Without an early morning swim, the day heated up quickly and I reveled in the breeze on the back of the motorcycle. With the sun shining and dry roads, we hoped our trip back to Mandalay would take about five hours.
Things got interesting when the automatic engine starter button–yes, I know there’s a technical term for that, but I forgot–decided to stop automatically starting and we were treated to yet another opportunity to witness the kindness of people in Myanmar first hand. Tiffanie struggled with the bike outside a gas station for only thirty seconds before four gentlemen descended upon us, magically getting the thing started in another thirty seconds. It happened again outside an eatery halfway between Bagan & Mandalay. This time, the restaurant owner and his son showed us a manual start trick so we could fend for ourselves. At one bathroom stop, we decided not to risk it and took turns while one of us kept the motorcycle going in neutral. The ladies watching us from the fruit stand nearby surely thought we were crazy.
After an invigorating bout with Mandalay rush hour, we drove straight to the motorcycle shop to have Zach look at the starter thingy that wasn’t working. Although he wasn’t there, he offered to meet us to switch out the bike when we got back. Seriously amazing customer service and such a swell guy. Highly recommend Mandalay Motorcycles. We found our hostel and attempted to get ourselves back in order. Six hours on a rattling motorcycle in temperatures reaching 34 C with dry sand stinging any surface of skin uncovered definitely takes a toll.
The Mustache Brothers show is listed as a must do for any tourist visiting Mandalay. Curiously, the show is exclusively for tourists. The government forbids locals to attend due to its political content and, as if to increase its inaccessibility, the content is all in English.
We entered the unassuming storefront and took our places on plastic chairs. In true variety style, the show included one-liners and dancing laced with dark humor and sad stories. Before the show, I was aware of the general atrocities committed by the previous regime in Myanmar, but I came away with a much deeper appreciation of the scope of the oppression. Only two of the original three mustache Brothers are alive today. The brother of our host, Lee Paw Maw, died in prison after being arrested for speaking out against the government.
Even today Myanmar is no picnic, especially if you’re different or disagree with who ever is in power. I hope over the coming years, this country becomes more tolerant and continues to make peace with the past. It is such a strange and beautiful land.