Established in 1857, Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar. It is found in the upper part of the country, located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River. Mandalay is where the Royal Palace of the Konbaung Dynasty is located, which was the last monarchy and independent kingdom of Burma. In 1886, present day Myanmar was conquered by British colonial forces. Ratanapunja was the ancient name of the city. It was given the name 'Mandalay' based on the 236-metre high Mandalay Hill, which is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.
During the reign of the Konbaung Dynasty, the city of Mandalay served as proof of the splendour of the Golden Age in Burma. When the Second World War occurred, the city and the Royal Palace were damaged in the fighting but were soon reconstructed. Today, Mandalay serves as the cultural centre of Myanmar and is home to several Buddhist monasteries and exquisite examples of Myanmar masonry. While the city is historically relevant, it remains fresh and contemporary with modern hotels and establishments.
Like other cities in Myanmar, Mandalay is home to many pagodas. It is to be expected, as Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in the country, with 80% of the population practising it. There are also monasteries to visit in Mandalay, some of which are impressive in their architectural style and construction. Most of the attractions in the city offer tourists a spiritual, if not enlightening, experience.
Mandalay is not only a city of temples and monasteries; it can also be considered as city of royalty. The other attractions in Mandalay are reminders of the time when Burmese kingdoms were still in existence. This is the city where the Royal Palace can be found, as well as other structures built by the kings. However, the best attraction in Mandalay is not made by man. Mandalay Hill is the most famous attraction of the city, a necessary stop for any tourist who arrives in this part of Myanmar.
Some 11km south of Mandalay. It became the capital of the Konbaung Dynasty in 1783 during the reign of King Bodawpaya. Places of interest are Pahtodawgyi Pagoda, U Bein Bridge across the Taungthaman Lake, Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, Nagayon Pagoda, Mahagandayone Monastery and cotton and silkweaving cottage industries.
Built in 1857, the Atumashi Kyaung was one of the last religious construction projects of King Mindon. The name means 'Incomparable Monastery'. The Atumashi is an example of traditional Burmese monastic construction: it features a masonry base with a wooden building on top. However, instead of a multi-roofed design, it has graduated rectangular terraces.
Cultural Museum Mandalay
Those interested in the royal history of Myanmar will enjoy the collections of Mandalay regalia, as well as royally commissioned art. The museum is also home to coins, palm leaf manuscripts and Bagan-period Buddha images Inwa (Ava)
Known as the Kingdom of Inwa during the Second Myanmar Empire, today it is a small town south of Amarapura. The sights to see in In-wa include Nanmyint Watch Tower, Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, Bagaya Monastery, the lacquerware factory and Inwa Bridge spanning the Ayeyarwad River
It is easy to spot the Kaungmudaw Pagoda because of its imposing structure. The most recognized of all Sagaing stupas, this large dome with a whitewashed edifice was modelled on the Great Stupa in Sri Lanka. The pagoda, which is 46 metres in height, was built to commemorate Inwa's establishment as the royal capital of Myanmar.
The Kuthodaw Pagoda is home to what is considered as the world's largest book. The pagoda is surrounded with 729 slabs, with each slab having its own stupa and all 15 books of the Tripitaka are inscribed on the slabs. The building of this pagoda was started by King Mindon in1857, the same time work began on the Royal Palace.
This pagoda, whose name means ‘Great Marble Buddha Image’ was built by King Mindon in 1853 using the Ananda Temple in Bagan as a model. This is why the pagoda sharply resembles the Ananda's exterior. The fame of this attraction can be attributed solely to the large seated Buddha figure made from a single block of pale green marble. It is said that 10,000 men spent 13 days transporting the image from the Irrawaddy River to its current site
Maha Myat Muni Pagoda
The Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, also known as the Mahamuni Pagoda, is the holiest pilgrimage site in Mandalay. This pagoda houses the Maha Myat Muni Pagoda Buddha image, the most ancient and most revered of all Buddha images. The pagoda was built by King Bodawpaya, who took the Buddha image during his invasion of Rakhaing.
Almost everyone who visits Mandalay goes to this hill. It is the landmark of Mandalay and also serves as a natural watchtower because it overlooks the city. Visitors often watch the sunrise or sunset over the city plains here because of the stunning views. According to legend, the Lord Buddha visited the hill and made a prophecy that a great city would be established at its foot.
