The changing face of Mandalay

A Travelfish long read by Oliver Slow
First published on 1st December, 2020 |1,403 reads.

Early each morning Yin Yin Lwin walks the short distance from her Mandalay home to the moat surrounding the walls of the city’s Royal Palace, the grand structure that was built in the middle of the 19th century, and which remains the dominant edifice in Myanmar’s second biggest city.

After arriving at the palace’s eastern wall, Lwin usually walks north, in the direction of Mandalay Hill, then onwards to the northwest corner of the palace, before returning home. This morning ritual usually takes her about an hour.

“I’m getting old, so I need to do my exercises every day,” said Lwin, who is in her sixties. “I enjoy coming every morning to look at the palace.”

On the morning we met—and on most others in Mandalay—there were hundreds of other exercise enthusiasts outside the palace walls, and Lwin said she believed that the majority were, like her, either Sino-Burmese or Chinese.

Local women within the confines of Mandalay Palace. Photo: Mark Ord.
Local women within the confines of Mandalay Palace. Photo: Mark Ord

“I think that must be the case, because there are so many Chinese now in Mandalay,” she said.

In many ways, this scene outside Mandalay Palace represents the perfect illustration of the city’s past, present, and likely, its future.

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About the author

Oliver Slow is a Southeast Asia-based writer, editor and audio producer. He is currently writing a book about Myanmar’s military, and you can read more of his work at oliverslow.com.


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