Mandalay

MANDALAY

Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city, is located 668 km north of Yangon. Established as the royal capital 1857 by King Mindon it remained the site of the nation’s court only until 1885 when the colonizing British exiled the last royal ruler of Myanmar, King Thibaw, to India. Now a city of some 600,000 people, Mandalay remains the centre of Myanmar culture and traditional arts and crafts. Here, Theravada Buddhism shines brightest, with the approximately &&& monks dwelling here, studying Buddhist scriptures, hosting meditation centres and teaching international visitors. Numerous revered pagodas and significant monasteries are found in the city which is also an important trade centre, easily accessible by rail, road, river and air. Goods from China, Shan, Chin and Kachin states converge at the central Zeygo market.

Overlooking the city is the famous Mandalay Hill, a climb of 236 metres, but unless you wish to perform a pilgrimage on foot, which many do by climbing more than 700 steps, you can reach the top and enjoy the spectacular view in air conditioned comfort. You will see the distant dark hills of Shan State, the countless islands of the wide Ayyarwaddyriver, the site of the Royal Palace, moat and wall, as well as the layout of the city itself.

Just near the foot of the hill Kyauktawgyi Buddha Image – commissioned from a single block of marble mined nearby in the 19th century , this huge image required thousands of strong men and 13 days to transport it from the river to its present site. A more revered pagoda is found closer to the airport in the southern part of the city – the Mahamuni Pagoda which houses a tall Buddha image encrusted with a two inch thick layer of gold.

A visit to the Royal Palace will convey a strong sense of the lifestyle of the last kings of Myanmar. Unfortunately the original palace was destroyed by bombing in World War II and the current life size complex of highly decorated buildings is a replica. The entire old city was contained within the thick walls and moat that surround the palace site. It is still possible to locate the burial site of King Mindon (17???)

Monasteries are the lifeblood of the city and three at least are worth a visit. Golden Palace Monastery, Atumashi Monastery and Shwenandaw Monastery.

Mandalay is the centre of Myanmar’s traditional arts of teak carving, intricate brass ornamentation, the making of gold leaf, marble sculpting, silk production and luxurious fabric weaving, as well as silver smithing, puppet making and tapestry. Its many artisan workshops are a fascinating attraction. Be prepared to fall in love with exquisite and unique artefacts.

Two nights in Mandalay will allow time to enjoy the all major sights.

Cruises from Mandalay to Bagan on the Ayeyarwaddy River offer a leisurely but engaging journey through picturesque scenery, past water villages and the sight of many golden stupas glinting in the sun on the nearby hills.

 
WHERE TO GO—SIGHTSEEING IN MANDALAY & ITS ENVIRONS

Mandalay Hill

mandalay-hillMandalay Hill, 230 meters in elevation, gives a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. The legend has it that the Buddha, on his visit, had made a prophecy that a great city would be founded at the foot of this hill.




Mandalay Palace

mandalay-palaceThe whole palace complex was destroyed by fire during the War. The palace walls, the four gates and the moat still stand today as evidence of the majestic Palace City. A number of palace buildings have been reconstructed within the premises.




Shwenandaw Monastery

shwenandaw-monasteryThis beautifully built monastery was originally inside the palace compound. King Thibaw had it moved to its present site east of the palace in 1879 after his father’s death.





Mahamuni Pagoda

mahamuni-pagodaKing Bodawpaya built this Pagoda in 1784 to house the Mahamuni Buddha Image brought from Rakhine State. Being the most revered Pagoda in Mandalay, the early morning ritual of washing the face of the Buddha’s image, draws a daily crowd of devotees.




Kuthodaw Pagoda

kuthodaw-pagodaKing Mindon built this Pagoda in 1868 surrounding it with 729 marble slabs inscribed with the Tipitaka text (the Three Baskets of the Buddhist Pali canon). It is often called the “World’s Biggest Book”.




Atu-ma-shi Monastery

atu-ma-shi-monasteryNot too far from the Kuthodaw Pagoda is the Atu-ma-shi Monastery (the incomparable Monastery), built in 1878 by King Mindon, and partially destroyed by fire in 1890. It was however, rebuilt in 1996.




Kyauktawgyi Pagoda

kyauktawgyi-pagodaKyauktawgyi Pagoda (the Pagoda of the Great Marble Image), was also built by King Mindon, stands at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Built in 1865, the Pagoda is so called because it houses a large image of the Buddha sculpted from a single block of beautiful Sagyin marble. Other attractions are Sandamuni Pagoda, Eindawaya Pagoda, Shewinbin Monastery, Mandalay Museum and Library, Zegyo Market and Silk Weaving Cottage Industry.


