Attractions in Mandalay
Established as the last royal capital of the Burmese Kingdom dated 1857, Mandalay located in the upper part of the country, on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River. Initially, its official name was Yadanabon (“City of Gem”), then changed after Mandalay Hill. The city is recognized as the proof of the splendor Burmese Golden Age – the hub of cultural, traditional, and spiritual centers.
Besides Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake, Mandalay always in the list of city to visit in Myanmar. Visitors often spend 2 or 3 nights in Mandalay. So let see our list of attractions in Mandalay which should be uncovered in your trip.
Table of Contents
Sagaing was the capital of the small Sagaing Kingdom in the 14th century. With numerous Buddhist monasteries, it is an important religious and monastic center in Myanmar. Hundreds of white and gold pagodas and over 500 monasteries are scattered on the hills of Sagaing.
Some main attractions on Sagaing Hills are the U Min Thonze Pagoda on Sagaing Hill (which is known for the 45 large Buddha images placed in a crescent row in the main hall) and the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda (on top of a small hill was built early 14th century). Also, there are several nearby places, such as: Tilawka Cave monastery, Umin Thonse Pagoda, Umin Koese Pagoda, Shin Phyu Shin Hla Pagoda, Yadanar Zaedi Sinmyar Shin Pagoda, and Kaungmudaw Pagoda…
In general, Sagaing will be the best place for you to explore the rich history and religious development of Mandalay.
Inwa, (which was called Ava), was the capital of Burma from 1365 to 1842. It is located on an artificial island on the Irrawaddy river; Inwa now is the small town south of Myanmar and it’s easily reached by a short boat trip.
Because of the devastating earthquake in 1839, almost all historic landmarks were destroyed and then abandoned. Inwa today is the remains of ancient old moat, Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery, Nan Myint watch tower, Bagaya Monastery and the surrounding stupas…
A trip dating back to the old time will bring you stay away from the hustle and bustle Mandalay.
Amarapura (which means “City of Immortality) is a former capital in the township of Mandalay. It was appointed as the capital of Myanmar twice during the Konbaung period (1783–1821 and 1842–1859). Since then, the city has become the Buddhist center of Myanmar with many important religious works; such as: Bagaya Monastery, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, Maha Gandhayon Monastery or Nagayon Temple… Among them, the Maha Gandhayon Monastery and U Bein Bridge are the most indispensable places.
Built in 1910, Maha Gandayon is a well-known monastic college complex; now is the largest teaching monastery in Myanmar. Every day at around 10 o’clock in the morning, about 700 monks queue up for their last meal on this day. Watching patiently with this slow moving Buddhist mealtime ritual, and you’ll learn a lot about the culture.
Your visit to Amarapura will not be completed without U Bein Bridge, which runs cross the Taungthaman Lake . The 1.3 km bridge was built in the years of 1850 and currently still be the oldest and the longest teakwood bridge in the World. The bridge was constructed from wood reclaimed from the former Royal Palace in Inwa and named after the mayor who built it.
The side is specially awarded by CNN as one of the 12 best sunset spots in the world.
The best time to visit Ubein bridge is early mooring or late afternoon. Ubein Bridge in the sunset is material in many postcards of Myanmar.
Mingun is one of the ancient villages located on the western bank of the river Ayeyarwaddy. approximately 7 miles north of Mandalay. You can reach the village of Mingun either by the ferry boat or car from Mandalay. Each has its own perks but the transfer by boat is more suggested; as you can see many wonderful sceneries along the river
Reaching Mingun, you will visit several impressive sites, for example:
Mingun Pahtodawgyi: it is also called “unfinished pagoda” because the construction was being halted without completing. However, the site is still recorded as the largest pile of bricks in the World.
Mingun Giant Bell – the world’s biggest ringing bell.
Hsinbyume Pagoda (Myatheintan Pagoda) – a unique architecture resembles the description of the mythological mountain Mount Meru. One of the most outstanding detail is that the whole monument is snow white in color.
Mandalay Hill is situated to the north-east corner of the Mandalay Royal. The Hill is surrounded by the nine satellite hills called the Shwe Taung (The Golden Hill), the Ngwe Taung (The Silver Hill), the Paddamya Taung (The Ruby Hill), the Hse-dan Taung (The Hill of Arsenious trisulphide), the Myin Thila Taung (The Hill of Arsenic trisulphide), the Dokhta Hill (The Hill of Blue vitriol), the Ye-hle Taung (The Hill of Whirling Water), the Kye-ni Hill (The Copper Hill) and the Baluma Taung (The Hill of the Ogress). At the height of 230 m above the sea level – the highest place of city, people usually go to Mandalay Hill for the sunrise or sunset view over the plains.
Mandalay Hill, which hosts a cluster of monasteries and convents, is a sacred site of the area.
According to the legend, in the old time once the Buddha with his disciple Ananda climbed Mandalay Hill and made a prophecy that a great city would be founded at the foot of this hill. Then a huge standing Buddha image in Mandalay Hill was built at the place where Buddha stood, with his hand pointing to the Royal Palace.
Constructed between 1857 and 1859, Mandalay Palace is the last palace of Burmese Royal, under the reign of King Mindon and King Thibaw.
On the large complex are dozens of buildings including audience halls, throne halls, a monastery, a watch tower, a court building, a tooth relic building and a library where the Buddhist scriptures were kept. Taking into account auspicious omen and astronomical calculations, the Mandalay Palace was built in the center of the grounds. It was completely made from teak wood, based on the traditional Burmese palace design, inside a walled fort surrounded by moat. Nowadays, Mandalay Palace is a symbolic history of Mandalay.
