Has it already been two full weeks? Indeed it has; two weeks ago tonight I was in Mandalay and as it so happened, that particular Thursday night was also my birthday. Where to go for dinner? Ha, as if there was any other choice; Aye Myit Tar on 81st Street, my favorite restaurant, was where I dined. No cake and ice cream, but plenty of good Burmese food.
Joining me for a gut-busting feast were Moe Htet Aung and Zin Ko, two of the kids I know from 90th Street. As usual, there was also the revolving cast of diligent waiters, including Nyein Htun, Ko Ko Oo, and Kyaw Myo Aung. I opted for the pork curry, while Moe Htet Aung got fried mutton flakes (and no, that’s not a new breakfast cereal), and Zin Ko ordered the prawn curry, and rice; lots and lots of extra helpings of rice.
The boys both ordered fruit juices to drink, but I quenched my thirst with a couple of bottles of Myanmar Beer. The beer company is currently having one of those promotions with “prizes” hidden under the bottle cap. Sometimes you only get a message such as “Che Zu Tin Ba De!” (Thank You!), but other times you get a cash prize (I won 500 kyat , which is about 50 cents, the night before), and sometimes even a free bottle. I’d like to report that I won a free bottle of beer on my birthday, but alas, that did not happen on this night. But I did receive some gifts from the waiters; a Myanmar Beer t-shirt (too small, so I later gave it to Moe Htet Aung), a Myanmar Beer windbreaker (much too small, so I gave it to Zin Ko), and a longyi (just the right size; I wore it the next night).
As usual, the restaurant was busy, local diners and foreign tourists streaming in for meals. Before the night was over, I had struck up a conversation with two young women at the adjacent table. They were from Hong Kong and visiting Mandalay for the first time. They asked for suggestions, so I offered a few tips on places to see, including the “Snake Pagoda” in Paleik, and the Mingun Home for the Aged, where the vivacious Nurse Thwe Thwe Aye runs the place nearly single-handed. Ah, don’t get me started; so much to see and do in the Mandalay area.
At the start of last month, I had no plans to go to Mandalay, but because of the situation with my hospitalized friend, this “last minute” trip turned out to be a happy accident falling on my birthday. And the night was made even more special and enjoyable by having my friends join me, surrounded by a familiar cast of smiling waiters. And even though I didn’t win a free beer that night, I DID win one two nights later, my last night in town!