Mandalay is the last royal capital of Myanmar where the last king of Konbaung Dynasty, King Thibaw, reigned before the great empire became a part of British Empire. The air of Mandalay still evokes the senses of the bygone era with extraordinary architectures and the traditions that reflect the unique character of this culturally rich city.
Built by King Mindon after the relocation of the empire’s capital city from Amarapura to Mandalay, Mandalay Palace was the home of King Thibaw, the last king of Myanmar, before he was exiled to India by the British and never returned.
The palace claimed to be originally built entirely by the precious teak wood which combined with unique architecture to create one of the most beautiful palaces in Asia. However, the current palace we are seeing today is the restoration of the original palace as the majestic site was vastly damaged during World War II.
Although the restoration did not completely bring its former glory back, Mandalay Palace still vividly reflects the glorious days of Konbaung Dynasty.
Mandalay Hill is the best spot in the city to capture the panoramic views of the entire city, especially during sunset. Mandalay Hill stands 236 meters above the ancient city, overlooking famous landmarks such as Irrawaddy River, Mandalay Palace, and Kuthodaw Temple.
In addition to being the best spot to observe Mandalay, the hill is easily the most popular destination as it is located in the city center and it’s also home to abundance of pagodas and temples, including the hall where relics of Buddha found in India are kept near the foot of the hill. More rewarding experience awaits those who climb to the top as you will see the Shweyattaw or the image of standing Buddha, Sutaungpyei Pagoda, and of course, the stunning views of Mandalay!
The journey to the top of Mandalay Hill starts at the entrance where two chinthes timelessly guarded the 7,292 steps to the top. There are rest stops along the way, but if you are not up for the challenge, a bus and an elevator ride will also get you to the top. The downside of catching a ride is it does not stop at any scenic rest stops, but don’t worry, just catch a one-way ride to the top and climb down the stairs on your way back to get the most Mandalay Hill has to offer. Note that the entrance fee is 1,000 Kyat per person.
U Bein Bridge
If you have to name an iconic landmark of Mandalay seen in magazines and postcards, U Bein Bridge will be right up at the top of the list. Named after the mayor who built the bridge, it is believed that the woods used to construct the bridge were reclaimed woods from an old royal palace in Inwa. Using 1,208 teak pole, U Being Bridge stands against the test of time for almost 200 years, and with almost 2 kilometers in length, the bridge allows tourist plenty of distance to appreciate the wonderful surroundings and closely observe the everyday life of locals living on both side of Taungthaman Lake. It is also an extraordinary spot to catch Mandalay’s alluring sunset scene.
Tips: U Being Bridge is approximately 20 minutes from the city center. The transportation price varies depending on your bargaining skill, but it should not exceed 25,000 Kyat for a return trip.
Kuthodaw Pagoda is another important destination for Buddhists around the country and the world. The temple houses the Tripitaka written, for the first time in 2,000 years, on 729 marble plates.
Totaling 729 pages of Buddhist teachings, the marble plates are placed around the majestic Maha Lokamarazein Kuthodaw Pagoda which replicates the historic Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan. Kuthodaw Pagoda was built during the reign of King Mingdon and the story says that Maha Thane Kanchong was once the abbot here, and 3 of his students went on to become kings – one of the being King Naresuan!
Zay cho Market
Where else would you experience the local way of life if not the local market! Since Zay Cho Market is the oldest and the largest local market in Mandalay, it is the best spot to observe the lifestyle and experience local foods. Fresh produces and myriad of foods are the main highlight here, and they aren’t just fresh, they are cheap as well! Take your time exploring through exotic vegetables and fruits, and learn the local way of life!
Tips: You should arrive at the market as early as 6 AM to get the full color of the lively market.