This was like a limousine compared to my other bus trip. It was like a normal city bus. We all got our own seats. There was air blowing out the aircon. 8 hours later we were in Mandalay. Grabbed a motorbike and was in town quickly.
Mandalay seems more modern that Yangon, but that is very relative. Streets are named by numbers so it is easy to get around. Got a cheap hotel downtown and spent the days wandering the street. They have an interesting Jade market at one end of town. Huge slabs of greenstone are sliced and diced. Then wandered down to ‘monk town”. Nearly 2/3 of Myanmar monks live or spend time in Mandalay. As expected lots of monks cruising around the streets.
Got more of a low down on the monks. All Myanmar men are expected to be a monk twice in their life. Once as a boy and once as a man, for a minimum of 1 week each time. It is an honour for the families to have their son as a monk. Some stay longer or forever. They seek to complete the steps to enlightenment. The colours of the robes use to represent the status or education of the monk. However nowadays monks have more altitude and some can decide what colours they wear (more a fashion statement). So now when I see a monk I wonder if they are a lifer or part-timer. That’s why some monks have a lot of personality and seem to act life normal kids. Cause they are. In the morning you see them wandering around the neighborhood with bowls. Everyone is expected to help and feed the monks.