The Myan Nan San Kyaw, or Royal Palace, was the first palace to be built in Mandalay. Constructed by King Mindon, who moved his capital from Amarapura to Mandalay, the location was chosen because of astronomical calculations and favourable omens. The entire palace complex was destroyed by fire during World War II, but it has been restored
A delightful river trip from Mandalay is required to get to this marvelous unfinished temple. Famous for the 90-ton Mingun Bell, supposedly the largest hung bell in the world, it was cast in 1790 on the orders of King Bodawpaya, who wished for it to be installed at the top of his planned giant 150 metre-high pagoda. Due to the king's death in 1819, however, the pagoda was never completed.
Pyin Oo Lwin
The former British hill station of Maymyo, 67 km east of Mandalay, stands about 1,000 meters above sea level. Though the town was damaged during World War II, several of the old English houses were spared. This is also the centre for Myanmar's small but burgeoning new coffee industry.
This Mandalay attraction is most notable for its resemblance to the Kuthodaw Pagoda, because the Sandamuni also has many slender whitewashed ancillary stupas in its grounds. The Sandamuni Pagoda is best known for the Iron Buddha Sandamuni cast by King Bodawpaya of the Konbaung Dynasty in 1802. The cast was brought from Amarapura to its present location in 1874 by King Mindon.
Once an ancient capital, Sagaing lies 21km south west of the Ayeyarwad River. The Sagaing Hills are dotted with pagodas and there are over 500 monasteries, a retreat for some 6000 monks and nuns. Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, Kaung Hmudaw Pagoda (a copy of the Mahaceti Pagoda in Sri Lanka), and Ywahtaung village (home of the silversmiths' guild) are places worth visiting.
Shwenandaw Kyaung (Golden Palace Monastery)
This is not only another example of a traditional Burmese monastery, but it is also a piece of the old Mandalay Palace. Part of the royal palace where King Mindon died, the teak structure was moved out of the palace under King Thibaw in 1880 and was converted into a monastery.
Myanmar’s rich biodiversity lends the opportunity for ecotourism, and Mandalay is one of the cities with an ecotourism site. The National Kandawgyi Garden or Maymyo Botanical Garden, formerly known as the National Botanical Garden, is a place that visitors should not miss as a venue for study and research regarding botany.
Visitors wanting to enjoy the night life in Mandalay may be disappointed with what the city offers. Unlike Yangon, Mandalay has very limited options when it comes to night time entertainment and drinking as the city does not have pubs and bars. However, just because there are no beer stations, it does not mean that the city is not alive at night. The night life in Mandalay is quite unique, especially when compared to other cities.
Instead, Mandalay has satire and puppets. The city has its own version of the 'West End' with the Moustache Brothers, who combine comedy, tradition and political commentary. Theatre arts are also represented at night thanks to the Mandalay Marionettes. The absence of pubs does not mean the absence of beer, which can still be enjoyed in the city with some restaurants serving both local and foreign beer.
Gem Club in Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel
In Mandalay, hotels can also be considered as nightspots and one of them is the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel, which is home to the Gem Club. The establishment is more for drinking that eating, as the place only serves light snacks.
Kipling's Lounge in Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel
Kipling's Lounge is another place in the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel that night owls would love. This one is better than the Gem Club in terms of entertainment, mainly because the Lounge offers patrons live music nightly. Like the Gem Club, this hotel bar only serves drinks and light snacks.
Mandalay Marionettes and Culture Show
At night, tourists can expect a different kind of entertainment in Mandalay, specifically a puppet show. The small theatre, which was opened in 1986, holds hour-long shows every day. The shows are mostly recreations of zat pwe (Buddhist Jataka tales) and stories from the Indian epic Ramayana. Traditionally, these cultural shows are used to educate and deliver the news.
Like the Shwe Taung Food Centre, this place is a dining spot and known for serving good Chinese cuisine. What makes this place included in the list of night life destinations is the beer, as it is common to see locals enjoying Tiger Beer. There is even a Miss Tiger to represent the brand.
Nylon Ice Cream Bar
Drinking beer is an important part of this city’s night life and in Mandalay one can find beer in an unusual spot: an ice cream bar. At the Nylon Ice Cream Bar one can enjoy a shake, lassi or a scoop of ice cream but when the sun goes down, patrons gather in this popular spot to drink Myanmar Beer.
Shwe Taung Food Centre
The Shwe Taung Food Centre is more of a restaurant than a nightspot. However, it gives night owls a nightly music performance that starts at 19:30. This is a rather formal, air-conditioned establishment, which will certainly be enjoyed by people who wants a respite from the heat and dust.
