‘’On the Road to Mandalay’’ is a poem by Rudyard Kipling and a song by Frank Sinatra. Its fame spread without many people actually knowing where it was other than it was exotic and somewhere to the east. Certainly few people had been there and ever thought about doing so. In today’s world of course air travel has expanded everyone’s horizons and the second largest city of Myanmar is enjoying an increased number of tourists and this Mandalay travel guide hopes to explain to you all why they are coming.
It is a major religious and economic centre in the north of the country and anyone looking at Myanmar travel packageswill find that Mandalay is one of the places they will visit. Kipling’s poem was written in 1890 when Burma (now Myanmar) was a British Protectorate. Mandalay was only a little over 30 years old then, a creation of King Mingdon Min for his capital. It was a magnificent city in its time but only two kings ruled from there before the British arrived. Unfortunately little remains because fire and bombing (World War II) destroyed many of the original wooden constructions. The result is that much of the city is a modern creation, including the reconstructed buildings from the time of those two kings.
No Mandalay travel guide can start other than by listing the important religious sites in Mandalay. Around half of Myanmar’s monks live locally and it is important that overseas visitors who travel to Myanmar understand the important of showing proper respect both to the sites and the monks themselves.Religion is central to Myanmar life. The country is Buddhist though it has been influenced over the years by Chinese especially with up to 40% of the city’s population either recent arrivals from China or of Chinese descent while India, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia have made an impact to some extent.
There are a number of religious sites and it is important to dress properly if you intend to visit any of them; they are perhaps the main reason for visiting Mandalay so you are almost certain to visit some!
• Maha Myat Muni Paya is the second holiest pilgrimage site in the Country and contains a 4 metre Buddha statue of gold precious jewels. Men are allowed to buy a small packet of gold leaf to place on the Buddha and there is now quite a layer of gold that has accumulated over the decades. Women are not allowed to visit this site.
• Shwe Kyi Myin Paya dates back to the 1st Century and was built by Prince Min Shin Saw.
• Mandalay Hill has several monasteries and temples and sunset is an especially good time to visit.
• Shwenandaw Monastery made entire out of teak wood was originally part of the royal palace built by King Mindon but it was moved by his son late in the 19th Century. It is one of the few wooden structures in Mandalay to survive the bombing and is the only part of the original Royal Palace site still standing.
• Sandamuni Paya at the foot of Mandalay Hill contains the world's largest iron Buddha image.
• Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda has an image of the Buddha made from a single block of marble.
• ‘’The World’s Largest Book’’ is a term often used about Kathodaw Pagoda which has 729 inscribed marble slabs about the teachings of Buddha. It was begun in 1860 and took 8 years to complete. It is another attraction close to Mandalay Hill.
There is more to Mandalay than religion and the modern Chinese style glass buildings are indicative of the importance of the City to the nation’s economy. That really has no role to play in this Mandalay travel guidewhich aims to inform those on Myanmar tour packages about places to visit, historical, cultural and natural.
• The Royal Palace is a walled built in 1861 by King Mindon and rebuilt in recent years. It is now made of metal, not teak as originally. There is a fair amount of walking involved in seeing the whole site with the highlights being replicas of throne rooms and chairs. There is also a museum with exhibits from the palace.
• Waterfall Hill is a place where there are outdoor sports and activities such as caving and rock climbing.
• Mahamuni Paya is the daily ceremony of washing the Buddha's face.
• The teak U Bein's bridge is another great place to enjoy sunset; certainly the locals think so judging by the numbers that gather.
• A boat to the village of Mingun is a great idea for those wanting to walk, climb or simply explore. A typical tour allows for at least three hours at the village before returning to Mandalay.
• Dee Doke Waterfall is interesting and about an hour out of the City. There will rarely be many people around and it offers a great contrast to a day visiting religious sites.
Myanmar travel in general is safe as long as tourists use the same common sense that they would use in their lives in general. Women should avoid being out alone after dark in some parts of the City but that would apply in any part of the world. It is important to be polite and show due respect to people and places. It is also essential to avoid drugs. South East Asia has no tolerance whatsoever for drug use and this Mandalay travel guide wants to stress that it applies to not only the City but the Country and the region as a whole.
Good tour companies are able to design tours to suit the special interests of their clients some of whom will be keen on history and culture while others may be looking for activities. Myanmar has only re-entered the ‘’tourist circuit’’ relatively recently but the locals are more than happy to welcome people interested in learning more about their country. This Mandalay travel guide hopes to have given you good reasons to do so.