After our Yangon and Bagan escapade, we headed for an 8-hour bus trip to Mandalay City- the centre of Burmese culture and the last Royal capital of Myanmar. At the bus terminal, we luckily met Phyotet Aung, an economics university student who works as a tour guide to support his studies. He has been in this city all of his life and encompasses its culture and tradition (like, being a monk kid when he was 5)
We were advised that tourist spots in the city are a bit far from each other. We would need to hire his van and his expertise for “The Mandalay Experience”. We suggest you hire him when coming for a tour.
Here are the 8 Tourist Places we suggest you visit with a local tour guide (friend):
1.) King Mindon’s Mandalay Palace
This is the last royal palace of the last Burmese Monarchy. It was constructed between 1857 to 1859 under the rule of King Mindon. The small white houses above palace’ roofs were once guarded by the monarch’s army against intruders.
2.) Shwe Kyaung Monastery
It is also known as the Golden Palace Monastery, which was rebuilt by King Thibaw in memory of his father King Mindon. The place is entirely made of teakwood, a typical example of wooden architecture of ancient Myanmar. Carvings of Buddhist myths adorn its walls and roofs.
3.) Atumashi Monastery
This monastery once housed a 30 feet-tall Buddha adorned by 19.2 carat diamond given to King Bodawphaya by Maha Nawrahta, governor of Arakan. Unfortunately, after a fire in 1890, its treasures, including the diamond, disappeared as well.
In 1996, the government rebuilt the monastery using Myanmar prisoners.
4.) Kuthodaw Pagoda
It is well known as the world’s largest book. Every stupa (white structure below) serves as a page from the Tripitaka, a religious text from Theravada Buddhism. If you will have to read every inscriptions on all of 729 stupas, a day is definitely not enough.
In 2013, it was registered as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
5.) Mandalay Hill
The Mandalay hill would give you a panoramic view of the Mandalay plains and historic buildings and temples. It is also a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists for almost 2 centuries now.
6.) Jade Market
Myanmar is the top exporter of Jade in the world. It would be a lot practical to buy high-quality jades here at a lower cost. Some stores also provide certificates for the authenticity of these gems. We bought a lot for lucky charms and gifts to our Chinese friends.
7.) U Bein Bridge
This 1.2 kilometres bridge built in 1850 is considered as one of the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world. We crossed the bridge (30minutes walking) to go to the other side of Taungthaman lake where we will end our tiring day by sunset watching.
8.) Sunset in Taungthaman Lake
We made it a commitment to always check the sunset/sunrise in every place that we visit. Our tour guide (now a friend) Phyotet Aung suggested that the best sunrise or sunset would be in Taungthaman lake. You can order beers or coconut juices and be amazed with the sun and its reflection to the lake. Or be curious why despite of all nourishment, water and sun, a dead tree is standing there.
Additional Helpful information:
1.) For Jades: contact Sein Chal Oo Store – firstname.lastname@example.org
2.) For Tours- Contact (+95) 9971712352 or search ‘Phyotet Aung’ in Facebook
3.) For Hotels- visit http://www.owaygrandhotels.com
4.) For Bus bookings- search Acacia Bagan Travel & Tours in Facebook