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Home > Myanmar Highlights > Mandalay & Surroundings > In-city highlights

In-city Highlights

In-city highlights Amarapura Inwa Sagaing Mingun Pyin Oo Lwin

Romantic Mandalay… the cultural heartland and the centre of Universe

Being the biggest city in Myanmar after Yangon with population approximately 1.2mil, Mandalay is the country’s second city and major commercial hub, as a result of proximity to China in the east and a trade route with India in the west… Mandalay is rapidly growing trade centre of all upper Myanmar located 700km north of Yangon.

Mandalay was established by the highly admired King named Mindon, for his new capital and the focal point for Buddhist teachings, in 1857AD to fulfill an ancient Buddhist prophecy. There were only two kings ruled over on this last Burmese Capital, King Mindon (1852 to 1878) and King Thibaw (1879 to 1885). When the British took the entire country in 1885, the later king was exiled to Ratnagiri, India and Yangon was chosen as their capital. Although Mandalay didn’t survive long as the “Golden City”, it remains as an important cultural hub & Buddhist religious centre with myriad glittering pagodas dotting all corners of the region’s landscape and over 300,000 of country’s monks and nuns still make their home in Mandalay area. As of the country’s culturally important city, one can surprisingly find several artists & craftsmen using the same skill and methods as were employed by their forefathers. The woodcarvers produce from Buddha images of different sizes, shapes, period to beautiful floral motifs of 18th & 19th century reproductions, where the stone-carvers sculpt usual marble images of Buddha images to Chinese deities and even occasional statute of virgin Mary, as of the bronze casters do the same-kind but of course from the different materials and procedures, and the gold beating (making of gold leafs) an extremely old manufacturing process is carried out according to a time-honored tradition. The other age-old tradition worthy to see is the producing of tapestries Kalagar (blinds and wall decorative embossed sequencing), and the silk weaving of Burmese traditional patterns. There are also a number of paint artists using diverse techniques and different mediums portraying ancient times, portraits of people, scenes of nature, cultural, religious, and lifestyle etc. If fact, Mandalay is still living in the past… of those times of the bygone kingdoms where one could recall its ambiance in the air… or for many people, Mandalay is simply romantic with the whitewashed dazzling pagodas, glass-mosaics shrines, classic Burmese speaking people, the massive fort & the wide moats with Mandalay Hill as a backdrop, itinerant monks, wide arrays of better-tasting Burmese foods, skilled artists and craftsmen, expanse farmlands in the south & north bounded with hazy blue Shan mountain range in the east and country’s main artery & legendary Ayerwaddy River with bustling traffic in the west, the deserted cities before Mandalay period where one can witnesses the abundant evidence of the political and religious power that belonged to upper Myanmar between the fall of Bagan and the British occupation (14th to 19th Centuries).

In-city Highlights

King Mindon’s Fort & Myanansankyaw Royal Palace

An 8-m high, approximately 12sqkm fort is surrounded by the 70-m wide & 3-m deep moat was started to built from the bare land in 1857AD by the order of King Mindon, who was residing at his palace in Amarapura. Then, the Golden Palace was added right in the center of the fort on the raised platform and walled again. The grand audience hall awaits you from a few steps on to the palace building and the hall of lion throne topped with multi spire roof, from which kings of Myanmar believed to have wisdom necessary to rule a kingdom funneled down direct of the heavens. If fact, this particular place is the “Centre of Universe” according to the Brahman-Buddhist cosmology. The original place was destroyed on 20 March 1945 in fierce fighting between Japanese and allied forces, and all that remains are the brick basement and some masonry buildings. It was reconstructed a decade ago, but now with concrete and metal sheets. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see what was like it at least and a museum displaying some old black & white photos, royal regalia, and some furniture used in the palace. A 33-m high Palace Watchtower offers a view of entire compound.

