Mandalay, the 2nd largest city is considered as the cultural heart of Myanmar. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindom, and a year later, it replaced Amarapura as the capital. The city has a great historical importance with buildings as the Royal Palace, the Mahamuni pagoda but also well known for its craft industry like wood, marble, bronze carving or production of Marionettes. With an accessible access on the Irrawaddy and close to China, Mandalay has become an economic trade centre.
It is one of the most important pagodas with Shwedagon pagoda and Kyaiktiyo build by King Bodawpaya in 1794.
The famous Mahamuni Buddha stands in the centre of the shrine and over the years, the pilgrims have covered it with gold leaf which makes now difficult to recognize some parts of the body. The layer of gold at some part of the body is several centimeters tick.
Every morning at 4am, monks wash the face of the Mahamuni Buddha and even brush its teeth
The Royal palace is another main site of Interest in Mandalay. It was built by King Mindom in 1897. Covering an area of 4 square kilometers, it is situated in the centre of Mandalay and stands as a witness of the final years of the Burmese Kingdom. The palace was destroyed by fire during the Second World War and was rebuilt with modern material instead of teak wood as it was originally built. Many people look at this renovation as not properly done.
Mandalay Hill offers a superb panoramic view over the city, the Irrawaddy, Mingun and the pagoda covered-hills of Sagaing. The top of the 236 meters high hill can be reached by the 1729 steps of the covered southern stairway with its magnificent guardian chinthe (half-lion, half-dragon). Before to reach the top, a standing Buddha is pointing his arm towards the palace, the Mandalay’s foundation as per the fulfillment of the Buddha prophecy according to the legend.
The Kuthodaw Paya contains what often is called the world’s largest book. It is a large walled complex built by King Mindon.
The stupa is set in the middle of a thirteen acre field of 729 pagodas. Each shrine contains a marble slab, inscribed on both sides with the Pali script text of a portion of the Tipitaka, Theravada Buddhism’s sacred texts. Taken together, they contain the entire text of the Tipitaka and thus form “the world’s largest book.” The work of carving began in October 1860 and carvers completed their task in May 1869.
Mingun is located on the western bank of the river Ayeyarwaddy, approximately 7 miles north of Mandalay. It is reached by ferryboats across the river and takes around one hour. A boat trip to Mingun is pleasant to observe the busy life on the river. The massive ruins of Mantara Gyi Pagoda, also known as Mingun Pagoda, can be seen from distance while crossing the Irrawaddy.
Mantara Gyi Pagoda
It was built by King Bodawpaya to be the biggest pagoda in the world and was originally supposed to reach 150 meters. 20 years later after the start of the construction in 1790, an earthquake badly damaged the construction and the pagoda’s height remained at 50 meters which makes the monument still spectacular. It is possible to climb up till the top and enjoy a magnificent view over the Irrawaddy and Mandalay.
With a height of nearly 4 meters and a diameter of 5 meters, it said to be the largest hanging belt in the world. Weighing 90 tons, the Mingun bell was cast in bronze in 1808 and once complete, the master craftsman was executed in order to stop him to reproduce anything similar.
The impressive pagoda was built by King Bagyidaw, a grandson of Bodawpaya in 1816 in memory of his favorite wife. The unusual architecture is inspired from the Sulamani Pagoda on the top of the mythical golden mount Meru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist-Hindu cosmology.
Ava was the capital of the Burmese Kingdom for more than 400 years. Founded by the Shan Prince Thadominbya in 1364 on a man-made island between the Irrawaddy and Myint Nge rivers, Ava lost several times its status as Royal capital before Amarapura became the capital in 1841. Due to the earthquake in 1838, very little remains from the royal buildings.
Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery
It is also known as Ok Kyaung (Brick Monastery) was built in 1822 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, Chief Queen of King Bagyidaw. This monastery is one of the finest specimens of Myanmar architecture during the Konbaung Period (19th century). Its architecture is in simulation of wooden monasteries with multiple roofs and a prayer hall of seven-tiered superstructure.
The 30 meters watch tower which is a solitary masonry building that remains of Bagyidaw’s palace built in 1822. Owing to the earthquake of 1838, only the lower part was left but it was restored as its original structure. The watch tower is one of the examples of Myanmar architectural style of early 19th century.
King Bodawpaya decided Amarapura to become the capital of the Burmese Kingdom in 1783 but his successors restored Ava as capital before to return the seat of Government to Amarapura in 1841. But in 1857, King Mindom made Mandalay the last capital of the Burmese Kings. Amarapura is famous for its workshops where are produce the best longyies, silk, but also woodcarving devotional objects, bronze items.
Founded in 1914, it is one of the biggest monasteries in Burma. More than 3000 monks are leaving and studying there. At 1030 every morning, hundreds of monks queue for their meal.
U Bein Bridge
Linking the village of Taungthaman over the lake of that name, the 1.2 kilometers bridge is the longest teak wood bridge in the world. It provided a popular image for photographers at sunrises and sunsets.
Crossing the bridge to Taungthaman village, the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda was built by King Bagan in 1847 on the model of the Ananda Temple at Bagan.
