Monday 31 January: The brown dust of the country roads is replaced by the exhaust fumes that hang over the city. In just one day the colour of my shirt collar matches my snot - black. The old walled and moated Royal Palace is spectacular with Mandalay Hill and the foremost temples at it's northeast corner. It takes me an hour to walk around the palace and another half-hour for the barefoot climb to the top of the hill. Two large lions guard the entrance to the hill and the shaded ascent has pleasant resting places and good view across the temples, palace and hazy city rooftops.
Tuesday 1 February: A long morning stroll south takes me to In Bin Kyaung, a beautiful teak temple, on a bend in the river. Walking back I drop into the Moustache Brother's home and have a chat with Lu Maw, brother number two, of this famous Mandalay comedy troupe. They have always included anti-government material in their act and two of the brothers have been imprisoned for it - five years hard labour each, but their performance continued. Lu Maw invites me to this to see them perform in their front room in the evening and I promise I'll return.
The Golden Palace Monastery is a more touristy teak temple with government admission fee. I give it a miss and locals usher me into Maha Lokamarazein Kuthodaw Pagoda through a side gateway. The temple holds the world's biggest book. It's inscribed on 729 marble tablets each with a small temple erected over it - what a wonderful creation.
The Moustache Brothers are restricted to performing within their own home in English only and are under scrutiny from the secret police, so no Burmese are in the audience. It's a delightful evening, the best show I've ever seen in a living room. My donation for the performance is US$10 which is exactly the fee I saved by not visiting the palace which was rebuilt using forced convict labour.
Photos of Mandalay.