The site has experienced a tough long time since being constructing. It was the royal residence and seat of government until 1885, when the British took control of Mandalay, ended the royal dynasty. King Thibaw and his family were expelled and forced into exile to India. The Mandalay Palace was converted into a British’s garrison; many of the royal treasures were looted and sent to London (some are still on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum).
Throughout World War II, the Japanese forces captured the Mandalay Palace, used it as a supply depot. In retaliation, an Allied bombing raid destroyed almost all parts of the compound. Only 2 buildings survived are the Royal mint, the watch tower. Meanwhile, the Royal Palace was ruined into ashes. During the 1990’s, the center area was rebuilt according to the original design and traditional construction techniques.
Nowadays part of the citadel complex is used by the Burmese army. The Palace and the surrounding gardens are open to the public. Visiting this Myanmar heritage, tourists will have the opportunity to discover the Royal culture in the most satisfying way.
Being a part of the Mandalay Royal Palace and was completely gilded with gold, adorned with glass mosaic work, the site is also called “Golden Palace Monastery”.
The Shwenandaw Monastery is a famous historic Buddhist monastery of Mandalay. It’s considered as a finest example of traditional 19th century wooden monastery. Both its exterior and interior are decorated with intricate wood carvings.
It was originally part of the Royal Palace in Amarapura. When the capital city was moved to Mandalay, the structure was transported along with. King Mindon used the building as his personal retreat. After his dead in 1878, King Thibaw, decided to dismantle and rebuild the construction as a monastery to remember the merit of the father.
The Monastery is a great place to get an impression of what the Royal Palace looked like. Because of a fire in World War 2nd, the Palace complex was burnt to the ground. Luckily, sitting in another position, the Shwenandaw Monastery is the only major original teak building left.
Its architectural style is traditional Burmese. Numerous solid teak tree trunks hold the structure up off the ground. All of the monastery’s interior is also constructed from teak, from the massive floor planks to the walls and the ornate decoration. The outside now looks blackish, but it was originally covered in gold leaf. You can still see the gold leaf lining the walls and ceiling inside. And there’s no electrical wiring or air conditioning here–it’s all natural light and fresh air ventilation.
It’s not about a gorgeous and splendid place; Golden Palace Monastery is great a stop to admire the ancient Myanmar architecture and historical value.
Mahamuni Buddha Temple (Maha Myat Muni Pagoda)
Located in the southwest of Mandalay city, Mahamuni Pagoda is believed one of most revered images for the Buddhists in Myanmar and nearby countries.
According to legend, Dhanyawadi city of ancient kingdom Arakan was once visited by the Buddha and 500 disciples, King Sanda Thuriya asked for permission to sculpt a statue of Buddha to worship at Mahamuni Temple on the Sirigutta Hill. There are only five likeness of the Buddha made in his lifetime – two were in India, two were in paradise, and the last is the Maha Myat Muni image. The Buddha breathed upon statue and stated that it would last for five thousand years. In 1784, Arakan was invaded by King Bodawpaya, he transferred the Buddha statue along with the spoils and prisoners of war. The current Mahamuni Pagoda was built at the foot of Mandalay Hill to preserve the most sacred Buddha statue in the region, to assert his devotion to Buddhism.
The Maha Myat Muni image has 4 sides with long corridors. It was casted at the height of 3.8 m high by 6.5 tons’ bronze. The crown is decorated with rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. To express the piety and strength of the kingdom power, King Sanda Thurija applied gold into the statue. This custom has been executed over generations until now; and the thickness of gold leaf layer is now estimated up to 15cm.
Besides praying and worshiping, the visitors can experience the famous image’s face washing ritual every day by 04.30AM. The senior monk would wash the face with sandalwood paste and cleanse its teeth with perfumed water. This ritual requires an extremely detailed procedure and takes time to wash face and brush teeth. Men stand front of Buddha, women stand behind and all of washing steps have to be done by a very senior monk and numerous assistants.
Along with the main Buddha image, the temple also houses six bronze Khmer statues which was the spoils of wars. The local says that it is able to cure several diseases by touching similar the body part.
The Mahamuni Pagoda festival is held February annually to celebrate the temple’s formation and development. Visiting the Pagoda on this occasion is great chance to witness Burma’s cultural, spiritual activities and to capture the most vivid photos ever.
Known as “the world’s largest book”, Kuthodaw Pagoda was built by King Mindon Min. The King started constructed the monuments shortly after the founding of Mandalay in 1857 to leave a great work of merit for future generations.
At the center of the complex is a gilded pagoda modeled after the Shwezigon Pagoda at Nyaung-U near Bagan. The reason behind the name is because Kuthodaw is surrounded by an aggregate of 730 shrines. Each of them is a tremendous marble slab which was carved with Burmese scrips on both sides with a page of text from the Tipitaka, the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Every slab is housed in its own shrine, called ‘kyauksa gu’, with a precious gem on top, and they are arranged around a central golden pagoda. When the British invaded, they stripped away every piece of gold from the tablets along with the gems and other valuables. Today the writings are marked in black ink made from shellac, soot from paraffin lamps and straw ash. A few gems still exist.
Being rich in history and religion, Kuthodow pagoda was one of the Memory of the World Register that already got approved to the list of UNESCO.