If you are planning a trip to Myanmar, you have most definitely heard about Mandalay! And if you have not, then keep on reading. Here you will find all the highlights of Mandalay that you need to see, while visiting Myanmar.
Wood carvings and handicraft workshop
Mandalay is famous for its many and various craft-shops. There are different ateliers, each unique on its own. Most of them are located near the Mahamuni Buddha Temple and in the Tampawaddy neighbourhood on the way to Amarapura.
One of the main attractions is the shop Aung Nan, which specializes in wood carvings and hand-made textiles. They are mostly creating items, ordered by different religious centers – Buddha statues, home alters or even the wooden ornaments for the doors of the temples.
Where: The shop is located here.
Opening hours: Na.
Visit a Marble Workshop
Another great activity is seeing a Marble Workshop. The workshops are known for carving different Buddha statues out of stone or marble. You can see multiple small shops, one after the other, in the street of the stone cutter. It is called Kyauk Sit Tan.
Where: You can find the location of these shops here. It is the 84th street in Mandalay.
Opening hours: Na.
Visit a Gold Leaf Making Workshop
This is probably one of the most exciting places in Mandalay. Here you can witness the “Gold beating”, a method, which is used to create gold leaves. These gold leaves are then used by religious people to cover different statues and temples throughout Myanmar.
There are different businesses, which produce these gold leaves but the biggest one is the King Galon Gold Leaf. You can visit the production site and see the actual „Gold beating“ done by men using 3kg-heavy hammers. The women are sitting in another one room, making the last touches.
You can also read about the actual steps in making the gold leaf – from the beginning, being only a small piece of gold, until the end – being increased in size up to 5 cm x 5 cm. There is also an explanation of how they produce the bamboo paper, which is put between the gold pieces. Using a regular piece of paper between the layers is not possible as it will only damage the gold.
Where: You can find its location here.
Opening hours: Between 7:30am – 6pm.
Mahamuni Buddha Temple
One of the most popular sights that you can visit, lies south part of the city – Mahamuni Buddha Temple (also known as Mahamuni Buddha Image). It is one of the major pilgrim sites in Myanmar. The Mahamuni-Statue is 3,80m high, completely covered in gold, placed in a small chamber inside the temple.
Originally, the figure was build out of bronze. However, throughout the years, people have been continuously applying gold leaves on it. As a result, some places on the statue might be between 25cm and 35cm thick! Some parts of the Buddha’s Image are even without a shape.
What to know when visiting
Where: The Mahamuni Temple is located here.
Entrance fee: The entrace fee costs 1000 Kyat, if you come with your camera.
Opening hours: Between 4am – 9pm, with small changes in their schedule on Friday and Saturday (make sure to check this before you go there).
Good to know: Only men are allowed in the inner-chamber, where the Mahamuni Buddha Image is and can apply a gold leave to the statue. Furthermore, there is a religious festival in the beginning of February, which might attract many people to the temple.
Eventhough, we did not visit the temple in February, there was another religious festival going on in December as well. There were many people coming to pray and apply a gold leave on the statue. We were not able to see the Buddha Image good but we decided to respect the people that came and left the temple quickly.
To see a picture of the statue in its complete majesty, you can go to this link.
Visit Mandalay Royal Palace
Just south of the Mandalay Hill you can find the Mandalay Royal Palace (or also known as Mya Nan San Kyaw). This Royal Palace is the last palace of the last Burmese monarchy. It was build between 1857 and 1859 by King Mindon. It is surrounded by 8m high stone walls forming a square shape around it and outside there is a 64m wide moat.
Unfortunately, most of the Palace was destroyed during the bombings of the World War II. The only buildings that survived were the Royal Mint and the Watch Tower. In 1990s the Palace was restored using modern materials.
The Watch Tower is one of the main attractions in the Mandalay Palace. It is 33m high and made out of wood. It gives you a spectacular view from the top, once you have managed to climb its spiral-formed stairs.
Where: You can find the location of Mandalay Royal Palace here.
Opening hours: Between 7:30am – 4:30pm.
Wander through Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery
The Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery (also known as the Golden Palace Monastery) is since 1996 on the tentive list of the UNESCO’s world heritage sites. The monastery is the only remaining large piece from the Royal Palace of Amarapura, built in the mid 19th century by King Mindon.
It is completely decorated with wooden figures not only on the outside but also on the inside. This building has survived not one but two disassemblements during the years. During 1857 it was brought to Mandalay from Amarapura by King Mindon and in 1880, his son moved it to its present location (outside of the palace’s walls). It is believed that this move preserved it from the bombings on the palace in 1945. Later it was converted to a monastery.
