Best things to do in Mandalay Region and sightseeing in Mandalay Region
Mandalay - Mandalay Region
How we got here: We took a VIP bus from Yangon to Mandalay via the JJ Express VIP Bus. Each ticket cost around US$16 and the entire journey took around 7 hours. There was even a “bus stewardess” who served us food and drinks during the journey. The seats were really spacious and comfortable. Not to worry about the freezing air-con as a nice and warm fleece blanket will be provided for you on board the bus. Where we stayed: We were lucky to be able to stay at one of the most highly recommended Guesthouses in Mandalay – Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse. The host, Nan is one of the most warm, hospitable and friendly locals that we’ve met in Myanmar. The staff there are all very friendly and helpful and they serve the best breakfast ever. Best part of all, her guesthouse is one of the cheapest amongst the other guesthouses. We paid only US$10/night for a single bed in a dorm room. What we did: We explored Mandalay on a bicycle and visited the Royal Palace and Atumashi Monastery. Quite an adventure itself cycling on the busy roads with crazy traffic from almost every direction. Especially after the sun has set, it was really quite a challenge cycling in the dark with no bicycle lights at all. On our second day in Mandalay, we shared a taxi with 3 other backpackers who also stayed at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse. Our host was very helpful in coordinating this for us and for arranging a taxi driver guide to bring us around. It was really cost economical as the total cost was only around $36 and we shared it among the 4 of us! Our guide brought us to several pagodas, temples and the ever famous Ubein Bridge.
Yangon to Mandalay is approx 650kms. There are overnight Air-Con Busses which cover the distance in about 8-10 Hrs and for 10000 Kyats (10 USD). The busses are of really good quality and comfortable. The road connecting 2 cities is really well maintained and the night journey is smooth; without any hassle. Mandalay is a planned city. Roads are beautiful. There are motor bike taxis available which are very cheap especially for solo travellers. We hired a bike for whole day to roam within Mandalay and 3 towns out of Mandalay. We hired it for as low as 25USD for whole day. Again, Bargain Hard. The Mandalay Hill is worth the climb. Start early. The route is beautiful. Do visit the Gold-Leaf making unit. The traditional ways of gold leaf making are still prevailing.
The former royal capital of Burma, Mandalay is completely doused in pagodas and monasteries, all organised in and immediately around the central citadel that dominates the orientation of the city. It is a city that can quickly get to you, however. The traffic is chaotic and noisy, the roads are dusty, the two-wheelers are unstable (or at least the one we rented was). And to top it all is the searing heat. We were also quick to lose our patience. Somewhere in the midst of our intense pagoda-hopping, it all got too much to take. Thankfully, the comic relief came in our tumbly, slippery, completely crazy ride to Amrapura to catch the sunset at the graceful U Bein Bridge. And there is no exaggeration when I say that it was quite possibly the most gorgeous sunset I have witnessed in my life. Silhouettes of monks against a dying sun as they crossed the longest teakwood bridge in the world are seared into my mind as my lingering memory of Mandalay. And that can't be too bad. Not at all.
Old Bagan - Mandalay Region
Myanmar's answer to Angkor Wat, Bagan is the kind of place that sends poets into a tizzy trying to find just the right adjectives to describe its just-out-of-reach beauty. While the elements of the landscape are neatly divided into different complexes however, Bagan's temples rise evenly out of the flat, dusty horizon peppered with trees. What most separates the two great marvels of architecture however is the fact that unlike the development of the roads winding around and leading to Angkor, Bagan still forces you to grapple with difficult-to-navigate sandy tracts, which blow up clouds of smoke when the horse-carts carrying tourists make their way through the temples. What this gives an illusion of (without quite intending to) is kings making their way on chariots, riding triumphantly through the land they govern; messengers carrying the word of other kings; pilgrims and guests approaching with a look of awe and amazement. Angkor may mesmerize, but Bagan transports you. Rent a bicycle and tick off all the major stops on your way through the city. Later, as the sun threatens to start dipping, climb up to the highest vantage point you can find and watch as the large orange ball illuminates the temple tops on its way down, creating a patchwork of translucent graceful silhouettes. Hold your breath and thank your stars. This is a sight that feels like it should be reserved for the gods.
After reaching Bagan the next day, we spent the rest of the day exploring the scenic countryside. Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first empire of the modern unified Myanmar. The region literally has thousand of monasteries and temples that belong to the 11th and 12th centuries. The Bagan Archaeological site is extremely popular with tourists flocking to visit it. It is as great as the Ankor Wat in Cambodia.
Bagan - Mandalay Region
Thousands of centuries-old temples. Unbelievably peaceful and spellbinding.
How we got here: Took the train from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin and crossed the famous Goteik Viaduct (highest railway in Myanmar). It was quite a nerve wrecking ride. After alighting, we took a shared pick up to Mandalay Train Station where we took an overnight train to Bagan. The overnight train from Mandalay to Bagan (9pm to 4am) was a really interesting experience. Throughout the entire ride, you’ll be thrown about in all directions and you’re literally airborne most of the time. Thankfully, we managed to catch some sleep despite the turbulent ride. Where we stayed: We stayed at Winner Guesthouse and it was cheap and clean, centrally located. Bagan is quite small and you can easily explore one end to the other end in a day on a bike. What we did: Bagan is an ancient city with more than 2,000 shrines, pagodas and stupas, one of the world’s most beautiful temple cities. Also, Daniel’s favourite. 1. Explored Bagan on an electric bike and scoured the city. 2. Hot Air Balloon – Booked our hot air balloon flight with a highly reputable and recommended operator. Albeit being costly, safety always comes first and with them, we felt assured of our safety. This was definitely another highlight of our trip! Very awesome experience! How much we spent in total: Food – $69.60 Activities – $640 (Hot air balloon) - $29 (Electric bike rental for 2.5 days) - $30 (Admission pass) Transport – $8 (Taxi) - $20 (Overnight train from Mandalay to Bagan) - $4 (Bus to Mandalay train station from Pyin Oo Lwin) - $12 (Train from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin) Accommodation – $72.50 (3 nights) Others – $5 (donation) - $3 (Medicine and toothbrush) - $2.6 (Laundry) Total expenditure for 2 pax - $895.70 Average expenditure/pax - $447.85
Phaya Thonzu - Mandalay Region
There are three main temples near the Min Nan Thu village in Bagan. Tayoke Pyaya, Phaya Thonzu and the Nandamanya Temples. All of these are built in the reign of King Anawrahta Theravada in the 13th century. All the three are known for their exquisite mural painting and the elaborate frescoes the adorn the walls of the temples. We then headed to the Kat Kan Cave monastery, a great place to relax and mediate. We also met some locals in the farming villages around Bagan to get an insight into their lives and their culture. An interaction with the locals is a necessity to understand the culture of Myanmar.