Mandalay was founded in 1857 as the capital by King Mindon and remained the capital city of the Konboung, Myanmar’s last dynasty until it fell to British troops in 1885 and moved to Yangon. Today, Mandalay is known as the center of Myanmar culture, the second-largest city and famous for its monasteries, pagodas, temples and the resource of Myanmar arts and architecture. The city is both a bustling commercial center and a repository of rich cultural heritage with the remains of the old Royal City and its many ancient monasteries. Explore the past and present of this legendary city for an overland experience.
Top Sights in Mandalay
Mandalay Royal Palace
Myanmar had a kingdom dynasty and the last dynasty was Alaungpaya Dynasty, also called Konbaung, the last ruling dynasty (1752–1885). The dynasty’s collapse in the face of the British imperial might marked the end of Myanmar sovereignty for more than 60 years. King Thibaw was the last king of the Myanmar Kingdom before it was captured by British Colony. Many places of the complex were destroyed during World War II. Only one major wooden building survived, the Shwenandaw Monastery which is built completely of teak and is decorated throughout with detailed and ornate carvings. The watchtower and the royal mint also survived. The rest of the Royal Palace has been rebuilt from scratch. Today this is a major attraction for the tourists once a time in Mandalay.
Mahamuni Pagoda is the revered Image for Buddhists. The 12 ft high seated Buddha is cast in bronze and said to date from the 1st century AD. Over the years, pilgrims have completely covered the figure in a thick layer of gold leaf.
Former Mandalay Palace, once a magnificent royal residence within the fort. During fierce fighting between British and Indian troops and the Japanese forces in 1945, the royal palace caught fire and burnt down completely. All that remains of the original palace today are the huge walls and moat. For the past few years, the government has undertaken a massive construction project to recreate the palace complex.
Shwe Kyaung (Golden Palace Monastery)
This large and elegant wooden monastery Shwe Kyaung is known as Golden Palace Monastery, possesses unique and magnificent beauty, formed by teak carvings depicting tales from Buddhist mythology in all of its roof and walls. It was commissioned in 1895 by a pair of wealthy Chinese jade merchants. Wood carved ornamentation along the balustrades is of exquisite quality.
Kuthodaw Pagoda was constructed in the mid-1850s around the time the Royal Palace was built. Modeled after the Shwezigon Pagoda near Bagan, the walled Kuthodaw temple complex is renowned for having the world’s largest book. The book is actually a series of 729 slabs of marble inscribed on both sides with a page of text, each one housed in a separate stupa. The cluster of gleaming white stupas, one right next to the other, is an incredible sight.
Myanmar’s primary landmark, Mandalay Hill, according to legend, Buddha once visited the site and prophesied that a great city would be founded at his foot. Today, Mandalay Hill is graced by an impressive array of stupas and is considered a holy mount. Enjoy the magniﬁcent view of the city and surrounding countryside from Mandalay Hill.
The Mandalay area is famous for intricate wood carving work. There are several wood carving workshops located all around which produces ornate items ranging from religious statues to decorative flowers. These workshops are located near the Mahamuni Pagoda and are worth a visit.
The marble carving workshop is located near Mahamuni Pagoda. Marbles are from the Sagin quarry about 35 miles (56km) north of Mandalay. Many religious items, mainly Buddha images and stone slabs for inscription, are produced. Other figures such as images of other religions, animal figures are also made by order.
Myanmar has many natural resources including the jade mines located in Kachin State northern part of the country. Mandalay is the main commercial center as well as a trade hub and the main buying and selling point at a fascinating place, commonly known simply as the jade market.
Mandalay’s jade market is probably the most interesting market to the traveler visiting the town. A live market packed with locally mined green, white and yellow jades are traded. Discover a wealth of jade in various stages of production from blocks of uncut stones to beautifully crafted jade jewelry. Explore the skilled craftsmen being cut, shaped and polish the stones on wet saws, the sellers haggling and local ways of the method for trade between buyers, sellers and brokers.
Visit Mandalay’s Jade Market, it will be an interesting experience and a great opportunity to learn about gemstones and how these precious pieces of jewelry are made.
Amarapura is an old capital of the Konbaung dynasty and the site of the first British embassy of Myanmar in 1795. It is also famous for silk weaving industries and U Bein Bridge.
U Bein Bridge
U Bein Bridge, built-in 1782 by Major U Bein using salvaged teak columns from the time deconstruction of Ava Palace. At 1.2 kilometers in length, it is believed to be the longest teak bridge in the world. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams.
Sagaing Hill to take in the spectacular views over the river and the rolling hills which are studded with pagodas and stupas. On top of the hill is the ancient Swan Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda and visit the remarkable Thirty Caves Pagoda and the Kaungmhudaw Pagoda.
Mingun lies on the west bank of the Ayeyarwady River, about 10 km from Mandalay. It is a popular excursion and worth spending at least half a day by exploring its impressive sights.
On this day in 1808, the casting of the Great Mingun Bell, now the second largest functioning bell in the world, began along the Ayeyarwady River in central Myanmar. Bodawpaya had a gigantic bronze bell cast to go with his huge stupa. Weighing 90 tonnes, Mingun Bell is about 13ft high and over 16ft across the lip.
The bell hangs to the north of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi on a low circular terrace from a three-piece wooden beam covered with a metal plate. The beam rests on two brick pillars which are reinforced with two teak posts inside.
In an earthquake in 1838, approximately 18 pounds of metal broke off from the bottom of the bell and its supports were destroyed. According to the memorial tablet at the bell, it rested on the ground until 1896 when it was raised, slung on an iron beam and placed where it hangs today.