This sprawling cultural centre is the most Burman of Myanmar’s cities. It was the last capital of Myanmar before the British took over and is the country’s second-largest city. Highlights of Mandalay include Shwenandaw Kyaung, the sole remaining building of the once extravagant moated palace, Mandalay Hill with its spiraling stairways temples and sweeping views and the ancient Rakhine Buddha image at Mahamuni Paya.
Mahamuni’s 4 metre tall seated Buddha , a nationally celebrated image popularly believed to be some 2000 years old. Centuries of votary gold leaf applied by male devotees (women may only watch) has left the figure knobbly with a 15cm layer of pure gold… except on his radiantly gleaming face, which is ceremonially polished daily at 4am.
Bustling markets with produce and handicrafts from all over Upper Myanmar are another feature of Mandalay. There are four ‘deserted cities’ nearby: Amarapura, Sagaing, Ava and Mingun. Mingun is the most appealing of the four. Not only are there some wonderful monuments in various states of disrepair, but just getting there is half the fun. Mingun is only accessible by river, and the boat ride from Mandalay is a treat.
Mingun has one of Myanmar’s most beautiful Pagodas – Hsinbyume. The pagoda was built in 1816 by Bagyidaw. It is dedicated to the memory of his cousin, Princess Hsinbyume who had died in childbirth nearby.
The Pagoda’s design is a great departure from Burmese Pagoda design norms. It is based on descriptions of the mythical Sulamani Pagoda on Mount Meru, and the lower parts of the pagoda represent the mountain. Seven concentric terraces represent the seven mountain ranges going up to the Mount Meru according to Buddhist mythology.
The Pagoda is topped with a gold spire enshrining a Buddha image.
The best way to see Mandalay is a sunrise balloon ride. You will discover hidden sights and treasures of this historic area which can only be seen from a balloon basket. The ballooning season in Mandalay runs from 16th November until 31st January. Balloons only fly if weather conditions are suitable and if your ride is cancelled, a full refund is given. Our discounted rate starts at US $295 per passenger. It is an experience not to be missed.
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