The name itself evokes images of exotic places, far away lands. It's one of those magical names like Sahara, Amazon and Himalaya, which when I was growing up seemed to belong to places so distant and foreign and alien that they couldn't really exist.
Of course, as I got older, and as my fascination with travel got stronger and deeper, I realized that these places are all real and that with a little will power and dedication it was perfectly possible to actually go there and see them. Even so, Mandalay is a place name that everyone knows (thanks mostly to Kipling's poem, Road To Mandalay but I knew very little about. As I researched it for the trip, I began to realize more and more that it would be a fascinating place to spend some time, the spiritual heart of Burma, more monks and nuns as a ratio of the population than anywhere else in the country, three former capital cities in Mandalay, Amarapura and Inwe (two suburbs/towns to the south) and a city with a huge amount of traditional craft and trade.