Mandalay lies 625 km ((8hours drive) from Yangon: former capital of Myanmar and 268km (3 and half hours’ drive) from Naypyidaw: present capital of Myanmar. Mandalay is the last capital of Myanmar before British annexation. It is third important city next to Yangon and Naypyidaw with over one and half million of population. It is heart of Myanmar culture and art. Due to its location, Mandalay is an important trading center of the country. As it has international airport and not far from Bagan and Inlay Lake, international tourists arrival to Mandalay is increasing day by day.
Elegant Mandalay Palace from Kong Baung Dynasty at the base of Mandalay Hill is quite popular for local and worldwide travelers to feel the time of Myanmar Royal Kingdom before British arrival. Famous Mandalay Hill is only one place in the city to admire lovely view over Shan mountain, Ayeyarwaddy River and Mandalay city. One of the three important places for Buddhist: Mahamuni temple lies southern part of the city.
Mandalay is situated in central Myanmar and has tropical climate. It is dry and dusty all year around. It has very low rain fall in Myanmar.
Mandalay was founded by King Mindon in 1857. According to local legend, Gautama Buddha visited to Mandalay Hill and pointed to the place in which there is Mandalay Palace at the present time and made prophecy that 2400 years after his death a big Buddhist city would be built at the base of Mandalay hill by great Buddhist King. King Mindon who was a Buddhist King and wanted to fulfill that prophecy. In the year 1857, when King Mondon got power he decided to moved his capital from Amarapura to Mandalay. A large Palace was built at the base of Mandalay Hill which was surrounded by square shape walls and moats. Mandalay Palace was formed with 114 wooden bungalows which were gilded in the space of 9 sqkm. During the time of construction King Min stayed in Mandalay with temporary Palace in Mandalay. After 3 years, he moved his capital to Mandalay officially. King Mindon ruled Myanmar for 20 years. He passed away in the year 1880. One of his sons, King Thibaw became king and Myanmar Monarch ended under British annexation.
Mahamuni Temple, Kuthodaw pagoda, Sandamuni Paya, Kyauk Tawgyi pagoda, reconstruction of Mandalay Palace, Shwenandaw monastery (former Mandalay palace), Shweinbin monastery, Kinwin Monastery, Yawmingyi Monastery, Zegyo market, Thayezay market and Mandalay Hills are main tourist attractions of Mandalay.
Being situated on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River Mandalay can be reached by river way easily. It can be reached by road, air and train.
Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Golden Rock in Mon State and Mahamuni Temple in Mandalay are three important holy places in Myanmar. Maha means huge and muni means image, Mahamuni means huge image. There is huge golden sitting Buddha image in the temple. After invasion to Arkan- Rakhaing state in the year 1784, King Bodawpaya of Kong Baung Dynastry, he brought 4 meters high Buddha Image to Mandalay and built temple for it. The original image was casted of alloy. The image is getting bigger and bigger as thousands of Buddhist devotees stick very thin gold leaves on image every day. Sticking gold leaves on Buddha image in Myanmar is one of the ways of making donation at holy place. Buddha image is face to east and visitors use to pray at eastern pavilion. Most of the time it is crowded with prayers. Just men are allowed to enter interior part of the shrine, and women are prohibited. Not to disturb others, cannot take picture when you are in the interior shrine. Southern part of the shrine there is a place where you can buy Myanmar real thin gold leaves to apply on Buddha image. Only men with gold leaves are allowed to go up on the narrow terrace of the plinth of Buddha image. Men go up from south to apply gold leaves and down to north. At the back of the Buddha image, just few inches up to plinth, there is a big hole, which shows the thickness of several layers of gold leaves donated by Buddhist devotees. Mahamuni temple is situated southern part of Mandalay. There are four entrances with several souvenirs shops. It is also the best place to buy devotional souvenirs of the country. The temple opens at 04:00am in the morning and closed at 09:00pm in the evening. The venerable monk comes to the temple around 04:00 am and washes the face of the Buddha image which is famous face washing ceremony of Mahamuni temple every day. Buddhist devotees come to pray for the time of face washing ceremony in early morning.
Local visitors can enter from four entrances. Foreign visitors have to enter from North entrance and charge 5000kyats per person.
