A brief introduction of Mandalay (Yadanabon), Myanmar’s second capital and a city of regal identity, famous pagodas, religious edifices, and the enchanting city of ancient Bagan where visitors will find not only Myanmar art and culture and handicrafts but also the scenic beauty of Upper Myanmar and Shan State.
How to Get Mandalay
It takes about one hour and thirty minutes by air from Yangon. There are daily flights during the tourist season from October to May. The new International Airport project of Mandalay is under construction. Express trains are running which take about 14 hours. Yangon-Mandalay highway is over 700 km and overland travellers are advised to break journey at Taungoo (280 km) or at Meiktila (540 km) where there are hotels for overnight stay. The government and private express buses are also running everyday. Visitors are advised to check with Tourist Information Services for flight / train / express bus schedules.
Mandalay (Yadanabon), the last capital of the Myanmar Kingdom, is in Central Myanmar, 688 km due north of Yangon. It is the Largest city after Yangon and is the place where one will come closest to real Myanmar. The Royal City came into being only in 1859 when “King Mindon” established it as new centre for the teaching of Buddhism. The King also made Mandalay as his capital, moving it from nearby Amarapura to the newly-built Royal Palace at the foot of the Mandalay Hill. Being rich in monasteries and pagodas, it is still accepted as the arts and cultural heart-land of Myanmar. For lovers of arts and crafts, Mandalay represents the largest repository of Myanmar arts and crafts. Skilled crafts-men make world famous genuine tapestry called “Shwe Chi Htoe” (Golden Weaving), beautiful articles of ivory, wood, marble and stone, silverware and bronze statues according to the time-honoured traditions of their fore-fathers.
The hill has for long been a holy mount and legend has it that the Buddha on His visit had prophesied that a great city would be founded at its foot. Mandalay Hill, 230 metres in elevation, commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. At present, it has already finished the construction of motor-car road to reach hill-top easily. Entrance Fee – US$ 4
The whole magnificent palace complex was destroyed by the fire during the World War II. However, the finely built palace walls, the city gates with their crowning wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still present an impressive scene of the Mandalay Palace “Mya-nan-san-kyaw Shwenandaw”, the model of the Mandalay Palace, Nanmyint-saung, Cultural Museum and Pyi-gyi-mon Floating Restaurant in the moot are located inside the Palace grounds.
Famous for its intricate wood-carvings, this monastery is a fragile reminder of the old Mandalay Palace. Actually, it was built inside Mandalay Palace but it was moved to this place by King Thibaw in 1880.
Maha Muni Pagoda
The Image is said to have been cast in the life-time of the Gautama Buddha and that the Buddha embraced It 7 times thereby bringing It to life. Consequently, devout Buddhists hold It to be alive and refer to It as the Maha Muni Sacred Living Image. Revered as the holiest pagoda in Mandalay, It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1784. The Image in sitting posture is 12 feet and 7 inches (3.8 Metres) high. This pagoda enshrines the famous Maha Muni Buddha Image brought from Rakhine State also called the Rakhine Buddha Image. The early morning ritual of washing the Face of Buddha Image draws a large crowd of devotees everyday. And the Image is also considered as the greatest, next to Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. A visit to Mandalay is incomplete without a visit to Maha Muni Pagoda.
Kuthodaw Pagoda (The World Biggest Book)
Built by King Mindon in 1857, this pagoda modeled on the Shwe Zigon at NyaungU, is surrounded by 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures as edited and approved by the 5th Buddhist Synod. It is popularly known as “the Worlds Biggest Book” for its stone scriptures. Entrance Fee – US$ 2
Near the southern approach to Mandalay Hill stands the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda Image that was built by King Mindon in 1853-78. The Image was carved out of a huge single block of marble stone. The statues of 80 Arahats (the Great Disciples of the Buddha) are around the Image, 20 on each side. The carving of the Image was complete in 1865.