The Moustache Brothers
The Moustache Brothers is not the name of a nightlife destination; it’s the name of a troupe famous for their brand of comedy. The performances are held in the troupe's garage, on a mini wooden-crate stage, and the audience sits on plastic chairs about a metre away. The Brothers are well-known because they describe the social and political situation of the country through comedy and traditional dances. The troupe is only allowed to perform in English and for foreigners.
Shopping in Mandalay is an entirely different experience compared to shopping in Yangon. Mandalay does not have the malls and major shopping centres that the capital has to offer (with the exception of the Skywalk Mall in Yadanarbon), so shopping can be limited in this city. While the commercial stores may be lacking, the local shops are many and there are several markets to be found offering shoppers a wide array of products to choose from.
Myanmar is known for its gems, jewellery and handicrafts and all these can be purchased in Mandalay. There are countless stores and shops that sell precious stones like jade, ruby and sapphire; gold and silver jewellery are also offered in many establishments. As the country's crafts centre, Mandalay also features an abundance of souvenirs such as sculptures and Buddha images.
Myanmar is also known for its woodcraft and other handicrafts. Most tourists often bring home a Buddha sculpture with them as a reminder of their trip. In Mandalay, the Amara Waddy is one of the best souvenir shops selling sculptures.
Location: 493/25, 81st Street, between 35th Street & 36th Street.
Myanmar is a popular destination for tourists who are interested in precious stones and jewellery. In the city of Mandalay, one great place to shop for these items is the Gem Palace. The Gem Palace is considered as one of the best sources in the area. The establishment also sells timepieces, eyewear and sterling silver pieces.
Location: No. 376, Corner of 33rd Street and 83rd Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township.
Kai Tan Market
Like the Yadanarbon Market, the Kai Tan Market also has five floors. This shopping destination, which opened in 1997, has a total of 315 shops. The ground floor is home to vegetable and fruit produce while the second floor sells mainly fish products, such as pounded fish and dried fish.
Mahar Aung Myay Gems Dealers' Market
The name of this market says it all. Visitors who are fond of gems should stop by and check out the extensive selection of precious stones found in this place. Most of the shops here are wholesalers of gems, and tourists can get enjoy reasonable prices for different kinds of products.
Location: Between 39th Street & 40th Street, between 87th Street & 88th Street, Mahar Aung Myay Township.
The Man Thiri Market
Among all Mandalay markets, this one benefits most from its location. Because it is close to the Zegyo Market and in line with the Kai-tan Market, the 500-shop Man Thiri is frequently visited by shoppers from the other two markets.
Location: 86th Street, between 25th Street & 26th Street, Aung Myay Thar San Township.
The Mingalar Market
The Mingalar Market is the ideal shopping destination for those who travel by train because it is situated near the Mandalay Railway Station. It is a four-storey building, but the ground floor and first floor are the only ones with shops.
Location: 30th Street, between 72nd Street & 73rd Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township.
The Nan-She Market
The Nan-She Market is similar to the Kai Tan because it was also opened in 1997 and the main commodity sold here is also produce. However, this market does not sell anything else. The three-storey market is dedicated to selling fruits and vegetables from the rural areas to the east of Mandalay.
Location: 19th Street, between 63rd Street & 64th Street, Aung Myay Thar San Township.
The Thiri Mandalar Market
This is the place to go for those interested in shopping for regional products, because the Thiri Mandalar Market is the centre of trading for all goods that come from the rural areas along the Irrawaddy River. The structure of the market itself is interesting: it consists of nine three-storey buildings and an octagon-shaped six-storey building. This market has a total of 2,318 shops.
Location: Between 22nd and 23rd Roads, East Thiri Mandalar Quarter, Aung Myay Thar San Township.
The Yadanarbon Market is the largest market and biggest shopping mall in Mandalay. The structure is a five-storey building and the ground floor alone has 1,533 shops, while the first floor houses the Skywalk Shopping Mall that has 1,310 stores. Items such as fabrics, ready-made clothes, cosmetics, kitchenware and electrical goods can be purchased here.
Location: Between 77th Street & 78th Street and between 33rd Street & 34th Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township.
Zegyo (Zay Cho) Market
This shopping destination is the oldest and main market of the city and is the place for one-stop shopping. You can pretty much find everything here, from practical items like spices, fabrics and home wares, to gems and fine jewellery. Because of the sights (ethnic people in traditional costume) and smells (ripe produce and other edible goods) of the market, you’re sure to have a memorable shopping experience here.
