Thursday, 24 October 2013

Mandalay and Orientalism

A vision of wind-swept Mandalay

The Meditator Guidebook to Myanmar is in its final stages. As the guide gets closer to publication, we will begin to share excerpts of what yogis and meditators may expect... some sneak previews of what is to come. Here is an excerpt from the section on Mandalay, and discusses the popular lore surrounding the city:
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In Western travel mythology, Mandalay has become associated with other such “exotic” locales as Timbuktu and Zanzibar, leaving many armchair backpackers to place a visit to this Upper Burma city on their Bucket List. In truth, the city’s mystique can be traced back to the 1890 poem by the colonial cheerleader, Rudyard Kipling. Of course, Kipling never actually made it to Mandalay himself, and so the expressed exoticism of Mandalay—as well as its very geography—is more a product of Kipling’s imagination than any reality. 

Kipling’s “Mandalay” painted such an exciting and exotic picture of the colonialist’s view of the Orient that it has stuck to this day. Triggered by the repeated refrain, “The Road to Mandalay,” his fevered imagination has gone on to inspire everything from a World War II memoir to a modern luxury cruise ship, and from two films (one a 1926 Lon Chaney silent picture and another a later aborted Bing Crosby/Bob Hope production) to two songs (the first by Frank Sinatra and the more recent from Robbie Williams). It certainly can’t get stranger than the multi-million dollar Las Vegas casino christening itself “Mandalay Bay” after the landlocked city, with a sprawing hotel theme encompassing various Southeast Asian locales through the Pacific islands and atolls!