IN-WA (Ava)

inwaIn-wa, situated 20 km (1 hr drive) southwest of Mandalay, was founded as the nucleus of the Myanmar empire in 1364 after the fall of Bagan to the Mongol army of Kublai Khan. It remained the seat of Myanmar kings for almost four centuries. Its original walled boundary was not geometric but shaped like a seated lion, similar to those that guard the entrances of many pagodas. Only a small part of this wall remains, the gated section where the ceremonial hair washing of the king took place. Stood as the The original name of In-Wa, Yadanarpura, meant City of Precious Gems.

Today In-wa is a small town and it would be easy to overlook its power and prominence in past centuries. Other local sights include the Nanmyint Watch Tower, the MahaAungmyeBonzan monastery and In-wa Bridge, spanning the Ayeyarwaddy River. Sightseeing is done by horse-cart due to the road condition, but this is a fascinating way to cover In-wa.

MANDALAY’S ENVIRONS
SAGAING

sagaingOnce a 4th century capital city, capital, Sagaing lies 21 km south- west of Mandalay, beside the Ayeyarwaddy River. The Sagaing Hills are dotted with pagodas and there are over 500 monasteries, a retreat for some 6000 monks and nuns. In one sense, the city is still a nexus, although of reverence and devoutness, not political power. Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda situated on the top of the Sagaing Hill, KaungHmudaw Pagoda (an impressive copy of the Mahaceti Pagoda in Sri Lanka), and many other local pagodas are of interest.

Silver-smiths still fashion intricate and unique jewellery in Sagiang and their workshops are worth visiting to purchase eye-catching necklaces and bracelets are inexpensive prices.

MINGUN

mingun02An hour boat excursion up river from Mandalay takes you to Mingun where you can see the vast picturesque ruin of King Bodawpaya's unfinished pagoda. Had he finished it to scale, following the much smaller initial model standing on the riverbank nearby, it would have been the world’s largest stupa but an astrological prediction in 1797, that the king would die upon its completion, put a stop to construction.

An earthquake in 1839 opened cracks in the huge structure. Opposite the pagoda you can also see the remains of colossal huge brick lions facing the river.

Mingun is one of the most visited places in the vicinity of Mandalay, well known for its Mingun Bell cast in 1790 under orders from King Bodawpaya and weighing 90 tons. Still suspended, the bell can be rung, making it the largest ringing bell in the world, and visitors can crouch under its extremities and stand inside its giant dome.

The boat-ride excursion to Mingun provides you with an excellent chance to sunbathe enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Allow half a day for the visit.

AMARAPURA

amarapuraA short drive from Mandalay is Amarapura, an ancient capital founded by king Bodawpaya in 1783, is about 11 km south of Mandalay. It is noted for its silk and cotton weaving and bronze casting. U Bein Bridge, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, Mahagandayone Monastery, Cotton and Silk weaving industries are of special interest. Walking on the U Bein Bridge is a fascinating way to cover the bridge and Taungthanmanlake. Be sure to take the trip to Amarapura in time to watch the sunset at the bridge.

MONYWA

monywaMonywa, about 140 km, 4 hour drive from Mandalay, is the commercial center of the Chindwin Valley. Places of interest to visitors are Thanbudde Pagoda, Bodhitahtaung Pagoda, Shwetharlyaung, LegyaungSattkya Buddha Image (the World's largest standing Buddha image). Other places you should visit are Phoewintaung and Shwebataung Pagoda about 25 km west of Monywa( an hour drive ).


MEIKHTILA

2½ hour drive from Mandalay is Meikhtila, the second largest town in Mandalay Division after Mandalay and also one of the important trading centers in central Myanmar. Being a crossroad between Yangon-Mandalay-Bagan, it is an ideal destination as a stopping point for those from Mandalay and Bagan who want to continue their trips to the Shan State where some famous tourist destinations locate. Located 160km west of Mandalay, it can be accessible by road and train from Yangon and Mandalay. Places of interest are Lake Meikhtila, British colonial diplomat house and WW II monument.

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Travel Expert Company Limited specialises in adventure travel in the more remote regions of Myanmar.  It has guides who are experts on birds, wildlife, and environmental issues. However, they are also very well - informed on cultural and historical issues.

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