It was already late by the time I found my hotel in Mandalay, and I timorously ventured out for some food despite my reservation against walking around in a completely strange city at night. I generally choose to stay at hostels when I travel alone, in order to stay in a central location and also to meet travel companions. Mandalay didn’t have many of those to offer, and I ended up finding a small hotel in a residential part of town. Nothing about the area seemed treacherous, but there were few people on the street, and no bright lights to be seen. It ended up being a great beginning to the solo part of my trip, strolling through the neighborhood, peeking into small general stores, passing the locals on the plastic chairs chitchatting about their day, getting a glimpse of what it’s like to actually live in this city.
This photo is a snapshot of one such glimpse, a woman asleep on her bamboo chair, her small radio playing quietly by her side. Her “store front” is merely a plastic chair with a thin wooden board, with a few recycled bottles filled with liquid, brightly lit by the battery powered lamp. I didn’t know what the liquid was then, but quickly learned that it was gasoline, conveniently packaged for scooters and mopeds that don’t want to go fill up at the gas station. I would go on to see beautiful temples and brilliant sunsets in the following days of my trip, but I’m glad I have at least this token to remind me the difference between visiting, and living.