Buddha’s Replica Tooth Relic Pagoda (Mandalay)
One of the Buddha’s Sacred Replica Tooth Relic was enshrined in the Buddha’s Replica Tooth Relic Pagoda (Mandalay) on Maha Dhammayanthi Hill in Amarapura Township. The pagoda was being built with cash donations contributed by the peoples of Myanmar and Buddhist donors of entire world under the supervision of the Myanmar government. The Myanmar government authorities and donors hoisted Buddha’s Replica Tooth Relic Pagoda Mandalay’s Shwe Htidaw (sacred golden umbrella), Hngetmyatnadaw (sacred bird perch vane) and Seinphudaw (sacred diamond bud) on 13th, December, 1996.
The ” Atumashi Kyaung ” (which literally means the inimitable monastery) is also one of the worth seeing place. Actually, it was ruined by fire in 1890 and partly survived. It was indeed an inimitable one in its heyday. The reconstruction project started by the government on 2nd May, 1995 and completed in June, 1996.
Places of other interest in Mandalay Area
Moreover such places as the Eindawya Pagoda, the Setkya Thiha Pagoda, the old Watch Tower, King Mindon’s Tomb, etc. should also be visited.
Sagaing lies 21 km South-West of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwady River. It is also an ancient capital of ‘Sagaing Dynasty’. Sagaing Hills are known as a religious retreat where over 400 monasteries for monks and nuns are located for Buddhistic studies and meditation. About 10 km from Sagaing is the Kaung-hmu-daw , an enormous dome-shaped pagoda, built by King Thalun in 1636 on the model of the Maha-Ceti Pagoda of Sri Lanka.There is also Ywataung village known for its silver-smiths. Kaung-hmu-daw & other Pagodas Entrance Fee – US$ 5
Situated about 11 km south of Mandalay, Amarapura is an ancient capital of the Konbaung Dynasty. Patodawgyi Pagoda, and silk weaving industries are places of interest to visit.
Patodawgyi Pagoda is situated South-West of Mandalay on the west bank of Ayeyawady River. The Pagoda was built by King Bagyidaw in 1820. The lower terraces have marble slabs illustrating scenes from the Jataka. A marvellous fine view over the surrounding country-side and Ayeyawady river bank can be seen from the upper terrace. The history of the pagoda’s construction is described on inscription stone.
U Pein Bridge
The old intriguing 1208 Metres long ” U Pein Bridge ” was totally constructed with teak planks by Mayor U Pein over 2 centuries ago near Amarapura, South of the Mandalay. This bridge is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. It can use to cross safely and stands as a new style except minor reconstruction.
The historical capital was founded by King Thado Minbya in 1364. There is Maha Aungmye Bonzan monastery which is a fine example of Myanmar masonry, and arts and architecture.
Me Nu Brick Monastery
The beautiful brick monastery which was erected in 1818 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, chief queen of King Bagyidaw (1819-1837) in Innwa, had an epitome of religious beliefs that were a part of Myanmar culture even today. This graceful and beautiful stucco-decorated building was also known as ” Oak Kyaung “, because of the masonry construction. The visitors can study the great deal of Myanma traditional engineering technique and architecture.
Situated about 11 km up-river from Mandalay on the western bank of the Ayeyawady river, Mingun is noted for its huge unfinished pagoda and 90-ton bell, the largest ringing bell in the world. A 45-minute boat trip to Mingun is very pleasant with plenty of life on the river to see. Entrance Fee – US$ 3
About 136 km to the West of Mandalay is Monywa, the commercial centre of Chindwin Valley. Places of interest are Than-bok-dae pagoda a domed with over 500,000 Buddha Images; Bodhi-tahtaung (one thousand Bo trees); Ledi Kyaungtaik, a teaching monastery where Buddhist Scriptures are inscribed on 806 stone slabs; and Kyaukka village known for its own distinctive kind of lacquer-ware.
PyinOoLwin (May Myo)
Over 1,100 metres in elevation, it is located 69 km to the east of Mandalay. It enjoys cool and pleasant weather the whole year round. Places to visit include the Botanical Garden (142-hectare), the Chinese Temple, Pwe-kauk Water-falls, Peik-chin-myaung cave and Gok-hteik rail bridge (a viaduct). PyinOoLwin is most favourite and ideal place for visitors during the summer. It is one of the most pleasant scenic spots not only in Myanmar but also in South-East Asia perhaps.