One of the real pleasures of an Indochina tour is the chance to trek. Years ago, if you were in Mandalay and wanted to get to the top of Mandalay Hill, it was a 30 minutes’ walk. You can get a lift there these days but if you enjoy walking and you avoid the heat of the day, it is certainly something for active tourists to do. There are great views from the top of the city and the surrounding region.
Elsewhere, you can go rock climbing and caving on Waterfall Hill to the east of the City. There will be no crowds which is still an advantage of Myanmar travel over travelling in the more established tourist countries of South East Asia; even in high seasons numbers are not too overwhelming.
The natural environment is worth enjoying, even if it is from the windows of a vehicle. If you enjoy walking, and have the time, then you will enjoy the location of Mandalay. You can hire a cycle and be perfectly safe exploring on your own. If day time temperatures are going to be especially high, then cycle in the early morning and as the sun is going down. You will be able to get plenty of advice of the routes to take.
There are a number of interesting tours, and a number of means of taking them:
• Take a private Three Cities’ Tour with your own driver, taking in Maha Muni en route to Sagaing Hill and its golden temples, visiting Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura, the home of 1,000 monks, the Kaung Hmu Taw monastery with its golden dome and U Bein's Bridge, a great place to see the sunset.
• A similar route can be done with a motorcycle.
• Mandalay Marionettes Theatre on 66th Street has a puppet show performed by an old man. It may be difficult to understand everything but it is great fun.
• A boat trip to Mingun is interesting. You will get there in around an hour and have three hours to explore before returning slightly quicker. There are a few things to do whilst there; climb the Mingun Paya and see both the world’s biggest uncracked bell and the white pagoda, Hsinbyume Paya.
• Learning to cook foreign cuisine is fun, and will impress everyone when you get home. The Mandalay Cooking Class is held in a small village about 20 minutes out of Mandalay. You will enjoy the surrounding region with its paddy fields and can cycle around as well within the time allocated for the day.
• Every day in Mandalay there is a ceremony known as Mahamuni Paya, washing the Buddha’s face; it is early in the morning and is attended by hundreds of locals.
• Kalaw Elephant Sanctuary is a day trip from Mandalay. The elephants have spent their lives logging but are now enjoying a well-earned retirement and it is fun to observe their daily lives now while also learning more about the local villages, flora and fauna.
Read more: Things to do in Myanmar