In planning our trip to Mandalay, we had read more than one review that suggested if travelers are short on time on their first visit to Myanmar, that they should consider limiting their time or even skip Mandalay. While we had plenty of time for our trip, we did end up scheduling only 2-nights in the city. Upon reflection, we had a terrific time in Mandalay and would not have minded adding a day or so to our visit. A lot of the credit for our good time there was due to the excellent services of our guide Soe Pang.
We arrived in the city via the Malikha “Express River Cruise” from Bagan. Despite what you might read elsewhere, we enjoyed the day on the boat but the trip took us 11 hours without any stops along the way.
A Brief History
Mandalay replaced nearby Amarapura as the Capital of Burma in 1857 by King Mindon, the Burmese ruler of the day. It served as the national capitol for less than 30 years when the British gained control of the country in 1885. Even after British occupation Mandalay continued as and remains in modern times the most important economic, cultural and educational center of northern Myanmar.
Today, Mandalay is Myanmar’s 2nd largest city with an estimated metropolitan area population of 1.6 million and is the capital of the Mandalay Region. The Burman are the largest ethnic group in the district but the past 25 years has seen a huge influx of immigrants from the Yunnan Province of China, who now make ups roughly 1/3 of the city’s population.
Mandalay lies on the Ayeyarwady River, which throughout history and continuing today is an important means of transportation of both people and goods. Currently the modern Mandalay International Airport is served by relatively few international flights but new direct flights from other Asian cities are being added in 2013 and likely will continue to be added as tourism grows. The city is also served by rail and bus services for domestic travel.
While our visit only lasted only for 2-nights, we managed to hit many (but far short of all) important destinations. In addition to reviews on Mandalay restaurants we visited and the Hotel Emperor, where we stayed, we have first-hand reports on our tour schedule as shown below:
- King Galon Gold Leaf workshop
- Mahamuni Buddha Pagoda
- Moe Hti Aung Si Monastery and Meditation Center
- U Bein Bridge
- Maha Ganayan University
- Thein Nyo weaving workshop
- U Min Thonze Pagoda
- Shwenandaw Kyaung (teak wood) Monastery
- Jade Market
- Mandalay Hill
- Kuthodaw Pagoda & the World’s Largest Book
- Train Travel to Thazi