You know Mandalay is a special place if it has 10 sights worth seeing. In fact, it has more, and here are 10 to start with…
#1 Golden Palace Monastery
This traditional Burmese-style temple , also known as Schwenandaw Kyaung, was built by King Mindon in the 19th century, and later moved to its current location by his son. The roof and walls are richly-decorated with teak carvings depicting tales from Buddhist mythology. Used as a monastery today, this wooden structure is the only remaining wooden building of the Royal palace complex.
#2 Amarapura/ U Bein Bridge
Over two centuries old, the world’s longest teak bridge spans Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay’s Amarapura township. At one time, Amarapura was a distinct and separate city, and was an ancient capital of Myanmar.
#3 Kuthodaw Paya
At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits Kuthodaw Paya, a religious complex whose claim to fame is that it is home of the world’s largest book. The complete text of the Tripitaka (Theravada Buddhism’s most sacred text) is inscribed on 729 marble slabs, each of which is enshrined in its own small stupa and arranged in rows around the grounds. Construction began in 1860 at the order of Burmese King Mindon Min.
#4 Mahamuni Pagoda
This famous pagoda is a well-known pilgrimage site, noted for its enormous, gold Buddha statue. The Buddha was a spoil of war, brought to Mandalay from Rakhine state by Konbaung Dynasty King Thado Minsaw after his defeat of the Arakan kingdom. The statue was so large that it had to be cut into pieces, transported, and then later reassembled.
If you get up early, you can witness the daily face-washing given to the statue by the resident monks. Among the many interesting things to see are a number of bronzes originally from Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, inscription stones transported to the site from all over the country, and the intricately-tiled mosaic ceiling and carved and gilded columns of the main pagoda.
#5 Mahar Aung Myay Jade and Gem Market
If you are a sucker for jewelry and sparkly things, your trip to Mandalay should include a side trip to the world’s largest jade market. Foreigners can enter for an admission fee of around a dollar, which allows you to watch the trading, see how jewelry and other items are created from blocks of jade, and make purchases to support the local economy.
If you’d like to visit the jade market in its current location, you’d better step on it. The Ministry of Forestry and Mines plans to move the market from its current location in Mahar Aung Myay Township to Myinmu village in Amarapura. Merchants are opposing the move because it would mean a long commute for nearly 50,000 market workers.
#6 Mandalay Hill
In the old days, hoofing it was the only way to get to the top of this 240m vantage point. Today a few bucks will snag you a ride in a pickup truck. From the top you can pay a visit to Sutaungpyei pagoda and enjoy panoramic views of this fascinating city.
#7 Myanmar Traditional Dance Show
Dinner and a show are a great combination no matter where you go; the 1,000 years of traditional dance presented three times a week at the Mandalay Hill Resort are no exception. For just USD25, you can enjoy dinner, drinks, and “Dance from the Dynasties,” a revue covering Myanmar’s dance traditions from the heyday of ancient Bagan through modern day.
No.9, Kwin 416(B), 10th Street Mandalay Hill Resort +00 95 2 35638
#8 Sandamuni Paya
Also located at the busy foot of Mandalay Hill, this pagoda is famous for housing the world’s largest iron Buddha statue. The pagoda was begun in 1874, and resembles nearby Kuthodaw pagoda, with its many white stupas. The pagoda has a complicated royal history, and is the burial place of several members of the royal family who lost their lives during an 1866 coup.
#9 Shwe Kyi Min Paya
This pagoda was built in the 1st century by Pagan Prince Min Shin Saw, and still retains its original style, having never been renovated. Exiled after disagreements with his father King Alaungsithu, the prince nonetheless saw to the development of the area around Ava to which he was banished. His father died and Min Shin Saw returned to claim his throne, only to be assassinated by a jealous brother.
#10 Mintha Theater
Experience the interplay of Myanmar’s traditional music, dance, and costume from 8:30-9:30 every evening in this showcase of Myanmar’s distinct culture. Dances presented reach as far back in time as the ancient kingdom of Bagan, and are accompanied by performances of live traditional music.
27th Street between 65th & 66th (Near Sedona Hotel), Mandalay, Myanmar +09 6803607