An old capital that glitters
Rudyard Kipling's poem "Mandalay" might have helped make the city more well-known globally, depicting it as an incredibly exotic place, but Mandalay is a uniquely interesting place in itself. The second largest city of Myanmar is also one of the most historically important for its country; it is the last capital of the Myanmar monarchic dynasty, before the advance of western colonization.
Once the royal city, Mandalay today still boasts a dazzling array of regal architecture, including the famed Royal Palace. It is also a city of temples and monasteries, since the city was the centre of Burmese culture and Buddhist learning throughout the colonial years. Parts of the city were seriously damaged during the Second World War, but most of the major areas, including the Royal Palace, have been restored.
Culture vultures will fall in love with the charms of Mandalay, as it is the home of the best traditions of Myanmar music and dance. The culturally diverse and dynamic former capital is proud of its cultural heritage. Mandalay has about two million inhabitants and is constantly alive, with motorbikes whizzing up and down the roads and the traditionally-dressed people scurrying about.
Not-to-be-missed Sights and Activities
While it presents a glorious array of religious and historical sites, the best attraction in Mandalay is not made by man, but by Mother Nature. Mandalay Hill is the most famous attraction of the city, a necessary stop for any tourist who arrives in this part of Myanmar. Many of the city’s sights are also centred around Mandalay Hill, so this is a good place to start your exploration. This dominant geographical structure is 230 metres high, and is where the city got its name. Climbing up the hill is a good workout – there are a total of 1,729 steps– and the breathtaking view from the peak is more than rewarding. The sunrise and sunset here are beyond spectacular.
A kingly crown
The Mandalay Royal Palace, built in 1862, is a true testament to Myanmar’s architectural advancement. The masterpiece was planned, styled and built in just four years. The Royal Palace, known locally as Mya Nan San Kyaw, was the first palace to be built in the city. King Mindon, who moved his capital from Amarapura to Mandalay, ordered the construction of the palace at this exact location because of astronomical calculations and favourable omens. Much of the palace compound was destroyed during World War II, leaving only the royal mint and the watch tower surviving. A replica of the palace was built in the 1990s.
Mandalay has a number of pagodas and monasteries worth visiting. Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, also known as the Mahamuni Pagoda, is considered the holiest pilgrimage site in Mandalay. It houses the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda Buddha image, which is the most ancient and most revered of all Buddha images in the country. Atumashi Kyaung, translated as “Incomparable Monastery”, was one of the last religious construction projects of King Mindon. The monastery is an example of traditional Myanmar monastic construction: a masonry base with a wooden building on top. Another popular pagoda is Kuthodaw Pagoda, popularly known as "the World's Biggest Book". Kuthodaw Pagoda houses 729 upright stone slabs, detailing the inscriptions of all 84,000 chapters of Buddhist teachings, edited and approved by the Fifth Buddhist council.
Shwenandaw Monastery is the only golden teakwood built monastery that survived the war, so visitors can experience the old authentic architectures, consisting of the original and detailed wood carvings which date back over 100 years.
While the rest of Myanmar is quite natural, not many cities can compare with Mandalay in terms of scenic beauty. Another interesting highlight is the simple way of life of its people. Taungthaman Lake offers both stunning views and a glimpse into the tranquil lifestyle of Mandalay locals. Crossing the lake is U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world, running three-quarters of a mile on more than 1,000 teak poles, each scavenged from the former Royal Palace by then-mayor U Bein. The exceptional views from around the bridge include a promenade with stunningly romantic scenes of the sunset over the river.
Arts and crafts
Mandalay is full of craft businesses which are still operated very traditionally. Watch stone carvers get to work along Sagaing-Mandalay Road, or witness great skills as craftsmen chip and polish slabs of marble into the most delicate Buddha statues. You can also participate in a stone carving workshop to try your hand at the traditional art. There are also tapestry workshops, where you can learn embroidery and appliqué work.
Unlike Yangon and Naypyitaw, Mandalay does not have many western restaurants. Mandalay is especially well-known for Myanmar, Shan and Chinese food. It is a good place to get to know Myanmar cuisine because there are many good restaurants serving authentic Myanmar food. Try open-air BBQ where the locals hang out, or soak up the gorgeous view of the famous U Bein Bridge at one of the outdoor lakeside restaurants.
After your meal, maybe enjoy a glass or two of the Myanmar-produced Grand Royal Whisky. For a non-alcoholic option, Myanmar tea is a great match with spicy food . Muslim Chinese noodles, flat thin noodles with chicken, are also famous in Mandalay and the surrounding hills.
Wherever you go in Mandalay, there is no shortage of eateries. However, there are few upscale dining places in the city – most are rice-and-curry type. Whatever choice you make, be sure to leave space for Htoe mont, glutinous rice cake with raisins, cashews and coconut shavings, exclusively available in Mandalay.
Continuing your journey
After you have journeyed through Mandalay, don’t forget to witness some of Bagan’s archaeological sites, as they are just steps away.
|Route||One Way||Round Trip|
|Chiang Mai - Mandalay||2,590 THB||3,590 THB|
|Route||One Way||Round Trip|
|Bangkok - Mandalay||3,690 THB||3,590 THB|
|Route||One way||Round Trip|
|Mandalay - Bangkok||74 USD||92 USD|
|Currency : USD|
|Route||One way||Round Trip|
|Mandalay - Chiang Mai||99 USD||100 USD|
CurrencyThai Baht (THB)
Electricity/Socket Adaptor220V 50Hz
Time zoneUTC +7
Tel code+66 2
JUN - NOVRainy season - wet and humid
30°C - 35°C
Prepare for rainy days
DEC - FEBCool season - breezy evenings and comfortable weather
26°C - 30°C
Great time for sightseeing
MAR - MAYHot season - sunny and blazing hot
30°C - 40°C
Bring plenty of water when out and about