MandalayAncient name by Ratanapunja, the royal capital of the last monarchy of Myanmar. It enjoys the splendor of the golden age and still has great importance as a cultural center. The city earned its name after the 236-meter high Mandalay hill. The palace was constructed in 1857 and completed in 1861, in Myanmar traditional architectural styled. The majority of monuments including the palace, palace walls, pagodas and monasteries were built soon after. The city was completely damaged in the fierce fighting of World War II, including the royal palace, which has been reconstructed. Hence the pride and glory of Mandalay has been partially restored. There are many interesting edifices of cultural and religious importance and Buddhist monasteries with beautiful woodcarvings and masterpieces of Myanmar Masonry. Mandalay is best known not only for it's rich traditional, cultural and spiritual splendor but also exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery in silk and cotton, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and stone carving and bronze casting etc. The river jetty at Mandalay is a beehive of activity with small boats going up and down the river, bamboo rafts and cargo boats with huge logs from the teak forests upriver. The water buffaloes are the beasts of burden hauling the logs from the river up to the lumber storage areas along the riverbank. Mandalay is now Myanmar's second largest city, with a population of over two million. There are several ancient capitals around Mandalay such as Amapura, Sagaing, Ava, Mingun where Kongboung dynasty kings used to rule respectively. Located 650 km north of Yangon, the second largest city of Myanmar can be reached by air, rail, road or river; Flying is the best way to travel. Travel by train or car takes about 15 hours. Rudyard Kipling's "The Road to Mandalay," made the name of the last capital of Myanmar kings familiar even to those who had never heard of Myanmar or Burma. Founded by King Mindon, the penultimate Myanmar King, in 1857, his Golden City was completed in 1859, and he moved from Amarapura to the new capital in 1861. His son and successor King Thibaw lost Mandalay to the British who took it as well as the all of Myanmar after the Third Anglo-Myanmar War in 1885-1886.
How to get to Mandalay
It takes about one hour and thirty minutes by air from Yangon. There are daily fights from Yangon and Bagan to Mandalay during the tourist season from October to May. The new Mandalay International Airport has been opened and operated since November 2000, with direct flights of some regional airlines. Express trains are running from Yangon to Mandalay, which take about 14 hours. The government and private express coaches also run everyday along Yangon-Mandalay highway, which is over 700 km long, and overland travelers are advised to break the journey at Taungoo (280 km) or at Meiktila (540 km), where there are hotels for overnight stay. Visitors are advised to check with Tourist Information Services for flight / train / express coaches schedules.
The natural landmark of Mandalay, the hill has for long been a holy mount and legend has it that the Buddha on His visit had made a prophecy that a great city would be founded at its foot. Mandalay Hill, 230 meters in elevation, commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. At present, the construction of motor-car road to reach hill-top is completed so that a drive-up access can be made easily.
The whole magnificent palace complex was destroyed by fire during the World War II. However, the finely built palace walls, the city gates with their crowning wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still present an impressive scene of the Mandalay Palace. A number of palace buildings namely "Mya-nan-san-kyaw Shwenandaw", the model of the Mandalay Palace, Nanmyint-saung have been rebuilt to their original structure. Cultural Museum and Pyi-gyi-mon Floating Restaurant in the moat are also located inside the palace grounds.
Originally the building with the royal palace where King Mindon died is a splendid example of the beauty of teak. The building was moved out of the royal palace under King Thibaw in 1880 and converted into a monastery. As a result, it is the only original teak structure remaining from the royal palace, which was destroyed by bombs at the end of the Second World War. Recently the exterior of the palace was restored.
Built by King Mindon in 1857, modeling on the Shwe Zigon at Nyaung U, this pagoda is surrounded by 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures as edited and approved by the 5th Buddhist Synod. It is popularly known as "the Worlds Biggest Book" for its stone scriptures.
The "Atumashi Kyaung" (meaning the Incomparable Monastery) is also one of the worth-seeing places. Built by King Mindon in 1878, it was partially destroyed by fire in 1890. It was indeed an inimitable one in its heyday. The reconstruction work on the monastery has been done by the government in 1996.
