Let us show you the culturally rich city of Mandalay. Located along the Ayeyarwady River about 716k north of Yangon, Mandalay is a must see city in Myanmar. Currently the population is roughly one million and continues to grow, and the recent influx of Yunnan people has helped the economic growth of the city. Mandalay is Myanmar’s northern economic hub and a vital trade route between China and India. Even though commercialism has penetrated this city it still holds on to its traditional roots and ways of life.
There are plenty of sites within Mandalay that will inspire your inner soul. Firstly there is Mandalay Palace, once an amazing set of intricately carved wooden buildings, but the bombings of WWII destroyed most of it. What remains of the walls and moat of the palace will give you a representation of what it used to be. There is a scale model and cultural museum within the compound that can give you the information necessary to understand this magnificent palace. Most of the buildings have been rebuilt, but the history of them has been lost. There is still the Golden Palace Monastery which is the only building that survived the attacks of WWII. The next site to see is Mahamuni Temple, which is one of the three holiest places in Myanmar. This temple holds a gigantic bronze Buddha covered in layers of gold leaf. Mahamuni is usually crowded with devotees from around the country, and the surrounding vendors bring life to this peaceful temple. A site not to be missed is located at the base of Mandalay Hill, Kuthodaw Pagoda. This site is known as the biggest book in the world. Each page of the Buddhist writings have been transcribed onto slabs of marble and enshrined in their personal stupa. There are nearly 800 individual pages making this an extraordinary site to see.
Mandalay is also the center of arts and crafts in Myanmar. There are hundreds of workshops that transform raw material into stunning pieces of art. You can witness the process of gold leaf making, as well as marble and wood carving. It is unbelievable to see how much work goes into this magnificent art work. To really put time into perspective you can visit the tapestry weaving workshops. Here traditional cotton and silk weavers make customary longyis that are so intricate and colorful that only an inch a day can be made.
Around the city there are a few places of interest, such as Paleik which is an unspoiled countryside that is home to hundreds of temples and pagodas. There is also the famous U Bein Bridge which is a half mile long bridge made entirely out of teak. It is a real treat to see the bridge by sampan while cruising the lake. Near the bridge is the Mahagandayon monastery which may be the largest Buddhist University in the country, and it is a real treat to witness the thousands of monks all studying together.
Don’t be fooled by this impressive hill, it is a lot bigger than it looks. At about 760 feet the hill towers over the flat city of Mandalay. To get to the top you will wind up the small road that leads to the entrance of the hill. From here you can take a set of escalators to the top. From the peak of the hill you can get a panoramic view of the city as well as the river and the Shan hills. The views from up top cannot be had anywhere else in the city, and you can easily consume an hour or so just gazing out into the open land. The Ayerwaddy river runs along side the city and you can see the how important the river is to this wonderful city.
Here within the old metal roofed shed you will find one of the larges reclining Buddha images in all of Southeast Asia. This temple is a must see while touring around Yangon, and it is just a short distance from Shwedagon pagoda. You’re sure to be impressed by its massiveness. If you are into fortune telling then you have come to the right spot. There are quite a few astrological and palm readers within the temple. If you’re impressed by this Buddha and would like to see one a bit bigger we suggest a day trip to Bago. (see day trips around Yangon)
Dubbed as the largest book in the world this astonishing complex is filled with nearly 800 individual pagodas, each enshrining a page of the Buddhist cannon. As you wander through this vast complex of white stupas lined as though they never end, you get a feel of how important Buddhist religion is to for the people. Also in the complex are a few Buddha images, but the most impressive to see are the hundreds of pagodas shaded by lush green trees. It is said that it would take over 450 days to read each page at the rate of 8 hours a day. This just puts this marvelous complex into perspective for you.
While roaming the city of Mandalay you may have noticed the giant 26 foot high wall that is nearly 2 miles long. Complete with a moat and 4 entrances is the palace compound. Within these walls lies the rebuild Mandalay Palace. The original was destroyed in WWII, but the site has been rebuilt to give you a representation of how the last two kings lived. Once inside you will see multiple rebuilt buildings that give a good illustration of how the compound was laid out. There is also a 7 tiered central palace where the kings used to live. For an excellent view you can climb the 110ft spiral watchtower and gaze out over this sprawling palace. Among the palace buildings there is a cultural museum that will give you some history of what this site was originally, and it will provide some insight on the previous kings and cabinet members.
Amarapura situated about 11 km south of Mandalay, Amarapura is one of the capitals of the third Myanmar Empire. A 1,208-metre long wooden bridge built totally with teak planks two centuries ago by Alderman U Pein, is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. It spans Taungthaman Lake, situated near Amarapura, with its farther end at Kyauktawgyi Pagoda. Bagaya Monastery and silk-weaving industries are other places of interest to visit.
Mingun is located about 11 km upriver from Mandalay, on the west bank of the Ayeyawaddy River, Mingun has a gigantic unfinished pagoda, 50 meters high, overlooking the river, and the 90-ton Mingun Bell, the largest ringing bell in the world cast in 1170 by King Bodawpaya. A 45-minute boat trip to Mingun is very pleasant with plenty of life on the river to see
Innwa, is one of the memoriable cities as well as Royal capital city. The name of the palace is Yadanapura meaning treasures land. It is built by King Tadominphya in 726 AD and it is located at the confluence of Ayeyarwaddy river and Myitnge river and 11 miles from Mandalay.
Sagaing is the capital of Sagaing Division in Myanmar. It is located on the Ayeyarwady River, 20 km to the southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the river.
Sagaing is a religious and monastic center, with numerous Buddhist monasteries. It briefly regained is position as a royal capital of Burma from 1760-1764.
The British-built a 16 span Innwa Bridge connects Sagaing with Mandalay, crossing the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River. It was built in 1934.