Mandalay didn’t have very many tourists. We really liked that it seemed less traveled. That doesn’t mean they lack people and motorbikes though. Walking is difficult because there are so many motorbikes that don’t stop for you to cross, and there are no side walks (that aren’t covered with parked motorbikes or food stands). If you stay outside of the city center area, plan to taxi to and from your hotel. We actually had a hard time finding taxis though. We could always get our hotel to call us one, but to get back to the hotel, it was usually a motorbike taxi that was around. I refused to ride any of them (I know, lame, whatever – I am not getting in a motorbike accident here), so we eventually found a little pickup truck with a cage over the back and a couple of seats.
Mandalay means “flat land.” I don’t know how that’s helpful, but chalk it up to facts you didn’t know (probably) and now you do :) What is helpful and I find interesting is that Mandalay is on a grid system. Their streets are numbered and super organized, so it’s easy to tell where you are and how far you need to go.
We stayed at Hotel A-1 which was nice, but not in the best location (because of the walking / cabbing). They were nice people though and helped us book a tour with a great guide. If you’re interested in doing a full day tour around town (which I suggest because it was helpful in learning about the city as well as the culture), we went with Ko Par Lwin. He has two numbers in Myanmar: 09-797 547 457 and 09-4410 24292. He was very informative, and he even took us to see his house and play with his 2 puppies (tiny puppies… I was in Heaven). Here is his card that he put on our backpack in case we got lost:
Make sure you wear shoes that slip on and off easily on the days that you're seeing temples. You'll need to take your shoes off before you enter every temple (and most of the time your socks too). Your feet will get filthy with bird poop, dust, and even bat guano that cover the floors of the temples. Oh well though – that’s just the price you pay for being able to see all these awesome temples!
We went to a lot of them, but the big ones we saw are: The Mandalay Royal Palace, Golden Palace Monestry, Maha Atulawaiyan (Atumashi) Kyaungdawgyi, Maha Lawkamarazein or Kuthodaw Inscription Shrines, Mahermuni, and Bagaya Amarapura Monestry. See our photos here so you can choose which ones you like!
The museum at the Royal Palace is only open on Tuesdays, but I don’t think you’re missing much if you don’t make it there on a Tuesday. You can still see most of the palace on any other day – just not the museum.
I also highly suggest seeing a traditional marionette (puppet) show. Take a look of some of our video clips here: Traditional Myanmar Marionette (Puppet) Show. I get bored pretty easily, but this was only an hour long, and it kept me entertained.
One of the most visited sites in Mandalay (where you will see the most tourists) is the U Bein Bridge. It’s the world’s longest wooden bridge, and it was established in 1850. You should go for sunset (with all the other tourists) and sit at one of the bars under the bridge. We sat at one called Sky. You get some awesome pictures of the sun setting behind the wooden bridge.
Read more about Myanmar in my overview blog post here, and see our photos here!
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.