The Sandamuni Pagoda is located to the southeast of Mandalay Hill and bears a resemblance to the nearby Kuthodaw pagoda because of the large number of slender whitewashed ancillary stupas on the grounds. The Paya is also famous for the Iron Buddha Sandamuni cast by King Bodawpaya (1782-1819) of the Konbaung dynasty in 1802, and which King Mindon and brought from Amarapura to his new pagoda and shrine in 1874.
Near the southern approach to Mandalay Hill stands the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda of the Buddha Image that was built by King Mindon in 1865. The Image was carved out of a huge single block of marble and sculpted. It was hauled to its position by nearly 12,000 men and took 13 days to transport the marble. The statues of 80 Arahants (the Great Disciples of the Buddha) are around the Image, 20 on each direction.
The Mahamuni Image
One of the most venerated golden-seated Buddha Image of Myanmar, revered as the holiest pagoda in Mandalay. With imagination it is possible to see the huge sculpture growing every day as pilgrims fix large quantities of gold leaf to the sculpture. The massive Buddha sculpture was cast in northern Arakan during the reign of King Candrasuriya in approximately AD 150. King Anawrahta of Bagan conquered Arakan in the 11th Century but the attempt to carry the sculpture to Bagan failed. Finally King Bodawpaya succeeded in transporting the Mahamuni Image together with the Arakan King, arms, elephants and approx 20,000-captured Arakan soldiers, as booty back to upper Burma. Included in the spoils were six Khmer bronze figures originally from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
These sculptures were taken to Ayuthia by the Thai after conquering the Khmer capital in approximately 1350. The Mon King sacked Ayuthia in 1568 and brought them to Bago. In 1599 the Arakan King Yazagyi conquered Bago and moved the figures to his capital, Mrauk-U. Their survival against all odds gave the two guardians magical power, in the minds of some devotees. They say that all disease can be cured if one rubs the corresponding area on the bronze figures. The stomach area gleams the most and suggests where the most problems are!
The Mahamuni Image in sitting posture is 12 feet and 7 inches (3.8 meters) high. It was brought to Mandalay from Rakhine State during the reign of King Bodawpaya in 1784. The early morning ritual of washing the Face of the Buddha Image draws a large crowd of devotees everyday. And the image is also considered as the greatest, next to Shwedagon Pagoda, in Myanmar. A visit to Mandalay would be incomplete without a visit to Maha Muni Pagoda.
Arts and Crafts
For lovers of arts and crafts, Mandalay represents the largest repository of Myanmar arts and crafts. It is here that visitors can observe skilled craftsmen making beautiful articles of tapestry, ivory, wood, marble and stone carving and engravings, silverware and bronze statues according to the time-honored traditions of their forefathers. Besides those, the other arts and crafts workshops of silk-weaving and gold-leaf making are also places worthy of visiting.
Situated about 11 km south of Mandalay, Amarapura is one of the capitals of the third Myanmar Empire. A 1,208-metre long wooden bridge built totally with teak planks two centuries ago by U Pein, is the longest wooden bridge in Myanmar. It spans Taungthaman Lake, situated near Amarapura, with its farther end at Kyauktawgyi Pagoda. Bagaya Monastery and silk-weaving industries there are places of interest to visit. As in 1857 all the important buildings of Amarapura had been transferred to Mandalay. Close to Amarapura is the Mahagandayon temple the largest Buddhist monastery in Myanmar accommodating more than 1,000 monks during the Buddhist Lent.
Located across Myitnge River about 20 kilometers southwest of Mandalay is the capital of Burmese kingdom for nearly 400 years. All the major buildings, which were not destroyed during the earthquake of 1838, had been transferred first to Amarapura and then to Mandalay however the 88 foot high watchtower known as the "leaning tower of Ava" and Bargaya teak monastery which is famous for it's teak pillars amounting to 267 in total are still to be seen.
