Visiting the Top attractions of Mandalay
Mandalay is located on the bank of the Irrawaddy River and is the second-largest city in Myanmar. It was the Royal capital of the last monarchy of Myanmar and, unfortunately, was severely damaged during fierce fighting in World War II. Mandalay is well known for its cultural, traditional, and spiritual splendour and exquisite handicrafts such as embroidery, gold leaves, wood and stone carving. Nearby Mandalay stands several old capitals such as Amapura, Sagaing, Ava, Mingun, where the Kongboung dynasty kings established their capitals.
What to see and do in Mandalay
1. Mandalay Royal Palace
It is a walled citadel, surrounded by a large moat, situated in the middle of the city. Built between 1857 and 1859 as part of King Mindon, despite the fact it looks imposing from the outside, it was devastated by bombing during World War II. Within its walls, you can now find a reconstruction of the original palace, which is still interesting to visit to get an impression of what it used to be. A few original artefacts are held inside the museum.
2. Shwenandaw Kyaung temple
It is the most significant of Mandalay’s historic buildings because it’s the only remaining of the former wooden Royal Palace. It was initially the royal apartment in which King Mindon died, located within the palace walls. It was moved to its current location by Mindon’s son (king Thibaw, the last king of Burma) and converted into a monastery in memory of King Mindon. Made entirely out of teak wood, it is adorned with beautifully intricate carvings.
3. Mandalay Hill
During the sunset, it’s a must-do to get to the top of the hill that offers stunning 360° views of the whole city, the Irrawaddy River, and the distant hills. While the sun sets down, its warm light glint off the gold and green of the Sutaungpyei Pagoda, which is located at the summit, Mandalay Hill is a holy site and is said it has been climbed by the Buddha, who prophesied that a great city would be built here. The uphill road to the top is dotted by numerous interesting pagodas and starts with two giant white Chintes that guard the entrance.
4. Kuthodaw Pagoda
Built in 1857 by King Mindon Min, this temple building is completely gilded on the exterior, giving it the look of a solid gold spectacle. Within the white stupas with a pinnacled roofs are placed 730 marble tablets (729 contain the body of the text, while the 730th tablet describes their creation) covered on both sides with a dense script. Filled in the past with gold ink and decorated with precious stone, after the British invasion, the troops stripped everything and was refilled with pure black ink. Taken all together, these comprise the entirety of Theravāda Buddhism’s religious canon, and it’s called “the world’s largest book”.
5. Mahamuni Buddha Temple
Mahamuni Buddha Temple is one of the most important religious sites of Myanmar, and it is set in a large religious complex famous for its seated Buddha, which stands at 3.8 metres tall and has been adorned with so much gold that its body is now a mass of golden blobs. The one part that is still clear is its beaming face, which monks wash, and has its teeth cleaned, in a ceremony every morning (at 4 am or 4.30 am). Male pilgrims travel from far and wide to place gold leaves upon the statue, believing it will give them good fortune in this life and the next. During the ritual, male devotees cram into the small room which houses the Buddha, quietly jostling for position as they add their offering.
6. Zegyo (Zay Cho) Market
It says that if you haven’t been to the Zegyo market, you haven’t been to Mandalay. It is the biggest market in Mandalay and one of the biggest in Myanmar. Inside the main building and its neighbouring alleys, you can live a real slice of local life. Many shops and stalls are surrounding the perimeter of the market, selling everything. Fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, spices, household items, prayer’s items, souvenirs, and so on. The best moment to wander around the market is early in the morning.
Need to Know about Mandalay
1. Hot to get to Mandalay
You can reach Mandalay from the main cities by flight, bus, train or boat (only from Bagan). The airport is Mandalay international. Once there, take a taxi to get to downtown (around 40.000 Kyat). The central bus station is Kwe Se Kan, 10 km south of the downtown. All the buses to/from the main cities depart and arrive here (Yangon – Mandalay is around 9 hrs). Taking the train is not worth it because Yangon Central to Mandalay Railway station is approximately 15 hours. If you are in Bagan and you like to reach Mandalay by boat, you have 2 options: taking the express boat (around 12 hrs) or the slow boat, a basic old fashioned ferry with local people (15 hours or more, it depends on the river level).
We always use the useful site 12go.Asia.com to find our transports through Asia. You can use 12go.Asia transports search engine below to find trains, flights and Vip Buses schedule and book your ride. The research can usually be done within the next 7/10 days.
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2. Where to sleep and eat in Mandalay
You’ll find a wide range of accommodations everywhere; anyways, one of the best areas for budget guesthouses/hotels is around the Zegyo market. We slept at the Silver Star hotel. Here you’ll also find restaurants and stalls selling tasty street food. You can use booking.com, Agoda.com and trip.com to find the best accommodation in Mandalay. Click here to see the best restaurants in Mandalay.
3. How to move around Mandalay
Most of the attractions can be visited by walk, but you can quickly move around the city by taxi, motorcycle taxi, pick-up or renting a self-drive motorbike (be careful because the traffic is exceptionally crazy).
Note: a ticket is required to visit the main sites of Mandalay and its surroundings (Inwa, Amarapura and Saigang). You can buy it at one of the entrances of the sites (the price is about 10 USD).
Alternatively, you can use the web platform Viator.com that offer tours to visit Mandalay and surroundings managed by local agencies.
Another useful web platform to book your activities is Klook.com, one of our favourites when travelling through Asia.