“Along the Road to Mandalay”

Salay, Myanmar. November 2019. (12 photos)

This is Part 5 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 7 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Published in 1890, Rudyard Kipling’s poem Mandalay includes the lines…

Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?

On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

Kipling never visited Mandalay or travelled the Road to Mandalay, but his reference to the Road to Mandalay has since become famous.

In 1852, Britain annexed Burma (now Myanmar) and recognized the value of the Ayeyarwady River (formerly known as the Irrawaddy River) that bisects the country north to south as a ready means of people and cargo transport. Especially important was a stretch of the river between the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, a stretch they dubbed “The Road to Mandalay.” The Ayeyarwady River is the country’s largest river and most important commercial waterway.

“Traffic along the Road to Mandalay”

You probably can’t make out the detail but there are 7 people and 1 motorbike on that longboat.

I suppose it could have been considered remiss of me not to travel along the road to Mandalay at some time during my trip, so upon leaving the ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage site of Bagan in the region of Mandalay, I caught a slow boat and headed south along the Ayeyarwady River.

“Life along the Road to Mandalay”

A commercial waterway, it is also essential to the daily life of local villagers who use it for washing and bathing.

“Pagoda along the Road to Mandalay”

Hundreds of pagodas dot the countryside, even along the short section of the Ayeyarwady River that I travelled on.

Along the Road to Mandalay I disembarked at the town of Salay, also known as Sa Lay or Sale, on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady River.

“Local goat herder”

Salay developed as a satellite town of Bagan in the 12th and 13th centuries and remains an important religious centre. Salay houses 50 or so active Buddhist monasteries including 19th-century wooden monasteries, original British colonial buildings, and is a centre for lacquerware manufacturing. Salay is the birthplace of U Ponnya, one of Burma’s most celebrated writers.

There are over a hundred pagoda ruins around Salay, but unlike Bagan, many of them have never been systematically studied by archeologists and historians.

“Falling into decay”


In Salay, the leading Abbot of Sasanayaunggyi monastery and his deputy welcomed me to his old wooden monastery.

“Tea with the monks”

Then I had tea with my hosts. Fortunately my guide was able to interpret everything they said for me.

They are the friendliest couple of monks one could ever hope to meet. After sharing tea, they graciously agreed to be photographed.

“The Buddha said…”

Sasanayaunggyi Monastery features a beautiful 19th-century glass armoire with painted Jataka panels, showing scenes from the Buddha’s life, which contains 400-year-old scriptures written in Pali within. Pali is the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism. Without hesitation, they brought out some of the scriptures for viewing.

“The secret of the robe”

Have you ever asked a monk to show you how he puts his robe on?

I don’t know why I did it but I have, and was entirely surprised to get this live demonstration.

“Time enough to read”

“Two monks”

It was an experience to savour,
Having tea with the monks that day,
In a monastery in Myanmar, in a town that’s called Salay,

On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!


This is Part 5 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 7 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Along The Road to Mandalay


64 thoughts on “Along The Road to Mandalay

    • Thank you. The photo of the monk reading exudes a sense of serenity to me and it’s one of my favourites from my time there. I did show them my photos out of the back of the camera at the time and they enjoyed that.

  1. A special tea time, that’s for sure. I love the pagoda along the way. I must admit I never thought about how a monk put on his robe, but it’s obviously not a simple process. Thanks for this little glimpse into this part of the world.


    • Thank you. I tried to get the best experience out of travelling in Myanmar and the interactions with locals was a big part of that. Yes more roads ahead, after this temporary roadblock on the world passes.

  2. I wandered over here from another blog…I’m sure I’ve seen your blog before, but not in a long time. SE Asia has always called to me. We were supposed to be in Vietnam last month but the pandemic intervened. It was to be our first Asian experience. Meanwhile, I’m making the most of life at home, having abundant outdoor resources at hand – and abundant travel resources at my fingertips. Your day with the monks was just the BEST. I’m glad you pursued this experience to the fullest and connected with these lovely monks. 🙂

    • Vietnam would have been a great trip. So much colour, great food, unique culture, urban craziness (motorbikes) and stunning landscapes. I hope the trip comes to fruition for you later. Now you have more time for planning. SE Asia will not disappoint and I’m sure you’ll want to ret=urn to see more of it.

      I’ve seen plenty of monks in Thailand and Cambodia, but the interaction level with them rose sharply in Myanmar. I hope to go back someday. Thanks for the visit.

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