Mandalay is a Myanmar’s second largest city after Yangon (Rangoon), and yet it has a very different vibe than the capital. Like Yangon, Mandalay is very crowded, the traffic is quite heavy, and streets are always filled with people.
Mandalay has some of Myanmar’s most beautiful temples
Are you tired of the golden pagodas? Well Mandalay has them too! But,the temples have some extra bonuses that make them much more interesting to visit. Go to Sanda Muni Pagoda and Kuthodaw Pagoda for the ultimate Instagram pictures with the white structure background. Check out Shwe In Bin Monetary for an authentic wooden structure. This one really looks like part of the movie set for a The Last Samurai. The Eindawa Paya is quite a large complex and has a bit of everything. It has a golden zedi, a white wavy building, and the colorful shimmering wall decoration.
Mandalay’s streets are an obstacle course
Walking around in Mandalay is like taking part in an obstacle course. The city lacks proper pavements, so you always find yourself on the side of the road trying to step on some pavement blocks while avoiding a collision with a passing car or tuktuk. There is no strolling down the streets, walking in Mandalay demands full focus from you to make sure you don’t fall into any holes and make the right steps. That being said, it is not dangerous, but definitely make a city walk more interesting.
Check out Mandalay hill for the whole city view
The Mandalay hill is definitely worth the visit! You can visit the Su Taung Pyee Pagoda and wash your eyes with the amazing views of Mandalay. Either do the 45 minutes hike up or take a tuktuk up there. Some tuktuks will refuse to take you up there as it is quite a steep ride, and perhaps uses too much fuel for them. There is also a toll fee of 100 Kyats on the way. Needless to say, ask a few drivers and try to negotiate a good price. The best time to visit Mandalay hill is just before sunset as the light shines nicely on the pagoda and the sunset is visible.
A day trip to Mingun
A 45-minute drive away from central Mandaly is the village of Mingun, which is home to some of Myanmar’s most beautiful sites. You will find the world’s second largest bell there, although it is tucked away inside a bell-house so it is difficult to appreciate its size from far away. The Mingun Paya is a white construction with wave like formation and a golden zedi on top. For this site most Instagram Travel celebrities wear either yellow or orange cloths as it contrasts nicely with the white complex.
Lastly, but definitely not least are the Chinthe ruins. This is a massive complex made out of brown bricks that has not been entirely completed. Walk over to the left of the complex (looking to the front) to get a nice view from an angle.
Sagaing and Awa (Inwa) for some more temples
There are some very nice temples you can visit in these two ancient cities. In Sagaing you can visit some temples with amazing views and great architecture. For Awa (Inwa) you need to pay an entrance fee, which is the same as for the Mandalay Palace. This will cost you 10,000 Kyats for a 3 day ticket.
Probably one of the biggest attractions outside Mandalay is U-Bein bridge, which is located in the nearby village of Amarapura. It gets very busy, especially just before sunset as this is when everyone goes there. If you are courageous enough, wake up early for sunrise there and you will have a more calm experience and can take nice photos of the bridge.
For visiting the sites outside of Mandalay you can arrange for a taxi driver to tour you around to multiple sites. We paid a driver 40,000 Kyats for an entire day to visit Mingun, Sagaing, and Amarapure. You may also rent a scooter, but traffic is quite heavy and it might be difficult to visit all places in one day.