For Hylton Cooke, our Grandad

Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Unity Hotel

Flag of Myanmar  ,
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mandalay, Burma - This part of my journey has been on my list for a long time. When I set off for Ecuador in January 2011 I knew I would arrive in Mandalay, Burma at some point and here I am! This part of my adventure and journey is dedicated to our Grandad Hylton Cooke. He served in the Burma Star during World War II in Burma. He lied about his age to enlist and arrived in South East Asia as a 16 year old. He complains today that they had to eat tin pineapple for months and with his dementia, we are hearing more and more about what happened during those year 1945 to 1948. Memories and experiences that he kept deep down for 70 years. Back home during that time, his mother sold his clothes and belongings not expecting him to come home and he frequently sent picture postcards of himself to his sweet heart (our Nan) which basically read 'To Phillis, With love, Hylton'. My mum recently found a photo album in a garden shed with pictures of her father from his time serving in Burma, but also pictures from his time in Malaysia and Singapore. A very courageous and brave generation, lest we forget and treasure all that so few did for so many! Love this man, can't wait to see him patrolling his new care home! 


So during my six weeks in the UK in the summer of 2011, I tried my best to find out where Grandad was. The one area that came up frequently was Mandalay and he moaned about the steep Mandalay hill which he climbed to look over the city. 

The bus from Monywa stopped frequently before we got to Mandalay bus station. You sit there wondering if it's your stop, but you have to trust yourself and know that the LAST stop is your stop. We grab our bags and sit in the back of a pick up truck that took us to our hotel. We were recommended a hotel by a lad in Yangon. Everything can be bartered for and we knock the price down from $35 to $25, plus the place had wifi and comfy beds. Dave boy is still ill, and at this very point in the adventure, I'm as fit as a fiddle, no sign of coughing or any illness, ahem, just yet!!

We arrived in late afternoon and I read about a very cool, cheap and tasty ciabatta street vendor. When we ask reception, it literally is just outside the hotel! In typical Myanmar fashion, we order a couple of items and our plates multiply to a table full of random dishes! The curry, ciabatta and extras were delicious!!


There isn't too much to see in Mandalay so we booked our next bus trip for the following night. Our main destination in Mandalay was to climb Mandalay Hill for our Grandad. 

The following day, we woke up extra special early, enjoyed the free hotel breakfast and very poor coffee! Yuck, very poor. We gave ourselves a couple of hours to walk to the hill, climb it and get back to check out at midday. What we didn't realise, hang on, what I didn't realise was how enormous Mandalay is. The city is built around the Golden Palace and old city walls. Each side of the wall is around 2 kms in length. We were staying at the bottom left corner and needed to reach the top left corner. To save our precious dollars, I fully expected a quick walk to reach the bottom of the Hill. About a 45 minute walk later, we arrived at the bottom and slowly climbed the stairs. I'm always reminded of my climbs in China when I climb staircase after staircase. 

We ascend for only ten minutes before reaching the top and reach another mile stone in my adventure. I stand there wondering what my grandad would have been thinking and feeling while he gazed upon the large walls of the centre of Mandalay. Would he make it home? Would be see his sweet heart again? Would he be having pineapple for lunch again? We stayed at the top for a little while before time was ticking by. We bargained for a couple of motorbikes to drive us back to the hotel. Everyone in Myanmar is genuine and friendly, except for taxi drivers and motorcycle drivers. I agree the fee three times with him but in typical fashion, when we arrive at our destination, the look of surprise on his face when I give him the exact change of our fare we agreed. There's very little they can do when I walk off and enter the lift for our hotel room. It drives me bonkers, but with a chuckle and smile, you get used to the deception and pay them what you agreed. 

Our afternoon consisted of finding a post office, enjoying a liquid lunch due to the soaring temperatures and dry heat and chilling out in the hotel reception waiting for our evening bus. 

The dream was to eat at the ciabatta stand again, but our transport to the southern bus station came too early. We did order food in a chinese place, but after 25 minutes, they hadn't even started preparing the meal, so we had to leave. 

The ride to the bus station was Myanmar style. The transport was very late and there was no room for the ginger brothers. Other western tourists made no effort to budge up to make room, in gingerman moaning fashion (and being irritable due to missing dinner) and made a few comments and we found space for Dave to sit and I had to stand on the back of the truck holding on and stupidly taking pictures at the same time. Of course, the guy sat near me lights up a cigarette which blows in my face and also Dave boy, who is coughing frequently with his Catarrh (which had yet to be diagnosed). 

The bus station was a thirty minute drive away and we arrived to a chaotic bus centre. We dumped our bags and made the error of eating street food at one too many vendors!! It makes my mouth fill with saliva just writing about it, let alone trying to eat the food again. 

We ordered a simple dish of rice with pork, rice with chicken, but the extras came out and I ate some fish soup thing that Dave did not touch. Let's just say, 8 hours later, I was throwing out of a bus window a plastic bag with the full contents of my stomach!! Yuck! Dave boy was sat behind me and didn't realise it was me chucking up! So, forget Atkins, or any other type of diet, chow down on Mandalay food, and the weight just falls off. 

Next stop, Inle Lake. 

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The Other Brother on

..just think..if your ride to the bus station had been on time then you could have eaten at your favourite place and not the street vendor where you tucked into some dodgy fish soup..probably bath water!

Kimberly on

Great blog. Nice to hear about where Grandad was during the war. I've heard him talk about it many times - mostly how rowdy the Canadians were and how they stole all the women!

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