Mandalay is splendid cultural city imbed heart of the center of Myanmar as a second capital. Also has been a Royal Capital Palace ruled by King Mindon before under colonized by the British Emperor in 1886. Mandalay did not maintained far as “Golden City” of Buddhist teachings, but it remains an important cultural center with numerous splendid pagodas. Today, the city has not lost its position among the Myanmar people as a religious center, it is said that two-thirds of monks in the country homing in the Mandalay area. The main attractions strewn around Mandalay were Mandalay Hill, Kuthodaw Pagoda, Shwe Nandaw Kyaung, The Royal Palace, Maha Muni Pagoda, Craftsmen’s Quarter and Boat to Bagan.
Mandalay Hill is rising 240 meters above the city and has been an important pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists since King Mindon sited his palace around its foot in the mid- 19th century. The main reason to make the climb is for the spellbinding views from the hilltop, which extend for many kilometers in every direction. You will encounter the first large temple about halfway up, which contains three Buddha’s bones originally unearthed in Peshawar, Pakistan. Reached after 45 minutes, the panorama view from hilltop is phenomenal. To the west lies the Ayarwaddy river and beyond that, the Sagaing and Mingun hills, crowned with temples and pagodas. The Ayawaddy rice country extends into the distance to the north and can be seen purple Shan Plateau in the east. To the south, the city of Mandalay and the royal palace complex lied in the midst of this vast plain.
At the base of the southeast stairway of Mandalay Hill, surrounded by a high wall, is Kuthodaw Pagoda (Memory of the World, inscribed on the Register in 2013). The 30 meter high, its central structure is Maha Lawka Marazein stupa, built in 1857. The 729 whitewashed pagodas that surround it were erected in 1872 during the Fifth Buddhist Synod to individually house the marble tablets upon which, for the first time, the entire Tipitaka was recorded in Pali script. When first unveiled, it took 2400 monks six months to re cite the text, which is often dubbed “the world’s largest book“.
Shwe Nandaw Kyaung
Shwe Nandaw Kyaung is at one time part of the royal palace, the only building from King Mindon’s “Golden City” to have come through bombing of World War II intact. To its present site, it was moved piece by piece, by King Thibaw after his father Mindon died inside it. Later, The King gave it to the monks as a monastery, although it was once gold plated and adorned with glass mosaic, both inside and out, all that’s left of the gold is layered on the imposing ceiling today. A replica of the royal throne and the couch of King Thibaw are displayed inside.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, the square was enclosed by 8 km of outer walls and a 64-meter wide moat, divided into 16 portions by straight roads. The upswept eaves and staggeringly elaborate carvings, the teak-built complex must have been an astonishing sight. The only part open to the public and the visitors is via East Gate, from where a board central avenue leads to the core of the palace. The most impressive of the royal palace are Throne Room and adjacent Glass Place. On the western side of the campus is Culture Museum which formerly served as the Queen’s Audience Hall.
Maha Muni Pagoda
On the road to Amarapura, 3km southern part of the city center is the most revered Buddhist shrine in Mandalay, a magnificent gold Buddha image “Maha Muni” or “Great Sage“. The image’s body is rising to 3.8 meter in height and covering of pounded gold leaves, have been pressed on to it as offerings that they now from a 15cm thick. The Buddha’s face remains gleaming, as it is lovingly polished twice each day at 4:30 am and 4 pm by the monks.
The streets around the Maha Muni pagoda are heart to Mandalay’s Craftsmen’s Quarter. The main focus of their work is making religious sculptures-Buddha images in all position, Buddha footprints and lotus-blossom pedestals and so on. In the southeastern section of Mandalay, Gold leaf is produced in a large number of workshops. This venerable craft is extremely old and even in the 21st century, the manufacturing process is carried out according to a time-honored tradition. When travelling in the neighborhoods in and around Mandalay, you should make a point of visiting other artisans, among the most interesting of which are the skilled silk and cotton weavers of Amarapura.
The main attractions around Mandalay, the modern city pale next to the wonders hidden in the surrounding are Amarapura, U Bein’s Bridge, Inwa, Sagaing, Mingun, Monywa and Pyin Oo Lwin.
Amarapura known as “City of Immortality“, founded by King Bodawpaya in 1782, 11km further north at the foot of Mandalay Hill. A town of 10,000 inhabitants today, the former capital has almost merged with the southern fringes of Mandalay’s metropolis to its north. Many families of Amarapura are engaged in the silk industry, every second house seems to hold a weaver’s workshop. Other traditional industry is bronze casting, cymbals, gongs and images of the Buddha are made here out of a special alloy of bronze and lead. Amarapura also possess one of the largest monasteries in Myanmar, up to 1,200 monks in the Mahagandhayon Monastery contributes to the religious atmosphere of the city. It is a spectacular sight to witness the hundreds of monks lining up for their one daily meal every morning at 11am.
