Mandalay is Myanmar’s second largest city and is perhaps best known from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem entitled “Mandalay”. It lies on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, in the middle of Myanmar in what is known as the dry zone. For many visitors, the big draw to Mandalay will be the three former royal capitals that lie on the outskirts of the city – Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa. But if you take the time to explore it, Mandalay is a city where there is much to be enjoyed.
Thahara takes you through 48 hours in Mandalay and shows you how to spend your time wisely.
1st Day – Morning
After breakfast at your hotel, it’s time to head out and explore this fascinating city. We’ll start the day with an exploration of the Royal Palace which sits right in the city’s centre. The palace was built in 1861 by King Mindon and has been heavily restored following World War Two. It's worth walking around and paying a visit to the museum ($10) to get a flavour of the history of Mandalay.
Once you’ve had your fill at the palace, make your way to Shwenandaw Kyaung, also known as the Teak monastery. These were originally royal apartments but have since been converted into a Buddhist monastery. It is an important site as it is the only original part of the royal palace that survived World War Two and it’s architecture is seriously impressive.
1st Day – Afternoon
Following lunch we’d recommend making your way to Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to the world’s largest book. Kuthodaw Pagoda is made up of 729 stupas, each of which bears an inscription that together makes up the complete Buddhist doctrine, the Tripitaka. So while it is not necessary a book as we would know one today, it is still an impressive accomplishment.
1st Day – Evening
Towards the end of your day it’s time to tackle the big one, Mandalay Hill. This hill dominates Mandalay and it’s possible to see it from pretty much any point in the city. It will take 30 minutes to climb the hill and involves a fair few stairs. From the top you’ll find panoramic views of the surrounding areas and it’s the perfect spot for a bit of sunset viewing.
From here, it’s time to head out for some dinner. There are several options now available in Mandalay, including the newly opened Ned Kelly restaurant. For the end of your day, we’d recommend you making your way to a performance by the Moustache Brothers. This comedy show is an institution in Mandalay, with the performers previously being imprisoned for their political jokes. You’ll find the show on 39th street and it will cost around $8.
Next up, it’s back to your hotel to rest up for tomorrow.
2nd Day – Morning
This morning it’s time to stretch those legs and explore the downtown area of Mandalay. Wonder around the streets and get to know Mandalay in a more intimate environment. The city is famed for it’s masonry and religious sites. These include the Eindawya Paya which dates back to 1847 and the Shwekyimyint Paya which was first established in 1167. There’s plenty more but we feel it’s worth exploring the downtown area for yourself and heading to wherever your feet take you.
2nd Day – Lunch
For lunch we’re going to recommend the Too Too Restaurant on 27th Street. It’s quite often fully booked so you’ll be lucky if you get a spot, but if you do, this fantastic establishment serves some very affordable food and provides a great atmosphere.
2nd Day – Afternoon
This afternoon head to the Mahamuni Paya which is probably Mandalay’s most important religious site. Buddhist’s come here to place gold leaf onto the paya (unfortunately men only are allowed to do this), but it’s also worth visiting to walk around the grounds and enjoy the calm atmosphere.
As the afternoon wears on it’s time to visit Mandalay’s famous U Bein Bridge which is situated in the village of Amarapura just outside of Mandalay. Amarapura was Myanmar’s capital from 1783 to 1821 and again from 1842 to 1859. It is here that you will find the world’s longest teak bridge which is a real site to behold. We’ve written an entire blog on U Bein Bridge so we’ll leave you to read that, but needles to say, it’s pretty special.
2nd Day – Evening
It’s the end of your time in Mandalay so it’s time to sit back and relax and look back on your 48 hours in Myanmar’s former capital. We’d recommend making your way to the top of Bagan King Hotel (oddly named but very much situated in Mandalay), where you will find the perfect rooftop bar to enjoy a drink or two while viewing the magnificent city below you.