Been In Asia blog

Spending 36 hours in Mandalay

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Date: June 28th 2017
Traveller: Carla Rijnders
Located in the north of Myanmar, on the Ayeyarwady River, you’ll find the second largest city in the country – Mandalay. This city was built by King Mindon to replace Amarapura as his capital in 1857 and was the last royal capital of the Myanmar Kingdom before the British troops invaded it in 1885. If you take the time to explore this city, there is much to be enjoyed, including temples, monasteries and markets, as well as scrumptious street food and panoramic views. Today we share some of our suggestions for how you can discover the city’s highlights in 36 hours.

Day 1 – early morning:
Mandalay is the centre of Burmese culture, filled with artisans, a city where you can wander around for hours. But where to go and what to do? Just to get your bearings straight and visit the major highlights, explore this city and join in a great full day tour

During this tour, you’ll stop at a plethora of interesting sites, such as the Mahamuni Pagoda. This pilgrimage site is home to a spectacular ancient Buddha image, covered with layers and layers of gold leaves, which still holds a great importance in the lives of people in Mandalay.
Next up is a visit to the Jade Market – this is the real deal as the world’s best jade comes from Myanmar, and much comes from the Mandalay Jade Market. It truly is a fascinating place to go; it sells mostly to dealers tho, so it’s probably not a great idea to make a purchase unless you know what you’re looking for!
No time to waste, as the next stop is right around the corner. We’ll be heading out to the Shweinpin monastery. Built in traditional Burmese fashion, and one of the few buildings that have stood the test of time. Its architectural design is a masterpiece of Myanmar architects in the 19th century, and just for that alone, you should visit this beautiful place.
It’s almost lunchtime, but not before you have seen Kalaga tapestries being created and gold leaf being beaten into water thin pieces. And a delicious stop at a Burmese candy shop.

In the afternoon you’ll visit some more pagodas and monasteries. A trishaw ride will drop you off at Kuthodaw Pagoda, where you can marvel at the ‘world’s largest book’ – Buddhist scriptures inscribed on large marble slabs. Followed by a visit to Shwenandaw Monastery, previously the home of King Mindon with incredibly intricate carvings. By the end of the day, when the sun is setting over the city, we’ll stop at the Mandalay Hill. Besides enjoying a wonderful sunset you can also marvel at the interesting glass-studded temples.  And finally, you get to visit the Shwe Kyin Monastery to observe how student monks start their evening prayers.

Within this day you’ve seen so much already, so after you’ve freshened up, it’s time to enjoy the tasty cuisine here as well. Street food is very popular, and another place you can learn more about this amazing city and its people. So why not head out to the Golden Shan restaurant – a place where you can enjoy true Myanmar food!

Day 2:
Get up early, and with early we mean real early, as at 4 am you will be able to see the ritual at Maha Myat Muni Paya where the monks wash the face of the 4-meter high Buddha statue; the only part of the body that is not covered in gold leaves. If you’re a man you can even participate in the tradition of applying your own gold leaf to the statue. Unfortunately, women can only give their gold leaf to an assistant who then puts it on the Buddha for you.

If you’re a morning person, but not a 4 am kind of morning person, but you do want to experience a real Buddhist ritual, then maybe this Morning Alms Giving Tour is a bit better for you. At dawn, the monks leave their temple to collect food around town. By doing so they give the people the opportunity to make merit, first thing in the morning. These good deeds are believed to lead to a better life with more happiness and wealth, not only for this life but also for the next, as Buddhist believe in reincarnation. Outside houses locals will line up to give their alms, which is a colourful experience. As you can imagine this is not an activity in which you can participate, but it is a wonderful experience to see.

Once you’ve experienced these wonderful rituals its time to head out of the city and visit the former capital of Inwa (Ava). This small village once was the imperial capital and is located on an island between the Ayeyarwady and Myitnge Rivers. You’ll be able to get here by local ferry and visit the ancient city walls by horse cart where you can visit the brick and stucco monastery Maha Aungmye Bonzan. This is a monastery like no other, as in comparison to most Burmese monasteries this is not constructed of wood, but made of stone.
Continue your trip through spots of ruined pagodas to Sagaing, where you’ll find numerous monasteries scattered on the hills. From the bridge of this hill, you have a beautiful view over Sagaing.

Finish your day with a relaxing stroll or an easy bike ride along the longest teak bridge in the world – the U Bein Bridge. This 200-year-old teak bridge is 1.5km long, crossing Lake Taungthaman, and the perfect place to enjoy a photogenic sunset, mingle with monks, soak up the atmosphere and savour your final evening in Mandalay.

[All of these wonderful locations can be easily visited when you join our full day tour]

When back in town, why not stop at Duang Lann Gyi on 68th street – the perfect place to enjoy Myanmar food, specialising in curries, snacks and salads.

Day 3:
And that was it already – your time in Myanmar is up, and hopefully another amazing location is awaiting you. There are loads of interesting things to do around Mandalay city, so why not stay a bit and explore these sights.

We hope you’ll have a lovely time in Myanmar! We sure know we always do.

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