The entrances are decorated with paintings showing the signs of the zodiac and scenes from every day Burmese life.
Sagaing is the capital of Sagaing Region in Myanmar. Located on the Ayeyarwady River, 20 km to the southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the river, Sagaing with numerous Buddhist monasteries is an important religious and monastic center. The pagodas and monasteries crowd the numerous hills running parallel to the river. The central pagoda, Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, is connected by a set of covered staircases that run up the 240 m hill. Sagaing was the capital of Sagaing Kingdom (1315–1364), one of the minor kingdoms that rose up after the fall of Pagan dynasty. During the Ava period (1364–1555), the city was the common fief of the crown prince or senior princes. The city briefly became the royal capital between 1760 and 1763 in the reign of King Naungdawgyi.
Soon Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda
The pagoda is perched on the highest hill of Sagaing offering a panoramic view on the Irrawaddy, Inwa Bridge and Mandalay in distance.
The pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing. The huge dome rises 46 m (151 feet) in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modeled after the Mahaceti Pagoda in Ceylon. Also known as Rajamanisula, the pagoda was built to commemorate Inwa’s establishment as the royal capital of Myanmar. Around the base of the pagoda are stone pillars, each of which is 1.5 m high. The details of the pagoda’s construction are recorded on them.
MAYMYO (PYIN OO LWIN)
Pyin Oo Lwin also called MayMyo, located at 69 kilometers away from Mandalay is a popular and former British hill station. At over 1000 meters above sea level, Maymyo is particularly attractive for his cool weather and its old colonial buildings with large compounds. Maymyo is famous for the variety of flowers production all over the year, coffee plantations and strawberries. The National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens are one of the main attractions to visit while staying in Pwin Oo Lwin. It is also the home of the Defense Academy of the Burmese military, and an important military base.
National Kandawgyi Gardens were established in 1915 by Alex Rodger as the Maymyo Botanical Gardens. The gardens contain a wide variety of botanical attractions, including a large number of magnificent orchids and bamboos, a long wooden path to bring to a vast woodland area.
Making the town center, Purcell Clock Towel was built in 1936. The clock in this tower is reported to copy the chimes of Big Ben.
The Candacraig called now the Thiri Myaing Hotel
Colonial mansion built as a guest house of The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation in 1904. Made famous by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar, it is a good place to stop and see how the colonials lived.
All Saints’ church is a red brick Anglican church built in 1912
Few kilometers away from Maymyo, on the way to Mandalay, beautiful waterfalls to reach through a rocky gorge down to the fall; the descent is also stunning and the place really peaceful. Enjoy a foot bath in ice water before to return though the steep path.
Monywa is a provincial city in central Myanmar, 136 km north-west of Mandalay. Monywa serves as a major trade center for India and Burma through Kalay Myo road and Chindwin river.
Monywa has grown into a bustling trading over the years and is a stopping point when travelling by road from Mandalay to Bagan via Pakkoku with major sites of interest as Thanboddhay Pagoda or the Hpo Win Daung Caves.
The pagoda was started in 1939 and completed in 1952. The architecture can remind Borobodur with a similar design. Unlike Borobodur this is a modern place of worship, well maintained with interesting samples of modern Buddhist art. There are many different Buddha images, row upon row in ascending tiers in niches along the walls with an amazing total number of 582. 257! Unlike most of the pagodas in Myanmar, the entrance is not guarded by Chinthes, the mythical lions but by statues of a pair of magnificent white elephants which are sacred and auspicious in Buddhist symbolism.
Translated as “1000 Buddha”, the most impressive Buddha is the 130 meters standing Buddha claimed to be world tallest dominating the countryside for miles around.
Ho Win Daung and Shwe Ba Daung Pagoda complexes
About 40 kilometers after crossing the Chindwin River are the adjoining pagoda complexes of Hpo Win Daung and Shwe Ba Taung.
492 Buddha chambers were curved in a limestone hillside between the 14th and 18th centuries. Most of the caves are very narrow with only space for a single image. Few of them still show some colorful mural paintings.
The 46 caves of Shwe Ba Taung cut vertically down into the limestone are believed to have been cut out at the same time of Hpo Win Daung images. They enshrine larger Buddhas images standing or sitting positions with entrances built up during the colonial period giving touches of Victorian architecture.
Hsipaw is located in the northern part of the Shan State between Mandalay and Lashio, 135 Km and 4 hours drive from Maymyo. Hsipaw was formerly a Shan princedom. With a population of around 30 000 inhabitants, Hsipaw is an important agriculture centre. The small charming town is ideally situated along the Dotthawaddy River surrounded by large varieties of plantations, watermelons, pineapples, tea trees, papayas, carrots, cauliflowers,…
Hsipaw remains a traditional and untouched small town with beautiful Shan houses. The close surroundings are ideal for excursions.
Lying on the way to Hsipaw from Pyin Oo Lwin, it is a breathtaking experience to take the local train over the second highest viaduct in the world. Build in 1900, the 700 meters long steel bridge spans a deep gully in Northern Shan State on the way to Hsipaw. The train ride offers a stunning panoramic view and a memorable experience passing view over the gorge.