A Travellerspoint blog

The Road to Mandalay

sunny 36 °C

Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1890 poem ‘On the road to Mandalay’ paints a dreamily romantic picture of the ancient Burmese capital. It begins:
“By the old Moulmein Pagoda, Lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin, and I know she thinks o' me."

And ends;
"On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin-fishes play,
And the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay."

Although Kipling had lived in India and Burma for 7 years when he wrote this poem it seems that he may have been geographically challenged. Mandalay is nowhere near the sea, it doesn’t have a bay, and if it did, China wouldn’t be ’crost it. However, on the plus side, there is a road to Mandalay. In fact there is a smart new toll-highway that runs nearly four hundred miles straight from Rangoon to Mandalay. Motorbikes, bikes, pedestrians and all forms of animal drawn vehicles are prohibited from using it – which probably explains why virtually the only vehicles using it are motorbikes, bikes and ox-carts – often travelling against the flow. But travelling on any road in Mandalay is quite an adventure. Traffic officially drives on the right. However, as most vehicles are imported from Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, (where they drive on the left), Burmese motorists are frequently on the wrong side of the road.

Motoring laws in Burma are an absolute joke, (assuming they exist), and the roads of Mandalay are totally chaotic. With only two sets of traffic lights and one traffic cop in a city of a million people – it’s a free for all…
No one has right of way at any intersection – there are neither Stop nor Give Way signs - so everyone plays chicken, and many of the vehicles are dangerously overloaded…
And there are plenty of clapped out trucks that are at least 50 – 60 years old…
Motorbikes, bikes and bicycle rickshaws weave recklessly in and out of traffic and we cannot imagine how many accidents there must be. The most dangerous looking vehicles are the minibuses where dozens of passengers precariously sit on the roof and cling to the sides…
Rickshaws are still a major form of transport, often carrying loads that would be excessive even for a small pickup truck...
And there are still plenty of horse carts and ox-carts...
Traffic on the river is equally chaotic and the banks of the Irrawaddy in Mandalay are jammed with decrepit boats being loaded and unloaded…
So – the Road to Mandalay: Not in the least romantic and nothing like Kipling’s poem, but it is certainly interesting, As for the rest of Mandalay – time will tell.

Posted by Hawkson 02:20 Archived in Myanmar

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Now that is a traffic mess. I just came home from Colombia where they drive crazy, but nothing like that. Did you actually travel on that road?
Kelly and Laura say hello...love Jean

by Jean

Fabulous photos and commentary as always thank you. Gabriola just acquired a little school bus for public transportation. Hope it's at least half as popular as the Mandalay mini bus!

by Alison

That blue thing that looks like a garden tractor hitched to half a truck is really something. Haven't seen anything like that since I was a kid in Saskatchewan. Farmer's ingenuity.

by R and B

Does not seem a good idea to drive or be driven but the locals must feel safe. You are better off walking and taking in the fascinating scenery. Lovely picture, Stay safe love Jean and David

by Jean and David

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.