Friday, December 8, 2017

The Great Railway Bazaar


We spent yesterday running important errands and eating delicious food, with plans to take a sleeper train up to Mandalay Friday night.
The train station was hot and sprawling, with few signs in English. Burmese is mysterious and to my eyes, indecipherable.
 In Myanmar, people like lines. British legacy, perhaps.
After standing in several different lines, they told me I had to come back tomorrow (Friday) for sleeper class tickets. 
When I returned today, they said the sleepers to Mandalay were all sold out. 

Me: but you told me to come back tomorrow?!

Guy behind the counter: You want tickets for tomorrow?

A friendly tout who spoke better English directed me to an agent who sold VIP bus tickets. An hour later, they were procured.

Along the way, I picked up healthy street food: tofu stuffed with shredded cabbage and chiles. They cost 100 kyat each or less than 14¢ each.

Travel plans finally accomplished, I set off for Myanmar's last synagogue, built in 1896 in the British Colonial era.
 Inside, it reminded me of a synagogue I visited in the East End of London, from the same era.

The chandeliers are a bit sparklier.
Moses Samuels, whose family came from Iraq, promised his father he would keep the synagogue open as long as there were Jews in Myanmar. Many families left when the Japanese occupied Burma during World War II. Today, there are perhaps 20 Burmese Jews left in the country, including Moses' son Sammy, who keeps the synagogue open. I'm sorry not to have met Moses. He is remembered well.
When I was in Havana in 2009, Janet and I visited a synagogue, which was also fascinating. The woman we met had family from Chicago.

That extra bit of shalom sparkle.

And so we wander. Contentedly. 

Next stop: Pyin oo Lwin. By overnight bus.