Mandalay Hill

As a saying goes “for live longer, take shelter of Mandalay Hill”, one will witness some overweighed people trying to stroll up and down the 236-m high Mandalay Hill. This place is as important as the foundation of Mandalay… the place where Buddha and his disciples visited and prophesized that a great Buddhist city will be established after 2400th year of his death. A prophecy, which king Mindon, took a reason to establish Mandalay. For those who have a lot of time and energy can take the 1720-setps to the top, while it can easily be reached by the pickup truck to the upper base and take a lift or escalator to the topmost platform offering breathtaking expanse views of Shan Hills, cityscape, the Ayerwaddy River and even Mingun village if the weather’s good enough.

Kuthodaw, the world biggest book pagoda

Dubbed with the name “the world biggest book”, this pagoda is a great merit of King Mindon, where the entire Tripitaka (the holy Buddhist canons) was recorded on the 729-marble slabs in 1859AD and called for the fifth Buddhist synod in 1876AD. The king had an idea to inscribe the entire canon on the stone slabs so that it would last for another 2600years, the time when the new Buddha appears in the world. It took 7-years, 6-months, and 14-days to complete with 200 of editorial committee and around 50 of stone carvers.

Sandamani Pagoda

This pagoda was built by King Mindon as a remembrance of his brother prince Kanaung, who was assassinated in an unsuccessful palace revolt. The pagoda compound posses over 1700 of inscribed stone slabs recorded the commentaries on the Tripitaka were credited to U Khanti, a hermit who also partake the construction of Mandalay Hill top pagoda. There is an iron Buddha image, casted in 1802 by King Bodawpaya that was moved here in 1874 from Amarapura.

Atumashi Monastery

A huge monastery built by King Mindon in 1857 having masonry base originally topped with traditional wooden structure is a recently reconstructed one. It has not much things to see inside apart from the huge empty hall but best seen from the outside for its fine stucco reliefs. Atumashi literally means, incomparable monastery.

Shwenandaw Kyaung

Shwenandaw Kyaung is a fine example of traditional Burmese wooden monastery and a fragile reminder of Mandalay Palace. The building itself was once a part of Mandalay palace and moved to the present place by King Thibaw to be used as a monastery in 1880AD. The entire building is carved & gilded inside and out. So it is then rightfully called “Golden Palace Monastery”. There is a seated Mandalay style Buddha image on the throne and the carved panels portraying the last ten stories of the life of Buddha are particularly interesting to see.

Kyauktawgyi Temple

Located at the base of Mandalay Hill, a little northwest of Sandamani, Kyauktawgyi is a temple to house 900-ton Buddha image made from single-block of marble that labored 10,000 men spending 13-days to transport to the present site from the query of 32-km away. The eyes of 8-m high Buddha image were painted by King Mindon himself in 1865, but the 25-year long temple construction attempting to copy the architecture of Bagan’s Ananda temple was never been completed.

Mahamuni Temple

This is the most sacred Buddhist religious site of all upper Myanmar. The temple houses 4-m high Buddha image casted in bronze and heavily gilded with gold leafs about 15-cm thick and thus the image is virtually out of shape. Brought by King Bodawpaya in 1783 from Rakhings (Arrakhans) this image is treated as alive-Buddha so monks brush the teeth and wash the face of Buddha at 4:30am and let the Buddha sleep by playing some music at 4:00pm. The image is highly venerated as Buddha himself supervised the casting work and consecrated on the spot. There are also interesting six Khmer figures from Cambodians’ Angkor Watt, which were nabbed by the Thais in 14th century, then 16th century by the Burmese, and again 17th century by the Rakhings, and finally by King Bodawpaya in the 18th century.

Shwe In Bin Kyaung

This huge and elegant wooden monastery is dated back to 1895AD, donated by a Chinese jade merchant couple, has exquisite quality of carved penal along the balustrades ad roof cornices. The small streets leading to the monastery limited the size of vehicles and thus usually escaped from the tour groups.

Zaycho & Open-air Market

The biggest and the trade centre of all upper Myanmar, Zaycho is always crowded and full of activities during the day. This is the place where one could find almost everything that produce in Myanmar.

The open-air night market commence, by blocking the main-road in front of Zaycho market, in the evening around 5:30pm. In this place you can find old books, imported cheap items, and various Burmese traditional snacks. The night market ends around 9:00pm.




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