Golden Palace Monastery – Shwenandaw Kyaung
Golden Palace Monastery or Shwenandaw is situated at the base of Mandalay hill not far from Kuthodaw pagoda. Originally, Shwenandaw Kyaung was and apartment of Mandalay Royal Palace. Mandalay Royal Palace was founded by King Mindon in 1857 when he moved his capital from Amarapura to Mandalay. There were 114 teak wood buildings in the Royal Palace. All wooden buildings are in Myanmar typical architecture and well decorated with intricate wood curving and gilded. King Mindon passed away in 1880, his son King Thibaw decided to move King Mindon’s sleeping chamber to present site and donated to venerable monk to use as meditation center. And named Shwenandaw Kyaung : Shwe means gold, nandaw means royal palace, kyaung means monastery. Shwenandaw kyaung means Golden Palace Monastery. It is said that Thibaw used to come here for meditation. Originally the whole building was gilded in real gold leaves, now under the celling outside and the whole inner body can see original it.
19th century wooden building used very few nails. The wooden bungalow has 5 stairs, stairs are made of concrete. The main building is divided into two parts, meeting room to accept visitors and living room.
At the base, the exterior line of wooden pillars are supported by elegance dragons. Beautiful teak pillars inside the building with original gold paint support the whole bungalow from the base to the top. At the center of the building there is Buddha statue on the alter, in which it was the place of Lion throne of King Mindon.
Some of the interior pillars with beautiful intricate wood curving narrate about Jataka. Interior part near Buddha statue, the shrine was well decorated with green glass panels which are valuable presents of Italy. There is a collection of some 19th century wooden furniture in the second hall. Some interior pillars are well decorated bass relief of Myanmar traditional lacquare some in the second hall see beautiful classical columns.
Several mythical creatures, spirit, dancers and flowers are intricate wood curving of spired roof of Golden Palace Monastery. Golden Palace Monastery is indeed a veritable museum of 19th century Myanmar wood curving. The combination of eastern and western culture can be see some pieces of wood curving that decorated on the building. Thousands of spirit figures can be find as well as many angels.
It is quite clear that wood curving mainly decorated on the panel of the main doors are not oriental Myanmar traditional design, highly influenced by western floral design. Many statues on the inner and outer walls of the building are very special as those are not single figures. One statue is step on the hand of another statue point out the union of living being.
Next to the main wooding building there are 2 brick building as the place had been used as monastery until 1996.
Myanmar language- Kutho means merit and daw means Royal: Kuthodaw pagoda means royal merit pagoda.
At the time of construction of Mandalay Palace, King Mindon built Kuthodaw Pagoda which is model on Shwezigon pagoda in Bagan. There is main stupa with 4 shrines at each cardinal point in the wide space of pagoda compound.
In the year 1872, King Mindon invited 2400 Buddhist monks from other Buddhist Countries and celebrated Fifth Synod. And decided to make permanence book with Buddhist sculpture. Chose white marble slab to write teaching of Gautama Buddha called Tripitaka. Tripataka is Buddha canon written in Pali language means Three Baskets. Buddha teaching was put in three concepts: The Sutta Pitaka, Vinia Pitaka: Discipline for Buddhist Monks and Abbhidama Pitaka.
Tripitaka was written on 729 marble slabs and placed in Kuthodaw Pagoda compound, each slabs with two faces was housed inside the temple. Each slab is 1.5m high and 12cm thick. The marble book was started to write in the year 1860 and finished after 8 years.
The whole book was written in old Pali language – Myanmar script on hard marble slabs. It is very important not only for Buddhism but also for Myanmar Literature. Originally it was inscribed by golden ink but at the present time refilled by black ink.
Walking into the neatly Kuthodaw pagoda among white temples are so impressive. There are several pre wedding photographers, local visitors with colorful Myanmar umbrellas in the pagoda compound as series of white temples and huge trees are beautiful natural background.
One of the recommendable places visiting around Mandalay is Mingun which is a small town lies on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy river. Mingun can reach by road or by river may take an hour from Mandalay. It is charming village. Villager’s main income is from tourism. It has local tourists as well as travelers from other countries all year around. Massive unfinished pagoda, gigantic bell and Myatheindan temples are 3 main interests of Mingun.
Approach to Mingun by boat walk along the river bank welcome by Mingun phathodawgyi which is look like huge red rock. It was meant to be the largest pagoda in the country built at the end of 18th century.
In the year 1784, King Bodawphaya invaded Arakan, an ancient Mrauk U. After the war, he brought venerable Mahamuni Buddha Image back to his kingdom. The King wanted to build the largest pagoda in the country as well as in the world to demonstrate his power.
