Mandalay and its surrounding area are known as a region filled with temples, monasteries, ancient buildings and castles, views from the Mandalay and Yankin Hills, local markets, and many more things to explore.
Sights to visit
Mandalay Hill- yes, the city got its name from the hills. And it provides a view of both Mandalay City and Irrawaddy River. The hill is considered sacred, since it was, according to the legend, climbed by the Buddha. On the top of the hill, a Sutaungpyei Pagoda is located. It is one of the most beautiful pagodas in Burma, especially at down, when it reflects Sun rays which gives it an even more beautiful look, and can be seen from miles away. At the very entrance of the Mandalay Hill, there are two giant white chintes (giant lion-like creatures) that guard it. There is a K1000 (around $1) fee for those who want to take pictures of the hill. It is well worth it.
Yankin Hill- located east of the city, the name of the hill means “away from danger”. Interesting thing about the Yankin Hill is that it hosts many figures of fish. These were placed here by Min Shin Saw, son of King Alaung Sithu. The figures have a religious purpose; whenever a drought would hit Mandalay, the local people would carry the figures into the city. This was believed to have stopped the droughts. Other interesting features of Yankin Hill include The Mya Kyauk tube well, near the Yankin Hill and the Atula Maha Mya Kyauk Pagoda, as well as many other nearby pagodas.
Eindawya Pagoda- Built in 1847, it is a classic example of a Myanmar shrine, with the 28 meter-tall stupa (a dome-shaped structure) standing proud in the middle, surrounded by buildings of varying designs and purposes, including a monastery – all facing the stupa. A Black Buddha, brought from India in 1839 and carved from quartz, can be found here.
Yaedagon Taung (Waterfall Hill) - a perfect place to have an active vacation at. All sorts of outdoor sports are represented here. Rock climbing, diving, running, are only a few them. Of course, visiting the waterfalls by which the hill got their name is a must, providing you visit it during the rain season, since they tend to dry out.
Zegyo Market (Zay Cho Market) - the oldest market in Mandalay, and also the biggest. There is a huge selection of locally produced goods, from fresh food to handicrafts.
Yadanabon Zoological Gardens- Yadanabon Zoological Garden is situated in the north of the Royal Palace, at the foot of the Mandalay Hill. Various kinds of animals such as elephants, tigers, lions, deer etc. can be seen here.
Day Trips and Excursions from Mandalay
Excursion to Amarapura- the ‘City of Immortality’ was founded by King Bodawpaya, the fifth King of the Konbaung dynasty in 1783. The town has become a weaving centre, well known for its production of silk. What remains of the old city are the pagodas and monasteries, spread along the shore of Thaungthaman Lake that were established at the time and the famous U Bein Bridge. The most famous sights at Amarapura are:
Maha Ganayon Monastery-This monastery, known for its strict religious discipline was established in 1914.
U Bein Bridge- U Bein Bridge is credited to U (Mr) Bein, who was believed to be a clerk or servant of the King. Built using 1060 logs felled for use at Inwa Palace, this is the longest teak bridge in the world. The bridge connects Amarapura with the village of Taungthaman and Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, 1,300 yards away across the city lake. Construction began in 1848 and finished three years later. This is not a museum piece; the bridge is still the main thoroughfare between the two locations even after 160 years, and used by monks and thousands of local pedestrians daily.
Kyauktawgyi Pagoda- 180 yards from the far side of the bridge, this pagoda dates to 1847and the reign of King Pagan Min. The interior contains some well preserved frescoes and ceiling murals.
Excursion to Inwa (Ava) - A man-made island some 22 kilometers south of Mandalay, Inwa (also known as Ava and Ratnapura) served as capital of Myanmar for longer than any other city. The sights that are visited on this excursion are:
Bagayar Monastery- The teak ‘Star Flower Monastery’ dates from 1834 and is supported by 267 teak logs, the largest 60 feet long and 9 feet in circumference. The monastery is still in use and the monks teach local children at the kyaung classroom.
Nanmyin Watchtower- Nicknamed the ‘leaning tower of Inwa’, this is all that remains of King Bagyidaw’s Inwa Palace. The tower is 90 feet high and leans at an angle, a result of earthquake damage.
Maha Aungmyay Bonzan- This monastery was built by King Bagyidaw’s chief Queen, Meh Nu between 1818 and 1822. Also known as Ok, or Me Nu Ok Kyaung ‘The Brick Monastery’, it was constructed for the Sayadaw U Bok, the Queen’s Abbott.
Excursion to Sagaing- Only 12 miles from Mandalay via the Ava Bridge, the outwardly sleepy-looking town of Sagaing is actually capital of Myanmar’s largest division. There are around 500 pagodas. The excursion includes visiting:
Sagaing Hill- this gorgeous hill is covered with shade trees which hide numerous pagodas, monasteries and nunneries. Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, dating to 1312 is a good viewpoint and is well known for its bronze frogs that serve as collection boxes. The hill is the meditation centre of Myanmar.
Kaunghmudaw Pagoda (Kaung Hmu Daw)- Located 6 miles to the west of Sagaing, this 150 feet high pagoda was built in 1636 during the reign of King Thalun to commemorate the establishment of Inwa as the new capital of Myanmar. This gigantic white dome was modeled on the Mahaceti, or ‘Great Stupa’ of Sri Lanka, though local legend says it was modeled on the Queen’s breast. The pagoda is said to house a tooth relic of the Buddha and miracle-working emerald bowl from Bago.
Excursion to Mingun- Mingun is a village with a lot of history which is located about 10 km from Mandalay City.
Mingun Pagoda- “The World’s Biggest Pile of Bricks” is actually just the ruined base of what was designed to be the world’s largest pagoda. Construction of this amazing shrine commenced in 1790, under the reign of King Bodawpaya. Set back from the river, the pagoda was meant to top 500 feet, but was never finished.
Mingun Bell - Eighteen years after commencing the construction of Mingun Pagoda, the King instructed a gigantic bell to be cast to go with it. The 90 ton bell is the largest uncracked bell in the world, 16 feet across and 13 feet high.
Settawya Pagoda- On the riverbank next to Pondaw Pagoda, this photogenic whitewashed shrine was built in 1811 by King Bodawpaya. The vaulted shrine contains a footprint of the Buddha.
Excursion to Monywa- A small city on the east bank of the Chindwin River, about 140km from Mandalay. The interesting town centre contains a clock tower, old market and the pleasant Shwezigon Pagoda.
Thanboddhay Pagoda- The foundation of this unique pagoda was laid in 1939 and the structure was finally finished long after the war ended, in 1958. The pagoda boasts an astonishing 582,357 Buddha images, large and small. High towers are set with rows of tiny images, painted in pastel colors.
Bodhi Tataung- This complex is a collection of more than 1,000 Buddhas, some huge. The main Aung Setkya Pagoda is a 430 feet, gilded stupa surrounded by 1060 smaller ones and leads on to the reclining Buddha, 312 feet long and sheltering shrines for meditation.
Hpo Win Daung and Shwe Ba Taung Caves- 40 kilometres west of Monywa, across the Chindwin River lays the main attraction in this region, the 492 cave temples of Hpo Win Daung, located in a limestone mountain shaped like a reclining Buddha. The narrow galleries up to 21 meters in length are filled with Buddha images and altars and some boast beautiful 16th Century wall paintings.