The name ‘Mandalay’ tends to invoke something of a romantic nostalgia, as if there is some kind of magic to the city. This must come from its colonial days and of course the poem ‘Mandalay’ by Rudyard Kipling.
I stayed at Dreamland Guesthouse whilst in Mandalay. It’s a nice hostel, and also an art studio so the walls are covered in artwork! It also acts as a music studio and you could occasionally hear/see kids laying instruments on the ground floor. There was also a motorbike driver who served the hostel guests for good rates, much-needed as you pretty much have to rely on them to get around the city, it’s too hot to walk much and the points of interest are far apart anyhow! So for the purpose of this post, essentially to get to the attractions I got a ride from this guy and to get back to the hostel I hired whoever was available!
A quick note – Unfortunately Mandalay where was I started to get really sick with stomach problems, which plagued me for a couple of weeks after which I then developed the illness which resulted in me having to stop traveling and head home to recover. I’m still sick as I write this so it’s been a hard few months but anyhow I love traveling so I wanted to document everything I got up to and I have many plans to travel again in future.
Anyhow, this is what I got up to in the 5 days I had there when I wasn’t in bed sick!
The Mahamuni Paya is one of the most holy of Buddhist sites, and a major pilgrimage site. Legend has it that only five likenesses of the Buddha were made during his lifetime and the statue here is one of them. There were many people at the Pagoda site to see the Mahamuni Buddha image, though only men are allowed to approach it and pour gold leaves over it, as many were doing. There is a ritual where at 4am everyday the face is scrubbed clean though alas I didn’t make it for that time!
I walked around the whole site and discovered these bronze statues that were of interest, they were Khmer in origin, apparently from Angkor Wat originally and taken by various victorious armies from each others capitals as war loot before finally ending up in Mandalay. They are around 800 years old and people were rubbing against them for apparent good luck/health.
Kuthodaw pagoda and Mandalay Hill
I went to visit some of the Pagoda’s at the foot of Mandalay Hill before climbing it for sunset.
Of particular note Kuthodaw pagoda is the site of the world ‘largest book’. It is essentially 729 stone tablets set in rows of Stupas, around the golden central golden pagoda. The writing’s are of Theravāda Buddhism’s Pāli Canon.
After exploring the other 2 Pagoda’s nearby I met a Scottish guy and we climbed up the hill together, following the route up foot rather than using an escalator. At the top you get good views over the city and we were in time for sunset. There was also plenty of Burmese people up there who wanted to speak to foreigners to practice their English. We spent some time chatting to various people including the 3 guys in the picture with me below.
The Shwenandaw Monastery is built from teak wood and was originally part o the Royal Palace before being moved to its current location in the 19th century. As it survived the bombing during World War 2 it is the only authentic part of the Royal Palace left today.
There are lots of awesome intricate carvings in the monastery.
Whilst there I was also mobbed by a couple of Burmese families who wanted photographs with me!
Unfortunately the Royal Palace was severely damaged by bombing in World War 2, so it had to be rebuilt. It is a walled city within Mandalay with a moat around the outside.
In truth I found that it’s more impressive from outside than it is from within. You have a long walk once you enter through the East gate to get to the palace itself. I used one of the building’s in the site as the photo at the top of this blog entry so you can see what the building’s are like. There’s various replica statues and so forth but I didn’t find it that interesting.
U Bein Bridge
The 1.2 Kilometer long U Bein Bridge was constructed around 1850 and is the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Many people head here for sunset and there’s a few vendors doted around on the bridge itself. Many of the pillars are damaged and some aren’t even attached to the bridge anymore, which makes for interesting observations whilst crossing it!
Just to note as well what I listed above I also managed to catch up with one of the girls i’d met in Bagan and then done the Kalaw/Inle/Loikaw stuff with that I’ve talked about in previous posts. We got a beer down by the river which was interesting place, spotted a couple of big cruise ships and saw some of the many people down by the riverside. I also went to a couple other pagoda’s around and saw some of the tradespeople at work in workshops dotted around near some of the sites.
My friend and I put Mandalay at the very end of our two-week trip in Myanmar and a combination of a lot of things made our stay in the city the least pleasant one throughout the whole trip. However we had a really really good mohinga (Myanmar’s national dish) in a restaurant not too far from the palace, so it lifted our mood quite significantly. As for stomach problem, my friend also had it after eating a snack from a street side vendor in Mandalay. The funny thing is his stomach was mostly fine in India, a country known for dubious hygiene. Get well soon so you can travel again!
Dave Does The Travel Thing
Yeah I loved Myanmar but whilst i’m glad I visited Mandalay I wouldn’t class it as a highlight or anything. I think I picked it up from one of those side vendors too. Thanks, I can’t wait until I can travel again! So much left to see 🙂