Located about 11 km upriver from Mandalay, on the west bank of the Ayeyawaddy River, Mingun has a gigantic unfinished pagoda, 50 meters high, overlooking the river, and the 90-ton Mingun Bell, the largest ringing bell in the world cast in 1170 by King Bodawpaya. A 45-minute boat trip to Mingun is very pleasant with plenty of life on the river to see.
The Mingun Bell
The largest, intact, suspended bell in the world. The bell measures 3.7 m in height, is 5 m wide at its mouth and weighs 90 tons. The bell was ordered cast by King Bodawpaya in 1790 and hung from metal-plate-covered triple beams, supported by teak logs. In the 1838 earthquake the Mingun Bell survived the collapse of its original "tazaung" or pagoda pavilion. It was placed in a new "tazaung" held up by stout iron rods, where it remains today.
Sagaing lies 21 km southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The Sagaing Hills are noted as a religious retreat and has over 400 cloisters for monks and nuns. About 10 km from Sagaing is the Kaunghmudaw, an enormous dome-shaped pagoda built by King Thalun in 1636, on the model of the Mahaceti Pagoda of Sri Lanka. The Sagaing (Ava) Bridge built in 1934 links Mandalay and Sagaing across the Ayeyarwaddy River. It was bombed by the British to stop the advancing Japanese Army during Second World War. At the nearby village of Ywataung, you can see silversmiths making silverware by traditional methods.
This huge pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing. The enormous dome rises 46 m (151 feet) in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modelled 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.
Lies 64 miles north of Mandalay on the motor and railroad to Myitkyina. Shwebo was the native town of U Aungzeya, the founder of the Konebaung Dynasty. The Pyu culture dating back to the second century A.D. flourished at Hanlin, the ruins of which can still be seen, a few miles south of Shwebo. During the reign of successive kings of this dynasty, the capital had been shifted to various towns in central Myanmar. Hence the place and other royal parks, lakes, moats and watch tower have been neglected, disrepair, ravaged and ruined in the last two centuries.
A riverside town on the Ayeyarwady 17 miles east of Shwe Bo is famous for its glazed pottery industry. The use of pots and other earthenware containers for cooking and tableware originated about 500 years ago. Pots were used for storage of foods such as fermented fish or Ngapi, fermented fish sauce or Nganpyaryay, cooking oil and water.
Traditional eating utensils included lacquered round wooden or split bamboo trays called Byatwaing, circular tray on a stand used for serving meals, called Daunglan, earthen bowls or basins called Myayzalone and glazed earthen basins called Aindonsintthoke. Although today, steel, aluminum, brass and bronze pots are popular, most local still use earthenware pots for cooking. They believe cooking in earthenware makes tastier, more aromatic, tender and sweet. There is traditional art specialty forms like cocks, peacocks and animals in circular or squares are made that you would marvel. Pots, bowls and jars of small, medium and huge sizes that are floated down the river, tied tightly together with canes like large rafts. Sometimes are towed by tugboats and distributed all over the country.
Lies on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River. Ancient name by Thalawadi, used to be a large size of village in the Bagan Period. It was only a year after the British annexation of Myanmar that Monywar became the Headquarters of the Lower Chindwin District. About 136 km to the west of Mandalay lies Monywa, the commercial center of the Chindwin Valley or northwestern Myanmar. Places of interest include Thanbokde Pagoda, with over 500,000 Buddha images; Bodhi-ta-taung (one thousand Bo trees): Ledi Kyaungtaik, a teaching monastery where Buddhist scriptures are inscribed on 806 stone slabs.
Po Win Taung caves
With over 400, 000 ancient Buddha images and statues and murals dating from the 14th to the 16th century.
Kyaukka , a town about ten miles to the east, second only to Bagan as a center for the Myanmar lacquer-ware cottage industry. A few hours drive will also bring you to Twintaung hill, an extinct volcano whose crater now forms a beautiful lake. The surrounding area has lush vegetation, and views of the area from the rim of this crater lake is breathtaking.