Kye-Mhon Bridge, West side of Mandalay Fort Moat, Myanmar

Visiting Mandalay City in Myanmar - Travel and Touring Guide with Photos.

Mandalay comes as something of a shock after perhaps being in peaceful Bagan and/or Inle Lake - the city is very busy most of the time with seemingly millions of motor bikes packing the roads.

As places in Myanmar go, Mandalay is not that old since it was only founded in 1857 when King Mindon established it as his Royal Capital. The present city is centred around the walled citadel which is itself bordered by a wide moat - access to the citadel is by five bridges.
View of Mandalay - Mandalay Hill in the background.

Ways of travelling too and from Mandalay - flights, by road and by riverboats.

Mandalay's modern International Airport is situated some 35kms away to the south of the City - getting too and from Mandalay therefore involves some form of taxi - although some international airlines do offer a free shuttle apparently. In March 2014 a private taxi into Mandalay was being charged at USD20 - shared taxis are a of course a bit less though.
As far as international flights are concerned it is possible to fly directly from Kunming (China Eastern Airlines) and Bangkok (Thai Air Asia, Bangkok Airways). With things much improved politically in Myanmar and with the subsequent huge increase in tourism then presumably more direct international flights into Mandalay will be gradually allocated. Domestic flights are plentiful with several airlines operating a sort of circular service which starts out from Yangon and goes via Heho, Mandalay, Bagan and back to Yangon or the other way round - the aircraft used are turbo-props. The various airlines do have websites but not all will allow full ticket purchases yet - you may only be able to reserve your seat and then have to go to the airline office or approved travel agent to pay for it. Even the schedules are only fully committed too a few days before flights - these schedules are published every 7 days.
Getting between Mandalay and Bagan (Nyaung U) by boat along the Irrawaddy River (Arrawaddy or Ayeyarwady River) is an option i.e. The Road to Mandalay. This can either be a several day cruise on a quite luxurious cruise boat - with prices pretty high of course - to simply taking the 10 hour trip to say you have done it - tickets are around USD50 per person. In reality there is little to see as you go along the river which is very wide for much of the journey - most activity and things to see only really occur at the Mandalay end. Note that sailings are very much dependant on river conditions - namely if there is enough water in the river.

Travelling the circuit i.e. Yangon - Inle - Mandalay - Bagan.

Yangon to Mandalay is a long way by road and rail so flying is easily the best option unless you have plenty of time to spare - although flights are of course much more expensive than going by coach. The roads between Mandalay and Inle Lake (Heho) are poor so again flying is the way to travel - however between Mandalay and Bagan the roads are pretty good so it's worth considering going by car and driver or by coach. For two people a car and driver from Bagan to Mandalay (USD120 in March 2014) should work out a bit less than flying plus airport taxis - this is if you barter with taxi drivers for a price rather than book via your hotel travel desk. Advantages are obvious - you get to travel when you are ready, see the countryside (and stop for a look at something if you wish), total convenience as far as luggage and packing is concerned and probably overall is quicker.
Mandalay is Burma's second largest city - it is easy to navigate as it uses a grid system i.e. all streets are numbered. 1 to 49 is east to west, 50 and over go north to south. The main tourist attractions are around Mandalay HIll and of course the Royal Palace and Fort area is very popular. The square shaped moat itself also makes for an interesting walk.
From the south-west corner of the moat taking a walk west along 26th Street leads to the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River - this is perhaps 2.5kms away though. Along the way it's easily possible to divert slightly and visit the Sacred Heart Church, the Shwekyimyint Pagoda and there are also several mosques and other temples around. A particularly busy area is by the Clock Tower (which is situated in the middle of the road) and by Zegyo Market.
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Kyauk Mosque at Mandalay.
Kyauk Mosque
Mandalay's Clocktower.
Sacred Heart Church - Mandalay.
Heart Church
Interior of Sacred Heart Church - Mandalay.
Sacred Heart Church
As well as fresh produce and flowers just about everything else from furniture to clothing to pots and pans can be found on the many stalls situated in the adjacent streets. By continuing along the main road the Ayeyarwady River is eventually reached. These sort of areas are always very interesting to watch - plenty of boats and barges around and lots of this and that going on. There is a large cafe/restaurant on the river-bank which is just right for a sit and a beer. From there you can watch the barges being loaded and un-loaded, larger boats passing up and down the river, children playing on the river edge, pots being loaded and unloaded from local barges and amongst it all some very nice looking pigs.
Cargo boat - Mandalay.
Cargo boat
Irrawaddy River Bank - Mandalay.
Irrawaddy River
Irrawaddy River ferry - Mandalay.
River ferry
Irrawaddy River pig - Mandalay.
River pig
Irrawaddy River pots - Mandalay. Irrawaddy Riverbank - Mandalay. Irrawaddy River - Mandalay. From the river it is quite easy to get a taxi (i.e. pickup truck) back up to the moat if the walk back is not fancied. The city is also renowned for it's gold leaf making and there are several workshops which can be visited - where craftsmen still use traditional methods.

Day Trips from Mandalay to visit the three former capitals in Burma - Inwa (Ava), Sagaing and Amarapura.

A good way to visit the above old royal capitals is by hiring a car and driver for the day - which might cost around 45 to 50 USD.
In truth covering all three in a single day without skipping various sites is pretty difficult even with an early start - there is so much to see. If time permits it might be better to allow one day for looking round Inwa and another for Saigan and Amarapura.
There are loads of Stupas and Temples scattered over the hills at Sagain and someof these need to be walked too along the extensive walkways. Inwa is often visited by boat which goes across the Myitnge River and then by horse and cart however the advantage of going the longer way round by car is that more of Inwa's beautiful countryside and far more sites and buildings can be seen. Incidentally most organised tours visit Amapura first and stop at the Mahagandhayon Monastery to watch the monks eat at 11 a.m. for some reason - an afternoon visit is more rewarding to look round the Monastery - surely the point of going.
The sites at both Inwa and Amarapura are covered by the Mandalay Combo Ticket - ensure you have this ticket otherwise your driver will or could be in trouble. Sagaing has it's own entrance fee of USD3 but you may or not be asked to pay this.
Our other items about Mandalay and surrounding area.
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