The press in Mandalay is at a crossroads. The country is on the cusp of modernization while simultaneously stuck revering antiquities of the past.
The preceding is not a reference to the infinite shrines, an unrivaled creation of man unlike any other in the world. It is an attribution to the outdated railway system, the dilapidated buildings of the city, and the isolationist policy of a country hesitant to reveal itself to the world.
The city Mandalay was the last royal capital of Burma before its annexation by the British and devastation during World War II. Today, it, and many of the cities throughout Myanmar are shells of their former selves. Traffic congestion, rampant poverty, and a crumbling infrastructure muddy the mystique of the Land of Golden Pagodas.
Despite political progress, Mandalay’s pales in comparison to the advancement of its powerhouse neighbor. When nightfall comes, the city literally goes dark. But for the lights from the whizzing of motorbikes, it would be next to impossible to know that you were situated in the economic hub.
In the heart of the city there is an absence of street lights and intermittent Internet leaving little faith that true change is on its way. On the way out of the city, there’s a state-of-the-art airport puzzling visitors as to where this country will go.
Burma or Myanmar, no matter the reference, the future of what will happen here is anyone’s guess.