Mandalay is the kind of place that people will use as a transport hub but get away from as quickly as possible. During my visit to Burma I lost count of the number of times people said to me that there’s nothing to do in Mandalay. I beg to differ, and to prove them wrong, here are my top five things to do in Mandalay.
U Bein Bridge
This is the world’s longest teak bridge, stretching for about a mile across Taungthaman Lake. It’s a popular spot to view spectacular sunsets, and monks often come here to take a walk and get lost in their thoughts. Take a boat out on the lake, or just stroll over the bridge to visit the bars and street food vendors waiting at either end.
The World’s Biggest Book
Located at Kuthodaw Paya, the world’s largest book is actually a series of white stupas, each one containing a marble slab with text inscribed from the Tripitaka (the Buddhist holy book). With 729 of these stupas, it would take a person well over a year to read the entire book if they spent 8 hours a day reading.
This beautiful teak monastery comes complete with intricate carvings all over the exterior, and many more inside. The monastery used to stand in the grounds of the Royal Palace, but after the death of King Mindon, his successor King Thibaw couldn’t handle the “ghosts” and moved the monastery piece by piece to its current location at the base of Mandalay Hill.
Take a boat ride
Taking a boat ride on the Ayeyarwady River offers a whole new perspective on the city, and there are many places that can be accessed from the water. The 11 hour trip to Bagan is incredibly popular, but if you fancy something a little shorter you could visit Mingun, just an hour upstream. Here you can see the unfinished pagoda, or maybe the world’s largest ringable bell.
Fancy a hill dotted with golden stupas and iced with a couple of temples on top? Well, you should probably take yourself to Sagaing Hill. The hill is best viewed either from the water (see above), or from the road bridge that crosses the river. It’s also worth making the trek to the top, where the semi-circular Umin Thounzeh is home to 45 Buddhas.