Made famous by songs, films and books, Mandalay is somewhere most people have heard of but don’t actually know where it is. Today it’s a large modern city however, venture out of the centre and you’ll find dazzling pagodas, temples and craft work shops.
FIND YOUR WAY
Mandalay is a large city which encompasses the area of Amarapura in the south. To the west of Mandalay are the ancient sites of Inwa and Sagaing. Visit these areas to learn about local crafts including gold leaf, wood carvings and marionette puppets.
Mandalay founded at the foot of Mandalay Hill in 1857 by King Mindon as his royal capital. Most of Mandalay was destroyed during the bombings of WWII. Much of what you see today was built in the 1990s.
760ft hill offers fantastic views over the city – especially at sunset when most tourists visit. The easiest climb starts between two chinthe, lion like creatures known as leogryph, which can be seen in other Southeast Asian countries in varying styles. It takes about half an hour to climb the 1729 steps.
Mandalay Royal Palace
Originally built In the 1880s for King Mindon and King Thibaw who would be known as the last Kings of Myanmar. In 1885 during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, British troops captured the royal family and repurposed the palace as a military base. During WWII it was flattened by bombing, so what you see today is a replica built in the 1990s.
Amarapura means ‘City of Immortality’ and was the Royal capital until King Mindon decided to move it north to Mandalay Hill. Today, Amarapura is an attractive suburb of Mandalay set on Taungthaman Lake.
U Bein Bridge
Stretching 1.2km (0.7mi) long, it’s the largest teak wood bridge in the world and the reason for visiting Amarapura. Visit at sunset and start by walking across the bridge. It’s busy at this time with locals commuting and tourist snapping pictures. You’ll notice how much the bridge moves with the constant flow of people. Once you’ve crossed you can hire a boat with a rower for a different perspective of the bridge. It feels very peaceful on the water and looking at the bridge with the sun sinking behind it is magical.
Cross the Myitnge river by boat into the ancient town of Inwa, formally known as Ava. As is the theme with much of the areas surrounding Mandalay this was once a royal capital but it was moved after a series of earthquakes in 1838.
You’ll instantly be offered transport to explore the area via a disheveled horse and carriage. The area is small enough that you can walk to the two main sites.
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery
Queen Nanmadaw Me Nu built the monastery during the Konbaung Dynasty in 1818. Unlike other monasteries constructed during this period, Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery was built with bricks as opposed to wood.
As with all religious sites you’ll need to remove your shoes to enter the monastery. Try to pick an entrance as much in the shade as you can, this will save your feet getting burnt on the hot ground which tends to bake in the midday sun. The brick keeps the inside of the building presently cool so your feet will be safe once inside.
Nanmyin Watch Tower
The tower is all that remains of King Bagyidaw’s palace complex after an earthquake in 1838. It’s not particularly striking but it’s only a short walk from Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery.
Emerald green hills are dotted with white, gold and silver pagodas overlooking the Irrawaddy River.
Pon Nya Shin Paya
Buddhist temple which sits on Nga-pha Hill. The main prayer hall is covered in gold.
Crescent-shaped colonnade of 45 white and gold Buddha images.
Ostello Bello Hostel, Mandalay
Staff are friendly and helpful at booking tours. The rooms are spacious with plug sockets and lamps for each bed. Breakfast is included, served from 6.30am till 10am. Check out the rooftop at sunset.
Some taxi drivers know this hostel by its previous name – Rama Hotel.
Daily flights into the international airport from cities including Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Domestic flights are available to Yangon and Bagan. Be aware that domestic flights are expensive and you’ll probably be better off catching the bus.
To get to to Ostello Bello Mandalay (Rama Hotel) from Mandalay airport takes about an hour. 12,000 Kyats for a 4 seats private taxi or 4,000 Kyats for shared minivan. Minivans take longer as passengers are dropped all over the city.
Trains are generally the slowest way to travel in Myanmar however, a popular journey is between Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin. From Pyin Oo Lwin you can countinue north to the Gokteik Viaduct.
To get to Ostello Bello Mandalay (Rama Hotel) from the train station the cost is 4,000 Kyats for a 4 seats taxi.
Travel on the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Bagan. The scenic journey takes a day. From Mandalay the boat to Bagan is everyday at 6:30 am. I brought my ticket from Ostello Bello reception.
Buses are the most comfortable option for longer journeys.
To get to Ostello Bello Mandalay (Rama Hotel) from the the bus station the cost is 7,500 Kyats for a 4 seats taxi.
Visited February 2017
Little Amy Tours @littleamytours