Where to head when you want to experience the heart of Myanmar…
In Mandalay, you come closest to the real Myanmar of old. The second largest city of Myanmar, with a population of 700,000, here lies the cultural heart of Myanmar where the most refined arts, traditions of dance, music and drama live on. Mandalay is also known for its fine gold and silver crafts, wood and marble carving, silk thread weaving and ancient tapestry.
The last capital of the Myanmar kingdom, Mandalay not only offers wonderful sights to behold, but also has a number of nearby attractions, most historical and fascinating, all within a 3.2 kilometer radius – from cool hill resorts to nostalgic market places, from an ancient palace to a river ride up the famous “Road to Mandalay” the Ayarwady River, or a ride in unique trishaws or horse-drawn carts.
Approaching Mandalay via the Ayarwady River.
Places to Stay:
Note: when it comes to rooms Mandalay is not the cheapest, budget accordingly
- Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse: This place is a notch above the rest and it’s all due to the friendly home like atmosphere that hits you upon arrival. Get ready to meet “Mama” and indulge in a generous breakfast.
- Smart Hotel: Providing more luxury than typical backpacker digs this clean and comfortable hotel won’t offer much in the way of ambience, but the location and price easily make up for it.
- Rich Queen Guesthouse: New and relatively cheap, our top pick for the best bang for your buck. Very clean, friendly, includes a decent breakfast, and located on a quiet yet central side street.
Things To Do:
- Taking in the view from the top of Mandalay Hill: One of Mandalay’s most famous spots is the Mandalay Hill one of the best places to take in the expansive city or catch a spectacular sunset. In Myanmar you will quickly find that the day revolves around the sky, taking in the sunrise and sunset are a necessary part of the experience, and the hilltop on Mandalay is one of the best places.
The temple that awaits at the top of Mandalay Hill.
- The 3 formers capitals of Myanmar, are all around Mandalay. There is Sagaing Hill, covered with 600 white pagodas and monasteries, and some beautiful pagodas such as Oo Pon Nya Shin. There is the Mahamuni Pagoda, home of one of the most revered Buddha images in Myanmar. There is also the Kuthodaw Pagoda and Shwenandaw Monastery.
- A trip to the Mahagandayon Monastery, located in Amarapura, just outside Mandalay is a must. A spectacular glimpse into the world of the maroon robed monks of Myanmar, the monks love practicing their English with foreigners. When visiting make sure to respect the monks schedule and daily practices.
- The Moustache Brothers, this comedic trio will not only have you laughing long into the night, but they will also help raise your awareness about Myanmar’s current and past political situations. Started by three brothers who certainly had a reason to speak up as they all served time in prison under Myanmar’s totalitarian government.
- Make sure to visit the famous U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world (1.2 km). This is a spectacular place from which to take in either a sunrise or sunset.
Simplicity, return to a world where the sun dictates your day.
- Visit the HJKSL of Mingun (1hour boat ride from Mandalay). Encompassing the ruins of Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which is a monumental uncompleted brick stupa. The reason the stupa is unfinished is because an astrologer claimed that the king would die once the temple was finished. The temple has huge cracks on the structure from the earthquake of 23 March 1839.
- A small town Monywa (3 hours) lies right outside the city of Mandalay making a great day trip. The town is home to Thanboddhay Pagoda and Boditahtaung Pagoda, which houses the largest reclining Buddha in Myanmar (100 m long).One can also drive from Monywa to Powin Taung (1 hour) to see 947 sandstone caves dug out of the hills, inside the caves one will find the richest collection of mural paintings and Buddha statues in Southeast Asia.
- From Heho airport, Shan states airport, one can take a flight (1.5 hours) to Mandalay.
- Boats trips up the Ayarwady, departing from Bagan, are a memorable way to enter the city. The trip takes 12 hours when headed up stream.
- From Yangon a bus direct to Mandalay will take around 9 hours. Trains are also available, but only choose this option if you are looking for an experience over convenience.
Where To Go Next:
- Catch a flight at Nyaung U Airport where accessible by a 40 minute flight is the capital of Myanmar, Yangon.
- South a mere 6 hours lies Bagan the ancient capital of Mynamar.
- Also easily accessible is Inle Lake a must visit while in Myanmar.
About the author: Written by Juan Gallardo, a passionate photographer and an avid traveller, specifically in Myanmar. He is currently exploring Myanmar using local recommendations to guide him.