Previously, the monastery was covered in gold and at many places decorated with mosaic. However, today just a few things golden things can be found inside.
Where: You can find the location of the Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery here.
Entrance fee: It is included in the Combo Ticket (See below).
Opening hours: Between 7:30am – 5pm.
Read World’s largest book – Kuthodaw Pagoda
The Kuthodaw Pagoda is also a good site to explore when in Mandalay. It lies at the foot at the Mandalay Hill, so when planning your trip you may want to consider visiting these two sites in one day.
The world’s largest book (Tipitaka) is written on stone tablets. Each tablet was placed in a cave-like mini pagodas (kyauksa gu, stone-inscription caves). There are 729 tablets in total, making the book over 1400 pages long.
The mini-pagodas are arranged around the Kuthodaw Pagoda or in Burmese Maha Lawka Marazein-Pagoda. It was build similar to the Shwezigon-Pagoda in Bagan. The Kuthodaw Pagoda is 57m tall, built in 1859.
Where: The Kuthodaw Pagoda is located here.
Entrance fee: Included in the Combo Ticket (see below).
Opening hours: Between 8am – 8pm.
Mandalay Hill and Su Taung Pyae Pagoda
Mandalay Hill is located northeast of the city center of Mandalay and it is 240m tall. It is known for the many pagodas and monasteries, making it a central pilgrimage site for the Burmese people.
The Su Taung Pyae Pagoda (meaning wish-granting pagoda) is situated at top of the hill. It offeres an amazing view of Mandalay from above and good view point to watch the sunset.
How to get there?
There are two options. The first one is taking a taxi (or any other vehicle) that can bring you to the top since there is a motor-way available. It will take you the top, where you can take an escalator and a lift to the pagoda. Or, you can also take the stairs – the good old-fashioned way.
Four different covered stairways can lead you to the top of the hill – starting either from the south-, southeast-, west- or north-side of the hill. Two huge lions statues (also known as chinthes) are guarding the main entrance. If you chose this way, make sure that you are fit enough for the task since you will have to climb 934 stairs.
Make sure to have enough water and snacks with you, before starting the climb. If you start around 4pm or 5pm, there should be enough time to reach the top just in time for the amazing sunset. Tipp: As you would have to walk the stairs barefoot, you can either leave your shoes at some of the shops at the entrance or pack them and take them with you.
We were there too early, so we had to wait for the sunset. If you want to have a nice spot to watch the sunset, it is a good practice to be there at least 30min before. There are many people that are coming to see the sunset from there, so it can get quite crowded.
The view from above is simply breathtaking. But it is also somehow amusing that you are directly looking at the Golf Course in Mandalay. If you are keen on playing some golf in Mandalay, this is the place to be.
Waiting almost an hour for the sunset was totally worth it.
Where: The Su Taung Pyae Pagoda is located here.
Opening hours: Between 6am – 7pm.
How: You can take a tuk-tuk, motorcycle or a taxi. It all depends, how you have decided to travel. If you want to know more on the transportation in Myanmar, you can check this article.
Dress Code: For women – no disrespectful wear – shoulders and knees should be covered; the same goes for the men.
Ticket: Most of the sites are covered under the Mandalay’s archeological zone fee card (or Combo ticket), which costs 10.000 Kyat (around 6.50EUR) and it is valid for 5 days. The sites included are not defined clearly. Normally the ticket covers the Royal Palace, the ruins of Mandalay, Amarapura (incl. museum) and Inwa (including Paleik). For entering the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda at the top of the Mandalay Hill you will be asked to pay 1000 Kyat extra.
For the surroundings like Sagaing and Mingun, you will have to buy a separate ticket. It is valid for one day but it covers both of the sites and costs 5000 Kyat (under 3.50EUR).
The ticket controlling is not handled equally strict at all sites. At some of the sites they do not control, if you have a ticket at all. It is more strict at the sites like Mandalay Royal Palace, Kuthodaw Pagoda, Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery and Atumashi Monastery.
Where to stay in Mandalay
We booked the Hotel Shwe Phyo, which is rather a low budget option. It had great staff, it was close to the attactions and we had breakfast includeed in the price. The only downside was that the water was not hot. There is a big street market happening just around the corner, so you can go there and explore some fresh products. But be careful, it might get a little loud outside.
If you do not like this option, you can always check the map with these hotels and chose the best one for you!
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Thanks for reading!