Once buzzing from dawn to dusk with Buddhist monks, traders from China and international tourists, the boulevards of Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay are now largely deserted, as many people are staying at home while the country copes with a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, the city’s downtown business center was nothing more than a cluster of closed shops. Glitzy shopping malls are at a standstill in the mid-day heat. At the stairways to Mandalay Hill, two giant stone lions are expecting visitors who may not appear for a long time. In the compound of Kuthodtaw Pagoda, famous among international tourists for its collection of stone Buddhist inscriptions, the only living being is a street dog.
Further out of the city in Amarapura, teaching monasteries that once hummed with young monks reciting Buddhist literature are now in eerie silence as most of the scholars have gone home out of fear of the coronavirus. Down at Taung Thaman Lake, the silhouette of the world-famous U Pain wooden bridge looks sad in the setting sun. With no visitors around, the twilight over the lake is gloomy—especially these days.