Mandalay still evokes images of a romantic bygone era. The royal palace and its impressive moat sit at the foot of the imposing Mandalay Hill. Positioned on the banks of the Ayeryarwaddy River, Mandalay is the principal cultural and economic city of Upper Myanmar. It lies within easy striking distance of former colonial hill stations, ancient cities and other cultural attractions.
As the last seat of the Myanmar kings, Mandalay left a bittersweet legacy to the people. King Mindon of the Konbaung Dynasty who reigned from 1853 to 1878 created this capital out of the wild woodlands at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Mindon as a deeply religious monarch made Mandalay and her neighboring town Sagaing important centers of Buddhism, with many great pagodas and hundreds of beautiful monasteries and nunneries, in both colonial and vernacular architecture.
Some of the most notable attractions include Buddhist scriptures carved on 729 marble tablets in the Kuthodaw Pagoda as the ‘biggest book’ in the world. It’s impossible not to be impressed by Mahamuni Pagoda which houses one of the country’s most honored Buddha images, completely covered in gold leaves. The all-teak carved Shwenandaw Monastery is also wortrh visiting. Once completely gilded inside and out, only the interior gold remains undamaged. The rest of his palace was destroyed in World War II and a replica was built on the site.
Mandalay is the home for its exquisite handcrafts such as hand-woven embroidery in silk and cotton, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and stone carving. Assorted and colourful local markets are also popular in Mandalay. Biking around the city, Mandalay is named the bike city of Myanmar, which locals use bike for their daily activities.
Mandalay is surrounded with ancient cities which are considered to be historical gems such as magnificent pagodas and royal palaces. Many of these are remained untouched while some are refurbished without affecting its traditional style. Squared built city has numerous mansions along its wide lanes in downtown area.
A capital of Konbaung Dynasty during the reign of King Bodawpaya, Amarapura can be translated as “city of immortality” built in 1859. Located in 11km south of Mandalay, the town is popular for silk, cotton weaving, and bronze casting. The world famous U Bein Teak Bridge across Taungthaman Lake can be seen on the way to Amarapura.
Another ancient capital, Innwa can be translated as “mouth of the lake”, located about 21 km south of Mandalay. Indeed with a long and rich history over 360 years of being the capital during the Second Myanmar Empire, the town has numerous heritage places include Nanmyint Watch Tower, Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, Bagaya Monastery, and lacquer ware industry.
Located on the western bank of Irrawaddy river, this peaceful town lies on picturesque hills of Sagaing once a capital of an autonomous powerful Shan kingdom between 14th to 18th Century. This tranquil place has turned to an important center for Buddhist monks and nuns. Numerous temples and monasteries scattering overlooking the hill, the panoramic scenery of the town is a complete set of peaceful mind. Friendly monks and nuns are open to discussion about the Buddhist way of life.
Crossing over Ayyarwaddy river from Mandalay, this old town is located in Sagaing Region. Along the route to Mingun, the loud and strident tones, staccato prayers come rasping through loudspeakers, creating a strange though quite impressive scenario is for the visitor who keen to look behind the scene of urban destination. This town is famous for ruin Mingun Pahtodawgyi which was built by thousands of war prisoners from the command of King Bodawpaya. This impressive structure was only completed one third of its original design. The world’s largest ringing bell, named Mingun Bell is also worth a visit during the day in town.
An important trading point in Upper Myanmar, situated on the eastern bank of Chindwin River, Monywa is worth visiting a useful stop between Mandalay and Bagan. Impressive Thanboday pagoda is the only one in Myanmar with its unique shape and structure featuring total 582,257 images of Buddha. The next stop would be the region’s magical mountain, Phoe Win Taung. Walking between the breathtaking impressive white caves certainly gives visitors a wizard mode. The other highlights of the town includes Bodhi Tataung has a thousand of Bo Trees and Shwe Ba Taung offers an impressive sandstones caves.
PYIN OO LWIN (MAYMYO)
Colonial favorite Anglicized town established by British is once a luxury destination for rich and famous people. A short drive from Mandalay, located over 1,000 meters above sea level is a retreat gateway from the mainland’s soaring temperature. Well maintained and beautifully decorated Botanical Garden (National Kantawkyi Garden) is the jewel of the city. The named “May” is after the Colonal May, the commander of the post and veteran of the Indian Mutiny. Once served as an important Educational center for English Government high schools, the town remained colonial style houses with large compound and pine trees. Also the naturally structured Anisakan Waterfalls, Peik Chin Myaung caves and infamous Goteik Viaduct are also interesting places to explore.
Famously known for its powerful rulers (Saopwas), once a royal capital of Shan State is located 200 km North East of Mandalay. The home to numerous Shan inhabitants, the town has quite a diverse cultural stretches. This beautifully peaceful and charming town coupled with the combo advantage of nature and weather, it is the perfect place for trekking and walking to its surrounding hills. Exploring the treasure of colorful morning markets, the long standing and fascinating Shan Saopwa’s palace are certainly the twisting features of the town.
Reportedly the most incredibly amazing train ride in Asia, this famous world’s second highest Gokteik Viaduct is located in 55 km North East of Pyin Oo Lwin, Shan State. The Viaduct was built by the Pennsylvania Steel Co in 1903 on behalf of the British, it is the oldest and longest modern railway bridge in Myanmar. The thrilling experience begins when the train slows down and approaches to the 300 meters deep “Gokteik Gorge” offering a spectacular view into the thickly covered ravine. Along the route, visitors can also explore the nature of villages, farms, and stunning mountain sceneries.