Mandalay was once the last imperial capital of Burma. It’s now the second largest city and recognized as the main religious center of the north of the country. It is said that half of the Myanmar monks live in and around Mandalay. Being one of 4 “classic” tourist destinations of Myanmar (besides Yangon, Bagan, and Inle Lake), a Mandalay tour is a great opportunity for you to explore the Burmese cultural and spiritual life. We recommend 8 places you should not miss when you tour Mandalay.
1. Golden Palace Monastery
Most travelers choose Golden Palace Monastery as the first stop on their Mandalay city tour. The structure was originally a royal apartment built by King Mindon. After his death in 1878, his son, King Thibaw, moved it to the current location as he believed that his father’s ghost still lived there. Five years later, it became a monastery and has kept that role until now. The Golden Palace Monastery is famous for its unique and magnificent beauty, formed by teak carvings depicting tales from Buddhist mythology from roof to walls. In addition, it has a historically special meaning for being the only remaining wooden building of the ancient Royal palace complex.
2. U Bein Bridge – Amarapura
U Bein Bridge, stretching over scenic Taungthaman Lake in the township of Amarapura, is one of Burma’s most iconic sights as well as a highlight for your Myanmar travel. It is credited for the creation of the bridge in the 1850s, using scavenged teak pilings from the discarded palace of Amarapura when King Mindon moved the capital to Mandalay. U Bein Bridge is 1.2 km, considered as the longest teak bridge in the world. As an ideal destination to admire stunning sunrise and sunset and take photos, the bridge should not be missed on your Mandalay tour, especially if you are a photographer.
3. Mahamuni Pagoda
Mahamuni is the holiest pagoda in Mandalay and the second important one in Myanmar (just after Shwedagon, Yangon). Every day, a large number of pilgrims visit the pagoda to honor the giant golden Buddha, which is said to be over 2000 years and was brought to Mandalay by a Burmese king after sacking the Rakhine capital of Mrauk U. The statue was so large that it had to be divided into small parts and then reassembled. In addition, you will be able to find here inscription stones from all over the country, the sophisticated mosaic ceiling and gilded columns of the main pagoda, and a number of bronzes originally from Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
If you plan to visit your Pagoda on your Mandalay tour, note that the dress code is very strict at Mahamuni. Shoes are left at the main entrance, shoulders are covered and ankle-length trousers must be worn. Sarongs/longyis are for hire at the main entrance for both men and women. In addition, only men are able to witness the growing Buddha body up close; women are not allowed to cross the threshold. You also have to pay 500 kyats for camera fee.
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4. Kuthodaw Pagoda
If you are interested in Buddhism, especially Buddhist philosophy, visiting Kuthodaw Pagoda on your Mandalay tour will be certainly a wonderful thing. Situated at the foot of Mandalay, religious complex takes itself pride in possessing the “world’s largest book”. Indeed, the complete text of the Tripitaka (the most sacred text of Theravada Buddhism) is inscribed on 729 marble slabs, each of which is located in a small stupa and arranged in lines around the ground. The pagoda was started to construct in 1860 at the order of King Mindon Min.
5. Mandalay Hill
After 45 minutes walking through covered stairs from the foot, you will reach the summit of Mandalay Hill, which is 120 meters above sea level. Here you can visit Sutaungpyi Pagoda, one of Burma’s major Buddhist pilgrim destinations and admire panoramic views of the city. If are not interested in a walk (especially when the weather is bad) or you do not have enough time, taking moto taxis (5,000 kyats) or taxis (10,000 kyats) will be a better choice.
6. Gem Market (Mahar Aung Myay)
If you are an enthusiast for jewelry and sparkle things, you cannot miss a visit to the largest jade market in the world on your Mandalay tour. Here you will find jades in various shapes and size, whose colors are commonly in semi-translucent greens, ranging from pale turquoise to emerald green and sometimes in pink, orange and several other colors. Foreigners need to pay an entrance fee of one dollar to watch the trading, observe the process of creating jewelry and other items from jade blocks, and then you can purchase them to support the local economy during your Burma tours.
The beauty of Mandalay is characterized by the harmonious cultural mixture and Buddhism spirituality. Visiting these places when you tour Mandalay will help you better understand the city as well as its hospitable citizens.