Location: Between 84th Street & 86th Street and between 26th Street & 28th Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township.
In Myanmar, there is no shortage of places to eat. This is particularly true in Mandalay with quite a selection of dining options in this city. It is a given that most restaurants and dining destinations in Myanmar serve rice-and-curry dishes however, the eateries in Mandalay go beyond that. Aside from traditional Burmese dishes and local Mandalay specialities, restaurants also offer Chinese, Indian, Thai, even Nepali dishes. Western food can also be enjoyed in Mandalay.
Restaurants in Mandalay come in different kinds and forms. They can come in the form of bamboo structures (BBB) or 20th century colonial establishments (Green Elephant) or even with Shan-inspired interiors (Lashio Lay) or eye-catching exteriors (Oriental House).
A Little Bit of Mandalay
A visit to Mandalay will not be complete without dining at A Little Bit of Mandalay. Tourists in Mandalay should find the time to drop by, as this restaurant serves the best local dishes in the city with a wide range of Myanmar specialities.
Location: No. 413/B, Block 803, 65 Street, between 27-28 Street, Aung Daw Mu Quarter.
Aya Myit Tar Myanmar Restaurant
Visitors to the Mahamuni Paya who find themselves hungry will be thankful for the location of the Aya Myit Tar Myanmar Restaurant. However, tourists are not the only ones who dine in this eatery; locals also frequent the place. The staff members of this two-room restaurant speak minimal English, but there is an English-language menu.
Location: No. 530, 81st Street.
Those looking for a taste of Western dishes should visit the BBB, or the Barman Beer Bar. Diners who want a break from rice dishes will enjoy the pastas, burgers, soups served with hot bread, and delicious barbecue chicken. The steak with mushroom sauce is a firm favourite. The two-floor bamboo restaurant has air-conditioning and ESPN on the TV sets.
Location: No. 292, Block 609, 76th Street, Between 26th and 27th Street.
Green Elephant Restaurant
The Green Elephant Restaurant chain is probably the most popular in Myanmar. It has three branches in the country: Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. The one in Mandalay is one of the few upscale dining places in the city, and it is housed in a 1920s colonial house. The menu features Burmese and Asian (Chinese and Thai) dishes. The beef curry with soy paste and lime leaves is highly recommended.
Location: 3 (H), Block 801, 27th Street, between 64th & 65th Street, Aung Daw Mu Quarter.
Thai food can be enjoyed in almost any country, and this Thai restaurant in Mandalay definitely serves up a different kind of dining experience. The menu of this fancy two-floor restaurant includes knock-out prawn hotpot, eggplant chilli dip and crispy pork skin. The spicy catfish salad with cashews (yam pla duk foo) is a certified favourite.
Location: No. 282, Block 146, Corner of 19th Street and 80th Street.
Lashio Lay Restaurant
There are a number of Shan restaurants in Mandalay, and this one serves the best food so it should come as no surprise that this two-floor restaurant is always packed. With two dozen Shan dishes on its menu, there’s enough to keep you interested.
Location: No. 65, 23rd Street, Between 83rd and 84th Street.
Marie-Min Vegetarian Restaurant
This Indian restaurant is rather unique as it serves everything from curries to yoghurt to Western breakfast items, but all dishes are vegetarian. The two-floor restaurant/house is known for its delicious lassis and chapattis and a very impressive aubergine dip with vegetables.
Location: 27th Street, Between 74th Street and 75th Street.
This restaurant is so-named because it is run by a Nepali family. As a vegetarian restaurant, the place does not serve meat or eggs or alcohol. A notable dish in this place is the thali (three types of curry served on either banana leaves or a metal plate).
Location: 81st Street, Between 26th and 27th Street.
Those in the mood for Chinese food should visit Oriental House. The waterfalls out the front of the restaurant welcome the guests, who will be impressed with the spaciousness of the place. It has a huge ground floor and additional seating upstairs.
Location: No. 8, Block 801, Corner of 27th Street and 64th Street.
Too Too Restaurant
This dining destination offers delicious dishes at low prices. Most locals attest that this hole-in-the-wall with brick flooring is the place to go for the best traditional dishes in Mandalay. Just point at what you like (options include catfish curry, prawn fish balls and fried chicken). All meals
Location: 27th Street, Between 74th and 75th Streets.