Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and its last royal capital. In its surroundings, visitors can find Amarapura, Sagaing and Ava, also former royal capitals of the country. While Yangon is the country’s international metropolis, Mandalay has a more traditional atmosphere, being the cultural centre of Myanmar, as well as the main place to learn about Buddhism.
What to see in Mandalay?
This huge complex located in downtown Mandalay was home to the last King of Myanmar. Destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt and it is now the best place to learn about the lifestyle of Myanmar royal families.
Contemporary to the royal palace, this pagoda is also known as the “world’s biggest book”. The reason for this name is that it contains 729 shrines housing marble slabs with Buddha’s teachings inscribed on them.
Built completely with teak wood, the carving details adorning its walls and roofs are simply fascinating.
One of the most holy Buddhist sites in all of Myanmar. At its center stands a bronze Buddha image that is believed to have been cast in front of the Buddha himself. This ancient statute has today been gilded with over 15 tons of gold leaf applied by pilgrims through the years.
What to see in its surroundings?
A capital of Konbaung Dynasty during the reign of King Bodawpaya, Amarapura can be translated as “city of immortality”. Located 11km south of Mandalay, the town is popular for silk and cotton weaving, as well as for 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” and it is located about 21 km south of Mandalay. With a long and rich history and having been the capital for 360 years during the Second Myanmar Empire, the town has numerous heritage places including Nanmyint Watch Tower, Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery and Bagaya Monastery.
Located on the western bank of the Irrawaddy river, this peaceful town lies on the picturesque hills of Sagaing. Once a capital of an autonomous powerful Shan kingdom between 14th to 18th Century, this tranquil place has turned into an important center for Buddhist monks and nuns. Numerous temples and monasteries scatter overlooking the hill, bringing the panoramic scenery of the town a complete set of peaceful mind. Friendly monks and nuns are open to discussion about the Buddhist way of life.
Crossing over Irrawaddy river from Mandalay, this old town is located in Sagaing Region. Along the route to Mingun, the loud and strident tones from staccato prayers come rasping through loudspeakers, creating a strange though quite impressive scenario for the visitor. This town is famous for the ruins of Pahtodawgyi Pagoda, which was built by thousands of war prisoners from the command of King Bodawpaya and was meant to be the world’s largest pagoda. However, only one third of the original design of this impressive structure was completed. The second largest unbroken ringing bell, named Mingun Bell is also worth a visit during the day in town.
An important trading point in Upper Myanmar and situated on the eastern bank of Chindwin River, Monywa is worth a stop when travelling between Mandalay and Bagan. Its impressive Thanboday pagoda, the only one in Myanmar with its unique shape and structure, features 582,257 images of Buddha. The region’s magical mountain, Phoe Win Taung, is home to impressive white caves. Other highlights of the town include Bodhi Tataung, with a thousand Bo Trees and Shwe Ba Taung with its 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.