When the pagoda had reached 50 meters high, one third of the intended height, the construction was stopped. There were probably several reasons why the project stopped. One of the reasons due to an astrologer prophecy, once the temple was finished; the king would lose power and die. King Bodawpaya decided to stop construction as he was not well; he was tried for spending lot of time and money. Many labor worked for the construction for many years. Main labor is slaves from War. It would have another difficulty to get enough labor as many of slaves escaped. There may also have technical difficulties with the construction due to massive size of the temple.
It was hit by earthquake in 1839 left huge cracks at 4 side of the temple. Again was hit by strong earthquake in November 2012. Nowadays, visitors could easily mistake the temple for a large pile of bricks. It was possible to climb to the top of the temple using stairway for beautiful panorama over the river, Mingun village and Myatheindan temple. After strong earthquake of 2012, it was prohibit reaching to the top.
The guards of massive temple, 29 meters high lion statues faced to the river were also hit by earthquake and remain only posterior part of the body.
For huge temple, there is gigantic bell famous as world biggest bell among the ringing bells weighing 90 tons.
It was also hit by first earthquake and now moved to some meters from huge temple housed in small pavilion which was well decorated 19th wood curving. Myanmar bells do not have clapper. The bell is rung by striking its exterior with a wood log.
One of three attractions in Mingun is Myatheindan temple. Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon is amazing. Temples in Bagan are incredible too. White Myatheindan temple is very special. The temple was built in early 19th century by Bodawphaya. Unlike other pagodas, it has 7 terraces represent 7 mountain ranges and 7 rivers surrounding Mt.Meru.
There are four stairs to go up, southern and western stair mainly used. It is very nice for photo shoot walking around the pagoda on every terrace. When you get to the second wide terrace, enjoy the view around the temple. Few steps more will bring you to the top of Myatheindan temple. Local tourists come there for offering to Buddha image.
One of the ancient capitals of Kongbaung dynasty before Mandalay . It is situated 11km from Mandalay. It is small town famous for silk weaving for special pattern, Mahagandayone monastery: school for over 1000 Buddhist monk, U Bein bridg : the longest wooden bridge in the world crosses over TaungTa Man lake. It is 1.2km long.
After the fall of Bagan, Sagaing became the capital of Myanmar. Today, Sagaing hill is famous for hundreds of Buddhist monasteries of monks and nuns. It is holy hill as second Bagan. On the top of the hill there is Soon Oo Ponnya Shin Pagoda; the best place for panoramic view over the city, series of monasteries and Ayeyarwady river. U Min Thoneze cave temple is famous for 43 sitting Buddha.
Innwa ( Ava )
Innwa is peaceful place it had been the capital of Myanmar for about 400 years. It is situated on an artificial Island. Innwa means “the mouth of the lake“or “entrance to the lake”. The founder of Innwa filled over four lakes among nine lakes to establish his capital. Bagaya wooden monastery and Menu Okk Kyaung are highlights of Innwa. All these are places to visit by horse cart. During you short visit in Innwa you can enjoy peaceful land and nice landscape.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Pyin Oo Lwin is formerly known as May Myo during the time when many British governors lived. The town is once British hill station is famous for cool weather, colonial building, natural parks and water fall. The weather is pleasant, the town is also known as the City of Flowers. One should not miss a ride on the old horse-drawn coach. That is the standard transportation in Pyin Oo Lwin. It is 69km form Mandalay, 1040m above sea level. Pyin Oo Lwin is very different from Mandalay. The most attractive place of Pyin Oo Lwin is Kandawgyi park established in 1915 by Alex Rodger. Pwe Kauk waterfall, Peikchinmyaung cave are highlights of Pyin Oo Lwin.
136km , three hours driving from Mandalay there is lovely town called Monywa which is situated on the bank of Chindwin river. Monywa is important trading center for agricultural products surrounding Chindwin valley. Main attraction around Monywa is Thanbodhay temple with 580000 buddha, it has similar architectural design of Boroburu. Nearby Thanbodhay temple there is Bodhitataung Buddha images. It is very special place; big compound with 1000000 Bodhi trees , under which there are 100000 buddha. There is the third largest reclining buddh in Myanmar which has 90m long. ——– high huge standing Buddha is also situated on the slope of the mountain lies nearby the reclining Buddha. 25 km from Monywa there is Powin caves; sandstone caves around Powin Hikk with fine mural painting and over 400000 buddha between 14th to 18th century.