patties and again, real, authentic, untainted life in Myanmar. We saw water buffalos working in rice fields and horse and carts. Children chased after our bikes, begging for money (since at the festival, money is often donated).

So, what is this festival?

Well, homosexuality is technically illegal in Myanmar, however; this is a huge gay festival. The transgender Burmese are praised and celebrated by locals who have traveled far distances. Actually, technically, it is a religious festival as Nats are spiritual mediums. Anyways, it was extremely bizarre and equally intriguing. Our motorcycle men showed us around the festival and explained things we were observing. One man was crawling around on his knees with bananas in his mouth and offering a banana in exchange for money. Other Nats were smoking, drinking, and receiving donations.Also, I've never seen so many bananas in my life.

Anyways, I think the photos are best observed rather than described so here they are.