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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrConsidered as the second-largest city of Burma (also known as Myanmar), Mandalay is considered an important hub of business, education, health and cultural center. With multiple pagodas in the city, overcrowded streets and the ever-flowing Irrawaddy River , Mandalay is a unique place to visit in Burma.
History and DemographicsLocated on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River and at the foothills of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay's history originated in 1857. The new city once served as the royal capital of the Burmese rulers until in 1885, when the British annexed the capital and ordered the last Burmese King, Thibaw Min , into exile to a place called Ratnagiri near Goa in India.
After the annexation, Mandalay served as one of the most important landmarks for the British rule. During this time, Mandalay served as the cultural and military center of the country, albeit attention was directed more towards Yangon, as it was slowly gaining recognition as the political and commercial capital of the country. Despite such drift, Mandalay has always retained its firm position as the epitome of Buddhism and culture in Burma.
During the World War I and II, Mandalay had suffered a major setback as the attack over the city proved devastating, leaving many important buildings and residence grounded. However, after the independence from the clutch of the much despotic British rule, Mandalay slowly started regaining its position as a cultural and commercial city of Burma.
With the course of time, Mandalay also gained importance in the education sector as new universities were established in the city, which marks Mandalay as an important educational center in the Upper Burma region.
From 1962 until 1988, Mandalay faced the isolationist rule imposed by General Ne Win. During that time, in 1981 a major fire gutted the city, followed by another horrific fire in 2009 which destroyed many homes and important establishments. However, the destruction proved somewhat advantageous to Mandalay as the city got a new overhaul.
Thousands of Chinese immigrants landed in the city and they purchased the vacant lands to erect a new structure and made Mandalay their permanent residence. The influx of Chinese in the country led to around 40% of the city dwellers who are from the Chinese soils.
Spoken LanguageBurmese is the main language of the local people besides Mandarin Chinese. English is spoken only by the elite group in the city.
Places to SeeOnce the royal capital city of Burma and a major seat of Buddhist religion, Mandalay has a lot of religious places to offer. Following are some of the recommended places that you should visit while in Mandalay:
Mandalay HillOne of the most important landmarks of the city, Mandalay Hill is the abode of many pagodas and monasteries. Moreover, the panoramic view of Mandalay from atop the hill looks stunning. At the top of the hill lies the main pagoda and you can reach it by climbing the staircase. Alternatively, there is also a one-way road that leads to the top and you can hire local conveyance to reach the location.
Maha Myat Muni PayaThis religious landmark is considered as the second most important location for Buddhist pilgrims. The statue of Buddha in the monastery is 1.2 meter tall and is purely made of gold and adorned with many precious jewels.
Shwenandaw MonasteryOnce a part of the royal kingdom of King Mindon, the beautiful monastery of Shwenandaw is made of teak wood is designed with intricate wooden art. The monastery is located at the foot of the Mandalay Hill.
Kuthodaw PayaBuilt during the 1800s by King Mindon, the famous landmark of Kuthodaw Paya was home to the largest book in the world. Of the 729 stupas present here, Kuthodaw Paya has the entire text of the Buddhist religious book, Tripitaka .
Royal Palace of Mandalay
Once served as the royal palace of King Mindon, the enclosed area has now lost its glory. The palace, after its destruction during World War II, was renovated but still retains the old design and structure. However, the new design was made using metal instead of woods, which was originally used to construct the palace.
Barring the aforesaid locations of interest, some other religious shrines to visit in the city are Shwe Kyi Myin Paya, Myanan San Kyaw Golden Palace, Maha Atulawaiyan Monastery and Sandamuni Paya.
Places around MandalayBesides traveling in the city, you can opt to visit some of the surrounding locations of Mandalay. The recommended places to visit around the city are:
SagaingThe area around Sagaing has some beautiful, golden monasteries all around. A trip to the top of the Sagaing Hill will give a wonderful view of the surrounding locations and its temples.
Deed Doat WaterfallLocated around 60 kilometers from Mandalay City, the wonderful waterfall of Deed Doat is surely a treat to the visitors in Mandalay. However, the region remains crowded most of the time, but it is worth a visit to Deed Doat Waterfall.
MingunThe small town of Mingun, located in the outskirts of Mandalay City, is famous for the Mingun Paya – an incomplete stupa . In this area also lies a massive bell which was supposed to be part of the stupa. The bell is now regarded as the largest bell in the world. Adjacent to the area is the famous Myatheindan Pagoda.
Waterfall HillLocated in the eastern part of the city, Waterfall Hill is mainly frequented by mountain trekkers and is indeed a calm place to seek recluse from the usual hustle and bustle of the city.
Festivals in in MandalayWith Buddhism as the main religion of Mandalay, the festivals in the city are mainly organized to celebrate various facets of Buddhism.
The main festivals celebrated in Mandalay are Hta-Mané Festival, Mahamuni Pagoda Festival; Shinbyu Ceremony, Thingyan Festival; Dhama Sakya Day, Aung Byone Nat Festival; Thadingyut Lights Festival, Tazaungdine Festival of Lights; Kahtein Thingan Weaving Festival, and War-going Ceremony.
Mandalay also celebrates Chinese New Year because of the large number of Chinese settlers in the region along with Christmas and Roman New Year.
ShoppingMandalay is famous for jewelries as many shops in Myanmar city sell precious to semi-precious stones like ruby, sapphire and jade. Gold and silver jewelries are also available in many local shops. Besides, you will also find various Buddha sculptures made of wood. However, do not expect to find shopping malls in Mandalay as the city only has one shopping mall called Skywalk Mall, located in the Yadanarbon area.
How to Reach MandalayLocated around 45 kilometers from the main city, the Mandalay International Airport is well connected to Eastern China and Thailand. So in order to reach Mandalay, for a visitor from the West, the best option would be to reach Thailand first and then take a connecting flight to Mandalay.
Traveling in MandalayThe best way to travel in and around Mandalay City is via taxis, motorcycle taxis, or rickshaw. You can also hire a bike, but the overwhelming crowd in the street of Mandalay is a real problem to manage, especially for an inexperienced biker.
Where to StaySome of the recommended budget and mid-range hotels to stay in Mandalay are Royal Power Hotel, Hotel Mandalay; Zegyo Hotel, Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse; Sabai Phyu Hotel, Hotel Mahar, Garden Hotel; Peacock Lodge, and others.
For a luxurious stay, you can check out Mandalay Hill Resort and Sedona Hotel Mandalay.
What to EatWith a major influence from China within the region, the local restaurants mainly serve Chinese or Burmese foods. Very few restaurants also offer Italian, Korean and Thai cuisines in Myanmar city.
When to VisitMandalay can be visited any time of the year.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Sep 08, 2014