16 things to do and see in Mandalay Our last stop in Myanmar was Mandalay, the country's royal capital and second largest city. Arriving in this great city after spending the last few days in Bagan was a big change. Like all cities in Asia, it is chaotic and charming at the same time. Many travellers recommended that we skip this city as it supposedly doesn't have much to offer, the truth is that we liked it a lot! While the city doesn't have much to offer, what is beautiful to see is all around it. It is a perfect city to dedicate 2 days to your itinerary.
How to get to Mandalay?
Plane: Being a big city, Myanmar has both international and domestic airports. As we have been telling you, flights in Myanmar are not very cheap.
Bus: For us, this is the best value for money option for getting around Myanmar. We recommend buying tickets online through JJ Express.
Bagan: It takes 4 hours and costs about $6 USD.
Yangon: It takes 9-10 hours and the price is between $12 and $19 USD.
Inle Lake (Nyaungshwe): Takes 6-7 hours and costs $6-$12 USD.
How to get around Mandalay?
We found that the best way to get around is by Tuk Tuk or Taxi, as in all of Southeast Asia prices are negotiated before the trip so our recommendation is that you download Grab to your mobile phone (Uber in Asia) to order a taxi from there or find out what a reasonable price would be for such a journey so that you can negotiate.
What to do in and around Mandalay?
1 . Mingun Paya
A must-see in Mandalay is the Mingun area, as two incredible pagodas that you can't miss are located here.
Mingun Paya is one of them, a block of bricks that leaves you open-mouthed.
This pagoda was intended to be the largest in the world but its construction was never completed. King Bodawpaya intended it to be 150 metres high and 210 metres wide, but after his death the work was abandoned, and today it can be seen just as it was left. Although the work is incomplete, it holds the record for the largest pile of bricks in the world. The pagoda has suffered several earthquakes and you can see the breaks in it.
There are two ways to get to Mingun:
Ferry: for us this is the easiest way. The boat leaves every day at 9am and returns at 12:30 noon from the Mingun Jetty on the Irawady River. You can buy a round-trip ticket there and back for $5,000 kyats ($3.5 USD) each way. The trip takes about 40 minutes. The 2.5 hours at the resort are enough time to see everything there is to see.
Tuk Tuk or Motorbike: It takes about 1.5 hours from the centre of Mandalay.
Once you arrive at Mingun you are charged an entrance fee of $5,000 kyats ($3.5 USD) to see the archaeological circuit.
2. Hsinbyume Pagoda
It is located in Mingun in the same complex as Mingun Paya, a 10-minute walk away, and the entrance fee is included in the same ticket.
It is a huge circular pagoda, completely white and with different levels to walk around. We loved it! Ideal to get lost and take thousands of pictures.
The pagoda was built in memory of Princess Hsinbyume who died giving birth to her son in 1816.
In the Mingun complex itself is the Mingun bell, the second largest bell in the world in operation. It is 3.7 metres high and weighs 90 tons.
Once we had toured Mingun we returned to Mandalay just in time for lunch and to continue our tour of the city.
3. Mandalay Royal Palace
It is located in the middle of the citadel. It was built in 1859 and was the last palace to be built by the Burmese kings. The truth is that there is not much to see but since it is included in the entrance fee you can spend some time and walk around it.
During the Second World War the palace suffered some bombing but was rebuilt in 1990 according to the original design.
The entrance fee is $10,000 kyats and forms a combined ticket to the Mandalay archaeological site which includes:
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery (Inwa)
Bagaya Monastery (Inwa)
4. Shwenandaw Monastery
It is a very old Buddhist monastery completely made of teak wood with a lot of details, really incredible. It is one of the best preserved buildings in the imperial capital.
It's small so you don't need much time to visit it. Admission is included in the combined ticket.
5. Atumashi Kyaung
Behind the Shwenandaw monastery is this one. The Atumashi was a huge grandiose structure surrounded by five graduated rectangular terraces. It was considered one of the most magnificent buildings in Southeast Asia. The building and all its contents burned down in 1890.
The area was cleared in the 1990s and was reconstructed according to the original plans in 1996 by the Burmese archaeology department with the use of convict labour. While impressive, it does not come close to recreating the magnificence of the original building.
6. Kuthodaw Pagoda
This incredible pagoda is known as the world's largest book, and is a must-see on your visit to Mandalay.
The 729 white stupas surrounding Kuthodaw Pagoda form the Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures). Inside each stupa is a marble slab inscribed with the teachings of the Buddha. The entire stupa formation takes up so much space that the Tripitaka is considered to be a giant book, making it the largest book ever written in the world.
7. Sandamuni Pagoda
It is located right next to Kuthodaw Pagoda. Inside you can enjoy the largest iron Buddha image in the country, weighing approximately 20 tons and covered with a layer of gold.
Sandamuni is world famous for its endless white stupas (1174 shrines to be exact).
Admission is free.
8. Mandalay Hill
This 240-metre-high hill provides an incredible view of Mandalay, especially at sunset. Getting up there is easier than you would think as they have built a lift and escalator. You can also do it the hard way and climb the 45 minutes up the stairs completely barefoot. To get in you have to pay an entrance fee of $1,000 kyats ($0.70 USD).
Upstairs there is a monastery full of crystals, very colourful and beautiful. There are also a lot of monks eager to practice their English with tourists and tell you a bit about their life.
9. Zay Cho Market
Myanmar's main market is one of the oldest in the country and not at all touristy. It's open from 6am to 5pm, so it's a good place to start your morning. You can find everything from fruits and spices to handicrafts.
10. U Bein Bridge
Ideal for watching the sunset or, if you like to get up early, the sunrise. It is a 25-minute drive from the centre of Mandalay. It was built in 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the world. It is 1200 metres long.
We went to see the sunset and the truth is that it was full of tourists, locals and monks who come to say goodbye to the day. We weren't alone to enjoy the spectacle, but we didn't mind too much as it is a beautiful sight.
11. Dee Doke Waterfall
If you have time to spare in Mandalay you can't miss this hidden gem an hour from the city. We really wanted to go but didn't have enough time. Dee Doke Waterfall is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes drive southeast of Mandalay city.
If you go by motorbike you will have to pay about 3,000 Kyat for parking. The entrance fee to visit the waterfalls is free.
It's an easy 20 minute walk from the car park to the main falls. In a moment you will come to an intersection, one path going left and the other path going right. The path to the left is a 2 minute walk to the main swimming area. The other path leads to the blue lagoons which are breathtaking.
The water is a little cool until the sun reaches the mountains at around 10 a.m.
There is a small café built into the mountainside selling cold drinks and snacks.
12. Jade Pagoda
If you like jade, there is a pagoda in Mandalay made entirely of jade. It is located near the airport about 30 minutes from Mandalay.
If you have time to spare you can go to Sagaing. It's another spot on the outskirts of the city, west of the Irrawaddy River. You can negotiate a driver to take you there or hire a motorbike and it's a 30-minute drive from the centre of Mandalay.
Here you can see different pagodas.
Umin Thounzeh Paya: It is a very colourful complex with 45 gilded Buddha images inside, all of different sizes and with different expressions.
Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda: It has a large Buddha image inside. It is one of the most important pagodas in the region.
Sitagu International Buddhist Academy: Admission is free. It is a pagoda with a very particular architecture.
The ancient imperial cities. After touring Sagaing you can head to Inwa. You can cross by boat from Sagaing for $1,400 kyats ($1 USD), and the trip takes 5 minutes.
What to see in Inwa?
Yadana Hsemee Pagoda: You can see the ruins of the pagoda surrounded by nature.
Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery
The tower or the clock
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