Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar after Yangon and the former capital but with a much calmer and lazier feel to it. The top sights in Mandalay are very sparse so you will not run into as many tourists as in Yangon or Inle Lake. Here are the top 4 sights you should not miss.
1. MANDALAY HILL
Mandalay Hill is the only peak in the area with a beautiful vantage point of the countryside and the major sights in the city. We climbed up from the south side and found it to be a moderately easy climb with lots of places along the way to rest and grab something cold to drink. Keep in mind though that you will have to climb barefoot from the bottom to the top and that the floor is not always spotless.
If you don’t feel like climbing up, you can always get a taxi for just a couple USD to get you to the top. However, the climb up is absolutely worth it. With amazing views from each break point. There is no entrance fee here but you are expected to pay a small camera fee of 1000 kyat at the very top. After we climbed down we hired a motorcycle taxi to take us to U-Bein bridge and Mahamuni and then back to Mandalay bus station for only 11000 kyat, which was a convenient and cheap ride (highly reccomended if you are on a budget) .
2. KUTHODAW AND SANDAMUNI PAYA
Kuthodaw Pagoda is a must see. The long lines of perfectly parallel and equal white stupas is breathtaking. Walking around the area is extremely peaceful with only a few tourists to disturb you. We stumbled upon a Burmese couple taking wedding photos and spend more than 30 minutes walking around this beautiful complex.
Sandamuni Pagoda is right at the foot of Mandalay Hill, it resembles the neighbouring Kuthodaw Pagoda with similar structure and lines of white stupas. I highly suggest to take time and walk around these two pagodas before heading up Mandalay Hill.
4. MAHAMUNI PAGODA
This famous pagoda is conveniently located on the way to Amarapura. The pagoda itself is stunning and the interesting thing about Mahamuni is the Buddha statue in it. Believers (men only are allowed) decorate this statue daily by applying gold leaves, which is incredible considering how poor the country is. The Mahamuni pagoda complex has several beautiful golden buildings within and in all the entrances there are corridors filled with wood carving and jade shops for anyone looking to buy souveniers.
5. U-BEIN BRIDGE
U-Bein bridge in Amarapura is the longest teak wood bridge in the world. We arrived at around 3pm and walked along the bridge from one end to the other. If you want to have enough time to visit the monastery that is there, you should arrive at least 3 hours before sunset, we did not have enough time to see it. While walking along you can take time and relax on the benches on the bridge and try local snacks such as spiced fresh fruits or water chestnuts.
We waited for sunset (which was packed with tourists) and watched the amazing colors of the sky fade into different shades of red and orange. We settled on the grass area close to the boat jetty for the picture perfect spot. However, if you want to witness the sunset from the water you can also choose to rent a boat and do a quick tour of the lake. No matter how long you are staying in Mandalay this is a sight that cannot be missed.