Bucket List: Top 15 Best Places to visit in Mandalay, Myanmar
The second largest city and Myanmar’s last royal capital, Mandalay, is also the economic hub of Upper Burma. It’s located north of Yangon and on the eastern part of the Irrawaddy River, with a population of 1,225,553 as of 2014.
Though Mandalay isn’t relatively known for pubs, some restaurants have foreign and local beer on their menu, but the main attractions of Mandalay are the temples and pagodas, which are plenty and offer a unique insight into their beliefs and practices.
These 15 Activities let you experience Mandalay and get to know its roots and way of living.
Myanmar supplies about 70% of the world’s jade, and when you’re in Mandalay, you can visit the Jade Market, where large blocks of the mineral can be found. Traders sit there all day to examine, sell or trade it. Tourists can buy one-of-a-kind pieces or matching items at the market.
Some 729 marble slabs with Buddhist teachings inscriptions can be seen in Kuthodaw Pagoda. These marble slabs are called “the world’s largest book,” and they are housed in mini shrines. The construction of the first book was finished in 1872 and was done by 2,400 monks. A central pagoda’s central shrine is the Maha Lawkka Marazein Pagoda, which stands at 100 feet. The entrance to the premises is free.
The location of this monastery is just a few minutes’ drive from the royal palace. It was one of King Mindon’s last religious projects and was first made of wood and featured stucco as the outer part. The whole building burned down in 1980 but was rebuilt in 1996 through prison labor. Today’s structure also has 5 tiers of rectangular terraces, intricate carvings, and white background.
Train Ride from Mandalay
While you’ll most likely just want to enjoy Mandalay, a train ride from there to other parts of Myanmar can offer scenic views and wonderful memories. Mandalay to Hsipaw will have you passing Pyin Oo Lwin and Goetik Viaduct, built in 1900.
Mandalay to Myitkyina offers a more interesting and bumpy ride through untouched jungles, which leads to Indawgyi Lake. Train rides going back to Mandalay are available.
Most of Mandalay is flat except for Mandalay Hill, which offers the most captivating view of the city and all of Mandalay. The trek up the hill is easy, but visitors who don’t want to take the staircase can take a taxi or elevator to go up. Admission is free, but there’s a charge for people with cameras. It’s located outside the downtown area.
Sandamani or Sandamuni Pagoda
King Mingdon had this pagoda built in memory of his younger brother, who was assassinated in 1866 during the rebellion. Three princes were also killed with their brothers and were honored through this pagoda. Visitors can find this Buddhist stupa in the southwestern part of Mandalay Hill. It’s also where the largest iron Buddha at 18.5 metric tons, is located along with other white pagodas.
Shwenandaw Kyaung (Teak Temple)
The monastery of Shwenandaw was built by King Thibaw Min in 1878 in memory of his father, King Mindon Min. This monastery is also sometimes called “Golden Palace Monastery.” The monastery was used by the king as a meditation spot. Beautiful carvings of teak wood that depict Buddhist myths can be seen throughout the pagoda. It evokes traditional Burmese architecture and is the only remaining original structure of the original Royal Palace.
Also called Mahamuni Buddha Temple, this pagoda is a major pilgrimage site depicting the image of the Mahamuni Pagoda meaning ‘The Great Sage’. The Buddha came from Arakan and is highly respected in the whole of Burma as the locals consider it the representation of the Buddha’s life. They say that there are only five of their kind; two in India, one in Myanmar, and two in paradise.
Jin Taw Yan Buddhist Temple
Myanmar’s largest Chinese temple can be found in Mandalay and opened in February 2014. Jin Taw Yan Temple is located near the Ayeyarwady River, where Chinese-style temples have been built for 500 years. The temple is open to everyone who wants to see the ornate Chinese architecture style used in the whole temple. One of the features of the temple is a carpeted staircase to the entrance with Chinese inscriptions.
Mandalay’s Local Workshops
The population of craftspeople in Mandalay is impressive. It’s easy to see small and bigger workshops on any city corner. It will be a thrilling experience for visitors to see where the souvenirs they’re buying come from. Tourists can visit workshops that include sewing, traditional wooden puppets, gold leaf making, and pottery. Visitors can also buy something from the workshops they went to.
Mandalay Marionette Theater
Mandalay boasts of conserving the lost art of marionette puppetry. This art is part of their culture, and visitors can go to the Mandalay Marionette Theater to watch large stringed wooden puppets as they perform traditional dances and folk scenes that tell the story of Mandalay. The marionette puppets come in smaller versions which tourists can buy as souvenirs. These smaller versions can be seen in workshops scattered in Mandalay.
Mont Lin Ma Yar (Couple’s Snack)
These bite-sized pieces that every tourist will enjoy as snacks or accompaniment to other Burmese dishes are made of rice flour batter with quail eggs, scallions, or roasted chickpeas filling. It’s also called ‘Couple’s Snack’ because they’re first cooked separately and joined together to form one ball. These are cooked in cast iron round molds and sprinkled with sesame and salt. This street food favorite can be found in many markets in the city. The 31st Street Market has sellers of these treats.
Gold Leaf Rice
According to some people, gold is edible, and proof of that is the popularity of menu offerings that has the mineral in the starring role. In Mandalay, a restaurant called Unique Myanmar serves gold leaf rice. This is just plain rice that’s topped with gold and mixed with feta cheese and spices. They say that it goes well with curry dishes.
Zay Cho Market
Many other names are given to this market, like Zegyo, Zaygyo, and Zeigyo. Its Bamar name (Zay Cho) means “cheap rice,” and visitors can find many bargain items in this market. The merchandise being sold in Zay Cho range from traditional Mandalay silk longyi (acheik), velvet slippers (kadipar), silverware, lacquerware, and jewelry. Hungry crowds can also go there for a bite.
This monastery is another structure in Mandalay that uses teak wood. It was built in 1895 by a Sino-Burmese merchant who married a royal Burmese woman. Its style followed a strict traditional Burmese monastic architecture and featured pyatthat crowns on its pavilions. There are many woodcarvings inside the monastery and other works of art.
Getting to know a place’s culture means immersing oneself in local life to experience all there is in that place. Visiting Mandalay’s temples, workshops, and other attractions, tasting their food, and purchasing from local shops is a great way to take a piece of Mandalay home with you.
Mandalay Travel and Tour Packages
Mandalay Walking Tour
Explore the best of Mandalay on a 4-hour private walking tour and see some of the region’s most interesting attractions.
Mandalay Heritage Tour
Immerse yourself in Myanmar’s unique and diverse culture on this one-day sightseeing tour of the fascinating city, which takes you to the city’s must-visit spots! Get picked up at your hotel in the morning, then visit the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, a major pilgrimage site that houses the most highly-revered Buddha image in the country.
Find Hotels in Mandalay, Myanmar, according to your budget via Agoda.
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