U Bein’s Bridge
U Bein’s Bridge is spanned by the 1.2km long, to the south of Amarapura lied Lake Taungthaman, constructed from the teak planks of Inwa by U Bein (mayor of King Bodawpaya). Little altered in two centuries, it takes 15 minutes to cross on foot. The best time to view the bridge is early in the morning, when hundreds locals from farmers and market stallholders to groups of monks.
In British times, the city of Inwa known as “Ava”, founded in 1364 by King Thadominbya and later served as the capital of the Konbaung dynasty. There are numerous vestiges including a magnificent teak monastery, the most impressive building is the amazing Bagaya Kyaung. It is famous, above all, for its traditional woodcarving; doorways, window surrounds, partitions and pillars. A total of 267 massive pillars support the building, whose seven storeys denote its former royal status in high Burmese style. Inwa’s city wall shaped like a sitting lion, such as those found in front of large pagodas. The most complete part is north gate, known as Gaung Say Daga( gate of the hair washing ceremony). Near the north gate are the ruins of Nanmyin Watchtower, 27 meter-lookout was damaged so heavily by an earthquake in 1838. The best preserved of all buildings in Inwa is Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, also known as Ok Kyaung, the tall, stucco decorated brick structure dates from 1818.
The unique atmosphere, sacred ground, Sagaing ensures it features prominent on Myanmar’s tourist attraction as well as the Buddhist pilgrimage hub. At sunrise, its countless stupas, spires and temple towers glowing gold above the dark, muddy water of Ayerwaddy. Around 5,000 monks live amid Sagaing’s landscape, in 600 monasteries and a township of private homes scattered over a maze of valleys and ridgetops. The most famous landmark is Sun U Ponya Shin Pagoda, a favourite viewpoint for photographers and an important religious site center on a huge gilded stupa. The Htupayon Pagoda was built by King Barapati in 1444, was destroyed by earthquake in 1838, 30 meter high base is still standing and represents a rare style of temple architecture in Myanmar. The Aungmyelawka Pagoda is a cylindrical sandstone replica of the Shwezigon pagoda in Nyaung U(Bagan). It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1783 on the Ayerwaddy riverfront near Htupayon Pagoda. The nearby Ngadatgyi Pagoda features an enormous seated Buddha image, installed in q637 by King Pindale. Kaungmudaw Pagoda is the most famous of all Sagaing’s temples, 10km northwest of the city on the far side of the Sagaing Hills, was built by King Thalun in 1636. According to the legend, the Kaungmudaw’s hemispherical shape is a copy of the breasts of King Thalun’s favourite wife, gilded its huge egg-shaped dome, 46 meters high and 274 meters in circumference, rises above three rounded terraces.
The most popular excursion from Mandalay, the trip up the Ayerwaddy is Mingun. The pleasure of the boat ride to immense, unfinished pagoda looming above the river bank is built by King Bodawpaya. In addition to the superb panoramic view from the top of the monument, the site also holds a couple of other photogenic buildings, as well as largest bell and is set amid some bucolic countryside. Even though it was never completed, the ruins of the Mingun Pagoda are impressive. The upper sections of the pagoda collapsed into the hollow shrine rooms during the 1838 earthquake, but the base of the structure still towers nearly 30 meters over the Ayerwaddy.
Monywa sits on on the banks of the Chindwin River, 136km west of Mandalay. A bustling, hot, flat market hub, it’s visited primarily as a base from which to take in the trio of monuments hidden in its rocky hinterland, as well as by a trickle of adventurous travellers ferry-hopping their way south to Bagan. The nearest site to town is the magnificent Thanboddhay Pagoda, built in 1939 by the much venerated Burmese abbot, Moe Hnyin Sayadaw. There are 582,357 images enshrined in the complex. At the further east from Thanbodday is renowned with two immense large ones. The first is a vast, 116 meter standing Buddha – the Laykyun Setkyar – said to be the second biggest of its kind in the world. At the foot, the standing giant sprawls an equally huge reclining Buddha, measuring 95 meter from head to toe. This was the first statue to be completed on the site by its founding father, the Most Venerable Sayadaw Bhaddanta Narada. The west of Monywa, 23km far is the Pho Win Taung Caves, most were excavated between the 14th and 18th centuries, but with their peeling plaster murals and time-worn Buddha images they feel much older, like an apparition from the Central Asian silk route.
Pyin Oo Lwin (May Myo)
Pyin Oo Lwin pinpointed two hour drive on the road from Mandalay to Hsipaw in the foothills of the Shan Plateau, the town blessed with a temperate climate, served as the summer capital for the British administration until the end of the colonial era in 1948. Also retains a bumper crop of former British country houses, many of which have been converted for use as small hotels. The well know is the former Candacraig(Thiri Myaing), built in 1905 in the style of an English country home. A must visit in Pyin Oo Lwin is Botanical Garden where you can smell the flowers or take a picnic by a beautiful lake. There also is an 18 hole golf course and three waterfalls in the vicinity for swimming and picnics. At the east, 27km from Pyin Oo Lwin are the Peik Chin Myaung caves, depicting scenes of Buddha’s life in fairy-tale surroundings.