Mandalay – exotic and magical
The name alone conjures something magical, exotic, a place shrouded in mystery that you long to discover… at least that’s how I felt about Mandalay.
What I found interesting was that Mandalay was not so high on the tourism map of Myanmar. Yes, it is one of the “Big 4” next to Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake, but it is still overlooked by many people. Maybe because the word got around that in fact it is not an old city (as one would expect from the former capital of Burma), but rather young and even a bit industrial (but dotted with dozens of monks in their dark red or brown orange robes). Maybe because it doesn’t have its own Shwedagon Paya (but it has plenty other beautiful pagodas and monasteries and home to the world largest book). Maybe because the attractions are very spread out and you spend a lot of time just trying to get from one place to another (but you get to see more of the city itself). Maybe because it seems almost impossible to walk anywhere (but still possible if you don’t mind walking longer distances) or maybe because of many other reasons. However…I find all these “reasons” unjustified, because Mandalay has its share of interesting and beautiful sights and spending 2-3 days in the old capital can be very rewarding.
See/do in Mandalay
On top of my list was of course the famous U Bein bridge, the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world and also one of the main reasons I went to Mandalay. And it did deliver! The sight is truly magical especially at sunset (and I would think at sunrise as well). The best view is from a boat watching the silhouette of the bridge against the red sky, both of them reflecting in the lake below. Magical!
This is what I mean…
But U Bein bridge is not the only beautiful sight. There is really plenty to see in and around Mandalay and some other top picks are: the Kuthodaw Paya (home of the world’s largest book), Mandalay Royal Palace, Mandalay Hill which gave the city its name and it offers beautiful sunset views over the city and the Ayeyarwady(Irrawaddy) river, Maha Muny Paya which is the most important religious site in Mandalay, Shwe Kyaung Monastery, Mingun pagoda and bell.
One other interesting sight is watching the Buddhist monks walking single file towards their lunch place. This has unfortunately become very popular with tourists so it might not feel that authentic anymore however I still found it a mesmerising sight.
V café – is the only restaurant I tried in the city itself and it was nothing to write home about. It advertises also a “rooftop terrace” which in fact was completely deserted when I went there (maybe because it was too hot?)
Other places that I would have liked to try but didn’t have the time are: Min Thi Ha Teashop, Marie Min vegetarian restaurant, Café JJ, Kipling’s Lounge and maybe even Rainforest.
Smart Hotel – I chose this hotel for the location and because it seemed one of the most modern hotels where you have breakfast on the rooftop…and probably that is true….for Burmese standards. But it was a bit under my expectations. Nonetheless the room was clean, the bed comfortable and the hotel manager (who decided to speak Italian with me as he wanted to practice 🙂 ) the most helpful and friendliest person in the whole Myanmar!
The easiest way to go around is to hire a taxi or a guide for the day.
And as usual, see more pictures below that can only complete my words Click on a picture to see the slideshow